Toddler pulling on mom's arm Toddler pulling on mom's arm

20 Month Old

You’ll have a little mimic in the house now, someone watching and absorbing all that you say and do. Watch your 20-month-old as they copy your actions and try talking with the same pitch and intonation in their voice. They’ll want to please you and try to engage you in their play whenever they can. If you’re considering having a quiet sit for a few moments, then think again. Your toddler will bring you things to examine and will seek you out wherever you are. Rediscover your inner child this month when you have really become your toddler’s best friend.

It is common for toddlers of this age to still have separation anxiety when one parent isn’t present. For now, they are too small for reasoning, but old enough to go with the patterns of family life. Mom or dad going to work, coming home and being reunited after some hours are all common events. Parents that make a point of saying goodbye and giving affection when they leave, and then showing genuine pleasure when reunited set a positive example. They teach that separations are healthy and normal, but that they will also return.

Your toddler may want to “talk” on the phone to the absent parent, see them on web-cam or even call in to see them at work. Meshing family and work lives can take some practice, but toddlers don’t appreciate the intricacies of work dynamics. Their primary relationships need to be so strong that they believe they are number 1 in their parent’s lives. This means some delicate balancing of time over these early years.

Growth and development

This is the age when many toddlers are spending time at day care. Seeing your 20-month-old toddler for the first time in a group of children of the same age can be almost confronting. It may even raise protective feelings in you that you haven’t experienced until now. Your toddler will use your reactions as a guide to steer them, so be positive and encouraging, even if you might not feel it.

Comparing your toddler to the others is bound to happen and you’ll be amazed by how different they all are. You could even find yourself more drawn to the toddlers who bear some resemblance to your own. The same colour hair or dressing in a similar way could strike a familiar chord in you. Genetics are responsible for this – as parents we tend to align more with children that share a similar appearance to our own. Nature works in very powerful ways.

Noticing that your toddler’s hats don’t fit as they used to? Their brain and skull growth are the reason why, so interpret this as only a good thing. Look for hats that cast a shadow right over their face, their neck and right down to their chest.

Play and interaction

Avoid over-planning your toddler’s day with lots of activities and stimulation. They are designed to seek out their own pleasures but, of course, will need some prompts along the way. One formal, planned activity a day is more than enough at this age. So if they have a swimming class in the morning, have time at home in the afternoon. Your toddler needs to learn how to initiate their own little games and fun. Although these can appear unimportant to an onlooker, they mean a lot to a 20-month-old.

Their creative juices will be flowing now and you’ll hear them talking away to themselves and their toys, the family cat, and even the fence. Practice makes perfect with language, so encourage these little conversations. Avoid correcting your toddler when they don’t pronounce words correctly or assign the wrong name to an object.

Your toddler will be very sensitive to your criticisms and this can undermine their confidence. Try not to compare your toddler’s speech and language with other children, particularly between genders. Girls tend to be more advanced with their language development than boys.

What you can expect this month

Some self-reflection for parents is common around now, when the issue of planning for another baby can begin. There is no ideal or perfect age gap between siblings, but around 2.5 years is considered by many to be right. The difficult and exhausting early months have passed and having a toddler around is a reminder of the fun and simple pleasures involved in raising a family.

Extended families can apply a little pressure when it comes to having another baby. Subtle and not so subtle hints can be made about when parents plan to give their toddler a little brother or sister. There are so many individual and personal factors to take into account that a “one size fits all” approach is unrealistic. You and your partner are in the best position to make the right decision for you and your own family.

A different range of activities will attract your toddler’s eye around now. They may be drawn to groups of other children but still focus pretty much on their own individual play. Parallel play is a feature of this age where toddlers play alongside, rather than with each other. But the noise and movement of other kids will be a magnet. Don’t expect your toddler to be able to share, or be sensitive to other children’s needs. This is the age where pushing and biting can feature, which causes some parents to become very alarmed.

At 20 months toddlers are still governed by immature instincts, which are generated from their primitive brain. They are simply incapable of being consistently kind and considerate now. Given time and maturity, and lots of positive role modelling, they will evolve as they need to.

Food and nutrition

Take your toddler shopping and let them help you place food in the trolley. Show them how to choose fruits and vegetables and place them into bags. Go for colour, variety and minimal packaging. Plant some seeds and grow fast-growing vegetables like zucchinis, peas and corn. Help your toddler to link food with its origins – they can only benefit from this. Avoid raising a child with “nature deficit disorder” and make a point of going outside each day.

At this age toddlers have learnt how to access the fridge and pantry and will try to help themselves to food. This may not be a problem for your family and – as long as what they can get to is healthy and not impacting on their appetite for meals – then, perhaps for you, it’s not an issue. But it does pay to keep track of what they are eating and to regulate their intake of snacks.

Take a water bottle with you each time you go out and let your toddler see you drinking water too. Show them how to turn on the tap and get themselves a drink, but make sure you tell them not to touch the hot water tap.

It’s worth investing in a step-up stool for the bathroom and the kitchen.

Keeping your toddler healthy

At 20 months most toddlers are still wearing nappies and are too young to have become toilet trained. This means that changing and disposing of nappies is a continual process. Many toddlers want to “help” and take their nappy off – especially when they’ve done a poo. Be very matter of fact about this and don’t give them any positive feedback. This stage will pass and, in the meantime, it will help if you just clean them up and move onto the next thing. Even if it offends your sensibilities, to your toddler the contents of their nappy can be just another thing to play with.

Your toddler may seem perfectly fine one minute and the next they’re clearly unwell. Children can become sick very quickly but they also tend to recover just as fast. A normal temperature range for any of us is 36.1°– 37.3°C. Because of the immaturity of the temperature regulating system in their brain, children cannot control their temperature as well as adults can.

Keep some Paracetamol nearby and follow the directions for use on the bottle. Your child needs to be examined by a doctor if they have an elevated temperature.

General tips

  • Try for a consistent and predictable family life. At this age they tend to love routines and structure.

    • Some children are more adaptable than others and tend to be easier to manage. Others are more sensitive to change and don’t handle unpredictability as well.

  • Think about your own language and the daily messages you are giving your 20-month-old.

    • Saying “no” repeatedly will lose its significance for the times when you really need it. Praise, when earned and given as if you mean it, will do more to reinforce their positive behaviour than lots of negativity.

  • Aim to work consistently with your partner and invest equal enthusiasm and energy into your parenting.

    • Children of both genders benefit from seeing their parents in nurturing and guiding ways. Think about the stereotyping that your toddler is influenced by and consider if this is something you are keen to maintain.

  • Around 90% of your toddler’s brain growth will occur in their first 5 years of life.

    • Their brain is literally being shaped and moulded by their experiences over these years. Aim to have a home life that is rich and varied with music, stimulation, colour and fun activities. Play with them and have fun everyday – they really are worth it.

  • Avoid cleaning up your toddler’s messes too quickly – there really is little point.

    • One big clean-up at the end of the day will save your energy and sanity.


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