Once your child begins to talk, a whole new world opens up! Browse the information and links below to see what your little one is experiencing and learning this month.
What It’s Like for You
You probably didn’t expect it. One day, it just happened. You woke up and walked into your baby’s room and said, like you always do, Hi! And then it happened. She looked at you from over the top of the crib rail and said Hi back! This is one of those amazing moments in parenting—hearing your child’s first word.
Rebecca, mother of Ella, age 6 years, remembers:
I remember I had my daughter (age 13 months) on my lap and my husband was leaving for work one Saturday. I said, Bye honey, like usual. He said Bye back. Then Ella, out of nowhere, piped up: Bye! My husband and I looked at each other. Did she really say that? Did you hear that? Did she just say the word Bye? Then of course, we tried to make her do it again. No dice. But that was just the beginning. Soon she was repeating everything she heard…and we had to start watching what we said around her!
Once your child begins to talk, a whole new world opens up—connecting through words. In the coming months and years, there will be jokes to tell, secrets to share, arguments to resolve, requests to fulfill (she wants the purple cupcake, not the green one), and memories to make.
What It’s Like for Baby
I grab the edge of the coffee table with my hands. Then up I go! I love standing on my two feet. Sure, I still need to hold on for balance, but I can move. Oops! Down I go. Okay, pull up again. I’m moving. A few more steps, holding onto the table, and—again, down I go. When am I ever going to get the hang of this?! One more time, here I am, cruising along the coffee table, moving closer and closer to my Aunt Angela’s, cell phone. Okay, I can reach it. But—uh oh—I have to let go with one hand to grab the phone. Can I do it? I give it a try and I wobble, but I don’t fall down and I’ve got the phone. I hold it up to my ear and start to talk, just like I see Mommy and Daddy and Angela and my babysitter do. Angela sees me and she takes the phone, Where did you learn how to do that? Aren’t you a little young for a cell phone? I am mad so I yell and say, Mama! Mommy comes in and sees what’s happened. Oh little man, now that you’re on the move we’ve got to do a better job of keeping things out of your reach, don’t we? How about playing with this toy cell phone? Here you go. Listen—I’m going to make it ring! Hmmm, it makes the same funny sound as Angela’s…let me see what this button does…
What Your Baby Is Learning
- Early self-control and how to cope with limits when he can’t play with the real cell phone
- Persistence as he works toward a goal—reaching the cell phone
Language and Thinking Skills:
- Imitation, as he mimics how he has seen others use a cell phone
- Problem-solving, as he figures out how to move his body toward the cell phone and how to pick it up with one hand
- Receptive language (the words he understands), as he puts together the words he hears with actions (when Angela sets the limit and takes away the phone)
- Expressive language (the words he says), as he calls his mother to intervene
- Balance, as he cruises along the coffee table and is able to take one hand off the table in order to pick up the cell phone
- Muscle strength, as his legs bear his body’s weight
- Motor planning skills, as he plans a series of actions to reach his goal of grabbing the phone
What to Expect From Your Baby’s Development
As you review the chart, keep in mind that development is not a race and that every child grows at her own pace and in her own way. Your child may develop skills faster or slower than indicated below and still be on track. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s health care provider or other trusted professional.
Your Toddler’s Development From 12 to 15 Months
|What Your Baby Can Do||What You Can Do to Connect With Your Baby|
I’m starting to talk and understand so much more.
I want to do more for myself.
I love to imitate.
Did You Know…
Parents are already setting a lot of important limits with their 13-month-olds? Limits at this age generally focus on safety (like not touching dangerous things), safeguarding family property (like not coloring on walls), and preventing harm to others (like rules about no hitting). To a lesser extent, limits also focus on waiting—such as waiting for Mom to get off the phone.
What the Research Means for You
Setting limits is an important way for your child to learn about family rules and appropriate behavior. But the limits you use have to be right for your child’s age and stage. Rules focusing on big issues like safety, how to treat family property, being kind and gentle with others, and coping with waiting are good ones to start with for a child in the 12 to 24 month old period.
Keep in mind that just because you have rules doesn’t mean your 13-month-old will be able to follow them. Young toddlers do not yet have the long-term memory they need to remember family rules. They also do not have the necessary self-control to stop themselves from doing what you just told them not to. This means that you will be reminding your little one about these limits frequently, and showing her what you mean with your actions, for example, taking the placemat away and giving her some paper that she can draw on. (Children won’t consistently remember family rules until about age 4.) Being patient, consistent, and loving helps children learn limits. It also helps if your home—or at least one room—is completely child-proofed so that your toddler can touch and explore freely without the risk of danger or without you having to say a lot of Nos.
Spotlight on: Dealing With Picky Eaters
Do you know a “picky eater”? “Picky” eating is when a child (or adult for that matter) refuses foods often or eats the same foods over and over. Picky eating usually peaks in the toddler and preschool years. Many parents worry that their picky eater is not getting enough nutrition to grow. But in most cases, he is. Keep a food diary for a day—writing down everything your child eats—and you will probably find that your child is eating more than you thought.
If you are worried or have questions about your child’s growth or nutrition, talk to your child’s health care provider. Keep in mind, however, that as long as your child is not losing weight and has the energy to play and interact, it is likely that he is eating enough to support his growth.
Picky Eating and Young Toddlers
Picky eating often surfaces around 13 months—a time when many children are beginning to feed themselves. They can now choose what and how much to eat, giving them some degree of control. So some days they may eat a lot of everything. Other days they may not seem to eat much at all.
In addition, while children usually grow a lot and quickly in their first year, growth slows down in the second year. Toddlers are also learning lots of new skills, like talking, walking, running, climbing, and more. During a time of great change, children often seek “sameness” as much as possible, including sticking to the same small group of foods. This consistency can help them feel safe and secure during a period of rapid change.
Parents also need to be in touch with their own expectations about how much their toddler “should” eat. It is unrealistic to expect a toddler to eat a large amount of food at each meal every day; after all, a toddler’s stomach is about the same size as her clenched fist (Martins, 2002).
Ellyn Satter, MS RD LCSW BCD, a researcher and practitioner in the field of pediatric feeding practices, explains that both parents and children have their own “jobs” to do when it comes to eating. Parents are responsible for providing healthy foods at meal and snack times. Children are responsible for what and how much they eat. This helps children learn what it feels like to be hungry and then full—and how to make healthy choices around eating based on this awareness, for example, eating when hungry and stopping when full.
The Role of Parents
Research has found that parents’ food preferences are linked to their children’s food preferences (Borah-Giddens & Falciglia, 1993). This is probably not a big surprise since we are more likely to prepare the foods that we enjoy, so our children are more familiar with that group of foods than others. Familiarity with foods is key, as a child may need to be exposed to new foods more than 10 times before they try it.
What can you do to help your child enjoy a range of foods?
- Eat a range of healthy foods yourself.
- Prepare meals together. Having a hand in making the meal increases the chances that your child will taste her “creation.” Have your little one assist with measuring, pouring, and stirring.
- Avoid showing disgust or disinterest when trying new foods. A study found that mothers who showed (with their facial expressions, body language, or words) that they didn’t want to try a new food had children who also tended to refuse new foods (Carruth & Skinner, 2000). In short, your young child will probably be less willing to try something new if you haven’t tasted it. And if you are a “picky eater” yourself, then your young child may imitate this behavior, just as she imitates the way you talk on the phone, or the way you wave good-bye to her each morning at child care.
What to Do About Picky Eating
There are many reasons why a child may be choosier than usual at mealtime. Listed below are some of the most common causes of picky eating and ideas for how to respond.
(Information below adapted from Lerner & Parlakian, 2007.)
SOME CHILDREN ARE SENSITIVE TO THE TASTE OR SMELL OF FOOD AND THE WAY IT FEELS IN THEIR MOUTH—ITS TEXTURE.
- Offer several healthy food choices—among the foods your child does like—at each meal.
- Track your child’s food sensitivities and keep them in mind when preparing meals. Does your child have trouble with “mushy” foods? You can offer apple slices instead of applesauce, or a baked potato instead of mashed. If you’d like your child to try a “mushy” food, combine it with a crunchy food that she does like. Give her an animal cracker to dip in the applesauce.
- Talk to your child’s health care provider about any nutritional concerns you may have.
SOME CHILDREN ARE SIMPLY LESS LIKELY TO TRY NEW THINGS BASED ON THEIR TEMPERAMENT—THEIR INDIVIDUAL WAY OF APPROACHING THE WORLD.
- Put new foods next to foods your child already likes. Encourage him to touch, smell, lick, or taste the new food.
- Avoid becoming a short-order cook. Don’t prepare special meals for your child. Instead, give him what the rest of the family is eating in toddler-sized portions. Over time, these choices are likely to become as accepted and familiar as his favorite mac-n-cheese.
- Gently but frequently offer new kinds of foods. Children may need to be offered a new food as many as 10-15 times before they will eat it.
- Use healthy dips such as yogurt, hummus, ketchup or low-fat salad dressings to encourage children to eat fruits, vegetables, and meats.
- Involve your child in preparing the meal (like dropping cut-up fruit into a bowl for fruit salad). Handling, smelling, and touching the food helps make it more familiar and gets your child comfortable with the idea of eating it.
SOME CHILDREN CAN SEEM “PICKY” BECAUSE THEY ONLY WANT TO EAT FOODS THEY CAN FEED THEMSELVES.
- Offer safe “finger foods” that your child can feed herself.
- Offer your child a spoon to hold while you’re feeding her. This lets her feel in control.
- Let your child decide where foods go on her plate—the peas there, the turkey there. If you’d like, you can also let your child serve herself (put your hand over hers to help her handle the bigger serving spoons).
SOME CHILDREN ARE VERY ACTIVE. THEY MAY SEEM PICKY BECAUSE THEY DON’T LIKE SITTING FOR LONG.
- Set your child’s meal out before he sits down.
- Keep mealtimes short—10 minutes or so. Let your child get up when he shows he is finished eating.
- Put healthy foods, such as a bowl of strawberries or bananas, where your child can reach them so when he gets hungry he can easily get to good foods.
SOME CHILDREN HAVE MEDICAL ISSUES THAT MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO SWALLOW OR DIGEST CERTAIN FOODS.
- Seek an evaluation by a health care provider. Sometimes children need special help with feeding.
What NOT to Do About Picky Eating
1. Force your child to eat.
The fact is that forcing children to eat usually leads to the child eating less. Forcing also teaches children to rely on others to tell them how much to eat and what they are feeling. This does not lead to healthy eating habits or good self-esteem. In fact, some research has shown that forcing children to eat can actually increase picky eating behavior (Sanders, Patel, Le Grice, & Shepherd, 1993).
When it comes to eating, it can be helpful to see it as you and your child each having your own jobs. Your job is to provide your child with healthy food choices and pleasant meal and snack times. It is your child’s job to decide which of these healthy foods to eat and how much to eat. When you approach feeding this way, your child learns to listen to his body and make healthy food choices. It also leads to fewer power struggles between parent and child around food (Satter, 1990).
2. Nag or make deals with your child.
Just two more bites, just two more bites! Or, If you eat your vegetables, you will get dessert. Strategies like these don’t work in the long run. Children who learn to make deals about eating quickly learn to make deals and ask for rewards for doing other things—like brushing teeth or getting their shoes on. And soon they won’t do anything unless there is a reward for it!
What About Dessert?
Ah, dessert. Many parents struggle with what to do about sweets. Jay, father of a toddler and kindergartner, recently shared his family’s dilemma:
I’m fine with letting them choose how much they want to eat. But after they’ve basically eaten nothing, then they want dessert. I feel like I’m getting taken advantage of if I give it to them. If I try to get them to eat more, it’s worse because we end up negotiating the entire meal: Okay, if you have three more bites of meat, you can have a cookie. It’s gotten to the point that my 6-year-old will ask at the beginning of the meal, How much do I need to eat in order to have a treat?
How do you handle the “cookie cravings” in your little ones who insist they are done with dinner (after three noodles) but still have room for something sweet? The following are some ideas for dealing with this common dilemma.
- Serve a small treat (for example, one cookie or a small muffin) with your child’s dinner. Yes, he may eat it first or he may eat only that. But over time, your child will come to see that sweets are part of a meal, but not the only part. He will get hungry for other foods. Soon, you might even find that he leaves the sweet on the side and chooses to eat the healthier foods first.
- Serve a small treat at the end of the meal regardless of how much your child has eaten. Again, this teaches your child that sweets, when eaten in moderate servings, have their place. It also takes away the power of the dessert being a big, special reward that they are constantly asking for. When you avoid negotiating “if you eat this, you get that,” you also eliminate a big power struggle. You may find that your child eats more on his plate as a result.
- Eliminate sweets altogether. Some families believe that cookies, cakes, etc. are not appropriate for their family’s diet. Instead, offer fresh fruit or cheese to end the meal.
References for this section:
- Borah-Giddens, J., & Falciglia, G. A. (1993). A meta-analysis of the relationship in food preferences between parents and children. Journal of Nutrition Education, 25, 102-107.
- Carruth, B. R., & Skinner, J. D. (2000). Revisiting the picky eater phenomenon: Neophobic behaviors of young children. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19, 771-780.
- Gibbs, J. (2006, Jan-Mar). Working with picky eaters: The toddler years. Family and Consumer Sciences Quarterly Media Packet, Michigan State University Extension, East Lansing, MI.
- Lerner, C., & Parlakian, R. (2007). Healthy from the start: How feeding nurtures your young child’s body, heart, and mind. Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE.
- Martins, Y. (2002). Try it, you’ll like it! Early dietary experiences and food acceptance patterns. The Journal of Pediatric Nutrition and Development, 98, 12-16, 18-20.
- Sanders, M. R., Patel, R. K., Le Grice, B., & Shepherd, R. W. (1993). Children with persistent feeding difficulties: An observational analysis of the feeding interactions of problem and non-problem eaters. Health Psychology, 12, 64-73.
- Satter, E. (1990). The feeding relationship: Problems and interventions. Journal of Pediatrics, 117 (Suppl.), 181-190.
The article below was also useful background in creating this resource:
Cathey, M., & Gaylord, N. (2004). Picky eating: A toddler’s approach to mealtime. Pediatric Nursing, 30(2), 101-109. Available online at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/475189_1
Let’s Play: Activities That Nurture Bonding and Learning
Fill a large plastic food container with your child’s favorite cereal. Give her a spoon and small cup. Let her practice spooning and scooping. If she grabs a few with her fingers for a little snack—well, that’s okay. (If you aren’t comfortable with your child playing with food, you can substitute shells or dry leaves that your child can use to fill-and-dump. Supervise carefully, and put these items away when you are done playing, as they can be choking hazards.)
Dip a small toy car in some washable paint and show your child how to “drive” it across a big piece of paper that you’ve taped to the table.
What’s on Your Mind?
1. Whenever I try to discipline my 13-month-old by telling her, No and swatting her hand when she touches something she shouldn’t, she just laughs and thinks it’s a game. Then she’ll keep opening the drawers or picking the flowers in the garden, or whatever else I’m trying to stop her from doing. How can I let her know I’m being serious?
Toddlerhood, while incredibly delightful, can also be very frustrating for all parties involved. Toddlers are eager to use all their developing skills to make new discoveries. The world is their classroom, which means they get into everything. At the same time, they do not yet have the ability to control their impulses. This means that they can’t stop themselves from doing something they desire, no matter how many times you tell them not to do it. You see this behavior when a 1-year-old stops what she is doing when she hears, NO!, but then is back at it shortly thereafter.
So how do you get your child to take you seriously? First, it’s important to recognize that your child will not be able to stop unacceptable behaviors on her own at this age. That doesn’t mean you don’t set limits, you just need to have realistic expectations. Also, young children respond best when words are coupled with action. Rather than just telling them to stop doing something, it helps to show them what you mean.
Take the opening of the drawers. While it’s understandable why you don’t want her doing this, she isn’t purposefully trying to make you mad. She is exploring. So, the first step is to tell her in a matter-of-fact (not angry) tone that she cannot play with the drawer. At the same time, gently lift her hand and move her away.
Next, find something else that functions like a drawer but is acceptable to you so she can have the experience of opening and closing to see what she can find. Try a shoebox with a favorite toy inside. This is known as redirection. You are recognizing and acknowledging your child’s desire for exploration and offering her an acceptable way to meet this need. You will have to do this many times until your child gets closer to 3 years and begins to develop better self-control. This process takes a lot of persistence and patience on your part as well. But it’s well worth it because you are teaching your child a very important skill—how to cope with life’s frustrations and disappointments.
As for her laughter and smiles as you try to discipline her, ignore them. The rule of thumb is that you pay as little attention as possible to behaviors you want to eliminate. Why? Because any attention—positive or negative—is rewarding. If you don’t react, she is more likely to give the behavior up. This is why it’s most effective to stay calm and matter of fact when you set limits. The more emotional you get, the more rewarding it is to her.
Finally, when it comes to discipline, it’s important to carefully think about the possible impact of any strategy you might use. The concern about hand-slapping, or any other kind of physical discipline, is that while it may stop her behavior in the moment, research shows that it may not lead to long-lasting learning of positive behaviors. In addition, it teaches a child that when people are angry, it is okay to hit, which increases the chance that she will hit when she is angry. It can also make children behave out of fear, rather than from an internal desire to do the right thing.
2. Without fail, as soon as I answer the telephone my 1-year-old starts fussing for my attention. Why is he reacting this way and what should I do?
My friend tells the story of calling a local child care center when her daughter was 9 months to see if there were any openings. I dialed the numbers, got the answering machine, and tried to leave a message. Instead, all they heard was: ‘Hello, this is WAAAAAAAH. I have a baby and WAAAAAAAH. Please let us know if WAAAAAAAH. Later, the center director told her that messages like this were common. But at the time my friend couldn’t help thinking: Kiddo, you get my full attention for 99.9% of your waking hours—can I have 15 uninterrupted minutes on the phone, please?
Babies bask in our attention. They light up at the sight of our faces and are comforted by our voices. We are the first ones they go to with a boo-boo and the last ones they want to see at night before they fall asleep. That’s the good part. The tough part of being your baby’s number one person is that when something distracts you from your child—something that you respond to right away, and that seems very important to you—your baby naturally sees it as competition. He is set on winning back your attention from this hard, plastic foe. This is actually a pretty complex intellectual achievement on your son’s part, associating the telephone with “losing” you, even if it’s just momentarily. So your son is doing some important learning, making the kinds of connections that he’ll use again and again to make sense of how the world works.
Here are some strategies that can help your child cope with this loss of attention and make life less stressful for you:
- Set aside a basket of “telephone toys.” These are special toys that your son gets to play with only while you’re on the phone. When the phone rings, you can say: Let’s get your telephone toys! Soon the sound of the phone ringing will mean a special opportunity to play with a new set of goodies. (Just be sure to keep rotating and refreshing this basket to keep it new and exciting.)
- Let him join in. Pick up a play telephone or even a “real” telephone that is not plugged in. As you answer the ringing phone, give your child his telephone to press the buttons, talk into, bang, and chew.
- Make your phone time his snack time. Try setting your child up with a healthy snack while you talk. Parents that have tried this approach recommend offering “interactive” food that engages more of his attention, such as fruit with yogurt dip, a slice of cheese, or carrot sticks cut into little pieces that can be stacked, pea pods that can be squeezed, etc.
- Establish certain times of day that are phone-free. Think about what part of the day your child is most alert and playful. During that time, make sure that you keep at least an hour phone free, chore free, and distraction free. Knowing that he can count on having you all to himself for an extended period each day will help your son cope more effectively with brief telephone separations.
- Resist using the phone while you’re out with your son. When you go to a playground, think of all the parents you see talking on their cell phones while their children play alone. Everybody gets important calls, has bad days, and needs to talk to a friend, or has to remind a partner to pick up some milk on their way home. But when you spend lots of your “together” time with your child talking with someone else, it takes time away from meaningful interaction and is sure to make the phone a real enemy!
As children grow, they become better able to cope with waiting their turn and to amuse themselves. For now, taking some of the steps above will let your son know that, no matter who is on the other end of the line, he is still your number one caller.
3. I’m going back to work and sending my 13-month-old to a child care center. How can I get her ready?
The most important first step in preparing a child for going to child care is to ensure that you’ve selected a place that’s right for your child—one that best matches her individual needs. For example, if you have a child who gets easily overwhelmed when there is a lot going on around her, it may be best for her to be in a center where the classes are small or in a family child care setting.
In general, it is best for young children to be in settings where they individualize schedules that allow children to sleep and eat based on their own daily rhythms; where caregivers are responsive and adapt their caregiving style to the individual needs of each child; and where they welcome parent involvement and provide you with information about your child on a daily basis. A setting that is “language rich”—where caregivers talk and sing to children, and read to them everyday—is important, too. When you feel comfortable about the care your child will be receiving, it’s much easier to share that same confidence and enthusiasm with your son or daughter.
Once you’ve selected the best care for your child, there are a number of things you can do to get her off to a good start:
- Plan for brief and then incrementally longer separations from you so that she learns that she can be okay without you, and that she can be safe and well cared for by other loving adults. This is especially important if she hasn’t spent much time with other caregivers during this first year.
- Take her to the child care several times before her first day so she can become familiar with the new setting. (The unknown is often what is most scary.) Let her explore the classroom and outside play area. Be sure your child has a chance to meet and interact with the people who will be caring for her.
- Read books with her about other children going to child care and dealing with separations.
- Play disappearing/reappearing games such as peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek to help her understand that while things and people may go away, they come back. Emphasize the message that Mommy may go away, but Mommy will come back.
The following strategies can make your child’s transition on the first day smoother:
- Give her a picture of you and other family members (maybe even the family pet) to look at when she is sad. Ask the caregivers if your daughter can keep these photos in her cubby or somewhere else that’s easily accessible to her.
- Allow her to bring a “lovey”—such as a blanket, doll, or stuffed animal that brings her comfort and is a connection to home—that she can use at nap time or when she needs comforting.
- When it’s time for you to leave her, don’t linger or show worry. Children look to the trusted adults in their lives for cues about how to interpret situations. When we look and act worried and upset (lingering sends the message that we are anxious about leaving), our children naturally think there is something to be worried and upset about, and are therefore likely to have a harder time separating. Studies actually show that saying a brief, upbeat good-bye results in children calming and adapting more quickly. If you are really worried about how your child is doing, ask your child’s caregiver to give you a brief call just to reassure you that she is doing fine.
- Make sure you say good-bye to her when you leave. Tempting as it may be to sneak out, this can lead to mistrust. Sneaking also sends the message that you feel you are doing something wrong or bad by leaving her. Instead, give her the clear message that she will be fine, and that you look forward to seeing her when you come back.
- Finally, don’t forget yourself in this transition. You are likely to experience a range of emotions about separating from your child and about sharing her care with others. It’s important to pay attention to your own reactions to this separation so that you can deal with your feelings in a thoughtful and productive way. Both you and your child are embarking on a new adventure, one that will have its own challenges, but also rewards as your child’s world expands and she is enriched by new relationships and experiences.
- Terrie Rose, PhD, President and Founder, Baby’s Space
- Ross Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis
- Robert Weigand, MS, IMH-E, Director, Child Development Laboratory, Arizona State University