Get ready for it, the infamous two-year-old antics start as early as 16 months. Communication is key and at this milestone, as toddlers lack the ability to express themselves properly, even though they understand a lot more than parents realize. At this stage, especially, it’s all about observing, exploring, and imitating but what can parents truly expect at the 16-months milestone and most importantly, is there anything they can do to make the transition to the big second birthday a smoother one?
Absolutely! Since kids love to copy their parents, it’s all about setting the groundwork for some good behaviors now. Actually, these strategies really should have been implemented way before but it’s never too late to start. Even if these would have been started on before, the 16-month and onwards times are challenging enough to make even the calmest and gentlest parent lose their cool more times than they would ever dare to admit.
Life with a toddler is no walk in the park but when you know what to expect, then you can better prepare yourself for the turbulence to come.
Not everything is gloomy though as there are some sunny milestones to expect as well. But with these, there are a couple of changes parents are simply going to need to accept and learn to live with for a long while.
Let's start with the 15 things parents can expect...
20 The Beginnings of Imaginative Play
If you look past the mess, seeing toddlers, especially 16-month-old ones play is the cutest thing. Parents.com says,
“Your child may bark like a dog as he crawls around your feet, or use dolls to imitate people. He'll put a bowl on his head and insist it's a new hat, or use a banana as a phone. Your child's pretend play is a cornerstone for future learning."
"Reading and writing are all about symbolic representation. So this ability to imagine is an essential developmental step,” further explains Stephanie Leeds, PhD, director of education and child studies in New York.
19 Imitation Is The Best Form Of Flattery
With pretend play also comes the advent of imitation. Imitation is the best form of flattery and 16-month-olds take this to the next level by copying mommy and daddy.
Pro advice: keep your sunglasses out of reach!
I can’t even begin to say how many times my little one grabbed mine and stretched them out. But this tip pretty much applies to everything they can get their little hands on and if you think they’re still too short to reach anything, you may want to re-think their craftiness. They will stretch and stretch until they finally reach the eyeliner you left lying around and after that, it’s game over.
18 Dressing Down
With trying to climb out of the crib, there’s another really annoying behavior that you can expect from a 16-month-old. Following a really nice long three-hour nap, you might just walk back into the room to realize that your sweet angel hadn’t actually been sleeping. Instead, you will realize that they had been busy learning how to remove their shirt, pants and….
In which they went #2 in.
No, this isn’t the Halloween movie, it’s real life and it’s to be expected from any toddler around this age.
Going bare is normal but you may want to employ some clever tactics to get it to stop. Put your little one’s clothes on backward and you can even put the diaper on backward to discourage them from taking it off. It doesn’t always work though but it might.
17 Mine, Mine, Mine
Sharing is caring but not in a 16-month-old’s eyes. Today’s Parent explains these phenomena by saying,
“Toddlers are in an egocentric phase of development, just starting to recognize themselves as individuals with their own things. They are beginning to explore what it means to possess something (Billy may have been planning to use the truck), and they haven’t quite grasped the idea that some things belong to other people.”
Not wanting to share is normal but it’s nonetheless important to teach them all about sharing. Rather than scolding them for taking something or not wanting to give a toy up, focus your efforts on praising when they do these things of their own volition.
16 An Eagerness To Help
Don’t think your 16-month-old is ready for chores? Think again because they 100% are! They might not do the best job or it might make the process go 10x slower but it’s still worth letting them try. Not only is it the cutest thing ever to see them trying to fold or throwing clothes into the washing machine but completing the task will also make them super proud of themselves.
Mother.ly suggests letting your 16-month-old wash and place pre-chopped foods on plates, help set the table, place laundry in the basket, push the button to turn on the washer/dryer, put away toys, etc.
15 Expect Praise To Be More Effective Than Discipline
We have already touched upon how it’s a good idea to tone down on the amount of no’s we say as parents because of toddlers’ uncanny ability to copy mommy and daddy’s behaviors but there’s another important way of doing things that are imperative to change.
As 16-month-olds explore the world around them, they also start doing a whole of things they shouldn’t. Some of it is still just exploration but many of the things they do will be rooted around getting a reaction. If you always scream at them or make funny facial expressions when they do something they shouldn’t, they are more than likely to do it again. If you ignore or re-direct their behaviors and praise them for something good they have done, then they are way more likely to do that again instead (e.g. clean up instead of making a mess.)
14 ‘Mommy’s Never Coming Back’
Separation anxiety is as touching as it is sad. It’s hard not to feel a great deal of guilt over dropping off a crying 16-month-old at daycare but rest assured that daycare or not, it’s still a developmental phase they would be going through. Parents.com recommends playing a few games at home to promote trust,
“However, she still needs reassurance that when you leave, you'll always come back. You can help give her this sense by playing simple games; start with peekaboo and then try the bye-bye game, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution. To play the latter, say "bye-bye" to your child, hide behind a chair, then pop out. "This involves more separation than peekaboo," she explains. Finally, move on to hide-and-seek.”
13 A Little Genius: Puzzle Time!
If you think your 16-month-old couldn’t possibly do a puzzle, think again. At this age especially, they should be savvy enough to complete one-piece puzzles with some toddlers being able to complete more advanced ones! It really depends on each little one but you will definitely want to add some of these puzzles to your Christmas list. The best part is that some inexpensive wooden ones can actually be found at the dollar store.
12 And Stacking Blocks
Along with one-piece puzzles, you’re also going to want to get stacking blocks. Although there’s a good chance your budding 16-month-old will be more interested in throwing all the pieces around at first, the key is to actually take some time to sit down with them and show them what to do. By this stage, they should be able to stack 2-3 blocks at a time, although they might also knock them down on accident a lot too.
As grown-ups, showing a baby or toddler how to do something as simple as stacking blocks can be a discouraging task because they probably won’t get it right on the first or even the 30th try. That’s OK! As with anything, repetition is key and you will eventually see them sit down and start stacking out of nowhere.
11 Anti-Grandma & Everyone Else
With separation anxiety also comes stranger anxiety. Whereas before, your baby might happily wave at everybody at the store and blow kisses, now their cute little smiles may turn upside down the moment you disappear from their view for half a second.
"Stranger anxiety is not just reserved for babies. It’s a phenomenon in which toddlers, often between the ages of 12 and 24 months, view anyone other than their parents as a threat — even if that someone is their (formerly) favorite Aunt Michelle. Why does toddler stranger anxiety suddenly rears its ugly — and strange — head? Experts aren’t exactly sure. And, adding to the mystery, some kids are gripped by it, while others never feel it at all," says What To Expect.
No matter what though, focus on prevention and positivity. Stay within arm's reach and reassure your child.
10 Taller Than They Appear
Babycenter’s advice is spot-on:
“If you haven't already done so, now it is essential that you childproof your home. The kitchen can be a particularly dangerous spot, so get into the habit of cooking on the back burners of the stove, turning pot handles inward and out of reach of groping hands.”
The tip about turning the handles inward is a particularly important one because, at this age, toddlers have no idea that anything up there could be unsafe. They simply see something sticking out and they want to take it and observe it. The same goes for pretty much anything and a toilet seat safety latch might come particularly in handy now.
9 Get Ready For A Language Boom
Worried that your 16-month-old is still babbling without really saying any coherent words? Don’t fret because there are big things coming on the horizon. Parents.com explains,
"The first words your child learns will almost certainly be labels for the people, animals, or other things in his world. He'll learn single words or short phrases, accruing an average of one or two new ones each month. Then, quite suddenly -- typically at 18 months, though it may happen sooner or later -- your toddler will experience what experts call a "language explosion," the bubbling-over point when he's banking as many as 10 new words a day."
8 The Terrific Twos Will Start Early
If you thought you could avoid the terrific twos at least until your little one’s second birthday, think again. The tantrums, the lashing out, the frustrating behaviors, the refusals to do what you want them to do…. All of it actually starts at about 16-month-old.
The thing is that it only intensifies by the second birthday. With that in mind, sometimes, it really is best to just grab your trantruming child and leave the store, restaurant, or anywhere else you may have decided to brave that day.
According to Parents.com, “A toddler isn't a baby anymore, and since he has to grow up whether he likes it or not, treating him like an infant will only make him balk. But a toddler isn't a preschooler yet either...treating him like he's older than he is makes him clingy.”
So basically, it’s a confusing time for everybody. Patience, Mama!
7 The Rise Of The Climb
It’s not for nothing that many parents choose to transition their one-year-old out of the crib early. Although a 16-month-old might still be a little wobbly on his feet, that likely won’t stop him from trying to climb anything he feels like. Climbing the couch isn’t so bad –at least until they tumble off it a couple of times—but how do you stop a climber?
Very Well Family says, “Short of removing from your home every vertical object as well as objects that could be stacked vertically, you can't really stop a climber.”
If your little one starts trying to climb out of the crib, however, then you should definitely make sure to put the mattress to the lowest setting. Otherwise, a toddler bed might indeed be in order.
Towards the 16-month-old mark (sometimes before or after,) something not-so-magical happens. The previously happy-go-lucky toddler who would happily follow your every direction now suddenly starts to show defiance and assertiveness.
The word “no” carries a lot of power, which toddlers recognize very early on, though they don’t quite realize it just yet. Out of all the words, it’s certainly one of the easiest to say in any language but as What To Expect points out, there’s another reason a toddler might take to saying it all the time.
“Another reason toddlers say ‘no’ a lot is that they hear it a lot — from you! So look for ways to limit your little parrot's exposure to the word. Instead of ‘No! Don't touch the oven,’ say ‘[Ouchie!] Be careful.’”
And here are 5 things parents are going to have to let go...
5 2 Naps
I know what you’re thinking: YOU are the one who needs your baby to nap. Maybe it’s your time to nap too, catch up on some work or just plop down on the couch and scroll social media for a while. Nap is a sacred time but, unfortunately, at 16-months-old, there’s a good chance they are ready to drop napping more than once. Forget morning and afternoon naps, you’re going to want to simply make it just one big nap in the afternoon. Starting after lunch is usually a good time and if you really want to stretch it as long as possible, consider making the room as dark as possible (think blackout blinds.)
4 The Loudness
If you’re a generally quiet person, then there’s one thing you’re going to need to get used to the constant shrieking, screaming, and general loudness.
Toddlers are LOUD!
There’s not much to do except try to encourage them to shhh! But even that doesn’t often work.
At this age, they’re still experimenting and learning everything. So being loud falls right into that category. Ignoring is certainly worth a try, especially since the more you react, the more they will likely scream.
Another thing to consider is that kids with ear problems will sometimes scream more as well. So if the screaming persists, getting your little one’s ears checked might be a good idea.
3 The Temper Tantrums
We have already touched on the fact that the not-so-terrific twos may actually start as early as 16-months. Even though it won’t feel like it, the defiant behavior will still be on the milder scale, making it all that important to develop and implement good strategies now. First of all, know that prevention is key.
Tantrums are your new reality, so you may as well stay calm as a cucumber while they have their moment.
If you know that giving a toy before nap will likely make them have a meltdown when you try to take it away so they can sleep, then make sure to give that toy after the nap.
Little things like that can make a huge difference, as can re-direction, ignoring and most importantly, not shouting back, giving in or offering candy to get them to stop crying.
2 Picky Eating
Picky eating at any age can be increasingly difficult to deal with, especially when it keeps happening day after day. While picky eating doesn't just happen at 16 months, it's very important for mom and dad to manage the situation the right way to avoid bigger problems in the future. Yummy Toddler Food provides some reassurance by saying,
"A normal toddler meal may be two bites of a food. Or it may be a whole plate. A normal toddler may like something immensely one week and not at all the following week. This is to be expected."
But no matter how challenging it gets, under no circumstance should you make your child feel bad for not eating or force them to stay at the table to finish their entire meal. Instead, try lighter snacks in-between meals and serve smaller portions.
1 The Mess
No, you’re not about to get your pristine-looking living room back any time soon. Even Kourtney Kardashian says, “A playroom should look good messy” but unlike this out-of-touch reality with her $35 million net worth and multiple-bedroom mansion, the rest of us don’t always have the luxury of having several rooms dedicated just for the kids to play and make a mess. Not to mention, we also don't have 10 nannies to clean it all up every hour.
The rest of us need to let the kids have most of their toys in the living room so that we can keep a watchful eye on them.
Unfortunately, at 16-months-old, toddlers are more focused on taking everything out and throwing it on the floor. Not much will actually keep them occupied, except for the restricted places of the home (such as the kitchen utensils drawer.)