You’ll need to make sure your 21-month-old has plenty to keep them busy now otherwise they’ll be tugging on your leg all day. Set up zones for play throughout the house and yard, and watch them as they flit from one to the other. If you value order in your home, this may be a challenging time. Your toddler won’t appreciate your need for organisation and is too young to change their behaviour just to please you. This means you’re going to need to learn skills in ignoring the household mess, or very closely monitor your toddler’s access to their toys.
Try to be realistic with your expectations of them. Anyone with any experience of toddlers knows that they are chaotic. Aim to spend time with other parents that have children the same age and rotate the houses you go to for get-togethers. Better still, relocate to a park or someone’s backyard. If it’s summer, incorporate some water play, which will keep a group of toddlers entertained for hours. It’s still too early yet to expect them to play with each other; it’s all about being number 1 when you’re 21 months old.
Keep up your daily, predictable routine with your toddler, they’ll thrive on it and you’ll get through the day with fewer dramas. If you have a new baby, expect some changes in your toddler’s behaviour as they learn to adapt to being an older sibling. You will need to share your teaching role as your 21-month-old learns valuable lessons from the little one. The value of waiting, being patient, having to share parental attention, and not being the only one whose needs matter, are all vital life lessons. But in the process of gaining this particular education, expect some toddler adjustments, which often result in emotional meltdowns.
Growth and development
Your toddler will be able to run now and build up speed, particularly if they want something NOW! They’ll also be able to bend over and stand back up without any loss of balance. Climbing will also feature, so don’t leave a ladder standing around, otherwise you’re likely to find them scaling straight up it.
You’ll still need to take their stroller when you go out, unless you’re prepared to carry them when their legs get tired. Although it can seem like they’ve got never-ending reserves of energy, their little legs do tire and need a rest.
Get into the habit of taking your toddler outside with you when you go. Check your fences to ensure they are secure and they can’t escape from the confines of your own yard. Talk to your toddler about what you are doing and involve them in helping you. Collecting pegs, picking flowers, and hosing the garden are all jobs that can be shared.
Doing this will help build your toddler’s self-esteem and their emotional relationship with you. Although your toddler is fascinated by their world and wants the freedom to explore it, they also need you to be close and provide them with a soft place to fall. There’s a fine line between giving them enough space to learn, but not compromise their safety. If you’re like most other parents, by the time you’ve perfected this skill, your toddler will have progressed onto their next stage of development.
Watch your child begin to show some interest in dressing themselves or even stripping off when the whim takes them. They may be able to point to some body parts or even make an attempt at naming them. When playing with blocks, their towers will be getting taller and they’ll delight in whacking them onto the ground. They could even identify familiar objects in a picture book and try to name them. Easily recognised items such as a ball, the sun, a table or a bed may all prompt an attempt to say what they are.
Play and interaction
Discover your passion for recycling this month. Egg cartons, toilet roll holders, cereal and tissue boxes can all be used for imaginative play. If you have a large appliance delivered, don’t be in too much of a hurry to toss out the box. This can be turned into the most wonderful house and will keep your toddler entertained for hours. Give them some paints and crayons and encourage them to decorate it. Praise your toddler’s artistic endeavours – they’ll think they’re wonderful too. Give them some cushions to sit on and climb in there yourself. Boost your toddler’s imagination and creativity as they incorporate home life into their play.
If you’re having renovations done, ask your builder to keep aside some of the bigger blocks of wood. These can be used for building blocks and outside “construction”. Just check they haven’t been treated with chemicals. Store them in an old washing basket and then drag them out so your toddler can make the most imaginative creations. Using blocks in this way will help your toddler learn very early concepts in maths.
What you can expect this month
If you have older or younger children, your toddler won’t be too far from their sides. Keeping them separated will be impossible and there’s bound to be minor protests over toys and wanting to play with the same things. Don’t be too quick to sort out their arguments and give your children the opportunity to do this by themselves. Over time, siblings build skills in negotiation and work out reasonably fair arrangements, which keep both happy. Of course, if one (or both) are about to get hurt – then you‘ll need to step in and help them negotiate. See our sibling rivalry article for more advice.
Expect things to go missing this month and question yourself about where you put something down. Your little Houdini will be secreting things away and have their private stash of treasures planted throughout the house. The reason for why toddlers do this is unclear. Perhaps because it’s a leftover from their hunter/gatherer descent, or just a need to collect. But the reality is that you’re likely to find all manner of objects shoved behind pillows, in the cardboard box cubby, and even down the toilet. Keep precious things up high where they can’t touch them. Out of sight really is out of mind for a 21-month-old.
Food and nutrition
Finding your toddler on the floor with a loaf of bread and the peanut butter? Try to see the funny side and lighten up. At 21 months your toddler will have no concept of the “right” way to do things but they will try, especially if they’re observant. Give them jobs to help you with meal preparation and let them see what’s involved. Banishing them from the kitchen may make it easier than having them underfoot but when time allows, sit them up on the bench with you. If your toddler is a reluctant eater, they might be more willing to snack if they’re involved with getting a meal ready.
Try to be imaginative with what you serve them each day and think about varying their diet. Toddlers can develop a preference for all sorts of foods and flavours, quite separate to what their parents like. Make a point of buying a new, unfamiliar fruit or vegetable each time you go shopping. Remember, even if your toddler isn’t keen to taste it as first, keep offering it, and let them see you eating it as well.
Keeping your toddler healthy
Invest in a pair of gumboots for your 21-month-old, especially if you live in a rainy area. Remember to give them a shake and check them for spiders and other bugs before your toddler pulls them on. Show them how to do this too, for those times when you’re not around. Although getting wet and cold doesn’t cause a cold, it can use up a lot of energy to keep warm.
Aim for a simple family life, which is fostered by good food, plenty of sleep and rest, balanced with periods of absolute excitement. Every so often break the rules and change what your family is doing. Being impulsive can be immensely rewarding. If you feel you’re stuck in a rut of monotony, change your plans for that day. Although toddlers love routines, they are also amazingly adaptable and can only benefit from having parents who enjoy their own lives.
Keeping your toddler healthy is not just restricted to their physical health, but their mind as well. Let them see you showing emotions and how you deal with them. Through you they will learn what it means to be a grown-up and how to deal with everyday life.
As much as you want to insulate them, you also need to show your toddler a range of feelings. Let them see you cry if you need to, weep with laughter if you’re so inclined or just feel a bit blue. Don’t be surprised if they stare in amazement if they haven’t seen this side of you yet. Their responses can be just as entertaining as anything else.
Your toddler’s inquisitiveness can easily compromise their safety.
Enrol your toddler in swimming lessons, especially if you have a swimming pool.
Check your pool fence and pool net is in good repair and that the gate has a self-latching/closing mechanism.
Encourage your 21-month-old to be your little helper and involve them in household activities.
They’ll love feeling useful, especially if you make a fuss of their efforts. Let them check the mail box, help you find the paper, and change the pet’s water. There’s no need to keep them completely separate from normal household activities any more.
Take your toddler to your dentist when you go, and show them what’s involved in lying back in the chair and opening your mouth.
The first few visits are often just about having a ride up and down in the chair and looking at some of the equipment. Becoming familiar with oral health maintenance is a valuable life-long lesson.