Wooooah, mama! Your little one is smack dab in the middle of toddlerhood! You may be overwhelmed some days trying to keep up with your wiggly, opinionated, temperamental kid. It’s important to remember that this stage will be over soon. Try to enjoy watching your child’s development, and be as patient as possible as they learn more about their world.
At around 16-18 months, your child will go through a monumental mental and physical growth spurt where they essentially make the transition from baby to toddler. They will have a huge increase in language comprehension and speech, understanding of the world around them, and in their autonomy as an individual human being.
It’s this growth spurt that is the beginning of tantrums, stubborn disobedience and those crazy emotions of the toddler years. Your little one is realizing that they can make their own choices, that they are separate from you, and that they have power. Hold on because the ride of parenthood is about to get crazier!
TRANSITION TO ADULT EATING HABITS
The time has finally come to transition to a more typical 3 meal eating pattern for your little one. If you have been frustrated over making separate, baby safe meals for the past year, take a deep sigh of relief…. the time has come!
Hopefully you have been slowly easing out of purees and baby foods and giving your baby more chunked foods to experiment with. If not, now is the time to start.
There are definitely foods that aren’t super safe for babies who are still learning to eat properly, but use your discretion and google it if you are unsure. Some foods will still need to be cut up to avoid choking, and some foods are just not really very baby friendly (ex. soup).
As your child grows and matures, you will be able to slowly try new foods out and see what they can handle. You can expect to be feeding them exactly what you are eating by around 2.5 years.
ROUTINE & CHOICES
Your child is starting to develop a sense of time and routine is especially important as they figure out how to be a human living in this world. Not only is routine important for your toddler to feel safe, it is also very important to aid in avoiding temper tantrums.
Part of the new rage and stubbornness your toddler is exhibiting comes from his feeling out of control. Obviously, your toddler can’t make all the choices about his life or he would die. We know that, but they don’t.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to give your child as many choices as possible. Examples:
“Alright! It’s time to brush teeth – would you like mommy or daddy to help you?”
“We need to get dressed. Which shirt would you like to wear today?”
“It’s time to eat lunch! Would you like apples or oranges with your chicken nuggets?”
All it takes is giving your toddler one little choice in every portion of their day. The routine and knowing what time is is really helps them to feel safe, and the small choices makes them feel powerful. It’s a win-win for mom and kid!
TRAINING YOUR TODDLER
One of the biggest learning curves in the 16-18 month growth spurt is the reality that they are their own person. Up until then, babies feel as if they are part of their parents. This is why they are clingy and snuggly and have separation anxiety. They think they belong with you and feel safest when you are making choices for them and are with them 24/7.
During this growth spurt, they learn that they are an individual that is separate from their parents. They realize that they can make their own choices and that their behavior controls whether or not they get what they want. They learn that their behavior has an affect on you and other adults in his life, and without proper discipline they will quickly learn how to control you with their tantrums.
You have to start right away in making sure your child knows who is in control. As mentioned above, giving small choices to your toddler will help immensely with the stubbornness. Let them know that you are ultimately in charge, but that you care about their opinion. Any time you have the opportunity, ask what they prefer or for them to help you make a choice.
Let them know that their negative choices have consequences, but that they don’t affect your decisions as the adult. Never change your parental decision because of a temper – NEVER. If you do it once, that will be what they expect and you will get a tantrum from your child every time you do something they don’t like.
What to do when your toddler throws a tantrum:
- Get down on their level to show respect
- Tell them that you will not tolerate this behavior, it does not change mommy’s decision, and that they need to stop screaming
- If they do stop the tantrum, ask them to use kind words to tell you what is wrong – if you can change the situation when they ask nicely, go for it upon your discretion
- If they do not stop the tantrum, give consequences. Make the consequences consistent every time they throw a tantrum. Do not change your mind because of the tantrum.
- Don’t change your mind when you are in public. Make a game plan for what happens in a public/social scenario. It’s okay to have two different plans for in private and in public, but stay consistent and never give in to a tantrum.
If you have the stamina to do all the work, you can definitely potty train at around 20-24 months old. I’ve actually heard from several mamas that this is the golden opportunity to potty train, right before their 2nd birthday. They have the ability to control their bladder and bowels, and they are also very interested in new “grown-up” things.
The only problem with training this early is that it will lay 100% on you, mama. You will have to remind them to go every 20 minutes. You will have to be on the ball making sure that they have been reminded and set on the potty. It will be exhausting, but you might be successful!
Your other option is to wait about a year. Most kids, around 2.5-3.5 years old, will make the choice to go on the potty themselves. While you will have to wait until they are ready, it makes the training stage very quick and painless because they are capable of getting on the potty themselves, realizing when they need to go, pulling their pants down, washing and drying their hands, and possibly even wiping themselves!
It’s totally up to you, but if you’re interested in early training now is the perfect time to get started. Check out this post for more tips on training.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MENTAL GROWTH SPURT
In this time of your toddler’s life, they are growing like crazy! They have a sudden spurt of understanding of the world around them. At about 16 months, they suddenly change from a baby to a toddler in almost every aspect of life.
Take advantage of this crazy growth spurt and teach your child in all situations. When you’re driving together, point out the window and name things. Point out colors, animals, and weather. Explain things that you see happening around you. Talk about what you are going to do when you arrive at your destination. Sing songs. Count.
During daily life, talk about what you are doing. Explain daily chores and lifestyle. Don’t ever skip an opportunity to teach your toddler about something. Their brains are soaking up everything around them and learning more than you can even fathom on a daily basis. Take advantage of their spongey little brains and use every opportunity to teach.
KEEPING YOUR LITTLE ONE SAFE
In my experience, 18-24 months was one of the scariest times of parenting. All of the sudden you have this child who is capable of running all over the place, climbing on top of things, and doing dangerous and stupid things… but they also are not smart enough to know that they are in danger. It can definitely be a scary time.
One of the best things you can do is to have a safety plan for every situation. Have a routine for when you do normal errands or for special events. Plan how you will keep your child contained when necessary or how to let them play safely in the new environment or situation. Preparation is half the battle when it comes to keeping your mobile little one safe.
TEACH GOOD HABITS
Everyone dreams of having an amazing and disciplined child. But where a lot of people fail is in realizing that training your child starts at the beginning. Children are picking up habits from you, from the people they are around, from the shows that they watch, the music they listen to, and the discipline that you give them.
If you are ignoring bad habits at the foundation of their life you are going to have a terribly hard time getting rid of them in junior high. If you don’t want them watching too much tv later, don’t use it as a babysitter now. If you want them to eat meals with you in the future, start having them join in on family meals as soon as they eat 3 meals a day. If you want them to be kind to their friends, don’t allow them to be rude now.
As someone once said, parenting a toddler is like training a wild animal to become a distinguished human being. I wish I could remember who said that because it’s a great parenting philosophy. You can’t allow them to be crazy and naughty waiting for the toddler phase to pass before teaching them how to behave.
You have to start now, training that little wild animal, if you ever want them to be a decent human being. I know that it’s a tough job, but it will be so worth it when have a grown human that you’re proud of!
DAILY LIFE: 18-24 MONTHS
- By 18 months, your little one is ready to graduate to a regular toddler diet. This means transitioning from lost of small meals and snacks to a typical 3 meal day with 1 afternoon snack.
- Your toddler needs 30-36 oz of liquid daily. If you are still giving cow’s milk/formula, 1 cup per day is all they need. 1 cup of juice is also fine. The rest of their liquid intake should be water (unless you are still breastfeeding, in which case they can have as much as they want in lieu of water).
- You should expect 1 bowel movement daily, along with 4-6 wet diapers daily.
- 12-16 hours total
- 1 nap
- 8-12 hour night stretches
- Beginning to understand how his body works
- Realizes that he is his own person who can make his own choices
- Understands emotions and has the ability to console others who are hurting
- Learning that he is part of a family unit and what that means
- Learning the rules of what belongs to him and what doesn’t
- Developing a sense of time and routine
- Memory is improving and he can now anticipate the future better
- Impressive increase in language comprehension
- Will complete familiar songs or rhymes
- Names items in a book
- May attempt to wash and dry their own hands
- Tries to jump
- Might be able to crawl out of crib – watch out!
- Likes to point to and learn different body parts – make it a game
- Separation anxiety will lessen as they learn that mommy will come back
- Seeks approval from you and other authority figures
- Comes when you call him by name
- Can follow simple 2-step instructions
- Learns that everything has a name – may ask “what’s that?”
- Speaks in 2-3 word sentences and is understood by others most of the time
- Read books every day
- Bath time/water play
- Nursery rhymes
- Finger painting
- Play with dirt, sand, rice or rocks
- Water table
- Children’s museum
- Sensory bags/bins
- Avoid excessive screen time
- Ask them to identify noises, body parts, animals, foods, vehicles, etc.
- Practice singing the alphabet
- Number items during daily life
SAMPLE DAILY SCHEDULE: 18-24 MONTHS
8:00 – Breakfast
12:30 – Lunch
1:00 – Nap
3:00 – Snack
6:00 – Dinner
6:30 – Bathe
7:30 – Bedtime
*For more ideas to raising a healthy toddler, check out this post.