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Growth and Development, Ages 12 to 24 Months (cont.)

Common Concerns

Keeping track of your fast-moving 12- to 24-month-old child can be a challenge. Also, your child who was loving and well-mannered may suddenly start having "meltdowns" without warning. It is normal to be both excited and worried about your child's new mobility and unpredictable behavior.

Between 12 and 24 months of age your toddler may:

  • Rarely mind and may frustrate you. It is normal for toddlers to ignore you or protest when you ask them to do (or not do) something. Their resistance to your directions are expressions of the inner struggles they have while trying to become more independent. Toddlers do not understand when you try to reason with them. Try giving your child clues ahead of time about what you want and what is going to happen. For example, if you are going to leave grandma's house soon, start waving "bye-bye" to people and toys about 10 minutes before you go. Explain that you are going soon and repeat the waving every few minutes. This gives your toddler time to adjust to the idea of leaving.
  • Have temper tantrums. During this second year, toddlers start to understand that they are individuals—a unique and separate person from their parents and everyone else. This awareness brings up many new issues, especially related to strong emotions and confusion about what they can and cannot control. A toddler wants to be the master of his or her universe. Toddlers become easily frustrated when they cannot do things they want to do. Although they may say some words and a few phrases, they cannot express themselves fully. This sets the stage for angry outbursts that can surprise and confuse parents. Don't take it personally when your child has a temper tantrum. This behavior is normal. Try using methods to prevent temper tantrums, such as distracting your child, rather than just saying "no." (Realize, though, that sometimes nothing will work.) After a tantrum is in full swing, it may help to ignore it. Stay close, be supportive, and talk calmly. For more information, see the topic Temper Tantrums.
  • Be a picky eater. Often, being picky about food happens because your child wants to assert his or her independence. Your child may also sometimes simply not be hungry. Eating patterns can change suddenly. Toddlers may eat well for a day or two, then eat very little for the next few days. As long as you adopt healthy eating strategies, such as by offering healthy foods and snacks, your child's unpredictable eating habits will likely not be a problem. For more information, see the topic Healthy Eating for Children.
  • Nap less. Usually by around 18 months of age, sleeping patterns change and toddlers may try to abandon the morning nap. As a result, your child may have tired, cranky periods. Try to fit in an afternoon nap. Your child still needs rest. Adjust to changing nap patterns by planning quiet times to regroup. Also, stick to a nighttime routine with a regular bedtime. For example, give your child a bath, put on pajamas, and read books in the same order each night.
    Click here to view an Actionset.Sleep: Helping Your Children—and Yourself—Sleep Well
  • Make messes. Many toddlers find it great fun to open drawers and cupboards—and love even more to remove every item they find. Be careful of what you store in your bedside table and other cupboards that are lower than your shoulder height. Many toddlers also like to "sweep" all the contents off any shelves they can. It may help to give your child his or her own cupboard or shelf to play with. Place soft toys on a shelf or plastic bowls, lids, and containers in a cupboard. Your child can then play freely and feel in control.
  • Seek out danger. Your child may seem drawn to stairs, electrical outlets, and breakable objects. After your child is up and moving around, it is important to provide safe opportunities for exploration. Try to keep items that could cause choking out of reach. For more information on safety, see the topic Health and Safety, Birth to 2 Years.
  • Show separation protest. Also called separation anxiety, this is an uneasiness or fear your child feels when you or another caregiver leaves. Most children's separation-protest phase peaks around 10 months of age, but in some children it lasts longer or happens again. Your child's temperament as well as your own personality affect how strongly your child reacts to your leaving. Some ways you can help manage your child's separation protests are to stay calm and positive about your leaving, make the first few times you leave very short, and set a routine you follow each time when you leave. If your child's uneasiness with your leaving does not improve after about 15 months of age, talk to your doctor.

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