Infant & Toddler Development

19–21 Months

You are the most important person in your child’s life. She will spend a lot of time watching you and copying you in her play. She will also watch other children playing and may even try to play with them.

Poking, touching, and pushing are her ways of showing interest in other children. She may even have a special friend her own age if they are together a lot. You will notice more smiles and less fighting with this friend than with a child who is a stranger.

Children play together best when they have the same toys or materials. Having two blue trucks of the same size causes less problems than having one doll and one truck.

Play is the main activity of childhood. It helps children learn about themselves, their family and their world. Allow your child time to play alone, and also take time to play with her. You’ll learn about her and she’ll learn from you.

What it’s like to be 19–21 months old

How I grow…

  • I can kick a large ball, but I’m awkward doing it.
  • I can stack rings, fit a peg into a hole, and place a lid on a shoebox.
  • I can stack three or four small blocks on top of each other if you show me how it’s done.
  • I love to move to music and can occasionally match the beat.

How I talk…

  • I may mimic the last words of your sentence.
  • I like to listen to short nursery rhymes.
  • I can understand simple questions, such as, “Where is the kitty?” and “Do you want juice?”

How I respond…

  • I recover quickly from minor bumps.
  • I claim everything as “mine.”
  • I will lead you to something I want even if it’s in another room.
  • I recognize photos of people I know. I can also recognize myself in a photo.
  • I may be frightened by things I used to like such as the vacuum cleaner, tub or waves at the beach.

How I understand…

  • I know that you will return when you go out, but I may still cry when you leave.
  • I can point to the body parts of a doll.
  • I can hold a pencil in my fist and scribble. I like to make marks on paper with a big crayon or washable felt marker.

How you help me learn…

  • Clap your hands to music while I am sitting on your lap to help me notice the beat.
  • Keep me interested in my toys by dividing them into two boxes and switching boxes each week.
  • Take me on a walk. Allow plenty of time so I can look, listen, and touch. Stop and help me listen for sounds. Say, “Did you hear the bird?” or “I hear a dog barking! Where is it?”
  • Help me learn to play with another child. I may push or poke to say “Hello.” Show me how to gently touch her shoulder or use my words as a greeting. Stay near me while I play with her, so I can come back to you quickly. Don’t force me to share my favorite toys. Help me look for toys that my friend can play with. I still may take the toys away. This isn’t because I want to play with them. I’m just not sure I want the other child to have them. If we go to another house to visit, let me take a few of my own toys along.
  • Let me play with water. Filling and emptying containers and washing dishes are great fun. Give me a plastic bucket filled with water and an old paint brush. I will paint the sidewalk, the house, and everything I can reach.
  • Keep reading to me. I may want to hear the same story again and again . . . and again.
  • Let me play in sand even if I get dirty. Spoons and small plastic containers are easier than shovels for me to use for digging.

Feeding Your Toddler

Mealtime Hints

Although eating should be an enjoyable family time, feeding a toddler can be hard on your imagination and your patience.

  • Let your toddler eat her food any way she chooses and in any order. Expect mealtime to be messy. Table manners can be taught when she is older and has better muscle control.
  • Keep mealtime fun. Let the meal end when she stops eating. If your urge her to take another bite and she refuses, calmly remove her plate.
  • Avoid using sweets as a reward for finishing a meal.
  • Serve healthy snacks such as fruit (papaya, mango, banana), crackers, dry cereal, yogurt or poi. Sweets and chips can spoil her appetite and keep her from eating more nutritious foods at mealtime. Think of snacks as mini meals. Small, frequent meals are more appropriate for her than three larger meals per day.
  • Your child may be too hungry to wait for your regular family meal. If so, give her part of her meal while you finish cooking.
  • Introduce new foods one at a time, in small portions, along with familiar foods. Avoid fancy flavorings and sauces. If your toddler doesn’t like a particular food, wait a few weeks and try again.


Vision and Hearing

Your child’s eyes and ears help her learn. It is not always easy to know when a young child is having difficulty hearing or seeing. Check with your doctor if your child:

  • Squints and rubs her eyes frequently.
  • Has trouble seeing moving objects at a distance.
  • Always puts her face very close to a picture book or television set or turns the TV volume up high.
  • Has repeated ear infections or drainage from her ears.
  • Pulls on an ear or turns her head in the same direction when listening.
  • Fails to respond to your simple directions.
  • Speaks so softly that you can’t hear her.


Ribbons, cords and hair bands

Toddlers have been known to wrap ribbons, cords and hair bands around their fingers or toes. This can cut off the flow of blood to these areas. Avoid cords on clothing such as hooded sweatshirts or pants.

Names on Clothing

Avoid buying clothes or other items with your child’s name printed on them. Your child is more likely to respond to or trust a stranger who calls her by name.


Planning for the Holidays

For the very young child, holiday activities may be scary and upsetting. Don’t expect your child to approach Santa or shake hands with a 5-foot Easter bunny. She may be fearful of children in Halloween costumes. She probably won’t enjoy meeting new relatives at family gatherings.

There are a few helpful things you can do:

  • Practice ahead of time if possible. Show her pictures of Santa. Let her play with masks in preparation for Halloween.
  • Watch other children meeting Santa or the Easter Bunny from a safe distance.
  • Talk about what is happening.
  • Don’t force your child to go up to people in costumes or to “new” people.

Gaining Cooperation

You can do several things to encourage cooperation from your child:

Plan ahead. Remind her a few minutes before it is actually time to do some-thing. That way she will be prepared for a change of activity.

  • Help her remember the rules. Say, “What do we do before we eat?” When she either says “Wash” or goes to the sink, say, “Great! You remembered”.
  • Make a game out of it when she resists at clean up time. While you pick up the big blocks, have her pick up the small blocks. At bed time, put her pajamas on backwards, and let her tell you the right way to do it. When leaving, say, “Let’s take your doll for a ride.” rather than saying, “Get in the car.”
  • Practice with her so she knows what to expect in a new situation. For example, use a toy doctor’s kit to show her what to expect before going to the doctor’s office. Read her a book about going to see the doctor.
  • Provide simple, acceptable choices. Say, “Do you want mango or banana?” rather than, “What fruit do you want for lunch?”

Encouraging Independence

It is normal for a toddler to try to do things on her own. She needs and wants to feel grown up.

Here are some hints to help your child be independent.

  • Use low shelves or drawers for your toddler’s toys and clothes, so she can reach them without your help.
  • Put a large hook at her height and have her practice hanging her clothes on it.
  • Give her a toothbrush, washcloth, and towel of her own.
  • Put a sturdy stool by the sink so she can wash her hands and brush her teeth.
  • Encourage and notice her when she tries things on her own.
  • Give your toddler simple chores she can do. She can carry napkins to the table. She can help put away cans and boxes from the store. She can also stack magazines on a shelf. Don’t expect chores to be done well or on her own. Thank her for her attempts to help you.

Take Care of Yourself

Choosing child care will be one of your most important decisions. In order to reduce your stress level and for you to be happy, relaxed, and productive at work, you need to feel that your child is in a safe, healthy, stimulating environment. Spend the extra time that it takes to find the right care for your child.

Family day care, toddler programs and preschools differ in program goals and values. Here are a few questions for you to consider in choosing child care.

  • Does your caregiver enjoy and respect the children? Is there warm contact such as hugging and holding? Does your caregiver talk with and listen to the children? Does the adult get down to the child’s eye level? Are there enough adults to supervise children and pay attention to each child?
  • Are you invited to spend time with your child there?
  • Do the children seem happily involved in activities?
  • Are there enough play materials for all?
  • Is there a balance of quiet and active play? Is there a balance of indoor and outdoor play? Are there choices to play alone or in a small group?
  • Does indoor play include music, art, water, dress-up, block building, books, and puzzles? Does it also include toys for pretend play such as trucks, cars, and figures of people and animals?
  • Are the caregiver’s ideas on guidance agreeable to you?
  • Is there a safe, adequate outdoor area that encourages large muscle activity? Are there ladders, barrels, low slides, and riding toys? Is there protection from the sun?
  • Are the adults willing to answer your questions? Do they confer with you on a regular basis about your child’s progress?

A Parent Asks

Q – How do I teach my daughter to share?

A – A toddler does not understand the concept of sharing. Sharing is developed over a long period and cannot be rushed any more than walking or talking can be. Before sharing, the idea of ownership must be developed. Talk to your child about what is hers, what belongs to you, and even what belongs to the dog. When she says “its mine,” it doesn’t mean she’s selfish. She is learning about possessions. Although your child may show caring and generous behaviors, she does not understand the meaning of sharing even though she may have offered you a bite of her sandwich or taken turns if you insisted. Encourage these behaviors however, with a smile or a word of praise.

Let her see you sharing with her and with others and hear you describe what and how you are sharing. When she is about eight years old, she will develop a sense of fairness. True sharing cannot take place until this time.