Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Entertaining and Educating your Toddler

My 14-month-old wants to play with pens and pencils.

Is it safe to let my 14-month-old have pencils to draw with? My husband gave her one and now she screams every time she sees either of us using a pen. She still puts lots of things in her mouth, so what would be the best thing to give her?

Now that your toddler has discovered how to make marks on paper, she will enjoy drawing sessions. Sit with her at a table and provide a large sheet of paper. This can be taped to the table to keep the scribbles on the paper and also prevent frustration if it moves.

Buying child-friendly chubby crayons, pencils and felt-tips will help your daughter with grip, but there is no reason why she cannot use ordinary pencils and crayons if that is all you have to hand. By fourteen months, she will be able to hold a chubby crayon in her hand (not yet in the conventional grasp) and make a mark on the paper; you can show her how to rub it back and forth. As she begins to explore the pencils and crayons, some are bound to find their way into her mouth. Remove them gently but firmly, and tell her that pencils are for drawing with and not for putting in our mouths. If she persists, then put the activity away for another day.

Give her three or four colours of crayons and felt-tips to begin with. Show her how to pull the caps from pens, and also how to replace them when she has finished with one colour. It is a matter of preference as to whether you draw pictures for your child or not; some educationalists believe a child should develop portraying an object or scene in their own time. Small children can become very passive about drawing if they are used to an adult drawing for them, or frustrated that their efforts can’t match up to an adults. The main thing is to let your child explore with a variety of drawing materials, and for both of you to enjoy the experience. Generally children will not draw something recognisable until they are three years old, but observing their growing skills is a fascinating part of their development.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Entertaining and Educating your Toddler

We want our son to grow up to be bilingual.

We wish our son to grow up to be bilingual. He is now 15 months and beginning to speak. My husband is Italian but also speaks excellent English. From Louis’ birth, we have each tried to speak our own language to him, but as my husband is away from home all day, often not returning until late, Louis hears far more English than Italian. Will this affect his learning of two languages? We visit Italy once or twice a year and my aim is for Louis to be able to communicate easily with his grandparents, who speak no English.

Growing up to be bilingual is a great asset for any child. Most experts agree that the best way for this to happen naturally is to immerse the child in both languages from an early age. But this is not always possible, and in most households a child’s first language is likely to be the one he hears more frequently, usually the mother’s. In addition, you and your husband probably converse in English, so Louis is more likely to speak more English than Italian in the next few months.

Your husband may not spend as much time with Louis as you do, but make sure when he is with him, that he always speaks to him in Italian. Your husband may find that Louis understands Italian, but as he begins to speak he will answer in English. This is quite common amongst bilingual children. Often when they visit the country of their second language they begin to speak quite naturally, as if they realise that this is the only way to be understood.

Make sure you have plenty of Italian books for Louis to share with his father and buy some CDs of Italian nursery songs for him to enjoy. The more he hears both languages, the more likely he will be to pick them up spontaneously. As a final thought, if you are looking for some help with Louis, think about employing an Italian au pair or babysitter, which would help reinforce what he is learning from his father.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Entertaining and Educating your Toddler

It is hard to get my son interested in books.

I am aware of how important it is to read books to my son Sam, who is 16mths. The problem is that, after the first page or two, he shows no interest, wriggles off my lap and starts to play with something else. We have plenty of board books around, but I rarely see him pick one up. I would love books to be part of our day, but am I expecting too much too soon?

Sharing books with small children is a habit to be encouraged, but all too often toddlers will have different ideas. Learning that books are fun can take a while.

Making Sam look at books will just put him off, but even the shortest time with a book on a daily basis will pay off. Often the time between bath and bed is a good slot, or some parents prefer to have a short session in the early morning sharing a book in their bed. In time, Sam will get used to the idea and begin to look forward to story time.

When looking for a book to interest Sam, choose one with bright, clear pictures. Photo and object books have their place on his shelf, but you could now begin to look for books with a simple story line. Toddlers often enjoy rhyming text as they can identify with the rhythm, even if they do not understand every word. Look for simple stories that might interest him. Many small boys love anything to do with tractors, diggers, farms or building sites, or stories of everyday activities that they can relate to. If you have difficulty choosing, parenting magazines often carry book reviews. Or visit your local library, where you can try out different styles and authors without the expense.

Don’t expect to get through a whole storybook in the first sitting, but try to engage Sam’s interest by asking questions such as ” Do you see the digger?” or “Can you point to the dog?” This helps him to actively share in the experience, rather than just having to sit and listen. Another tip is, don’t feel that you have to read every word on each page. Use words he can understand now, or make up your own text as you look at the pictures together. The key is to engage his attention for a short spell each day as he begins to learn how books work and how enjoyable they can be.

There are plenty of interactive books on the market, with tabs and flaps, textures and dials. These may be a more fragile than sturdy board books, but can still be shared together. If he does pull a tab off, perhaps because he isn’t yet dexterous enough, don’t scold him but let him watch while you mend it. Showing him how to respect books is all part of the learning process. Keep these books on a shelf that can only be reached by you. Also, teach Sam how to put his sturdier books back on a low shelf when tidying up, rather than putting them in a toy box.

Sam will also learn by your example. If he sees his parents enjoying books, he is more likely to catch the “bug” himself. Keep a book beside your bed and let him see you enjoying a magazine or a newspaper. Make use of your local library. Most have story sessions suitable for his age and he will be allowed to borrow books as well. Making a weekly visit will become an enjoyable outing for both of you.

Encouraging Sam to enjoy books is worth the effort. Giving him a love of books now will help him later at school with English, spelling, story writing and research. Statistics show that some boys can be more reluctant to read than girls, so helping them early on does pay off. We live in a technical age, but books still have a huge influence on us.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Tantrums

Can the terrible twos begin early? My 16mth old son has begun to have tantrums already.

Can the “terrible twos” begin early? My 16-month-old son was very easy as a baby, but he seems to have changed overnight. There are times when I have to say “no” to him, as he wants to get into everything or climb on things that will fall over. He reacts by throwing a tantrum and seems completely out of control. What is the best way to deal with this behaviour? I feel as though I have to watch him constantly, whereas a few months ago he was content to sit and play on his own with his toys.

A few months are a long time in the life of a toddler. Before he could walk, your little boy had no option but to sit and play with toys, but now that he is mobile, the whole world has opened up and he wants to explore it.

If you have not done so already, remove any fragile or dangerous pieces of furniture, such as glass-topped coffee tables, to areas of the house where he is unable to access them. Some items, such as table lamps, have to remain and your son will need to learn that “no” does mean that some things are off-limits. Removing everything that is potentially harmful is not practical, nor does it prepare children for the wider world, where they must learn to respect the property of others. Decide what behaviour will and will not be allowed in the house, but try to keep the list short so that daily life does not become one long “no”.

Boys of your son’s age have endless physical energy. They can jump, climb and be on the go all the time. Provide for this at home by making a mini-adventure playground that can be tidied up at the end of the day. Use large boxes with open ends to make tunnels, or a blanket over a low table to encourage crawling. Give him old cushions or pillows to jump into. Find a large box at the supermarket and let him climb in and out of it. When he is playing well with these things, give him some praise. If he does begin to clamber on furniture or play with something unsuitable, calmly but firmly say, “No, you may not play with that” and remove him from it. Try to divert him with an alternative. If a tantrum ensues try to ignore it, making sure he cannot hurt himself on anything in his way. His frustration will subside and that is when you might give him a cuddle to help him calm down. Some toddlers respond well to being held during a tantrum, while others find it infuriating, so be guided by your child.

Most early tantrums are caused by frustration and the inability of a child to make their needs known. Hunger, tiredness, over-stimulation and boredom also play a part. Despite the “terrible twos” label, these tantrums can appear well before a second birthday. This period in your toddler’s life can seem like a constant battle, but look at the daily leaps he is making in his development. Build on what he is able to do, give him plenty of active time outside and keep his meals and naps to the usual routine. In this way, you should avoid too many meltdowns during the day. Once a toddler is able to use language and express himself better, this early tantrum stage tends to fade away.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Tantrums

Over the past few weeks my 15-month-old daughter has had several tantrums while we are out shopping. I find it so embarrassing to have her kicking and screaming and feel that everyone is looking at me. I have tried to calm her down, but this makes things worse, and it is often not clear what has set her off in the first place. What is the best way to deal with this behaviour?

Tantrums are a normal part of early childhood and most bystanders will be sympathetic despite their stares. Trying to reason with your daughter at this age will just prolong the kicking and screaming, as she will not be able to comprehend what you are saying. Although you will learn what sets her off, and may be able to steer her away from such situations, there will always be a few tantrums that cannot be explained, other than your child has got to a state where she feels unable to cope any more.

Tantrums in babies and small children are often the result of hunger, tiredness or frustration at not making themselves understood. Once you are aware of the warning signs that a tantrum may be imminent, try using a distraction to help to head it off. It is a good idea to try to arrange trips to the supermarket or shops at times of the day when your toddler is not likely to be hungry or tired. Do be aware of how long she is able to cope before she begins to get frustrated and plan your outings accordingly. At your daughter’s age, long shopping trips will bore her and trouble may start. If at all possible, it would be better to leave her at home with a friend or relative and for you to enjoy such a trip alone and in peace. If, however, she does have to accompany you, be prepared by taking a drink and small snack with you, such as a box of raisins. This should help to keep your toddler occupied while you try to finish your shopping as quickly as possible.

Getting to know the best way to handle your toddler when she is kicking and screaming may require trying different approaches. Some toddlers will calm down more quickly if they are held on your lap, from behind. Place your arms around her body and constrain her flailing limbs. It may help if you whisper quietly and calmly into her ear, as she will have to stop screaming to listen to you. If your toddler responds to you in this way, you can use it to help her get over her frustrations more quickly. Once she is calm again, give her a cuddle and then continue with what you were doing.

If you have a toddler who does not like being held, then don’t try to use this method. She may calm down more quickly if you ignore her altogether, but stay nearby to make sure that she does not hurt herself in any way. When she realises that you are not paying her any attention, she may well stop screaming and you can then pick her up and give her a cuddle.

Once you have learned how to handle your daughter’s tantrums in public places, you will not feel so embarrassed by them. Remember that they are part of her continuing development towards independence – and are not a reflection of your parenting skills! Providing she knows that she has your unconditional love, even though she appears not to want it as she kicks and screams, she will gradually learn to handle her frustrations and the tantrums will fade away. If you consult the Features list on the website, you will come across several helpful articles, which go into further detail on this important subject.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My 17 month-old has started biting other children when at nursery but not at home.

I have a 17 month old little girl, who attends a very good nursery 3 days a week. She is extremely happy there and likes the interaction she has with the other children. However, over the last 3 months she has started to bite the other children at random. Sometimes in retaliation, but most of the time she bites them for no reason. I am beginning to worry, as this is now happening once or twice a day when she attends, and some of the other parents aren’t happy. The nursery is dealing with her by telling her it’s wrong, giving her time out and explaining that she mustn’t do it again. Unfortunately this is not working, and I can’t deal with the issue at home as she doesn’t display this behaviour when with us or with other children in our family. I have purchased a book to read to her (“Teeth are not for biting”) and talk to her about it when I collect her from nursery, but she is still biting. Other friends have said that they bite their children back, but I haven’t taken this action as most of the advice you read tells you not to do this – and I tend to agree, that you should not mirror their behaviour. Please suggest what I should do. People have been trying to give me explanations of why she is biting such as : “It is just a “phase”, and she will grow out of it”; she is attention seeking; or she is tired. (she is a very active little girl !!) But it’s not great when other parents are complaining about your child, and you are lost for an answer.

Biting others is a common issue for young children in the 2-6 age range. It can be extremely worrying and stressful for parents. My advice to you is to tackle it and not ignore it, as it could affect the development of your daughter’s successful relationships with other children as well as adults. In order to address it successfully, you will need to have good, open discussions with the nursery staff and plenty of time to do this calmly and without distractions. You need to agree with them at the outset that biting is unacceptable behaviour and will not be tolerated in the nursery or at home.

When looking for a way to stop the biting, it is important that you and the nursery staff look closely at the context it occurs in and to identify what sets it off. This is crucial because there are various strategies which you can use to change the behaviour. Choosing the right one will depend on you looking carefully at what is causing the biting in the first place.

To look at what is triggering your daughter’s behaviour, you and the nursery staff need to think about the following questions:

-What happens before the biting occurs? (triggers)
-What happens after the biting occurs? (consequences)
-Does it happen in any environment? (Children usually behave differently in different contexts. Bad behaviour can be inhibited in one place and not another, either because the triggers don’t exist or because the children are affected by knowing the consequences of what they do ).

Speak to the nursery staff to ask them what occurs before the biting happens. If they do not know, they need to observe the child closely over a period of a few days to identify what happens prior to a biting incident. It may be that it occurs at a particular time of the day or during a certain activity. If this is the case, then you can make plans to try to avoid it occurring.

Once you have identified the triggers then it is safer to speculate on what the cause is and to look for a way to manage the problem. The child’s biting behaviour could be a display of several things, for example:

1. Frustration/anger

If your daughter is becoming frustrated with a task or another child, or simply getting out of sorts through tiredness, this can cause stress and may result in an episode of biting. The best way to deal with this is careful monitoring and support through calm handling and a change of scene to a quiet smaller setting. It may be that certain activities need to be restricted or her time spent with certain children or groups of children reduced.

2. Boredom

If your daughter is getting bored and finding biting or other aggressive behaviour more stimulating, it may be worth looking at the group of children she is with and the activities she is engaged in. Changes to these can be made in order to stretch her a little more. A box of activities especially for her can be created, or an individual “timetable” of tasks be set up to provide her with a bit more challenge.

3. Seeking attention

All children seek attention because attention is something we all need, especially when we are little. There is nothing wrong in seeking attention in itself. The problem arises when the method used is inappropriate, hurtful or harmful to others. In this case, it is very important that the biting behaviour is acknowledged as being unacceptable. Your daughter as a person must still be accepted. She needs to know that she will get attention when she behaves appropriately. This will be easier to achieve if the adults involved are very clear about what is appropriate behaviour and make this explicit. It is not enough to tell her to “be good” or to “behave”. She needs a very clear message describing the desired behaviour, for example “Use your mouth for speaking and eating”, “Use you teeth for chewing food”, “Keep your hands and feet to yourself”. When she shows this behaviour, she should be rewarded with appropriate attention. This is not necessarily the same as praise. At the most simple level it could be a friendly smile, a nod or a hug. If more heavyweight strategies are needed, then it might need to involve more tangible rewards.

4. Attempt to interact (unsuccessfully) with others

Some children find it hard to know how to approach others and end up having a series of unsuccessful attempts at interacting with them. This is usually very clear by the way the child acts, and can be linked to other difficulties with language or communication problems. It is important in this case to teach the child the social skills required to interact successfully with others. This may mean teaching things that come relatively naturally to other children and may need to be done on a frequent, regular, timetabled basis over a period of time.

As with all attempts to change a child’s behaviour, the key principles are consistency and review. This means that all adults involved need to agree strategies and plan to carry them out for a given amount of time before reviewing them. Sometimes things just don’t work well and need to be thought out again. Alternatively, your strategies might work well and need to be reduced or dropped altogether.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My 14-month-old son loves to be very noisy.

My 14-month-old son constantly bangs everything together. I try to keep items, such as spoons, out of reach, but he will use anything he finds. He will hammer on tables, doors and even the TV screen. I have tried buying him a toy drum, but he is not interested; I don’t think it makes enough noise. I am at my wits end. How can I stop this behaviour?

Making noise is very typical at this age, especially if it gets a reaction from you. It is hard to ignore banging, particularly during a family meal or while you are on the phone, and your son has discovered this.

It is important to immediately discourage him from dangerous banging. Banging on the TV, glass topped tables or china plates should not be allowed under any circumstances. Tell him in a firm but calm voice that we don’t bang on glass. Try not to shout over the banging, as this just sends the message that making a lot of noise is acceptable. Becoming annoyed, even though you may feel it, will just intensify his behaviour, so try to stay in control and calmly repeat the message as often as required. If appropriate, you might remove him from the scene and try to distract him with something else. You will then have to remain watchful and try to catch him before he starts again.

There should be times when you allow him to bang, but on your terms. Put on some music and get out his toy drum. Use songs with plenty of rhythm and encourage him to stamp his feet and clap. Find songs you both like and have a jamming session together. This is a great idea on a wet afternoon with a boy who has excess energy.

There are also toys that can be used for banging. One is a small wooden bench with pegs to bang from one side to the other. Another is a box with four holes into which are banged wooden balls; the balls run out a hole at the bottom and the action can be repeated. Both toys are simple, but they offer a better and safer alternative to striking the TV screen with a wooden brick.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

How can I stop my 17-month-old from biting?

At almost 17 months, my son has taken to biting my nanny and I when he doesn’t get his own way. He has been on CLB routines since birth. He sleeps well, loves being in his cot and on the whole is a happy toddler. But when he doesn’t want to be changed (especially after his bath) or is told “No”, he bites. I have told him sternly that we don’t bite, but this behaviour has continued for a month. Tonight I lost my patience and yelled at him, a response that I feel guilty about, but how can I deal with the problem without yelling?

Toddlers who bite are not uncommon, but this behaviour needs careful handling. Yelling is not the answer, as you know, but the tone of voice you use is important. Learning how to discipline your son fairly is all part of parenting.

Firstly, he has to learn that you are serious when you say, “We don’t bite” or “Biting hurts”. Remain calm, but pitch your voice lower so he gets the message. When you speak to him, make sure you are at eye level and, if necessary, hold his hands so he has to look at you. Encourage your nanny to do the same, as a consistent approach to the problem will be more effective.

It is also important to find out what triggers your son to bite. With toddlers, it is usually an impulsive action triggered by frustration, anger or tiredness. Once you are aware of the causes, then you can try to avoid them. Watch his body language carefully so you are aware of what he looks like and how he behaves just before biting.

At this age, your son will be very active by day and tired by bath time. If you could bring bath time 15-20 minutes forward and avoid noisy splashing games, he is less likely to be over-stimulated when it is time to get dressed. You could try giving him a special toy to hold, one he only gets at this time, to keep him occupied while you get him ready. Or you might try singing, or quietly chatting about your plans for the next day.

Otherwise, use distraction to diffuse a situation that might escalate into a biting episode. Limiting the amount of times you say “No” is not easy at this age, but it helps to divert his attention away from doing something, rather than always using “No”. Hearing this word too often will result in frustration, which in turn may lead to another biting episode. If you feel he is getting frustrated, then suggest a time of quiet play, such as doing a jigsaw or looking at a book together. It is also important to make sure that your son has plenty of outside play with the chance to let off steam.

When your son has behaved well, be sure to point out that you have noticed his good behaviour. If, for example, you manage to change him without fuss, thank him and compliment him on staying still. This positive attention will help to build his self esteem and should limit the times he feels frustrated when something is denied to him.

You should also show plenty of affection and offer lots of cuddles. Indulge in role-play with teddies to help him become aware of how much nicer it is to be kind and how good he will feel as a result. Also be aware of any adult behaviour that may give mixed messages. It is all too easy to play pretend “nibbling” when drying a child after his bath, for example by saying “These toes look good enough to eat”, but I would advise against this type of game as, when biting, he may be trying to imitate you.

In conclusion, biting is a phase which is common around this age. As a toddler grows and becomes more verbal, he will be able to use words to express his feelings, and frustrations will lessen. Until then, a firm but calm approach to the problem and an awareness of potential flash points should help.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

How do I stop my 1-year-old wriggling and protesting at nappy changes?

I wondered if you could give me some tips on how to combat my constant struggle to dress or change my 12-month-old. I’ve never seen anything like it! Every time I change his nappy he struggles and screams and will not keep still, which can get very messy when I’m trying to change a dirty one. I’ve tried saying “No” very sternly but he doesn’t take any notice at all. Have you come across this before? It basically happens whenever I try to do something my son doesn’t want to do: i.e. dress him, put him in car seat/buggy. He’s even started doing it now when I put him in his high chair to eat. He goes berserk! Is this just a phase that will pass or is there a way of teaching him he cannot behave like this?

This is perfectly normal behaviour from a baby of this age. He is showing his growing independence. He will know that he gets a reaction from you for this behaviour so will probably do it more. It is a phase. How you handle it will determine how long it lasts.

There are several practical things you can try when changing him: find a place which is safe to change him which is not on the floor. The top of a washing machine or fridge freezer would be ideal downstairs. You may have a changing table or chest of drawers upstairs. This will limit how far he can wriggle and he will soon be aware that if he goes too far he may get a bump. Being on the floor offers endless opportunities for escaping.

Use distraction to keep him occupied whilst you change him. There are two tricks here: One is to find something he is unfamiliar with and change it often; it could be as simple as keys or the tube from a loo roll but there must be an element of surprise. Secondly, don’t produce it at the first instance of wriggling but build up the suspense by telling him ” Mummy has something for you, I wonder what it is?” and then produce it at the crucial moment when you really need him to be still.

If he continues to struggle and fuss you need him to be aware that “no” means “no”. Your tone of voice is important but it is better if you also hold his hands to his sides and look him in the eyes when you say it. “Mummy says `no`, no wriggling, I need to change your nappy”, then talk about what is going to happen next. Be matter of fact but firm that you are in charge. The more you try to hold him down or grab his leg as he wriggles away the more of a game he will think it is and will keep on trying. A few words spoken firmly are better than a lot which will have little meaning to him.

Your son is growing up rapidly now and is no longer a “baby” but a small determined person who does not like being constrained when there is a whole wide world to be explored. Although you may feel he is too little to understand, begin to tell him what is going to happen rather than just swooping him into his highchair saying: “time for lunch”. Get down to his level and look into his eyes, use simple short sentences such as: “Mummy has made pasta for lunch. It is time to stop playing, it is time to get in your chair”. A child of a year old lives in the present, they have no conception of five minutes or tomorrow so you need to help them go from playing to another activity with simple, concise explanations: “Lets put on our coats and go in the car”. It won’t always work; he will try to wriggle out of his car seat, or arch his back on occasions. But if you are consistent in giving a simple explanation and follow it through straight away with the putting on of coats or taking to the high chair, he will learn that “no” always means “no”, no matter how hard he resists.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My son of 16mths is aggressive with other children both at home and nursery.

My son is consistently aggressive with other children at nursery and at home. He is a lively and boisterous boy, often starts off playing well but then starts to be aggressive, seeking others to pull over by the scruff of the neck or pull hair, or bite. We distract him but he goes straight back to it. We have just started (when at home) removing him from the room and putting him into his cot for a minute but I don’t know if this is beneficial or potentially damaging.

How you deal with your son’s behaviour now will help him become a more sociable and friendly boy with whom other children like to play. He needs to learn both self-control and respect for the feelings of other children. By teaching him that some behaviour is always unacceptable he will learn, in time, how to control his impulses.

A toddler of this age does not always understand that he is hurting other children when he pulls or bites them. He does not always deliberately set out to hurt. It is easy for toddlers of this age to become very excited by other children but not know quite how to play with them. Playing together will not happen until he is nearer to three years of age but he can be taught to play alongside another child without always hurting them. By dealing in the same way with every incident when it arises, whether at home or nursery, you will help your son learn what is and is not acceptable behavior.

At his age your son is too young to really understand the concept of “time out” in his cot. He does not make the connection between the action of pulling someone’s hair, which causes pain and distress, and being put in his cot. He may well have acted on impulse to see what happened when he pulled hair, or because the other child came too close to his personal space. He may have thought they were going to take away the toy he was playing with at the time. At this age a lot of seemingly aggressive behaviour is due to curiosity. But this does not mean that the behaviour should be ignored or excused because your son is too young to know what he is doing.

To deal with each incident, remove him from the situation – picking him up if you need to – and take him to another, quieter part of the room. Stand him in front of you, crouch down to his level and hold his arms firmly to his sides. Make him look you in the eye. The tone of voice you use when talking to him is as important as the words you use. You need to use a firm voice so he will know that you are displeased with his behavior and that you mean what you say. Use the same few words for each incident. Keeping the sentences short will make them more comprehensible to him: “No, you may not pull hair, it hurts”; “No, you may not bite, it hurts” etc. Make sure he is looking in your eyes as you say this to him and wait another few seconds, still holding him, so he really understands that you are serious. He may not like being restrained in this way, or he may cry at the sound of your voice. You may feel uncomfortable with upsetting him but don’t make the mistake of trying to excuse his behaviour and stop his tears with talk such as, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt” or, “I know you were just trying to be friendly”. Your child will not love you less if you continue to set limits on his behaviour. It will take some time for him to learn that you will never ignore this behaviour but eventually, as he matures and develops empathy with the feelings of others, he will know that, however frustrated or cross he feels, hurting people is unacceptable. Once you have spoken with him let him return to the other children or settle him in to a new activity.

Until this behavior lessens, you will need to keep a close watch on your son at all times whilst he is playing around other children. Often you may be able to spot a potential incident about to happen and can quickly step in with some kind of distraction to diffuse it. Be aware if the incidents happen more frequently when he is tired or hungry and, if they do seem to be linked, then make play dates shorter and provide healthy snacks at appropriate times.

Be sure to discuss with your son’s nursery your strategies for coping with his behaviour. Ask the nursery staff for their full co operation in dealing with him in the same way as you are doing. Most nurseries are used to coping with this type of behaviour as it is not uncommon in toddlers of his age.

Make sure you are not giving your son mixed messages about certain types of behaviour. It is easy to play games with him which may involve friendly nibbling; “ Your toes are so delicious, I’m going to eat them!” can often be said in fun after bath time as you dry him. But, at his age, he does not know the difference between playful nibbles that his mother gives him and the satisfaction of sinking his teeth into another child’s flesh. Check how you or your partner rough-house with him. A child of this age loves all the chasing, tickling, turning upside down and general boisterous play, at which fathers are often good, but you do need to be aware of getting him over excited. He may well think that pulling at Daddy, who then pretends to fall over, is a great game, which it can be. But not if he tries the same thing with someone his own size who may fall heavily when taken by surprise. Being aware that he may well copy with other children what he does when rough-housing with you will help you keep this type of play within sensible limits. He is unable to realize that behaviour which an adult will accept as part of a game might be painful to a child his own age.

Watch your son at play and when you do see him giving up a toy to someone else, or playing alongside a child without becoming physical with him, praise his behaviour. It can be easy to overlook good behaviour when trying to eliminate unacceptable behaviour. A child will quickly learn that it is a much better feeling to gain your approval and praise than to be taken on one side and spoken to in a firm voice. Whilst over praising will quickly lose its effect a quiet, “Well done for sharing your toys” will encourage your son to continue to behave in a way which he knows pleases you.