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Toddler - Week #83

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Your 19-month-old toddler (week 83)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Physical and Gross Motor Development
           Does it feel like you and your toddler never sit still anymore, and that he has an endless reserve of energy which allows him to keep moving from the second he wakes to the second he falls asleep?  If it makes you feel any better, what you are experiencing is totally normal 19-month-old toddler behavior, and your little ball of energy is expected to be in constant motion right now, going from one activity to the next with you chasing close behind.

       During the 19th month, your toddler continues to learn new skills on a daily basis and needs to keep practicing these new things every waking moment.  Your toddler has begun to understand the benefits of using his entire body to learn, and the physical play that you are now observing teaches him about his abilities (and inabilities), helps him to develop control, and focuses his bound-up energy onto something productive and meaningful.  More importantly, physical play also relieves the stress that comes hand-in-hand with the everyday learning process that can be so overwhelming to your little one.

       Now is the perfect time to involve your 19-month-old in activities that will allow him to test out his new tricks, so get your toddler outdoors or to an indoor playground whenever possible.  Right now he wants absolutely nothing to do with the confinement of his stroller or playpen, so do your best to find safe places where he can bounce around safely, but be prepared for falls, bumps, and bruises from this point on, no matter how good you are at catching or how padded your play area may be.

       You will now enjoy watching your toddler practice walking backwards, jumping, marching, going up and down stairs, and dancing to his own little rhythm.  He will most likely want to try running as well, but you will notice that he is still a bit awkward in that area.  He may even be able to kick and throw a ball this month, but his catching skills are not quite there yet either.  Expect some frustration along the way as his need for success is challenged, and encourage and support your toddler to try new things despite a few bumps in the road.


Energy Outlets and Playtime
           Nineteen-month-old toddlers are bundles of energy, bouncing off the walls morning, noon and night.  Your best bet this month is to go with the flow, and channel her momentum into physical activities.

       If you are indoors, there are numerous activities to engage in.  Let her go round for round with a blow-up punching bag, or have a (gentle) pillow fight. You can also show her how to let loose on a drum solo, or hammer away on her peg toys.  Turn up the music and have a dance-a-thon, or engage in more traditional games like Ring-Around-The-Rosey, or Head-Shoulders-Knees-And-Toes.  Once you've run out of ideas, try teaching her how to jump up and down, or just let your toddler splash around in a bathtub full of bubbles.  Inside activities do require a little space and a bit more creativity, but it's all worth it when your little one collapses from exhaustion at nap time.

       If you do have the opportunity to get outdoors, you will quickly experience the miracle of fresh air and see the wonders it can do for your toddler's mental and physical health.  Once out of the confines of your home, the ideas for activities are endless, so start getting creative and prepare to get quite a workout yourself.  If you head to the park, expect your little one to try and tackle the jungle gyms, wobbly bridges and slides, continuously testing her agility, as well as yours.  She will most likely need you right at her heels in order to help navigate around other children (and catch her when she tumbles), so while you're there encourage her to play and try new things.

       Running around in circles or follow the leader are also great exercise, so if you need a new distraction to lure her away from the playground and head back home, try these on for size.  Once back home, pulling a pint-sized wagon around can also entertain your little one for hours, and if you bring out the ride-on toys you may even buy yourself a little down time as well.

  Keep in mind that your small toddler will play with whatever is made available to her, and she doesn't care about the material aspect of objects yet.  Something that you may not have given a second glance to last week, may provide hours of entertainment for your little one right now, so keep your eyes and imagination wide open, and you never know what treasures you may find.


           Play-Station Obstacle Course       

       The Play-Station Obstacle Course is a wonderful activity for toddlers at this age because of their limited attention span.  It allows your toddler to experience multiple activities and focus on a variety of tasks while integrating the use of both fine and gross motor skills.

       To begin, gather approximately 10-12 activities that can be set up as "play-stations" for your little one to go through.  You will then place one activity at a time around various spots in your designated room, creating what appears to be a miniature obstacle course.  For example, place a pile of board books in one corner of your room, a ring stacker in another, and a shape sorter with all of the pieces outside of it in the next.  Hide favorite little stuffed animals under a blanket in the center of the room for your toddler to discover, and place a variety of musical instruments in a laundry basket by the door.  Stack different sized cardboard boxes on top of one another for her to knock over then build again, and then put a ride-on toy or popper for her to push against the adjacent wall.  Depending upon the size of the room you choose to use, you may even want to put a child-sized basketball station where she can also shoot a few hoops, or a miniature soccer goal to practice penalty shots.

       The options are endless for this activity, and it is completely up to you to decide how few or how many stations to put in your Obstacle Course.  Once the "play-stations" have been decided upon and set up, do a few trial runs alongside your toddler before you set her out on her own.  This will ensure (to a certain degree) that she understands the concept of this activity and moves through the room in order to encounter the different stations along the way.  Also, encourage your toddler to try spending some time at all of the stations although some may be more appealing to her than others, and praise her as she goes along.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           My 19-month-old twin boys absolutely loved this activity!  The best part was that it actually occupied them for an hour first thing in the morning, and I was able to sneak in an extra cup of uninterrupted coffee.

       Prior to my boys waking up in the morning, I set up our version of the Play-Station Obstacle Course.  I gathered together blocks, shape-sorters, stacking rings, beloved board books, musical instruments, tubes, a container of large Legos, toddler push-bicycles, and a musical activity table.  Lastly, because I have twins, I placed two similar activities at each play-station in order to avoid the inevitable tug-of-war that would occur if Andrew and Devin chose to go through the Obstacle Course together.

       After our daily food fight at the breakfast table, I ushered Andrew and Devin into our living room where the nicely organized Obstacle Course awaited and sat them down in front of Station #1...Legos.  They both remained planted at this station (with my encouragement and slight "restraining" at moments), and were able to follow my lead through the remainder of the activities spending about five minutes at each station.

       I did remain with the boys throughout our initial round through all of the activities in order to help keep them focused, but then left them on their own, put up the safety gate and observed their antics from the kitchen as I enjoyed a little break.  Without my lead, Andrew and Devin did seem to have a little difficulty at times focusing on some of the more "calm" tasks that were placed next to more exciting ones, but after a while they both appeared to enjoy the mere anticipation of what was coming down the pike.

       Overall, this activity was a hit, and I will definitely be setting it up again very soon.  In the future, I may even attempt to integrate the use of a timer that would ring after five minutes, signaling when Andrew and Devin should move onto a new station.  However, that version will have to wait a little while, as my kitchen timer has miraculously disappeared from the my Tupperware drawer and Andrew and Devin will not reveal its new location.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           Is it possible to teach my toddler to relax?       

       This month it may seem as if your little one is focused on one thing and one thing only...playing.  Despite the excitement and boundless energy that you see as he works so hard to practice old skills and try out new ones, he can become "stressed-out" along the way.  Right now your toddler is constantly pushing himself to the limits, and the full days that he is now experiencing may lead to mental and physical exhaustion.  At this young age, your 19-month-old doesn't know or understand how to give himself a much needed break, and often becomes so tired that he doesn't even realize it.

       Children need quiet time just like adults do, and now it has become your job to teach him how to wind down, helping to make the transition from busy day to quiet night.  As his caregiver, you need to teach him how to switch gears and "disconnect" from the busyness of the day by developing a predictable and enjoyable "relaxation routine."

       A few ways to help jump-start your little one's relaxation time are to read a story, color, or listen to music together.  Follow up any of these activities with a warm bath (with adult supervision), watching fish in a fish tank, hugging, cuddling, or massage and you are guaranteed to bring a perfect ending to a hectic day.

       It is also a great idea that when you would like your little one to relax, you join in the process with him.  If your wound up little ball of energy continues to see you running around frantically doing dishes, laundry and everything else, he may want to join in the excitement too.  So take his down time as a perfect opportunity (and reason) to catch up on some much needed cuddling, and enjoy a bit of relaxation for yourself.


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