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Toddler - Week #89

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Your 21-month-old toddler (week 89)

By Shelley Feldman, edHelperBaby

Moving On Up
           Now that you have successfully weaned your little one from the bottle (or have made progress in the right direction), it is time for bigger and better things.  This month your twenty-one-month old should be able to independently use a sippy-cup and is making progress using a spoon and fork (the key word here is "progress," not perfection).  If you are feeling brave, you may want to consider introducing a pint-sized table and chair to your dining room decor, as it may make her transition to big-kid utensils and big-kid food more exciting.

       Be prepared for new food preferences and an increase in "finicky-ness" this month, as your little one will be voicing her opinions more and more every day.  Now is your chance to start making a lasting impression on her eating habits, so polish up on your nutrition knowledge because you're going to have to start getting very creative in the kitchen.


Healthy Eating And Toddlers
           Healthy eating is something that must be taught, and food preferences are learned very early on.  If you start teaching your toddler to make positive food choices now, you are essentially providing her with a gift that will be followed throughout her lifetime.  Unfortunately, having to "un-learn" poor habits during adolescence or adulthood can be extremely difficult, and at that point it is often too late.  Make healthy foods a part of your daily routine now, and set your little one on the right course from the start.

       Your toddler continues to love and look forward to routine in her life.  Armed with this knowledge, be sure that you include both meal and snack-time in her daily schedule.  Not only will this addition to your child's routine teach her how to recognize the signs of hunger, it may also result in less of a struggle getting to and remaining focused at the table.  Although it may often be difficult, try and eat as a family.  Not only is it important to find time to be together, it also provides you with another opportunity to set a good example by making healthy food choices yourself.

       Young children who are provided with a wide variety of nutritious food choices early on, learn to prefer these foods over less nutritious alternatives.  Keep foods at home healthy but not boring, and find alternatives to junk that are delicious and nutritious.  Laying a solid foundation now will help your little one to make good choices when she is on her own (on a play-date, or at school) in the next few years.

       This month, focus on getting food into your toddler that she needs for nutritional purposes.  You have three meals a day and two snacks to make your mark, so fill her up with wholesome foods and try to make every bite count.  Remember the general rule of thumb, "small portions for small appetites," and always provide her with many choices, as she will most likely reject nine out of ten which are offered.  Also, make an effort to restrict sugar intake (unless you want to deal with a crashing toddler an hour or two later) and replace it with fruit sweetened items instead.  At this age, your toddler's nutritional needs can easily be met by a varied diet of foods, including vegetables (raw, cooked, juice), whole-grains (crackers, pretzels, breads, cereals), fruits (fresh, dried, juice), dairy (cheese, yogurt, milk), meats (chicken, beef, turkey), beans (garbanzo, kidney), and tofu.

       By the way, there is always room for special occasions and exceptions once in a while.  So, mix it up, get creative and don't be afraid to try new things yourself...you may actually like it too.


How To Cope With Your Picky Eater
           Some children at this age will be great eaters, however most will be extremely picky...and they are supposed to be.  Dinner table rebellion is to be expected this month, so don't be surprised when your toddler pushes his plate to the wayside repeatedly declaring "No" on a regular basis.  Mealtime is the one area of your toddler's life where he can stand his ground, feel in control, and demand the same thing meal after meal.  He can make the decision that yesterday's favorite food will end up on the floor today, and get you to jump through hoops and pull out every trick you have hidden up your sleeve.  There is hope though, eventually you can expect your toddler to outgrow this stage, so don't take it personally, it is not your cooking...it's just the age.

       There are a few things that you should and should not do in order to get your toddler to eat.  You should be flexible when it comes to feeding your little one, and pick and choose your battles wisely.  Your toddler has his own plans in mind regarding mealtime and he may want the same foods over and over again.  This "rut" most often occurs because he loves routine and predictability right now, and not that he necessarily "loves" pizza or macaroni-and-cheese.

       Your twenty-one-month-old likes to know and plan what he's going to eat ahead of time, and most importantly he likes to know what his food is going to taste, feel and look like when it arrives.  When a new food is presented it may be overwhelming to his senses, so try and compromise when this occurs.  If he only wants to eat cheese, try different varieties.  If he only wants to eat bread, try different varieties.  You get the gist.

       Try your best to encourage your toddler to try new things, but don't insist.  However, this doesn't mean that you should ban the item from your kitchen forever because like many things at this age, trying something new often takes time and getting used to.  It is important not to assume that because he rejects something once, he'll reject it again, so provide him with just enough time to forget about his first experience, and then bring it back for round two.

       When dealing with a picky eater, it is important that you don't miss out on the few opportunities you get to feed him by filling him up with junk.  By offering him only the best, at least what he is eating is healthy and nutritious and fulfilling some of his daily requirements.

       It is also essential that you do not force your toddler to finish his meal, and when he's done, he's done.  At this age he cannot comprehend the concept of "you must clean your plate if you want to leave the table" yet, and creating a battle over a few extra bites can set the stage for eating problems in the future.  Right now, small portions of a variety of foods seems to work best, and serve him less than he will eat, not more.  When you offer many options at every meal, sometimes one accidental bite of something new can suddenly turn into a new favorite so keep on trying.  Also, piling your toddler's plate sky-high will only intimidate him and provide more ammunition for him to eventually hurl at you when he's had enough.

       Lastly, don't force your little one to eat neatly and don't rush him.  He is still interested in exploring food with all of his senses and he is supposed to make a mess.  Sometimes your picky toddler needs to check out a new food with all of his senses before he'll actually try eating it, and intervening may lead to a food-strike in the end.  However, when the spaghetti starts flying it is an entirely different story, so step right in and take the reigns.

       If nothing else works and you are at your wits end, let your toddler "graze" by keeping out a plate of healthy finger foods during the day.  Although this will not reinforce the importance of sitting down for a healthy meal, he will still meet all of the nutritional needs that his little body requires right now.

       A little "reverse psychology" can also work wonders at this age, and you won't get away with it for much longer so you may want to take advantage now!  When you sit down for your regular mealtime, keep your toddler's food out of sight and begin eating from your own plate.  It is almost predictable that as soon as he sees everyone else eating he won't want to be left out.  When he indicates that he would like some food, give him one bite from his plate that you have stashed away.  Whenever he asks for more (which he will) give him only one piece, and before you know it his plate will be empty.  Although this does require a little leg-work, it's worth it when he's fed without incident.  Now, I am not suggesting at all that you should ignore or starve your little one at the table, but to get through this finicky stage sometimes you have to play a few little mind games.


           Cooking With Your Toddler       

       Cooking with your toddler is a wonderful way to further the development of her fine motor skills.  It not only helps with the development of muscles in her arms through stirring, mushing, mashing and kneading, it also increases her hand-eye coordination as well.  I'll bet you never thought about eating and cooking as exercise!  Well, it's time to change the way you look at it.

       At this age your toddler loves to "pat" and "press" things down, so pizza is a perfect creation to start with.  Not only it is fun to make, it also provides you with a great opportunity to sneak a few extra vegetables in along the way.  Obviously your toddler won't be helping with any of the cutting or operating of the oven, but she can help flatten the pizza dough, spread the sauce and add the cheese.  If you are really creative, go right ahead and make the pizza dough yourself, but if time (or patience) is an issue it can always be purchased from your favorite pizzeria for just a few dollars.

       Cookies are also a fun option to make together, but be prepared for a lot of sampling along the way.  Your toddler will love to press down the sugar into the measuring cup, and help to press down with cookie cutters after she has assisted with rolling out the dough.

       Now, instead of begging your little one to leave you alone in the kitchen...invite her to join you.


  Andrew and Devin's Opinion
           I was feeling like a challenge when I took on this activity...and boy did I get one!  Pizza is a family favorite in our household, so I thought that it would be the best cooking option for us to choose.  Despite feeling bold, I was not feeling like cleaning up the inevitable mess from making pizza dough from scratch, so I purchased one that was already made from our favorite hometown pizzeria.  I then gathered the remaining ingredients, pizza sauce and cheese, and began to warm up our pizza stone in the oven.

       My twenty-one-month-old identical twin boys, Andrew and Devin, were stationed in their booster seats at the kitchen table, and each was provided with a mound of pizza dough for their individual pies.  I then showed them hand-over-hand how to pound, knead and push the dough into a flattened circle.  And I am quite proud to say that when we were done, their pizza shapes were actually quite round (somewhat).

       Now the fun began as I poured pizza sauce into the center of their dough and showed them how to spread it around with their hands.  Andrew looked at me and said, "Ucky," (A.K.A. Yucky), as he touched the red sauce tainting his beautiful dough creation in disgust.  After a few minutes of watching Devin enjoying himself getting sauce everywhere but where it belonged, Andrew did eventually spread his around as well, although only his pointer finger on his right hand did the work.  I honestly don't believe at that moment they had a clue what they were creating, despite their chanting "Pida, pida" all the while they worked.

       Next I placed a bowl of shredded mozzarella cheese next to each of my boys, and showed them how to add it to their creations.  Cheese of any type is their favorite lately, so I should have anticipated that more would end up in their mouths than on their pizzas.  Nonetheless, a few stragglers did manage to get to the original destination in the end, and finally their pizzas were complete and placed in the oven.

       Once cooked and cooled, (and looking "somewhat" appetizing), I settled Andrew and Devin back into their seats and placed their masterpieces in front of them.  Whether or not they realized that they had actually made their own dinners, I'll never know.  But, I do know that there were no battles at the dinner table that night, and there was not a left-over in sight.


  Have you begun to wonder...
           How important is it to brush my toddler's teeth?       

       It is very important to start this healthy habit when your child is very young.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you brush your toddler's teeth at least one time a day at this age, preferably two times a day, after breakfast and before bed.  However, if you can only manage to sneak one brushing in a day, go for the nighttime brushing.  Leftover bacteria that grows in your little one's mouth overnight may eventually result in cavities over time, so in order to prevent tooth decay, it is important to remove any plaque before it can do damage.

       Over the next few years your toddler will need some assistance brushing his teeth, especially the back ones.  Right now he still lacks the coordination, as well as the ability to focus long enough to do a really thorough job by himself, so get in there with him and lend a hand.

       If you do have difficultly getting your toddler to open his mouth wide enough to brush, distraction works wonders at this age and he will love to mimic the funny faces that you make.  As for the musically inclined parents out there, go ahead and make up a few songs about brushing teeth while you're at it, but be sure that the lyrics contain plenty of "Ahhhhs" and "Eeeees."


Lessons in Learning
By Stacy Dennis, edHelperBaby

           How can you teach a child who does not seem interested in learning?  As our babies grow into toddlers, we want to teach them so many things.  We want them to learn to count, the alphabet, their colors, and so much more.  It makes sense to start teaching them as soon as possible.  What if your child shows no interest in learning? How can you make sure that he gets the information necessary to be right where he needs to be?       

       The best way I have found is very simple.  Talk to your child all the time.  Tell them what you are doing when you are doing it.  If you are picking up toys, count the toys as you put them in the toy box.  If you are at the store, you can point out different colors you see on packaging or different letters you see.  You can sing learning songs as you drive around running errands.  There are so many ways to teach our children without sitting down and learning the traditional way.       

       I have also come across some fun learning activities you can do with your child.  They will not even realize they are learning.  An activity that is very popular in my house is the toy sort.  We pick out 10-15 toys and put them in a pile.  We then decide how we want to sort, i.e. sometimes by color, other times by size or purpose.  We then sort the toys into their appropriate place. Sorting is great way to challenge your toddler and a math skill that will be used later in life.       

       A great, inexpensive way to expand your child's vocabulary is to make him a picture book.  I went to a dollar store and bought some picture albums.  I then cut out pictures from magazines.  I cut pictures out of everything from trees, to animals, to people.   Above each picture I wrote one word explaining what the picture was.  My son loves the homemade books and has learned so much from them.  You can also make a book of family members.  This works well when you have family out of town that your toddler does not get to see often.  If he can see their picture and name, he will have a better chance of recognizing them the next time he sees them.       

       The best way to help your child learn is not to push academics on him.  Create a stimulating environment with new and fun activities.  As you read above, these activities do not need to be expensive or time consuming. You would be surprised how much your toddler learns just from observing you and the things around him.       


Personality Differences
By Stacy Dennis, About my child Jackson

           Personalities can vary so much from child to child.  We are in a playgroup that meets every week.  There are eight toddlers all within six months of each other.  There are four girls and four boys.  As to be expected, I noticed a big difference in temperament between the boys and girls.  I was surprised to find, though, that there were quite a few personality differences when I compared the boys to each other.  My son, Jack, is a firecracker.  If you looked up the word boy in the dictionary, his picture would be there.  He is all boy.  He is loud, rough and tough.  Luckily though, he has not shown any bullying signs yet.  I am hoping he will not.  Another little boy who is a couple months younger than mine, is very quiet and reserved.  He hardly speaks and when he does, it is in a very soft tone.  While Jack is over in the corner crashing cars, he is sitting next to his mom coloring.  One of the other boys is a busy body.  He is into everything.  His poor mom does not get to sit down for more than one minute at a time.  He expects her to be right by him at all times.  The last boy is more of an observer.  He likes to stand back and watch the other children.  What causes the differences in personality?  We had a long discussion about this last week.  It was funny, because as we looked at ourselves, we realized we were a lot like our kids.  I am a firecracker. I like to be heard and the center of attention.  The mom of the quiet little boy is very reserved herself.  The busy bodied boy's mom has never been one to sit still herself.  Finally, the child who likes to sit back and observe, has two parents who tend to stay in the background as well.   I guess our children get a lot of their ways from us as parents.  We just have to keep that in mind the next time they do something that drives us crazy!


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