Your toddler has a good sense of humor now and he loves slapstick comedy. He will belly laugh at the absurd, like putting a diaper on your head or using a banana as a comb. Try humor to diffuse tense moments. Don’t allow yourself to start yelling. Instead make a joke you and your toddler can laugh at.
What Your Toddler is Learning
Your toddler is learning more small muscle skills now. He is ready to start building towers. You may have to demonstrate building a tower of blocks. Start with two blocks and as he gains skill add one more.
If you give him paper and a big crayon, he will scribble without you demonstrating. Use large size crayons, they are much harder to break and easier for him to grasp at this age.
Modeling clay is a great way for him to practice pulling, kneading, and rolling with his hands. Like anything else he does at 13 months, he won’t be interesting in it for long. But it will strengthen his hands and fingers.
Eating may be an issue these days. Toddlers, although they are in constant motion, need less to eat than they did only a few months ago. Their growth rate has slowed down. He may seem to be too busy to eat or too picky about what he eats. Both of these are normal for this age.
Don’t make mealtime a battle. The more you push him to eat, the less likely he will be to do it. Just provide him two or three healthy choices at each meal. Let him choose to eat what he wants. He’ll let you know when he has had enough by throwing food off his tray or just playing with it. Take away what he hasn’t eaten. If he hasn’t eaten much, make sure any snacks you give him are healthy snacks. Don’t let him fill up on junk food.
Although your toddler can’t say very many words, he knows the meaning of much of what you say to him. He should be able to point to body parts, items of clothing, and toys on your verbal request. He may be making animal noises when prompted by key words. Depending on his personality, he may not enjoy performing on demand for an audience.
Continue to name everything around your toddler. Name the actions he is doing and you are doing. Put names to the emotions he feels.
Your toddler’s language and social development now make it possible for him to mimic gestures and postures. If you use a doll to do an action and then give him the doll, he can make it do the same action. He can also copy the action with his own body. He may enjoy making the doll do something for you to copy. Toddlers love seeing you in funny postures. It will tickle his funny bone.
He may be very unpredictable with playmates now. He may suddenly bite or hit with no apparent provocation. He may be patting the dog gently one minute and hit him in the nose with a toy the next. He does not realize that the playmate or the dog are alive and have feelings. He sees them only as objects to be explored.
He isn’t turning into a monster and he isn’t deliberately disobeying you. He is exploring his world and learning what he can do to whatever is around him. He is learning what things he can do and what things are not acceptable.
His self-concept is beginning to develop. A healthy self-concept is established as he feels he matters and is important to others. He needs to know that people care about him. Of course, all the time you have cuddled him, talked with him, played with him and cared for him has begun this healthy self-concept. He knows he is important to you. But now that he is more active and begins to “mess things up” and refuse to do some things, it is a good time to remember that your words are powerful. Be careful not to call him names or attack his character when you correct him. Say “no, don’t ___” to an action, don’t say, “bad boy.” When one parent gets worn out with caring for him, it would be so helpful if the other one can take over for a while. When exhaustion sets in, the governors we have on our mouths sometimes fail us.
Ways You Can Help
Problem-solving activities stimulate your toddler’s thinking and reasoning processes. Problem-solving has two parts. The first one is a goal that he wants badly enough to try to reach. The second one is an obstacle between him and his goal. He will experiment with trial and error to remove or get around the obstacle. In the process of experimentation he learns new principles that expand his knowledge of how the world works.
He is no longer satisfied with doing the same thing over and over again. He knows what he can do. Now he wants to see the cause and effect of things outside himself. He will try something once or twice to see how it acts. He forms an idea of a principle to apply in other situations, like blocks fit in holes. Then when there is some obstacle to that principle working, he has to adapt his idea to the new circumstance, like big blocks don’t fit in small holes.
Find a goal or reward that motivates your toddler to his greatest efforts. When he is motivated, he will increase the number of times he tries to solve the problem. The goal or reward makes the lesson more vivid in his mind and helps him remember.
When providing an obstacle, watch for mounting frustration. When he begins to cry or fuss or repeat the same movement over and over again with no variation, he is too frustrated. He will not learn any more at this time. Show him how the task is solved or just remove it and give him something else to do for a while.
Rough and Tumble Game
Make an Obstacle Course
Your toddler is gaining more confidence in crawling, cruising, and walking. A wonderful way to keep him busy for a while and to help him develop his motor skills is to make an Obstacle Course for him. Provide some things for him to climb over, around, or through. A pile of laundry, pillows, phone books, and even a tired parent will work. An empty cardboard box that is open at both ends can be great fun. Get a small toy for him to “chase” over, under, around, or through his Obstacle Course. Have fun! Laugh a lot.
Make a Feely Box
Get a box and fill it with lots of different things to feel. Include some fur, tissue paper, sand paper, foam sponge, an elastic strip, Velcro, and similar items. While you and your toddler sit on the floor, take one piece out of the box at a time. Show him how to handle the piece (stroke, stretch, crumble, etc.) Talk about how it feels. Allow your child to handle it and see what to do with it. Encourage him to play freely with these materials from time to time. Occasionally add new materials to the collection.
Rolling, throwing, and catching balls helps develop hand-eye co-ordination as well as agility. The progression in arm control begins with rolling and progresses to bouncing a ball, to throwing underhand, to throwing overhand. It will be a long time until he masters all of these, but it is time to begin rolling balls back and forth with your toddler. At first he will trap the ball between his legs if he is sitting down. Encourage him to roll the ball back to you.
What to Expect Next
- Combining words and gestures to make his needs known
- Responding to instructions
- Matching lids with appropriate containers
Getting Back to Happy
Happiness is not just a personality trait. Children with any type personality can be happy. Happiness is seen by smiles, curiosity, interest in other children, and not needing constant stimulation by others. Unhappiness shows when a child is withdrawn, quiet, not spontaneous, plays little, and doesn’t laugh or smile. Unhappy children have distress, fear, and anger.
So what makes toddlers happy? You. Joy comes from playing and learning with Mom and Dad. Your connection, bonding with your toddler is the single best step you can take to insure your child’s happiness both now and throughout life.
One of the tasks of this period of your baby’s life is learning to return to happy. There are many things that can make your child cry. He may be angry, fearful, frustrated, disappointed, or hurt. You cannot “fix” everything in his life. You can’t keep him from ever crying. That is totally unrealistic and not even healthy. He must learn to tolerate some distress and unhappiness. As parents, you must let him struggle to figure things out on his own, to learn to cope. When he learns he can get through these unpleasant situations, he will be building a reservoir of confidence that he can draw on in the future.
Your role in this process is two-fold. First, allow him to struggle to overcome some obstacles and not to rescue him from ones he can handle. Allow him time to “fix” the problem himself. Second, when you see he is overwhelmed by the problem, help him calm down. Don’t whisk him away from the struggle, join him, hold him, talk to him. Help him to get back to happy.
Life is so much better for people who have learned the skill of returning to happy. They are not only more contented themselves, they have more friends, learn other lessons more easily, are more creative, are better problem solvers, and suffer less from depression.
Here are some tricks you might use to help your toddler get back to happy after a meltdown. Find something to praise him for because everyone loves to be praised. Let him have a romp outside or even run in the house for a few minutes. Sometimes he just needs to blow off some steam with some physical activity. Make a game out of an attitude change. Try going through an imaginary attitude car wash. Twirl, swish, tickle, and blow away the bad mood. Use your imagination to bring a giggle after the storm. If being over tired is the cause, lying down for a nap may be the best way to return to happy.
13 Months and Screaming
There are a couple reasons for screaming this month. When he just has the volume turned up, he is exploring the power of his voice. He may love the echoing sound he can make in big open spaces like the bank or church. Your best tactic is to divert his attention.
He may be screaming and crying when his will is crossed. He is only recently able to get to many of the things that have always been off-limits to him. Since he couldn’t get to them before, he didn’t miss them. Now his will is crossed many times a day. Earlier whenever he cried he was given what he wanted—a bottle, a diaper change, a smiling face. Since it worked to cry and get his will before, maybe crying or screaming will get his will now. It is very important that you don’t give into his screaming. Remove him from the temptation or divert his attention and help him get back to happy. Just don’t reward his screams.
Heavenly Father, there are so many times I have to say “no” to my toddler. I get tired and frustrated because he just doesn’t remember or understand what is dangerous. Please help me stay calm. Help me remember that he is just learning. You have so much patience with me, help me have all the patience I need with this precious child You have given me. In Jesus’ name, Amen