This is the age of climbing for many toddlers who, once they have mastered walking, seem to want to see the world from a higher vantage point. Couches, chairs, benches and even bookcases will all provide an opportunity for your 16 month old to scale onwards and upwards on their sturdy little legs. You’ll be constantly surprised this month about how they interpret different household objects and the imaginative ways they’ll use them. Containers become hats; empty tissue boxes are really shoes and your handbag the latest “must have” fashion item to be paraded around the house. When you have a toddler in the house, everyday life takes on another dimension. They tend to be noisy little people too, with little consideration for other people’s needs or belongings. For a 16 month old, what’s yours is theirs; what they want they get and there are no social niceties to adhere to.
Your toddler is too young to understand that some things are not meant to be touched or picked up, but this does not mean you can’t start some early discipline and guidance strategies. Saying “no”, removing an object and putting it somewhere safe and then offering then an alternative to play with is sufficient at this age. Distraction is a vital component of turning their attention away from a less safe activity to something more suitable. Modify your home environment so that you don’t constantly need to divert your 16 month old away from precious or unsafe items. Aim for a simple, peaceful family life. You may need to accept the fact that although your home may not appear exactly as you’d like it to for now, it is safe and suitable for a young family.
Your toddler may not have fully grasped the concept of walking just yet and could be still unsure about taking their first steps. If you are concerned, have them checked by your early childhood nurse or your GP. Walking age has a genetic component and is influenced by many other factors. Make sure your toddler has lots of opportunity to practice their walking skills and isn’t spending long hours in their pram or cot, a walker or a play-pen. Even being carried in a back pack for lengthy periods can impact on time spent on the floor.
Your toddler will be able to play with blocks this month and build a tower of 3-4 on top of each other. They’ll practice the same repetitive game over and over and then delight in them all crashing to the floor. Watch them as they copy your actions and mimic your behaviour. Sweeping the floor, using a towel, opening the fridge will all be seen as wonderful games by your little one. You’ll hear yourself replicated in their voice too and although they won’t be able to speak clearly yet, the pitch and rhythm of your tone will be mimicked.
Don’t be alarmed if your toddler has flat feet just now. This is completely normal in the toddler years and it won’t be until they are around 4 years of age that the arch in their feet may develop. Likewise their hands may still look very small with short, plump fingers. With time, all of your toddler’s bones will grow and their muscles and ligaments, joints and body shape will change considerably. How they appear now is not a snapshot of their final appearance when they have matured fully.
Get out the finger paints, non-toxic crayons and stacks of paper this month. Your toddler’s fine motor skills are further developing and they’ll delight in learning about their mastery over their hands and fingers. Peg some large pieces of paper to the fence and hang them on the clothes line to dry. Glue some pasta, glitter and bits of string to it and make a collage. Finger painting will be fun too and will help to create a lovely mess. Date your toddler’s art work and keep the very best of them. Over time it is lovely to look back and see how far they have developed in their skill and technique.
Go to the park when you can and encourage your toddler to climb on the equipment. Watch your own reactions to their explorations and be encouraging. Show them how to scale the ladders, swings and climbing frames safely and have a go yourself. Your 16 month old will love it when you become involved in their games.
Aim to rotate your toddler’s toys to keep them interested in the novelty of something new. Your toddler will have a very short term memory and the saying “out of sight out of mind” must have been written for a 16 month old. Avoid thinking the more money you spend on a toy the more fun it will be. Toddlers make their own games and are attracted to anything bright that fosters their imagination. Look for toys which have lots of colour and noise and which they can interact with in some way. They may even take a liking to an item of your clothing and insist on taking it wherever they go. Some toddlers develop a deep affection for quite unusual household items, particularly those made of fabrics which feel soft. This is all part of being a toddler and in the big scheme of things to be concerned about, doesn’t really rate any concern.
Some frustrations, anger and oppositional behaviour this month may come from your toddler. Try to stay calm and in control of your own emotions when they are having their own little meltdown. There may be times when you need to take a deep breath and just walk away for a few moments. Counting to ten, asking your partner to watch them while you have a break, or phoning a friend for a chat can all help when the heat is on. But you’ll be amazed at how quickly your toddler can turn from being an angry little person to being their happy self again. Having a short fuse and little tolerance for frustrating situations is all part and parcel of a toddler’s personality. It doesn’t take much to set them off but through you, they will learn about the qualities of patience and perseverance.
Your toddler’s concept of time still needs to develop so they won’t appreciate when you are in a rush or just want to get something done. They’re on their own time frame which means there’s bound to be a battle of wills sometimes. Allow for some interesting moments when they’ll want to dress themselves or do something which would only take you a minute. Aim to look for a compromise and give them some control and autonomy over one aspect of the job and you do the rest. Make a fuss of them and praise your toddler when they achieve a task. Giving a toddler attention is as vital to them as food – they will thrive on it so don’t be economical when it comes to telling them they’ve done a good job. They will want to please you and make you happy.
Your toddler needs to be eating the same meals as the rest of the family now, so avoid cooking them special or separate foods. Cereals, bread and pasta, rice, milk and dairy foods, meat, fish and chicken, fruits and vegetables will supply their total nutritional requirements for growth and energy. Think about your own attitude and relationship to food and role model appropriate eating behaviours. If you are eating something, your toddler will want to try it too so be careful about what they see you putting in your own mouth.
Keep taking food with you whenever you go out and remember your toddler only has a small stomach. They will need to eat every couple of hours to satisfy their hunger and to help avoid mood swings. Processed cereal or fruit bars, packaged biscuits and processed “snack foods” are generally a less healthy alternative to simple foods which still bear some resemblance to their original state. Fresh fruit cut up into small pieces, sandwiches, cheese and crackers are all healthy choices.
Think about the plants you have growing in your garden and if they are safe to have around your toddler. Check Kids Safe NZ or the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research website for lists of dangerous plants and particular ones you need to be mindful of. Check your garage and garden shed for poisons and chemicals which your toddler could access. Now that they are at a climbing age, the potential for them to access dangerous compounds has expanded. Think about your own habits when it comes to household products and how and where you use them. You’ll be amazed by how quickly your toddler can find a way to get to what they want. Childproof lids are not a guarantee of security so make a point of keeping all chemicals well out of reach.