You’ll certainly know there’s a toddler in the house now, with toys and mess strewn throughout. Something will catch your toddler’s eye and become their new favourite item for a little while and then it will be cast aside in favour of the next best thing. Don’t take your 19 month old too seriously or worry they can’t focus for too long. Having a short attention span is characteristic of this age and is entirely normal. It’s also completely age appropriate for your toddler to protest and escalate easily to frustration. This is not an indication that they will always be impatient, it’s just that they don’t yet have the cognitive ability to understand how things work. Blocks which fall over when they’re stacked too high, shape toys which aren’t inserted in their matching holes and even toys which won’t line up and sit as they should do, will all incite a fresh outburst. Try to stay calm and in check of your own emotions when your toddler escalates. They still need your help to learn how to regulate their emotions and not feel overwhelmed by their angry feelings.
But it’s not all rage and frustration at 19 months. This is also the age when humour makes an appearance and you’ll find your toddler has discovered how to giggle. If you pull a silly face and make a little joke, tickle them gently and sing a silly song they will understand the ridiculousness of it all.
Noticing your toddler’s clothes seem a little shrunken these days? Or have they just woken up one morning and seem to have grown overnight? Reassure yourself that this is not your imagination but in fact is probably true. Children do grow more when they are asleep because this is when they release growth hormones. They are also conserving energy and consolidating memories, all vital processes towards their overall growth and development. Your toddler’s growth now will have slowed down when compared with their growth in the first 12 months, so don’t expect the same patterns of weight gain now as previously.
Your toddler is also likely to grow more during spring and summer and slow down a little during the cooler months of the year. They will go through periods where their growth seems to plateau and they stay at the same size and weight for a while. Then it’s as if someone has turned on a switch and they have a growth spurt. Fits and starts, two steps forward, one step back, that’s the usual pattern of growth and development over the toddler years.
Busy and active are the words to describe your 19 month old. From the moment they wake up to when their little head meets the mattress they’ll be into everything and drawn to touch and examine. Which means you’ll need to be vigilant about where they are and what they’re doing. If you haven’t seen them for a while and there’s a notable absence of sound, be assured that your toddler is up to no good.
Keep gates across doorways and doors closed if you want to limit their access through the house. Teach them what’s involved in safely climbing down stairs and make sure they go down backwards. Show them how to use handrails and encourage them to wait for you to come and be with them. You’ll become very used to hearing your toddler calling you throughout the day (and perhaps the night) which is why many parents develop selective deafness at this time. Constant calls for “mum mum” or “dad dad” at various levels of intensity will make you feel as if you are at their beck and call. Although this is an independent stage for your toddler, they will still need your help to engage in play and be entertained. They will also need comforting when life just gets a little too big for them. Just when you think your toddler is growing up too quickly, they will remind you that they are still very young.
New words and sounds will come from your toddler this month, some more intelligible than others. They’ll be learning how to string 2-3 words together such as “my ball here” and be able to identify familiar people by their names. They’ll also look for the family pets and make different animal noises when they spot one. Cows may be known as “moos” dogs as “oof offs” and cats by “meows”. At 19 months toddlers love to mimic so if you’re prone to a little swearing watch your own language – someone is listening!
You’ll have a tired little person in the household each night, and by 7-7.30pm they will be looking for their bed. Most toddlers still need around 12 hours sleep each night and without it, they’re pretty cranky. When combined with a day time sleep of 1.5-2hours, this is enough for the average toddler to get through their day with sufficient energy and enthusiasm.
Expect your toddler to be involved in everything you are these days. They will want to help you and be part of your world. Gone are the days of you being able to leave an ordered pile of notes or craft sitting in a corner. Before you know it they will be relocated to the further reaches of the house. Which means you’ll need to be imaginative about storage and stashing things away.
If your toddler isn’t keen to try new foods, introduce what’s unfamiliar with other foods they like. It is common for toddlers to need to even see a new food 6-7 times before they’ll give it a try. It is also normal for toddlers to be suspicious of anything new and this behaviour will be reflected during meal times.
Limit main meals to around 20-30 minutes and snacks to around 10 minutes. Your toddler will lose interest in eating after a reasonably short time so be sensitive to their cues that they have eaten enough. Turning their head away when you offer more, saying no, trying to climb out of their booster seat or high chair and pushing the plate away are clear signs that they have had enough of are just not interested. Avoid offering your toddler treats or rewards of food. This can set up poor eating patterns which can lead to problems later on. We all develop a relationship with food which works best if it does not become dysfunctional.
If your 19 month old is drinking too much milk, this will impact on how much food they want to eat at meal times. More than 600mls/day can be too much. If you are still breastfeeding, more than 3-4 breastfeeds/day could also impact on your toddler’s appetite. If you’re finding your toddler is breastfeeding through the night and is picky with their meals, then you would both benefit from stopping these overnight feeds and limiting breastfeeds to the day. Toddlers whose main source of nutrition is breastmilk tend to be low in iron and can develop anaemia. Because of this, their appetite is reduced further. Check with your child health nurse that your toddler is growing as they need to and is eating sufficiently nutritious food to grow well.
Some toddlers seem to develop a permanent cold, especially during the winter months. Having an underdeveloped immune system and not having had the opportunity to develop any immunity to the hundreds of “cold” viruses causes them to be particularly susceptible. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics which is why, as yet, there is no cure. If your toddler does develop a cold, make sure they have plenty of fluids to drink, extra cuddles and a quiet few days at home to support their immune system to do its work. Ear infections are also reasonably common in toddlers whose Eustachian tubes are shorter and softer than in older children. If you’re finding your toddler is prone to middle ear infections, be reassured that the majority of children grow out of this problem.
If you are worried or your toddler refuses to drink, is vomiting or particularly sleepy, have them checked by a doctor. Breathing difficulties or an elevated temperature are also signs that they need to be medically assessed. One of the first symptoms you may notice when your child is developing a cold is their breath may smell different. They may also seem just “not right” or you may have a sense that they aren’t well. It’s always important to follow your own instincts and have them checked if you are concerned. You are the expert when it comes to your toddler and know them better than anyone else.