Knowing she belongs to a family and community is a key concept for your toddler to learn. Provide lots of opportunities for her to have special people in her life—those who are delighted to spend time with her.
What Your Toddler is Learning
Most 16 month olds are walking pretty well and are beginning to run. Their run looks rather stiff legged as they learn to balance at their new speed. Your toddler will still often trip over her own feet and misjudge distances.
Her goal this month is likely to be going up and down stairs. If she has not attempted the stairs before, she will want to begin to climb on hands and knees. Encourage her to back down on her tummy, feet first. If she has been crawling up the stairs for some time, she will want to start “walking” upstairs holding your hand or the railing. It will probably be a few months yet before she will try walking down solo.
Her small muscle development has progressed to being able to scribble with a crayon. You will have to supervise her drawing or you will have her art displayed on walls and furniture. But she will enjoy making crayon creations for you.
Like language skills, motor skills develop in a predictable sequence. Babies learn these skills at different rates, but there are some signs by this age that signal developmental problems. The earlier you notice a problem and get help, the better the chance for improvement.
Signs to watch for:
- Your child’s limbs seem stiff.
- Your child’s muscles seem floppy and loose.
- Your child doesn’t walk yet.
- Your child is walking on her toes.
- Your child favors one hand or side of her body.
- Your child seems very clumsy.
- Your child is constantly moving.
- Your child has trouble grasping and manipulating objects.
- Your child drools and has difficulty eating.
- Your child’s motor skills are regressing.
If you notice any of these signs in your toddler, talk to your pediatrician about them.
She is investing a lot of meaning into the few words she can say. If she says, “Eat.” She may mean, “I’m hungry. Is there anything I like to eat around here? How long do I have to wait for dinner?” Always expand her one word into a simple sentence. Her next step in language is to begin to put two words together.
She “talks” to herself a lot now. When someone responds to her self-talk, she may be very surprised, but she will enjoy the interaction. She learns more vocabulary as she associates the words she hears with the gestures she sees at the same time. She also learns as she echoes words she hears. Pretty soon, her language will snowball. The more she can speak, the more she learns to speak.
Don’t be worried if your 16 month old isn’t saying many words yet. More than 50% of boys and 30% of girls say five or fewer words at this age. As long as she hears and responds to what you say and is continuing to practice babbling, she will catch up in a few months. She is probably spending more of her energy on physical activities.
At 16 months she has been waving, smiling, and playing peek-a-boo for a while. She is probably beginning to initiate displays of affection. If you snuggle or blow kisses, she will probably do it back. She’s beginning to have her own style of social interaction.
She feels powerful and the center of her world, but she can’t do everything she wants to do. She will use you as an extension of herself. For example, when she can’t reach something, she’ll try to get you to do it for her. She wants to succeed at everything she tries, yet often she can’t. She wants your attention and appreciation of her efforts. She loves to see amazement on your face at her new feats of daring. When you admire her attempts, she will keep trying until she can succeed.
She is learning that good behavior leads to hugs and praise, but “no-nos” or being ignored result from bad behavior. What you think is funny and what makes you angry are becoming more and more important to her. One of the best tools at your disposal at this stage is your giving or withholding attention and approval.
Meltdowns may be a frequent occurrence this month.
There are several reasons for meltdowns at this age and each needs to be treated a bit differently.
- She may be overwhelmed by change or anything unexpected. Since she cannot explain the problem, she will likely dissolve in tears and screams. Telling her to stop or getting angry yourself, will not help. Being patient and comforting her will often end this type of meltdown the quickest.
- She may be frustrated with her limited capacity to communicate her desires or dislikes. Waiting until she calms down and then using simple words to describe the problem will let her know you understood and give her words she can learn to express herself at another time.
- Anger at having her will crossed will also trigger tantrums at this age. She is learning that she can’t always have what she wants, when she wants it. Letting her have what she wants will only cause her to believe this is how to get her way in the future. Your consistent, calm response will end the repetition of this kind of tantrum the most quickly. Learning you won’t change your mind and you are not impressed by her display of emotion will lead her to learn a better way to deal with her anger.
Overall, it is better to try to head off meltdowns before they happen. Watch for signs of mounting tension and defuse it when possible.
Ways You Can Help
Climbing and balancing are what your toddler is trying to learn. Plan on spending time at a playground regularly now. Climbing ladders and going down slides help her learn balance in a fun way. Help her use a low curb like a balance beam. Don’t forget to teach her the words up and down while you are at it. Piles of pillows and blankets on the living room floor will work for rainy day exercise.
Beach Ball Catch
A beach ball and a grassy hill with a gentle slope provide all you need for some great outdoor fun. Toss the ball up the hill and show your toddler how to catch it when it rolls down. She will probably not catch it very often, but she will have a lot of fun chasing the ball around. She will also be learning how to walk on a grade. If she is particularly good at walking and running, this will take her another step closer to learning to catch a ball.
Many of you probably got shape sorter toys for your baby. Until now, she has enjoyed chewing the pieces or throwing them off her highchair. Now is the time to get the set out and begin to encourage her to solve the puzzle. Show her how one shape fits only one way in one hole. Give the shape to her and see how she attacks the problem. Does she keep trying to put it in the wrong way or does she try different approaches? This will help you to know whether you will need to teach her to look for alternate solutions to problems in the future. After she can do one shape regularly, give her two. She will need your help to get the shapes out to try again.
Sleight of Hand
Your toddler is not fooled by your hiding a toy under covers now. No matter how many layers cover her toy, she will search diligently in the last place she saw it before it disappeared. She does not understand actions that occur out of her sight, however.
Let your toddler see you hide a small item inside your hand. Put your hand behind your back and lay down the item. Close your hand and show it to your toddler again. When you open your hand, she will be quite surprised to see the item missing. If you close your hand again, she will try to see in your hand, expecting to find the item. She will not look behind your back.
She has learned to imagine an item that is out of sight. Now she must learn to imagine an action that happens out of her sight. Show her what you did with the item. When you try it again, she will probably look in the right place.
At another sitting, do the same trick with a different object. Then try putting the object into a container behind your back. It will take her many experiences like this before she is able to understand what is happening out of her sight.
One of the major tasks of the first half of your toddler’s second year is to know that she belongs. A settled sense of belonging creates a strong self-image and emotional base.
When you bonded with your baby in the first weeks of life, you were expressing unconditional love. Over these months you have demonstrated in many ways that you love your baby, no matter what she does. You will continue to reinforce this through your care and concern for her, providing what she needs, and your affection.
When you meet her needs, you build her trust. Without trust we can have no meaningful relationships. She has learned she can depend on you to feed her, care for her, and protect her. Your attention to her and meeting her needs has given her a strong foundation of trust.
Now she needs to know she belongs, that she is important, and that people care about what happens to her. She knows she belongs to you, but now she needs to know she belongs to other special people. This is where grandparents and aunts and uncles come in. They notice your child, laugh with her, show concern when she falls down, and their eyes sparkle when they see her. In a multitude of ways they let her know, “You are important! We care about you! You belong to us and we belong to you.”
Most young families today don’t live with their extended family. It is harder to meet these needs for your toddler, but not impossible. Make the effort to be with aunts, uncles, and grandparents as often as possible. When it isn’t possible, find some substitute “special people.” Close friends can be like aunts and uncles to your toddler. Older couples can be substitute grandparents too. As Christians we often ask people we respect to be godparents. They can serve as special people for your toddler to relate to. Give your toddler plenty of opportunities to relate to all the special people in her life.
- Don’t be over-protective and over-fussy. Constant warnings teach your child fear for her own safety.
- Don’t be over-bossy. Constant nagging teaches your child to anticipate criticism.
- Don’t always make her “star of the show”. Constant showing off teaches her to expect praise for everything she does and be disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
- Don’t always greet her first. She will not see the need to initiate social interactions.
- Don’t worry about thumb sucking and security blankets. In time she’ll give them up.
- Don’t push your child beyond what is expected at her age. Even if she is ahead of schedule, she needs to have all the basic experiences typical for her age. Pushing her ahead in those areas she is already ahead of schedule may cause you to neglect the areas where she is behind. It is much better for her to be well-rounded than to forge too far ahead in one area.
- Don’t try to potty train yet. She does not have the muscle control to be truly potty trained. It is you, not her that is trained and then she may seriously have problems learning for herself later.
- Don’t teach your toddler to read. Teach her how to learn, then she will be ready at the right time.
What to Expect Next
- Takes off one piece of clothing by herself
- Uses six words regularly
- Throws a ball underhand
Table Talk- Throwing Food
One of the most common complaints of moms of toddlers is that they throw their food, bowl, and cup on the floor. There are a couple different reasons for this bad behavior. Toddlers just do not eat as much as they did. Their growth is slowing down and they don’t require as much food as they did before they turned a year old. Also, the food they eat has more calories than the milk they drank before. It is sometimes hard for parents to believe their toddler is getting enough to eat, but when your toddler starts throwing her food off her tray, she probably has had enough to eat.
When your baby was younger she threw her food, bowl, and cup off her highchair tray just to watch it drop. She had to discover gravity for herself. A little later, she threw things off because she was exercising her new skill of throwing. Now, she is interested in the response she gets from her parents. If mom yelled the last time food was thrown, will she yell this time? Is that the permanent response to throwing food, or will it be different this time? Until she is convinced she gets the same response each time, she is likely to keep up this bad habit. Your consistency in the way you handle this behavior is what will train your toddler most efficiently.
With these last two concepts in mind, here’s a logical approach to flying food. First, don’t give your toddler any more than a bite or two at a time on her tray. This means a lot less food on the floor. Give her a drink in a snap-on lid cup and only when she wants a drink. Then when she begins to throw the food, tell her, “Food is for eating, not playing. If you throw any more food, you will get down from your chair.” When the next piece gets thrown, remove the food, lift her down from her chair, and don’t give her anything else to eat until the next mealtime. She will not starve! After only a few times, she will decide to quit throwing food.
Toddlers do not sit at the table well after they are finished eating. At home you will be able to teach her to sit until excused from the table when she is older. But that is not a lesson for toddlers. They want to be on the go. This makes it hard to eat out at a restaurant. Probably, for your own sanity as well as the enjoyment of other patrons, it is better to only take your toddler to kid-friendly eateries. There will come the time when she will enjoy sitting in her chair longer and coloring or playing with some small toys, but not at this age.
Don’t despair, just be consistent and you will all get through this stage.
Heavenly Father, we are so amazed as we watch our little one turn into a little person with her own personality and will. Thank you for trusting us with the care of this child of yours. Give us wisdom for raising our child to be all You want her to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen