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Toddler - Week #79

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Your 18-month-old toddler (week 79)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Mine!  Mine!  Mine!
           You have officially lost possession of your most precious items, and according to your little one, she is in charge of hoarding everything she can wrap her little hands around.  Don't hold your breath now, because she will not be offering up any of your things anytime soon.  Sharing and patience are the least of you toddler's worries this month and that won't be changing for quite a while.  Fortunately for both of you, this is also the month when your one-and-a-half year old will begin to show a glimmer of interest in playing with other children.  Believe it or not, soon you will be able to watch your toddler and her little friends battle it out from a safe distance.


           Now that your little one is excelling in many areas, she is also becoming more interested in exploring and interacting with children her own age.  Socializing is not easy for your toddler, and for the time being she is most likely to view other children as "curiosities" rather than playmates.  In your toddler's mind, other children move around too much and make noise, and besides that, are not all that enticing.  This month, you can expect her to continue engaging in "parallel play" with toddlers her age, but you will also begin to catch glimpses of true interaction as well.  Keep in mind that although she may not be playing together with other toddlers, playing side-by-side is important, as it allows her to see and learn how others act, and she might pick up a few new tricks along the way.

       Because your toddler is slowly becoming more and more aware of others, it is the perfect opportunity to start getting involved in a playgroup that meets on a regular basis.  Toddlers who spend time together weekly can learn to play with one another, become friends, and socialize more appropriately than those who are not given this chance at an early age.  Playgroups are not only beneficial for your little one, but they are also great for parents too.  Just a word of advice, when you put a group of one-and-a-half year olds in a room together, expect to see a "free-for-all," but remember they are actually learning a lot in the process (and you may even get a few minutes of adult conversation to boot!).

       When you watch your toddler beginning to interact with other little ones her age, don't worry if you see a lot of pushing or poking between her and her new friends. Aggressive behaviors are still common this month, and although they are not acceptable, they are the norm right now as toddlers test the boundaries and limitations of one another.  How you and other parents in the playgroup respond to this negative behavior will determine how much longer it lasts, and soon enough the little troublemakers will realize that their friends won't stick around if they're continuously poked at (at least in our society).  Despite aggressive tendencies or shyness, it is important that you continue to expose your child to other little people, because the more practice she gets and the more she interacts, the more appropriate her behavior will become.

       Socialization is learned through practice and by the example you set as well.  In order to play cooperatively, your toddler must realize that other children are people too, and more importantly she has to develop the ability to empathize.  Understand that these are both difficult tasks to ask of your little one at this young age, so be patient.  If she doesn't seem ready to play with others, don't push, but continue to make the opportunity available, and when she's ready the two of you will know.


           Sharing is a concept that your 18-month-old will not be grasping any time soon.  In fact, it will not even be up for consideration until around the age of two at the very earliest.  At 18 months, he strongly believes that EVERYTHING is his, and there is absolutely no such thing as "yours," or "ours," only "me," and "mine," alone.  Things that are not his are his, even if he hasn't the slightest idea what they are.

       Despite his complete inability to share, this is a great age to begin teaching him about the idea of it.  Praising your toddler when he does allow another child to go off with one of his precious items, without chasing after and tackling his little unsuspecting friend, is absolutely a reason to celebrate.

       This month, acknowledge that you understand when your toddler gets upset regarding sharing.  Do your best to quickly get him interested in something else when a child takes his toy away, or when he can't immediately get his hands on a toy he wants.  Fortunately for you, your toddler can still be easily distracted at 18 months, so it shouldn't be that difficult to change his focus, at least for the time being.

       By the way, expect to be "faked out" quite often by your little trickster this month.  If you catch him "offering" a toy to a peer or sibling, or if anyone else has fallen prey to his antics, watch closely.  One can almost guarantee that he will retract it right before it's actually taken, and run away as fast as his little feet will carry him.  Just a little heads up...he's not really offering it, he's just showing it off.


           Children learn through play, especially before the age of three.  What a child needs most at this age, is the ability to listen to and follow the beat of her own little drum, while moving at her own pace through this crazy world.  Keep things simple, and provide a wide variety of stimulating things that keep her interested, but not so much that she becomes too overwhelmed.  This month, the more you allow your toddler to tap into her growing imagination and practice using it, the better off the both of you will be in the long run.

       At 18 months, your toddler loves to pretend, so it is a great time to take out the scaled-down versions of adult items that she watches you use.  For example, let her play with pint-sized gardening tools, doctor's kits, brooms, telephones, vacuums, miniature kitchenware, and pretend food. You will also begin to notice that she enjoys activities that require the use of her improved dexterity like playing with cars, or linking trains together and running them on the ground.  Now don't get too excited...but under supervision, it's also just about time to break out Mr. Potato Head too.       

       Handmade or store-bought instruments are also a great source of fun for your one-and-a-half year old.  She will love banging on anything that you give her, and pretending to play air guitar to her favorite Elmo tune is always entertaining.  For those of you who are really brave (and don't mind a little "noise"), find a large keyboard which rests on the ground, turn up the volume and see what masterpieces your little composer can strike up.

       If the weather and seasons suit, a few great outings for you and your toddler (or playgroups if you dare) are playgrounds, "hand's on" children's museums, farms, petting zoos, or anywhere else that has a lot of room for your little one to roam and explore, without getting into too much trouble.

       Besides the new things that your toddler will love to do this month, continue to have her play with sorting and nesting cups, simple puzzles, stacking rings, and building blocks.  All of these simple toys will further develop her motor skills, and continue to occupy her for a little while longer.


           Make a Fort       

       If the weather isn't cooperating, and you're stuck in the house, you have been given the perfect opportunity to make a fort.  This is such an easy activity for you and your toddler, and is guaranteed to occupy him for quite a while (do you see a theme of encouraging little ones to play independently, and buying yourself a little time?)

       The construction of your toddler's fort or playhouse can be as simple or complicated as you choose, and the possibilities are endless.  Option one is to gather large bed-sheets and fit them over a few pieces of furniture creating a tent-like effect.  Option two is to locate the largest cardboard box that you can find, and cut doors and windows out.  Option three (the simplified version) is to put up a small tent in your living room.  In fact, the very small sun-shade tents that you bring to the beach are the perfect size for little toddlers, and they usually have little pockets on the interior to stash a few little toys as well.  Lastly, toddlers this age absolutely love the large multi-colored cardboard blocks, and if you feel adventurous they can also be constructed into great little hiding places (until your little one realizes that there is no door and they crash through the walls that you have built).

       Once you have created your child's playhouse, show him what to do.  Place a few small toys and books inside, go on in and sit down.  Get up and go knock on the "door" and pretend to deliver something.  If you have used a cardboard box, gather a few crayons and show him how to draw on the interior (Hint:  if you keep him contained inside the box with the crayons, he's less likely to re-decorate your home as well).  It can also be fun to play peek-a-boo and surprise him by poking your head into various entrances of his fort.  Just use your imagination and see what you can come up with.  No matter how your playhouse turns out, it is guaranteed fun for your child (and for you too!)


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           I will be the first to admit that days when I am stuck at home with all of my children, I can be "challenged" to say the very least.  That is why I try to prepare ahead of time for those unexpected rainy, too hot, or snowy moments by stashing a few small sun-shade tents, and large cardboard boxes in my basement, always ready for a quick rescue when my attempts to entertain are met with blank stares.

       On this particular day, I chose to bring up the boxes that I "rescued" from my neighbor's recycling pile after he purchased a new washer and dryer.  In our house, we always need at least two of everything now that my twin boys Andrew and Devin are 18 months and my eldest son Ryan is 4, so I was grateful for this find.  Knowing that I wouldn't have a chance to cut doors and windows out of the boxes with the little ones around, I waited until naptime.  Once they were down for the count, I quickly cut out front and back doors (we always need an escape route with 3 boys) as well as, two windows in each of the boxes.  In each of the forts I then placed a small bag containing a few books and small toys, and waited for them to awaken.

       After naptime, I brought Andrew and Devin into the living room and showed them their new "homes."  I allowed them to explore around the boxes a little while, and was pleased when they both found the doors on their own.  Initially, they were playing inside one of the boxes together, but after a little encouragement, they each claimed their own territory and began rifling through the bags of toys found within.

       I then began to play peek-a-boo with each of the boys, and quickly they began to play with one another too.  After tiring of popping up and down, they started to play their own version of hide-and-seek, which turned out to be quite amusing.  Andrew would squat down in his box as Devin called out to him "Andoo?   Be?"  Then Devin would waddle over to the other fort, swing open the door and giggle, "See Ooo!"

       Feeling brave (or stupid), I proceeded to supply each of the boys with a crayon, showed them both how to scribble on the walls of their own forts, and sat back to watch (and catch anyone who tried to escape the confines of their "home").  They both seemed to enjoy the decorating portion of this activity, and focused for a few minutes before proceeding to gnaw on the implements.  It was worth a shot anyway.

       Overall, this was a great activity that occupied my little guys for the afternoon.  When they were finished (that is, when they both went into one of the forts together and proceeded to rock it so hard it fell over), I flattened both boxes, and put them away for the next rainy day, or a day when I need a little extra help with entertaining.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           Why is my toddler so "clingy" when I bring her around other children?       

       At 18 months, your toddler wants desperately to be independent, but, simultaneously remains so dependent on and attached to mom and dad.  A clingy toddler is not "anti-social," so don't fear that she will have issues with socialization forever.  Engaging with other kids can be a very frightening experience for some, while it comes naturally for others, so try not to compare.  Often, little ones at this age just aren't ready to start letting go (and neither are parents sometimes), and pushing her to socialize may actually increase her clingy behavior.  If you see that she is a little hesitant to play among peers her age, it may be easier for her to have one-on-one playdates for the time being, and slowly ease her into the idea of being around many kids at once.  Overall, try to accept the fact that she's still really little, and sometimes just needs her mommy and daddy.  But most importantly, try and remember that she's going to grow up really fast anyway, so is there really any rush for her to do it before she (and you) are ready?


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