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New this month: Climbing and balancing
Now that your child has nailed walking, watch him test his skill in new, more challenging situations. Balancing on a log or walking along the edge of a curb is a thrill now, as is climbing up anything that makes him feel taller. Many toddlers, in fact, have a natural inclination to climb that may take you by surprise. Though you may be worried your child will hurt himself, offering him safe places to practice balancing and climbing are a good way to channel this energy and encourage his physical development. Toddler-safe playgrounds are a good place to start. (See tips on evaluating playground safety.)
What you can do
Playground fixtures that combine steps and ladders with slides and logs to balance on — and soft sand or rubber mats to tumble on — are the perfect place for toddlers to work on these skills. But you can indulge your child's fascination inside, too. Purchasing a low plastic slide with a few steps will provide endless hours of fun. Or, to save yourself a few bucks, pile up some big pillows in the middle of the floor (at least a few feet away from furniture or other objects) and encourage your toddler to play "King of the Mountain." You can also teach him songs about "up" and "down." (Remember this one? "The grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men. He marched them up to the top of the hill and he marched them down again ...")
If your child is an avid balancer, toddler tumbling classes can be a thrill. But putting some soft blankets down on the living room floor and getting out some big, sturdy cardboard blocks can be just as challenging and fun. Line up the blocks and they're "a log across a rushing stream"; spread them out and they become stepping stones across the quicksand. If the weather allows and your child is game, let him use a low curb as a balance beam — perhaps with your hand for support.
Other developments: Shows of strength, breaking a bottle habit, toothcare
Your child's physical ability to do things for himself is finally catching up with his desire to be more independent. Watch for displays of strength and agility such as rearranging chairs, climbing out of the crib (or attempting to), and moving large objects such as a toy box or even the family dog.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends taking steps to wean your toddler off the bottle at 18 months. If you and your toddler are ready for that big step, try making the transition in stages. Substitute a sippy cup or a kid-size cup for the bottle during the day. Next, ease him away from the morning or dinner-time bottles before finally stopping the bedtime bottle, which is typically the hardest one for a child to give up.
The AAP also recommends that you brush your toddler's teeth at least once a day. If once-a-day brushing is all you can manage, do it at bedtime to reduce the chance of cavity-causing bacteria from multiplying in your toddler's mouth overnight. For the next several years your child will need your help when she brushes, since it will be awhile before she has the control — or the concentration — to brush every tooth.
See all our articles on toddler development.