Monday, June 7, 2010

Babies’ Development in the Second Year: 16-18 Months

In our last post, we talked about how babies change and grow from 12 to 15 months. Today, we continue our series on babies' development in the second year by focusing on 16 to 18 months. As we mentioned last time, most parents are thrilled (and challenged) by the speed with which their younger toddlers change and develop new skills but, as the old saying goes, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Cognitive Development – Problem Solving in an Expanding World

One of the most remarkable things about toddlers is their ability to set their own pace, no matter how busy their parents are, as they focus on investigating their expanding world. As they approach 18 months, babies' insatiable curiosity drives them to experiment and observe according to their own schedule. As their brains grow, toddlers are better able to remember past experiences and events. They begin to mimic what they've seen others do several hours or even days earlier. For the first time, they are able generalize past "experiments," realizing that toys at grandma’s house will work the same way as toys at home. Babies’ vocabularies also expand rapidly (they add about 3 new words per day) and babies start to put words together into basic sentences.

Social Development – Emotion Explosion

As babies’ thinking becomes more complex, so do their emotions. Their need to be near family and friends remains strong, as does babies' fear of separation. While toddlers want to show their independence and do everything themselves, they are easily frustrated by their limited physical skills. Playing with older children, who are better able to run and climb, can be a source of both great pleasure and consternation for toddlers. Emotions become more intense but also more focused and it becomes easier for parents to identify the source of their children's sudden outbursts. Naps, snacks, and routines can go a long way in limiting toddler meltdowns. It is common for babies of this age to seem to prefer the company of one parent versus the other for several hours or days at a time. Mom or dad may feel left out but no need to worry, babies will happily reach for both parents as their needs and interests change.

Physical Development – Picking Up Speed

For many children, the days between 15 and 18 months are spent perfecting their ability to walk upright. Standing, walking, balancing, crouching, and climbing become obsessions to be practiced all day (and sometimes all night!). As they become steadier on their feet, babies will walk less on their toes and use a narrower stance. After that, running is only a heartbeat away, often before parents are prepared. If you thought your toddler was busy before, watch out! The pace is really going to pick up. Babies' fine motor and problem solving skills continue to improve and they become highly skilled at getting into closed containers and cupboards. Baby proofing needs to be ramped up yet again.

By 18 months, babies are showing off their individuality even as they struggle (sometimes dramatically) to understand and fit into their parents’ world. The tiny baby once so easily held in his parents’ arms has grown into a child who will twist and squirm away as he learns to stand on his own two feet.

Next time: Babies Development in the Second Year: 19-24 Months

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