17 month olds are combining several skills together to accomplish a task and learning words for sensations and feelings. Watching her do more and more complex tasks reminds us our child is really learning and growing up fast.
What Your Toddler is Learning
She is now able to combine skills like climbing up on a chair, turning around, and facing forward. Squatting down, playing with a toy for a minute or so, popping up and running to the next toy is a complex series of skills she does successfully many times a day now.
17 months olds love to climb: climb steps, climb on chairs and tables, climb out of the crib, and even climb up on kitchen counters. Your challenge is to give her lots of opportunities to practice and yet to keep her from danger. Things that were out of reach just a few weeks ago are no longer safe from your toddler’s reach.
Another skill she will be honing is balancing. Walking on the edge of the curb or balancing on a log will help her become even steadier on her feet. She may enjoy hopping, but will probably need to hold your hand while she tries to hop on one foot.
She is no longer just doing single actions over and over, like pushing a button or throwing food off her tray. She is combining several actions to accomplish a goal. Fine motor skills involve precise thumb and finger motions, hand and wrist actions, and hand-eye co-ordination. These are vital skills necessary to developing mentally as well as physically. Knowing what can be done with blocks, planning the action, and stacking them develop mental skills along with fine motor skills. Scribbling and coloring help develop the fingers, thumb, and wrists for writing.
Many 17 month olds have stopped taking a morning nap. They usually sleep about 11 hours at night and take a day time nap of about 2– 2 1/2 hours. You’ll know that she is getting enough sleep if you do not have to wake her in the morning. If she always falls asleep in her car seat or become overly cranky and irritable during the day, she may not be getting enough sleep.
Although her vocabulary is still quite limited and she gets frustrated when she tries to let you know what she wants, she is getting easier to understand as she combines a word or two with pointing.
She is combining words with actions, feelings, and the senses. Call her attention to the sounds that accompany the sights she sees and give her the vocabulary necessary to express these events. The crib rail squeaks and thuds, the telephone rings, and footsteps announced Daddy’s arrival.
Label sensations as well as actions or sounds. The cat is soft, the dog’s bark is loud, the apple is sweet, the snow is cold, and a kiss is tender. Use correct pronunciations, don’t copy and repeat her infant attempts at speech.
She loves imitating the people around her. She wants to help you vacuum or shop or fold clothes or cook. She learns by imitating, but she is too small to do many of the things you do. Finding some part of the job that she can learn to do, or giving her child-size toys of the things you use helps her learn new skills. Letting her “help” you and thanking her for her help will go a long way to her co-operating by doing chores later on.
Independence is her goal. She wants to be able to dress and undress herself. Undressing is easier and by the end of this month she should be able to do it all by herself. It will be a while longer before she can dress all by herself. Tell her, “You pull it off.” When she succeeds, be ready to say, “Give it to Mommy. Thank you.” She is learning about her clothes, on and off, balance while doing another task, and about neatness and politeness.
Self-assertion is increasing. She has a mind of her own and she tries hard to communicate just how she wants things to go. Frustration at not being able to communicate her desires or not getting what she wants may take the form of negative behavior or resistance to what you want. Desiring to do a job by herself can lead to tantrums too. When it is safe, let her try a task, even if you are quite sure she cannot do it alone, then be ready to help when she needs and wants help.
Her new self-assertion may lead her to begin some new rituals. She may start some bedtime or bath time rituals all her own. She may want her toys arranged in a certain way before she will fall asleep, or her food served only in a certain bowl. Self-assertion is normal, she is not being rebellious.
Ways You Can Help
Independence and Eating
She should be able to feed herself finger foods and use a spoon. Now is the time to encourage her to do it all by herself. She will still make quite a mess and still be quite opinionated about what food she wants to eat, but don’t let mealtime become a battle of wills. Some toddlers enjoy feeding themselves foods they like to eat. They may tolerate parents feeding them foods they don’t prefer.
Don’t allow this, though, since this will cause trouble when she suddenly decides she won’t eat any food you are feeding her. It is better for her to feed herself all she is eating. Then she can choose to eat new foods without it being a tug-or-war with mom.
She will probably reject certain foods. When she rejects a food or milk, don’t force it on her, just take it away. Because every time she says “no” her determination becomes stronger. Your pushing foods she rejects, may turn a temporary rejection into a permanent dislike. Accept her preferences and then in a few weeks try again. When looked at over a week or so, her choices will be a well-balanced diet.
She may drink less milk, but a pint a day in any form is adequate. Cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt all count toward her total milk intake. If she should take less than a pint of milk or milk products a day for more than a month, report this to his doctor.
Foods that require lots of chewing build the same tongue, lips, and jaw muscles necessary for good speech. Food texture, rather than taste or smell, will more often affect her choices of foods now.
Parent’s Role in Teaching
Your toddler’s struggle for independence and mastery of skills and language can be a confusing time for parents. How much should I help? How much should I make her do herself? What is good enough? If I don’t expect better from her, will she only be average or mediocre? Urge her to do all that you know she can do. Help her do what she is learning, and do for her what she is not yet ready to do. That sounds easy, but the lines marking these steps shift from day-to-day. Sometimes you will help too much and other times you will try to make her do better to the point of frustration. Applaud her success in part of the job until she can do the whole job and then applaud her success in doing the whole job by herself.
With speech, she needs to be learning to ask for what she wants. If you anticipate her needs and wants without her working to express herself, she will be lazy about learning to speak. On the other hand, if you expect her to pronounce the words perfectly before you meet her request, she may feel insecure about even trying or she will have tantrums out of frustration. Let her be her age. Accept less than perfect pronunciation. You will have a happy little talker in no time at all.
There are skills you can be working on now that will help your toddler in preparation for learning to read. She needs to become aware of her body and its relationship to other objects in space. Learning to undress and dress herself is a step in the right direction. Learning to name the parts of her body and pointing to those parts on a picture or other person is another step. Learning up and down also helps. Another part of reading readiness is knowing there is a time order. Teaching the concepts of before, now, and later are also necessary for reading. Being held and read to creates a hunger to learn to read. Keep up the good work you are doing in reading and talking to your toddler!
This is a time to begin getting your toddler to sort things by color, shape, size, and type. You’ve probably already been using a shape sorter toy. Work on color recognition and sorting by color. Talk about the shapes, colors, and sizes of the toys she plays with.
You can extend her sorting ability during clean-up time. She may be able to begin putting her toys away by type. Say, “Pick up the balls.” “Now find all the animals.” “Where are all your trucks.”
Listening is a vital skill for learning. Toddlers need to learn how to listen. It is not a skill that comes automatically. If your toddler doesn’t feel like she has your attention, she may just act like she doesn’t hear you to get your attention. She’s probably learned already that this is one way to get you to notice her. Unfortunately that usually ends in frustration for both of you.
Never use the tactic of counting to get her obedience. Saying, “You better sit down before I count to three, one, two. . .” She will not be trained to listen to you and obey, but to wait until you get to “three” to obey. Other parents don’t count, but they repeat the order several times, increasing in volume or pitch. Toddlers soon learn at what volume or pitch they must obey or suffer consequences.
So how do you teach your child to listen? There are four simple steps to begin.
- First, look her directly in the eye. That means getting on her level. It is very hard for your child not to pay attention and know you mean business when you look directly in their eyes.
- Second, touch her. Touch communicates your personal involvement and adds importance to what you say.
- Third, speak simply. Use as few words as possible to communicate your desires. Make sure they are words she understands. Don’t ask a question or give her a choice about things you want her to do or not to do.
- And finally, gesture. Pointing at the same time you speak makes your words more understandable. Point to these toys then at that box when you say, “Put these toys in that box.” There are lots of other ways to increase the likelihood of her obedience and from time to time, we will return to this topic.
What to Expect Next
- Able to sort toys by color, size, and shape
- Brushes teeth with help
- Stacks four blocks
Heavenly Father, it is so amazing to watch our little one learn to combine skills and find ways to express feelings and sensations. Give me words to thank and worship You. Help me teach my child how to talk to You too. In Jesus’ name, Amen