Caring for your child: 12 – 18 months
Your child is becoming more of a person, starting to move around with confidence and a greater sense of his/her own self. It is good to encourage independence and let the child solve problems alone, until the point where s/he becomes frustrated. The child’s behaviour can become more challenging; s/he knows how to get your attention and can be demanding. The child cannot really understand logical argument and can behave in apparently irrational ways. This is the time when you have to learn patience. With greater mobility and strength the child can do more and cause damage. A lot of things that seem like a good idea to him/her are not great for you, like putting all the toilet paper in the loo, emptying cupboards and packets, ripping up books. Children this age frequently end up in hospital because they can access medicines and household cleaners like bleach. Everything is up for grabs and exploration – your job is to make the house safe for baby and stress free for you.
Encourage achievement and effort Put some objects or toys on one side of the room and encourage the child to carry them from one side to another. Give the child affirmation for the effort.
Obstacle course: Put things on the floor that baby can climb over and wriggle through. Use buckets, cushions, kitchen utensils. Praise all attempts.
Play ball Roll a small, soft ball or pair of socks to the child. The ball can get smaller and the distance longer throughout the next four or so years.
Play “Point-and-name”. This helps your child develop vocabulary. Start with the things that your child shows an interest in (e.g. “baby” or “tractor” or “car” or “dog”) using one word phrases. As time moves on, and s/he is repeating some of the words, move to phrases of several words “oh look, a car”….Aaaah there’s a baby..” As the child’s language improves, ask him/her to pass you objects.
At some point along the way (maybe now or nearer to two years, s/he learns to point to body parts or items of clothing, as you name them. Encourage this as much as possible and turn it into a game.
Keep Talking Simple songs and nursery rhymes are popular and s/he may try to join in or copy the things that you say.
Waving: This is a good game at this point, and teaches a good social behaviour skill and hand co-ordination. Encourage the baby to wave at people.
Drawing you can start drawing with the baby with pens, pencils or crayons. Let the child make a mess on paper and get used to the writing or drawing implement. It strengthens his/her hands and arms and improves hand-eye co-ordination. His/her attention span is about a minute, so don’t raise your expectations.
Making Play Doh
This is a useful, cheap toy that can keep the baby occupied for hours…
Caring for your child: 18 months to three years
At this stage, your child will:
- Still use the mouth as the main way to explore things
- Learn things by the age-old trial and error method (also known as you burn, you learn!)
- Copy other children and adults – gradually starting to copy more and more over the next few months.
For all of these reasons, safety is an even bigger deal now, with more mobility, strength and curiosity, and no real sense of danger or the consequences of doing things. Keep medicines and household cleaning products way out of range.
Your child should have around 50 words which may or may not sound like the real thing. S/he will start stringing words together like “red car”, or “Daddy’s shoes” . The more you talk to your child and listen and let him/her finish sentences, the better his/her speaking will become. Keep reading, telling stories and talking to your child.
At 18-24 months, s/he likes playing with adults as well as by him/herself and the play still largely consists of repetitive actions such as taking objects in and out of boxes and scribbling on paper.
- Posting – All varieties of posting games, or games where you put things into a container and take them out. Get a shoebox and four small objects. Cut one hole in the shoe-box lid that can easily fit each object. The game is to put each object into the right hole. This home-made game is as good as anything you buy.
- Sorting – Give the child objects s/he can put into containers, like clothes pegs or dried macaroni – anything big enough to hold but not small enough to swallow. Let the child get the feel for different objects and sort them into different pots or Tupperware bowIs. Changing the size of the items keeps it interesting. The game helps develop their movements known as fine motor skills to prepare for using pens, pencils, and tools later in life.
- Pushing – Children this age love to push things with wheels, like wire toys or small prams.
- Stacking – Blocks, plastic cups, yoghurt containers, cereal boxes – anything that the child can hold and stack and make things with is fun and helps strengthen hand/eye co-ordination.
- Singing and Rhyming – Simple songs for children are great for entertaining the child and helping him/her to learn and remember words.
- Ball skills – You can graduate from rolling a ball to the child when s/he is sitting down, as you were at one year, to kicking it to and from each other. If you choose a nice large ball, and kick it slowly, your child will feel quite capable and clever and this will build self-esteem. And play this with boys and girls.