Toddler development: Your 17-month-old

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Your toddler's grasp is growing stronger. Physically, he is developing his pincher grip, which means he can hold on to zippers and pencils. Emotionally, he is learning about emotions. He is developing his empathy, and beginning to understand that other people have feelings too. Find out how you can help him on his journey!

Open and close, lights on and off, zip and unzip. Your toddler loves to make things happen! It’s almost as if his favourite song “Wheels on the bus” has come to life: the doors on the bus go open – and shut, open – and shut. This stage of toddler development is all about getting into the nitty-gritty of things, be it the fridge or his emotions.

Physical Development

As your tiny tot’s gross motor development gallops ahead, his fine motor skills are catching up. His little fingers are getting more and more dexterous. His pincher grip is growing stronger.

This means it’s time to get out pen and paper, and watch him draw a line and even an arc. He is also able to hold on to a large zipper and do it up or down–as long as you hold down the fabric for him.

He could be turning door knobs and opening doors if he’s tall enough and definitely is able to open floor-level drawers. He might even have figured out how to undo his diaper, so keep a close watch on him!

It could mean he is getting interested in going to the potty–but he would be a very early adopter. Most children don’t gain reliable control over their bladder until after they turn two years old. Instead, they rely on their mummy, daddy or auntie to remind them when to go.

Another favourite game is opening and closing the fridge. Your toddler is fascinated by the little light that comes on! Also, he might be enjoying the coolness of the fridge in the hot humid weather. This is a good time to start stacking your chocolate on the higher shelves.

You might find yourself constantly searching for things: your shoes disappear, you wallet, your keys… Now your toddler can walk while carrying things, he loves dragging and re-arranging things. Usually without letting you know!

He will be up and running by now, but is not yet fully coordinated. Don’t worry if he is constantly bumping into the sofa and the coffee table, this is completely normal.

Dancing is another favourite, although a sense of rhythm is not yet part of this stage of toddler development. He loves to move to music and to follow along when you sing him songs.

Cognitive Development

A stronger pincher grip also means your little one is ready for the next phase of toy’s for toddler development: sorting games! Now is the time to break out those shape sorting cubes, the colourful stacking cups and the wooden puzzles with the knobs on pieces for lifting and putting back into place.

When you’re talking about shapes, it’s good to also mention colours. Although some toddlers quickly develop a preference for one colour (yellow is firm favourite), don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t seem interested. Recognizing colours is only just beginning!

Your toddler is probably still chewing on his toys. This is completely normal. Your little one is using all of his senses to make sense of the world–that includes tasting! Your task is to make sure his toys are clean. Give them a quick rinse every few days, and always after taking them outside.

Round about now, your toddler will begin to show the results of all his earlier explorations. He will let you know he recognizes places and people, demonstrating his power of memory. Look at his surprised face when you decide to switch around the furniture in the living room!

Social and Emotional Development

Your toddler’s grasp is growing emotionally as well physically. He is experiencing a wide range of emotions, from joy and delight to sadness, anger and frustration.

You can help him by naming his emotions so he knows what he is feeling: “I see you are feeling sad” or “I see you are feeling angry”. Keep it simple. By naming his emotions, you show your toddler you care and understand.

Through learning about his own feelings, your bub also begins to understand that other people might be feeling the same. This is the basis for empathy.

Your tiny toddler is easily overwhelmed by his big emotions. He doesn’t yet know how to handle them. Don’t be scared if he stamps his feet, screams or bangs his hands on the floor. This is a way for him to release built-up tension.

Other children have a favourite toy to cuddle or might calm down when sucking their thumb or a pacifier. As they grow older, they will learn new ways of dealing with their emotions, and let go of these habits.

As with everything, this is a long process! Don’t worry if your child is not demonstrating particular affection for other people yet. At this age, they are still focused on themselves first.

While showing care and understanding, it also important for your little one to know where the boundaries are. Your consistency gives him a sense of security.

However, it’s okay if your rules are different from those at ah gong and ah ma’s house, or at daycare. Children, even toddlers, understand this.

At this age, toddlers respond better to being told what to do instead of what not to do. They do not have the ability to come up with a completely new idea on their own. If you say “don’t throw the ball”, he doesn’t know what else to do with it! So tell him: “please put the ball down”. Let him know what you expect of him.

And be realistic in your expectations. With his brain still so hard at work at growing and understanding the world in general, it is very hard to remember all the rules for your little one!

You are still the most important person in his universe, so any praise from you will lift his heart. Be sure to always let him know when he is doing something right, and shower him with kisses and cuddles.

Continue reading to learn more about toddler development at 17 months. Next up is Speech and Language. Find out how your toddler is training his voice!

Ages & Stages Toddler Toddler Development