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Baby development: Your seventeen-month-old

Thrills, spills and trying times

Posted: 31 August 2007
by ThinkBaby

Most toddlers are able to walk well now, although this is a skill that they will continue to hone for many months to come. As he gains in certainty he'll be getting faster all the time, and more successful at combining other tasks - like carrying things, 'talking on the phone' or kicking a ball - with walking.

By now you will probably know whether you have a 'climber' or not: Most toddlers at this age like to try to climb stairs (though he may still need your help) and to climb up on things that are about chest height, whether that's the sofa, chairs, toy chest, tables or anything else. They'll be able to haul themselves up and then turn around to sit down facing forwards, and then wait for your applause... By now they can also probably fetch objects to use as 'step-ups' to things they can't quite reach from the floor, and should have worked out (with your help) that the best way to come down is backwards.

'Climbers', meanwhile, seem to climb everything and anything. Constantly. They won't be content to climb up and sit down, but will want to climb on something and then stand up and walk about, or if possible, climb higher and maybe even jump off. One of ours liked to climb up into his highchair and grab a bib whenever he decided it was time to eat. Consequently, a room that was safe for your toddler a few weeks ago may now leave you barely able to blink. You can't really toddler-proof completely for climbing, but you can take a few steps to limit the dangers, such as moving coffee tables away from sofas, trying to make sure your baby can't climb up to a windowsill and trying to show him safe places and ways of climbing.

Communication / emotional development
Many seventeen-month-olds are able to say at least 15 words clearly at this stage, and may have started to use one or two of them together. As his ability to express his particular wants, likes and dislikes increases, you might be surprised how particular he is about certain things. Most toddlers like routine and will often be quick to point out to you what should come next, or when you've forgotten something: Whereas forgetting part of a bedtime routine a few months ago may have led to him being grumpy and more difficult to settle, he should now be able to let you know what it is he's missing, whether that's a certain story, blanket or goodnight kiss. Toddlers at this age can also learn routine very quickly, even over just a few days if you make a point of doing something at the same time on a daily basis.

It may only be a few months ago that your toddler was demonstrating frequent separation anxiety, but now the shoe is probably on the other foot, with you wondering where on earth he's got to. He's more sure on his feet and ever more curious of the world around him, so take your attention away for a few seconds and he's off to explore. If you have been wondering when you were finally going to lose your extra baby weight then now might be the time. It is though, a good idea not to always get up and run after your toddler. Try sometimes calling him to bring him back, or waving and saying 'bye, bye then, Mummy's going this way'. Of course when out of the home you'll need to watch very carefully and be ready to make a quick dash for it, staying close enough that he won't get into any danger.

You may be concerned if your toddler has outbursts of anger and frustration, particularly if he expresses it by slapping you in the face. He's also quite likely to show his independence by disobeying you quite deliberately at times. But both of these are perfectly normal: He's always trying to push his own limits and test the boundaries with you, which can be frustrating for both of you. Experts suggest that the best way to handle this is to remain calm, try a distraction and even ignore the behaviour where possible. Of course you're not going to ignore it when he does something dangerous, but making a big fuss is likely only to intrigue or entertain him and encourage more of the same behaviour.

Some time around now your toddler may move from one two shorter day-time naps to one long one, if he hasn't already. This can make your day a lot easier, giving you a longer chunk of time to get other things done. But the transition can be an awkward time, as your toddler tries to go for a longer stretch without sleep but then may give in just as you get to lunch time and wake up hungry not long after. You can help by giving him a bit of structure: If he's struggling to make it to lunchtime consider bringing his lunch forward a little to a time when he's still alert enough to eat well, and keep him nice and busy in the period leading up that. Some babies will prefer a long late-morning sleep, in which case the transition may be a bit easier.

At play
As your toddler's fine motor skills and co-ordination improve he'll enjoy building and making things, exploring different textures and observing how different substances behave when shoveled, shaped and poured. He can have a good go with simple, chunky jigsaws and might enjoy playing with playdough - although for now this will probably be limited to squishing it about. If you try playdough then make sure that whatever dough you use is non-toxic and, while a little bit will probably find it's way into his mouth without doing harm, it's best to discourage eating the dough.

Most activities are play to your toddler, even doing the vacuuming! It's perfectly normal at this stage of development for your toddler to seem more interested in the everyday household items that you use, than in his toys . And, as his self-confidence and independence grows, he'll want to do more and more things for himself, some of which you'd probably rather he didn't attempt alone or even at all.

What you can do
As with many aspects of family life, you'll need to know how to pick and chose your battles with your increasingly independent and determined toddler. If he's insisting on doing something alone that's time-consuming or messy his way, but not dangerous, then why not let him have a go at least sometimes, and save the definite 'no' responses for something that's dangerous or when you're in a particular hurry? It might be frustrating for you when he spends a good five minutes trying to put his socks and shoes on or unlock the door when you want to leave the house, but try to think of it as learning time that for him is every bit as interesting and valuable as sitting down to a jigsaw or playing in the sand. You can draw boundaries by allowing him to do certain things only with your help, or at certain times, and explaining why he can or can't do certain things alone.

When it comes to climbing, remember that saying 'no' may sometimes make something more attractive. Try taking a positive rather than negative approach; You can do this by drawing attention to, and encouraging, the behaviour you'd like - such as sitting down on the sofa and turning around to climb down backwards - rather than focusing on what your child shouldn't do, i.e. stand up and jump off the sofa.

NB: All babies develop at their own pace and some will reach developmental landmarks more quickly than others. This timeline is meant only as an approximate guide for parents. Premature babies will develop more slowly than full-term babies and can be expected to develop in line with their age calculated from their due date. If you are worried about your child's health or progress consult your doctor.

Developing baby

Childproofing your home - As your baby becomes faster and more agile, it's time to think again about how you can make your home safer for a toddler.

Healthy eating for toddlers- What should you be feeding your toddler for a balanced diet, and what are the foods you should avoid?

Blogging your baby's development - Keeping a diary of your baby's development is a great idea, on ThinkBaby you can keep an up-to-date online blog that you can email to your nearest or dearest or print out later for yourself, so why not start your own?

Mum and dad

Still frustrated at not losing baby weight? - Plenty of mums find themselves shaking their head over the scales well over a year after baby was born, if you're wanting to lose extra pounds then don't forget our top tips for post-baby weight loss.

Booking a family holiday - Going on holiday with a baby or family isn't always going to be as easy as it was in your footloose pre-kids days, here are some things you might want to think about to make it less of a headache.

Get support - You can join in the discussions and share parental experiences and advice with other ThinkBaby members in the baby and toddler forum folders.

Other months of age

Newborn | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

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talking, nutrition, climbing, toddler, month, seventeen, development, communication, baby

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