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.)