Most little ones are walking around this time—or rather toddling. Whether your child is on the cusp of walking or still prefers cruising around furniture, remember that as humans, we are programmed to be upright creatures. Soon your toddler will let go and take those first precious steps before you can say, “Someone get the video camera!”
Some children do not walk until 18 months or even later. This is a time when it is especially important to respect your child’s unique development. If you have concerns, check with your child’s healthcare provider who can do an assessment of your child’s developing motor skills. Again, our advice is to enjoy this time: It won’t be long before you will be running after your little moving target.
Changing Body and Eating Habits
As your child is becoming more active and rapidly developing amazing gross motor skills, you may notice a change in her body. She may lose some of that scrumptious baby fat on her legs and arms. She may also seem less interested in eating at times, while ravenous at others. When you take your child in for an exam, chances are you will notice that she is gaining weight at a much slower rate. Pretty soon, she’ll no longer look like the pudgy baby you love to cuddle—but she still loves your hugs during downtime and while she is refueling.
When your toddler is interested in eating, try offering her a spoon. This is a wonderful exercise in fine motor and self-help skills. There are also some safe, toddler-friendly forks on the market so your toddler can stab her broccoli or meatballs before devouring them. If she tosses the spoon or fork over the side of the high chair, take a deep breath and remember this is very developmentally appropriate for this age. She may have wanted to find out what would happen if she threw the spoon, or she may have been frustrated and decided to use her trusty fingers as her utensils. Messiness at eating is very common at this age. Stock up on large bibs and splat mats that go under the chair to keep the mess contained. And if you eat out you may want to skip white tablecloth restaurants during this stage in development.
Most toddlers have a few words in their vocabulary by now, but again, there is enormous range for language development. Often, the first words (outside of mama and dada) are related to their interests—truck, car, book, duck, doggie, etc. It is very important to repeat these words back to your child. Besides helping her master how to say the words, it is validating and gives her a sense of pride and accomplishment. Besides, it is so darn cute hearing toddlers speak.
Books are still one of the best ways to support language development. Again, pick out books based on your child’s interests. You may learn more than you ever thought you would know about vehicles used in construction or all the exotic animals in a zoo. Children are sponges for this knowledge and enjoy practicing to say new words. She may ask you to read the same book over and over—until all of you know it by heart. Author/illustrator Eric Carle has been a favorite for children and parents alike, by combining interesting text about animals and children with wonderful, colorful collage-like illustrations.
Regardless of how many words your child has under her belt, she has amazing receptive language abilities. One fun activity for her right now is to be your little helper for tasks she can easily manage. If she wants you to read her a book, ask her to go pick it out and bring it to you. Or if your hands are full and you drop something (that is easy to hold, like a sock), ask her if she can pick it up. She will have an enormous sense of accomplishment when she sees you smile and say “thank you'” for helping her. This is wonderful for laying the foundation for positive self-esteem and self-concept—ideas of the self that are shaped from early experiences with important people, like parents.
Awareness of Self and Others
Toward the end of these three months, your toddler will be able to recognize herself and others in photos or when she gazes at her lovely image in a mirror. Photos are a wonderful way to help your toddler understand about her family, friends, and herself as a separate individual. Children love looking at pictures through photo albums that protect pictures from bending.
Photos also help children who are in childcare and separated from Mom or Dad to feel closer to their parents. It is especially supportive if they can hold the photos in their own hands. Childcare providers can talk about who is in the photo and remind the child that Mommy or Daddy always comes back. Often toddler programs and preschools encourage parents to keep photos of family members and other loved ones (let’s not forget the family dog or cat) in the child’s cubby.
The Era of No
First-time parents are often surprised to hear this word from their child as early as 13 to 15 months. They may ask themselves, “Isn’t this a two-year-old’s word?” But even at seven months old, Baby realized that words have different meaning, and that “no” usually stops her from doing something she wants to do. So now, as your toddler is mastering the concept of herself as an autonomous individual, she is figuring out the tools to assert her independence. She may say “no” to almost every question that you ask her. This too will pass.
Instead of asking a yes/no question, you may want to give her choices. For example, “Laurel, do you want to drink juice or water with your snack?” Also, let your child feel in control of whatever it is you need her to get done. “Laurel, please pick out some socks to wear today.” OK, she may pick out purple socks to go with the green and yellow outfit, but at least she is wearing socks. And she felt that she was in control of this task. As parents, we have to pick our battles. Be clear and don’t offer choices when there really aren’t any.
We can also model with our own responses to our kids. It can be very difficult to refrain from saying “No” to children, especially when they are doing something that really pushes our buttons. If possible, think of other ways to redirect the behavior. “Laurel, balls are for throwing outside. You can roll the ball inside.” Obviously, if a child is doing something that is not safe, it is important to communicate quickly to stop the behavior. This may be the time for a stern, “No.”
The fifteen-month molars, which can make their appearance anytime now or as late as nineteen months, are often the source of discomfort for your toddler and a few sleepless nights for both of you. These are the large teeth located on the top and bottom that have double edges. You probably already know from previous bouts of teething how specifically to support your toddler during her discomfort.
Some parents recommend rubbing the gums with their fingers to relieve the pressure or offering a cold teething ring (frozen mini bagels work well too) or teething biscuit. If these techniques do not work, consult with your child’s healthcare provider on other ways to support a teething child, including over-the-counter pain remedies.
More Development Help
As you’re considering your child’s development, keep in mind that all children are unique. Whether your toddler reaches milestones early or late, she has her own developmental path to follow. The dividing lines between these months are very fuzzy. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s development, please check with her healthcare provider.
- Remember what was happening last month?
- Learn what to expect in your toddler’s 16th, 17th, & 18th months.