Your toddler has a good sense of humor now and she loves slapstick comedy. She 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. She is ready to start building towers. You may have to demonstrate building a tower of blocks. Start with two blocks and as she gains skill add one more.
If you give her paper and a big crayon, she will scribble without you demonstrating. Use large size crayons, they are much harder to break and easier for her to grasp at this age.
Modeling clay is a great way for her to practice pulling, kneading, and rolling with her hands. Like anything else she does at 13 months, she won’t be interesting in it for long. But it will strengthen her 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. She may seem to be too busy to eat or too picky about what she eats. Both of these are normal for this age.
Don’t make mealtime a battle. The more you push her to eat, the less likely she will be to do it. Just provide her two or three healthy choices at each meal. Let her choose to eat what she wants. She’ll let you know when she has had enough by throwing food off her tray or just playing with it. Take away what she hasn’t eaten. If she hasn’t eaten much, make sure any snacks you give her are healthy snacks. Don’t let her fill up on junk food.
Although your toddler can’t say very many words, she knows the meaning of much of what you say to her. She should be able to point to body parts, items of clothing, and toys on your verbal request. She may be making animal noises when prompted by key words. Depending on her personality, she may not enjoy performing on demand for an audience.
Continue to name everything around your toddler. Name the actions she is doing and you are doing. Put names to the emotions she feels.
Your toddler’s language and social development now make it possible for her to mimic gestures and postures. If you use a doll to do an action and then give her the doll, she can make it do the same action. She can also copy the action with her own body. She may enjoy making the doll do something for you to copy. Toddlers love seeing you in funny postures. It will tickle her funny bone.
She may be very unpredictable with playmates now. She may suddenly bite or hit with no apparent provocation. She may be patting the dog gently one minute and hit her in the nose with a toy the next. She does not realize that the playmate or the dog are alive and have feelings. She sees them only as objects to be explored.
She isn’t turning into a monster and she isn’t deliberately disobeying you. She is exploring her world and learning what she can do to whatever is around her. She is learning what things she can do and what things are not acceptable.
Her self-concept is beginning to develop. A healthy self-concept is established as she feels she matters and is important to others. She needs to know that people care about her. Of course, all the time you have cuddled her, talked with her, played with her and cared for her has begun this healthy self-concept. She knows she is important to you. But now that she 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 her names or attack her character when you correct her. Say “no, don’t ___” to an action, don’t say, “bad girl.” When one parent gets worn out with caring for her, 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 she wants badly enough to try to reach. The second one is an obstacle between her and her goal. She will experiment with trial and error to remove or get around the obstacle. In the process of experimentation she learns new principles that expand her knowledge of how the world works.
She is no longer satisfied with doing the same thing over and over again. She knows what she can do. Now she wants to see the cause and effect of things outside herself. She will try something once or twice to see how it acts. She 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, she has to adapt her idea to the new circumstance, like big blocks don’t fit in small holes.
Find a goal or reward that motivates your toddler to her greatest efforts. When she is motivated, she will increase the number of times she tries to solve the problem. The goal or reward makes the lesson more vivid in her mind and helps her remember.
When providing an obstacle, watch for mounting frustration. When she begins to cry or fuss or repeat the same movement over and over again with no variation, she is too frustrated. She will not learn any more at this time. Show her how the task is solved or just remove it and give her 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 her busy for a while and to help her develop her motor skills is to make an Obstacle Course for her. Provide some things for her 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 her to “chase” over, under, around, or through her 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 her 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 her 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 she masters all of these, but it is time to begin rolling balls back and forth with your toddler. At first she will trap the ball between her legs if she is sitting down. Encourage her to roll the ball back to you.
What to Expect Next
- Combining words and gestures to make her 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. She may be angry, fearful, frustrated, disappointed, or hurt. You cannot “fix” everything in her life. You can’t keep her from ever crying. That is totally unrealistic and not even healthy. She must learn to tolerate some distress and unhappiness. As parents, you must let her struggle to figure things out on her own, to learn to cope. When she learns she can get through these unpleasant situations, she will be building a reservoir of confidence that she can draw on in the future.
Your role in this process is two-fold. First, allow her to struggle to overcome some obstacles and not to rescue her from ones she can handle. Allow her time to “fix” the problem herself. Second, when you see she is overwhelmed by the problem, help her calm down. Don’t whisk her away from the struggle, join her, hold her, talk to her. Help her 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 her for because everyone loves to be praised. Let her have a romp outside or even run in the house for a few minutes. Sometimes she 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 she just has the volume turned up, she is exploring the power of her voice. She may love the echoing sound she can make in big open spaces like the bank or church. Your best tactic is to divert her attention.
She may be screaming and crying when her will is crossed. She is only recently able to get to many of the things that have always been off-limits to her. Since she couldn’t get to them before, she didn’t miss them. Now her will is crossed many times a day. Earlier whenever she cried she was given what she wanted—a bottle, a diaper change, a smiling face. Since it worked to cry and get her will before, maybe crying or screaming will get her will now. It is very important that you don’t give into her screaming. Remove her from the temptation or divert her attention and help her get back to happy. Just don’t reward her screams.
Heavenly Father, there are so many times I have to say “no” to my toddler. I get tired and frustrated because she just doesn’t remember or understand what is dangerous. Please help me stay calm. Help me remember that she 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