At this stage it’s all about safety first — but fun is a close second! By now, your toddler can probably walk using her own arms for balance, maybe even run or kick a ball or (ARRRGGG!) climb up onto things! It’s nerve-racking to feel like you’re constantly chasing a toddler around to save them from disasters, but luckily their new skills also mean new ways to play together. Encourage their development with stacking blocks, wheeled toys they can stand up and push, a tea party or digging in the sandbox.
Enjoy the fun and games, but meanwhile it’s also a good time to update your baby proofing. Get down to toddler level, look around and make sure you’ve toddler-proofed any hazards they couldn’t reach before.
• Get that camera ready! Behind that sweet smile you just can’t get enough of, you should see (and probably feel, if you’re still nursing) anywhere from four to ten teeth in your toddler’s mouth! Watch out for the molars when they come in, as the bigger size often leads to bigger discomfort; try several different soothing techniques for teething pain until you find one your toddler likes. And don’t forget to brush! Tooth decay in baby teeth can lead to decay in the permanent ones, so make it a priority. As a bonus, a gentle rub with the soft bristles of a toddler toothbrush usually feels pretty good on sore gums.
• And get the fridge ready, too. Your toddler’s fine motor skills are developing, so she’s probably starting to make precious little scribbles any time she can get those chubby fingers on a pencil. Stock up on magnets and make room on the front of the fridge; this is just the beginning of what will soon become an enormous collection of mini-masterpieces.
• Unfortunately, you might be disappointed with what’s going on inside your fridge. Namely, a lot of that delicious, healthy food you have on hand for your toddler is probably going bad because of picky eating habits. On the plus side, at least fussy eating, rejecting new foods and throwing more food than they eat are perfectly normal at this age, but it can be pretty stressful to worry your toddler isn’t getting enough to eat. As long as your toddler is maintaining a healthy weight, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about (see your pediatrician if you have major concerns). Just keep offering different foods, let your toddler see you eating a varied diet, serve frequent, small meals rather than three large meals and try these picky eating tips to maximize your chances of getting them some nutrition. Oh, and serve meals over a large, wipeable mat or other hard surface to make clean-up (and there will be clean-up) easier.
• Is it an allergy? Experts say that food allergies are quite rare, and a mild reaction can indicate an intolerance rather than a true allergy. However, food allergies are serious — deadly serious — so as you introduce new foods to your toddler watch for symptoms like breathing difficulty or skin reactions. This is especially important if you have a family history of food allergies, in which case you should speak to a doctor about your toddler’s diet and be especially cautious about offering common allergy culprits like eggs, milk, nuts, fish, wheat and chocolate. If you do discover your child has a food allergy, there are strategies to make living with it much easier.
Scary Mommy tip: Your parents or friends might be offended when your toddler treats them like a stranger, but it’s nothing personal. At this age kids have only recently begun to realize that other people are separate from themselves, and naturally they strongly favor the people they see every day and have grown to trust to meet all their needs (that’s YOU). Crying when Grandma picks them up is the only way they can communicate anxiety or uncertainty — which they might feel even if Grandma comes over every weekend. Just reassure your toddler that he’s safe, and reassure Grandma that this phase will pass quickly.