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Toddler - Week #81

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Your 19-month-old toddler (week 81)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Traveling With Your 19-Month-Old
           Despite your 19-month-old's unpredictability, you will be relieved to know that just around the corner you may begin to see small tidbits of predictability emerging this month as well.  This tiny window of opportunity is something to be celebrated, and it will provide you with the perfect chance to get away for a small family "daycation," or for the more adventurous parents out there, a long, much needed vacation together.

       When you begin to plan your adventure (and it will be an adventure), try and pick a destination that accommodates, as well as tolerates little children.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than being the only parent with a screaming toddler at 2 a.m., especially when the only thing that will calm him down is pacing the halls.  When you do locate an appropriate "home-base" for your vacation, don't forget to pack the basic pieces from your child-proofing kit, especially outlet covers, because your little one will definitely want to explore every nook and cranny of your room upon your arrival, and it's best he does it safely.

       If your trip happens to be to Disney World, Sesame Place, or somewhere with a similar theme, try and prepare your little one ahead of time by showing him pictures of what will be waiting for him upon his arrival.  With a little preparation a few weeks before, your vacation can be much more relaxing (for everyone), and your toddler is less likely to become overwhelmed and over stimulated when he gazes upon his new surroundings.

       Once you have selected the destination and are on your way, there are a few tricks that will make the trip easier.  Always bring more drinks and a variety of snacks than you think you could possibly need.  For some reason hunger and thirst always strike at the worst possible times, and food is still a wonderful distracter at this age.  Also, purchase a few new small "vacation toys" for the first leg of your trip.  Anything that is new is guaranteed to occupy your child just a little longer than something he has already explored, and it is well worth the splurge.  It is also a great idea to quietly stow away a few of your little one's favorite toys a few days before your departure, and stash them along with the new ones for your trip.  He will be thrilled when his old favorites re-appear, and because he hasn't seen them lately are less likely to be tossed aside.

       Upon arriving at your destination, there are a few tips that may not only ease your toddler's mind, but yours as well.  First of all be prepared to change your itinerary constantly, and get creative with your outings.  Little ones can only tolerate so much sight-seeing, especially if they are strapped in a stroller or backpack, so don't expect to see everything on your agenda.  It is also highly recommended that you try your best to stick to the schedule you keep at home for naptime and bedtime, despite how difficult it may be.  Sleeping in a strange place can be very difficult and even frightening for a 19-month-old, but if he recognizes that you are following the routine that he is familiar with, it may ease his mind a little and you may actually get some sleep yourself.  Lastly, have fun no matter where you end up, and do your best to just go with the flow.  If you have not yet traveled with a child, be prepared for an entirely new experience that will challenge the best globe trekkers out there, but it will also open your eyes and allow you to see things as if for the first time, through the eyes of your child.


Leaving Your Child With A Babysitter
           Stealing a little time away is healthy for your mind, your relationships, and for your toddler as well.  But finding someone that you trust to care for your precious little one while you are away is an entirely different story.

       When (and if) you do decide to take the plunge, take your time and seek out someone that both you and your child feel comfortable with.  There is nothing wrong with having a sitter come to your house for a few "trial runs" before you plan on going out, and there are no rules stating you have to trust anyone that you don't feel 100% confident about.  Do whatever is necessary for you, your child and anyone else involved to feel safe, because getting away physically is entirely different than getting away mentally as well.

       Once you have carefully selected a sitter, and successfully put them through the wringer, there are a few things that may make the transition of leaving a bit easier and a little less nerve-racking.  Always leave a list of phone numbers in an obvious place next to the phone, including the number for where you will be, cell phone, family members' numbers, and pediatrician's name and number.  Personally, I also like to leave our home address and the location of the nearest cross-streets on the phone list as well, leaving little room for error if the sitter should need to reference them (and hopefully, not to invite the entire senior class over).  To further ease your mind, it is also a great idea to tape instructions to the inside of a cabinet for handling choking, and performing C.P.R on a toddler...just in case.

       Be sure to let your babysitter know where flashlights and fire extinguishers are located (even if there is not a cloud in sight), and be specific if you would not like them to use the stove, or bathe your children in your absence.  Before you leave, it is always helpful to prepare any food or beverages that your little one may need, and write down a feeding schedule to be followed.  Let your sitter know where diapers, wipes and a change of clothes can be found, and be sure to clue your sitter in about your toddler's bedtime routine.  Don't forget to include the time you would like your sitter to "try" and get your little one down to sleep, but don't be surprised when you are greeted at the door by your toddler upon your return home either.


Taking Care Of Yourself
           I will be the first to admit that being a parent is nothing like I expected.  The exhaustion is unexplainable, yet the love is indescribable.  Twenty-four hours is just not enough time to get everything done and stay sane at the same time, but as long as my three little boys are fed, bathed, dressed and have a smile on their faces, I know it was a good day.

       As if trying to juggle all of the duties of parenthood isn't hard enough, it is also essential that somewhere amidst the every day chaos you find time to take care of yourself too.  Although it may seem impossible on some days, it's absolutely worth the extra effort, because some alone time will make you a better parent in the long run.

       For starters, try and recall what you liked to do before children were in the picture.  Was it reading, walking, a cup of coffee with a friend?  If so, none of these little escapes from the past are too great to re-incorporate into your life once again.  Just one short hour by yourself, can help clear your head and prepare you for whatever may be thrown in your direction later on.

       If you find it difficult to find someone who can step in while you take a breather, team up with a friend and do a weekly "toddler-swap."  One week you watch her little one, the next week she watches yours.  You get a break every other week, your little one gets a regularly scheduled playdate, and everyone's happy at the end of the day.  Having children does not mean you have to completely lose the "old you," in fact it's a great opportunity to turn yourself into someone even better than you remember ever being.


           Big And Little       

       This is a great activity to introduce the concept of "sizes," and it can also aid in teaching your child about becoming a big brother or big sister.

       Begin by gathering various similar items that come in large and small sizes.  Choose large and small balls, large and small trains, large and small blocks, large and small shoes, large and small dolls, etc.  Then, going one pair at a time, place two similar items which are different in size in front of your toddler, and describe them.  Hand him the big ball while saying "big ball," and then hand him the small ball while saying "small ball."  Slowly go through all of the items that you have gathered, and try to get him to imitate your speech every time.  Hide the small ball behind your back, and have your toddler find it.  Again repeat this action with all of the items that you have gathered, and see if he eventually catches onto the concept that things come in all shapes and sizes.

       If you are expecting a baby in the future, direct this activity towards the upcoming event.  Use your toddler as the "big" object and a baby doll for the "small" object, then point to your toddler saying "big boy (or girl)," then point to the baby doll and say "little baby."  Although your 19-month-old will have difficulties understanding about becoming an older sibling until the baby actually arrives, familiarizing him with these words, and helping him to understand the concept of "big" and "little" beforehand may actually help with the transition.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           This was definitely a difficult activity for my 19-month-old twin boys, however despite their struggle, it did provide for some quality entertainment on this particular afternoon.

       Prior to beginning to teach Andrew and Devin about "big" and "little," I gathered various sized basketballs, Thomas trains, and Elmo dolls, then sat my boys on the floor in front of me and began.  For my first attempt, I decided to show Andrew and Devin the small basketball, and then followed with the big version, making every attempt to change my voice and body language to further emphasize their differences in size.

       As soon as Andrew saw the larger of the two basketballs, he grabbed it and ran across the room towards our pint-sized hoop and proudly dunked the ball.  Devin soon joined in, and after a round or two of practice shots and cheers, I decided it would be best to ace the balls, and try again with something less bouncy.

       Fortunately over the years my eldest son has accrued quite a large collection of Thomas trains in every shape and size, and I felt quite prepared to begin my lesson once again.  First I showed the boys a "big" train and my vocalizations describing it were loud and deep.  Next, I showed them the "little" version of the same train and my vocalizations were quiet and a higher pitch.  After repeating myself five times with each version, I was hopeful that I had finally made an impression on my boys and asked Andrew where the "big" train was.  He then proceeded to pick up the "little" version and look me square in the eyes saying, "No Choo Choo."  Bewildered at first, I then quickly remembered that I had recently banned my twin boys from playing with my older son's trains after they had chewed the wheels off.   I guess Andrew was concerned that I had allowed him access to the forbidden goods, and wanted to make sure that I remembered the rules that had recently been put in place...oops.  So much for the trains.

       For my third and final attempt at the "big" and "little" activity, I tried the old reliable Elmo.  I was hopeful this time, because as far as I knew there would be no negative connotations attached, and my boys couldn't dunk him.  I followed the same routine with our "big" and "little" Elmo dolls as with the previously unsuccessful items, then asked Devin to get the "big" version.  After looking inquisitively at both dolls, Devin proudly stood up and walked over to the correct item gathering him up in his arms saying "Big!"  Ah, success at last!  I then asked Andrew to get the "little" version of Elmo, and after a few seconds he looked right at me and said, "No."  Andrew then proceeded to walk right up to Devin, snatch the larger version out of his little hands, and said "Big!" as he ran out of the playroom.

       I guess I finally got my point across this time.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           When is it a good time to have another baby and how do I prepare my toddler for a new sibling?       

       Despite how much of a planner you are, it is next to impossible to specifically plan the conception of your next child.  No matter how structured your life may be, and how predictable you may try to make it, sometimes having another child when you want just doesn't happen, and does happen when you least expect it.

       There are many different opinions regarding the best and worst times to add another little one to your family.  Some recommend waiting until your first toddler reaches the age of 2, some recommend waiting longer, and some recommend trying sooner.  Nevertheless, despite the numerous opinions they are all in agreement regarding one thing, and that is no matter when you try to plan, it is going to be challenging at times.

       Having children close together can be exhausting initially, however you have essentially created live-in playmates that will always have a friend.  Having children farther apart can also be wonderful, as you will find your older child wanting desperately to lend a helping hand whenever she can, and this is irreplaceable.  Ultimately, no matter which route you decide to take, you will find countless benefits and pleasures, as well as struggles and exhaustion around every corner.  But, the best part of it all is that every ounce of energy and love that you put in is given back ten fold at the end of the day.

       It is believed that the most difficult part of adding to your family is not the timing, but performing the delicate balancing act of simultaneously meeting your toddler's needs and those of the new baby.  It is very difficult to prepare a 19-month-old for the birth of a new sibling because she can't comprehend and really doesn't care about what's going on until it affects her directly.  She will begin to notice that your lap is getting smaller and smaller, and may even jump after feeling a good kick, but right now she is incapable of comprehending what is truly going on until the new baby arrives.  Despite her lack of understanding, it is still important to bring her on the pregnancy journey with you by showing her pictures of newborn infants, the new crib, and even trying a few basic books that simply explain about becoming an older sibling.

       When the new baby does eventually arrive, expect some jealousy when she sees her "old" things being used by someone else, and especially when she no longer has your undivided attention.  It may take quite a while for your toddler to understand that the new baby is a permanent fixture, not just an intrusive visitor, and don't be surprised if your older child reverts to more baby-like behavior herself.

       Try and place yourself in your toddler's shoes, and you can imagine what it must feel like to have your perfect little world where everything revolved around you, invaded by a screaming wiggly little person.  Once again, patience is the key to survival for everyone involved, and despite a few struggles...it's absolutely worth it.


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