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Your Toddler at 16 Months, 17 Months, & 18 Months

Boogie, Baby!

During these three months, your child is well into toddlerhood—asserting his independence, expressing his likes/dislikes, and moving himself all over the home. One way to channel this boundless energy is to turn up the volume on your stereo and ask your toddler for a dance. It is also a great way for you to energize yourself—especially during those long, late afternoons when you really could use a nap—and exercise together.

Check with your local library or mother’s groups about neighborhood music classes. At any age children are interested in music, but toddlers are especially interested in combining music and movement. Look for classes facilitated by music teachers who understand the need for toddlers to get up and boogie. Whether you want to pick up your child and swirl him around or grab his hands and do the twist, your toddler will love to share music and dancing with his favorite person: You!

(Click here for an offbeat guide to kids’ music.)

Brushing Begins

At your child’s healthcare appointment around 15 months, his provider may have mentioned the importance of establishing good oral hygiene. Most healthcare professionals follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation of regular oral checkups at well-child exams by the pediatrician during the toddler years.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (APD) suggests, however, that dental visits begin as early as six months. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about your child’s teeth and whether a visit to the dentist is warranted at this time.

If you decide to wait on that momentous first visit to the dentist, it is especially important to make good oral hygiene at home as part of your child’s daily routine. Choose a toothbrush specifically made for little mouths. If your child refuses the toothbrush, try at least to wipe the gums with a soft gauze pad or washcloth. Just use warm water at this time; wait on using toothpaste until your child can coordinate rinsing and spitting.

It is not uncommon for toddlers to refuse brushing teeth. There are some strategies you can try to achieve tooth-brushing success, and remember that many issues right now are focused on control:

    • When at the store, let your toddler pick out his own toothbrush (or maybe two) made for children.
    • Let your child occasionally hold and examine his toothbrush: He wants to know more—and rightly so—about this object being stuck in his mouth.
    • Each morning and evening (and lunch time if you are really ambitious), encourage tooth brushing as part of the routine. Let him put the brush under the faucet and then brush his own teeth.
    • Set a timer for brushing, increasing time up to two minutes over a week or so.
    • If he won’t hold the brush, another tactic is for you to brush his teeth but have him give you a signal (a wave or squeal) when it is time to stop. This way, he will still feel that he is in control of the tooth brushing process.
    • Lastly, make sure he sees you and other family members brush their own teeth. He may want to imitate your actions while you are modeling good oral hygiene practices.

(Read more of our pediatrician’s tooth-brushing advice, here.)

Mama! Mama!

Typically (but by no means always) a mommy is the primary caregiver or Number One in the eyes of a toddler. Some toddlers’ affection for the mommy to do everything can intensify around these months. Most mothers waffle between loving the fact that they are unconditionally adored by their children and having feelings of resentment that they are seen as the only ones wanted to . . . bathe the children, read a book, put the toddlers down for nap, prepare their meals, etc. No one will ever argue that primary caregiving is not hard, physical work.

And this is not easy on dads either. While we know that families are now swaying from typical work-home patterns, traditionally, dads are away from home during the day and look forward to spending time in the evening with their families. A dad may feel frustrated from the toddler’s constant preference for his mommy. Fortunately, with most kids, dads’ efforts are recognized in child development and he is awarded with another normal phase later in the preschool years where he is singled out as the adored adult in the child’s eye.

In the meantime, Mom and Dad can work together on helping the child accept both parents as caregivers. Part of the reason the child prefers his mommy is because she may be the one throughout the bulk of the day who provides important primary caregiving—changing diapers, helping the child go to sleep, holding the child if he has an ouchie, preparing meals and snacks, etc.

At nighttime, it is important for Dad to step into this role too. For situations where the child will not accept Dad at all, perhaps Mommy needs to step out for a nighttime walk or dinner with some friends to help the dad and toddler establish their own nighttime routine. Also, Mom needs to resist the temptation to micromanage Dad’s caregiving skills. Let him development his own style of caregiving. Maybe he’ll make some mistakes—but the toddler will surely let him know the preferred way. Finally, invest in some books about daddies. Mom can read these books during the day and talk about Daddy coming home in the evening to spend time with the toddler.

More Development Help

As you’re considering your child’s development, keep in mind that all children are unique. Whether your child 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.

Article Posted 4 years Ago
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