Toddler development and milestones: your 16-month-old
Your little one is entering a whole new world: the one he makes up himself! It's the birth of his imagination. Creativity, problem solving, fun and games are ahead in this stage of toddler development. Find out what other exciting things your tot can do now!
Did you notice your tiny tot go “vroom vroom” with his car? You’re watching the birth of his imagination! This is the next stage of cognitive toddler development.
His inner life is no longer confined to what he sees in front of his eyes. This is the beginning of games, stories, a rich fantasy life, as well as the seeds of creativity and problem solving.
This is also the time to develop eyes in the back of your head and to always have your ears out on stalks. Where is your little one? What is he up to? Did you just hear the box of blocks hit the floor? Again?
Your 16-month-old angel is working hard on his toddler development by climbing, running, reaching, grabbing and throwing. It can be exasperating, especially as his tidying away skills still leave a lot to be desired.
If he is a confident walker, this is the time when he will begin to take his waddling skills to the next level. He might attempt to walk with toys or stuffed animals in his hands and give them to you. Or he could try to walk backwards!
He loves nothing better than to take a walk outside with you, inspecting plants, flowers and watching cars, buses and trains pass by. Other favourite places include the beach to play with sand toys and dip in the ocean, the pond to watch turtles and fishes, the park to throw a ball or even just the playground downstairs.
He might be too small for the playground climbing equipment, but he’ll be thrilled to see all the “big” two- and three-year-olds climbing and sliding. And it’s by watching them that he’ll learn how to do it himself!
Between 16 and 18 months, it is time for the next stage in cognitive toddler development: You will see a shift from from copying actions to symbolic play. This means that your little one goes from grabbing your phone to make a pretend call to using blocks or spoons as a phone to pretend to make a call.
It is adorable — and it is a major development. This is the birth of imagination. Your little one now has the ability to imagine things that are not really there and play with those imaginary things.
But although his mind may be growing stronger, his attention span is still very short! Typically, toddlers of this age can only focus for a few minutes at a time and are easily distracted. This works to your advantage too, as we’ll explain in the section on social and emotional development!
So how do you sit a toddler down for the recommended daily reading of 10 to 20 minutes? A bedtime story can be a lovely bit of quiet time after a busy day, but there’s no need to stretch it beyond your bub’s patience level.
Ways to make it more interesting for him are letting him turn the pages — yes, he can do that now! Don’t worry if he doesn’t follow the story closely. At this point, he may be much more interested in pointing at the pictures and commenting on those. Follow his lead, and let yourself be swept away by his enthusiasm.
If you would like to instill a love of reading from an early age, try to read more often instead of longer in order to hit your target minutes. For instance, you could read a book after waking up in the morning, when you get back from work and again before bed. Each book will only take a few minutes.
Also, make sure your bub sees you reading! At this age, it’s all about show not tell, he’ll follow your example.
Social and Emotional Development
Your little one might like other people — he could even be a bit of a social butterfly — but he does not like sharing. He does not like sharing toys, snacks or even attention. His focus is still firmly on himself and his own needs.
So don’t worry if your angel doesn’t readily give up his toys to somebody else — even if he wasn’t playing with those in the first place. Remember, just a few months ago he had a hard time understanding that you and he were separate people (in fact, sometimes it seems as if he still doesn’t quite believe it).
There’s light on the horizon however: the birth of imagination also means he can begin to imagine how other people feel. In other words, he will begin to understand emotions and show empathy.
This is where you play an important role by beginning to label his emotions for him by saying things like: “You are crying, you are sad,” and “You are laughing, you are happy.” By understanding how he feels himself and using his newfound powers of imagination, he can begin to understand that other people feel the same.
There’s nothing quite like that moment when your toddler first throws his arms around you to comfort you when he sees that you are sad.
If your little one is developing a strong attachment to one parent, don’t give in to his preference. Make sure that he spends time alone with both of you. Although your bub may protest or even cry when the preferred parent leaves, he’ll be alright within minutes of you leaving. Let the other parent send you pictures to make sure your little one is okay.
This is when your bub’s short attention span works to your advantage. He might miss you, but he is easily distracted with a game or a song. The same goes when he is sad or upset. You can acknowledge his feelings and quickly move on. This even works if you do it in the early stages of a tantrum.
Speech and Language
Yes, your toddler is learning how to hold a conversation! He might not be making much sense yet, but he is trying to tell you things and listen to your response. Notice how he imitates your own style of communication?
Unfortunately, that also means he is imitating saying “No.” Sometimes you even catch him doing the very thing he just said “No” to! This is because your tiny tot is experimenting with words and their meanings.
“No” may mean “Not this second, but I’m fine with it the next second.” Or it may mean “I like the sound of this word NO so I’m going to say it a lot even if I really do want to do what you’re asking.” Or it may mean “No, I really don’t want that.”
Your little one is trying out his influence in the world. How much authority does he have? What things does he get to decide? Does he get to choose whether or not to wear shoes outside? Does he get to choose whether or not to take a bath? It’s up to you, mummy, to set clear boundaries for him and to help him understand his place in the world.
A word of caution: Your tiny tot might not be talking yet, but you can be sure he understands a lot more than you think. He is a little sponge soaking up all the words and knowledge he can. Soon, you will hear it for yourself!
Health and Nutrition
Not all children are hungry upon waking up, especially if they had a large meal the evening before. Breakfast could be up to two hours after waking up.
Eating habits can be erratic at this age. One day, he might devour three bowls of porridge, the next day he only takes a few spoonfuls. One day he adores fish, the next he won’t touch it.
He might be protesting the high chair, and generally having too much fun to slow down enough for a full meal.
Don’t worry too much. As long as your bub is active, happy and growing well, he is doing fine even if it seems he is not eating all that much. Also, watch out for teething!
It is important to have regular meal times and snack times. Toddlers have small stomachs, so they won’t eat a lot at each sitting. But they do need regular topping up. Try to stock up on healthy, filling snacks, such as crackers and fruit. And limit the sweets, as these don’t help them grow. They make lovely special treats though!
Tips for Parents
Toddlers adore water play, even if it’s just splashing around with a bucket, a few bowls and a spoon in the shower cubicle or on the balcony.
If at this stage of toddler development, your little one consistently only uses one hand, avoids any scribbling, does not babble to you at all, or does not wave or make any kind of recognisable gestures, you might want to ask your paediatrician about his behaviour.
But keep in mind, all children develop at their own pace. Some can spend half an hour watching buses drive past at the bus stop, others have ants in their pants and cannot sit still for more than two minutes at the time. Some toddlers adore their food, while others fuss and seem to live on air.
None of this is any indication of their future development. Legend has it that Einstein did not begin speaking until he was three years old! Have a look at our articles on developmental red flags to find out more about early warning signals. But if you are concerned, make sure to consult your paediatrician.
Your toddler’s previous month: 15 months
Your toddler’s next month: 17 months
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Philippines