Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My daughter of 14mths finds it difficult to cope with my husband’s repeated absences and reappearances due to work.

My husband works abroad and is away from home for a week / 2 weeks at a time. When he goes, we explain that he is working but will be back. We talk to my 14mth old daughter about her “daddy” daily in a very relaxed way taking care not to make a big deal about his absence and also speak on the phone regularly. We try and make this very matter of fact and not make a big deal about his going. For the first couple of days after he leaves, my daughter is very “clingy” with me – but I try to be gently reassuring and we continue in our routines and soon she settles down. However, on my husbands return home, our normally settled little girl becomes very overwrought. For the first few days she clings to her daddy and gets extremely upset when he leaves the room / goes out to the office etc. We try very hard to be relaxed about this, we are matter of fact about when he has to go out and that he will return and does. We have also noticed that when my husband comes home my daughter “performs” showing him all her toys, her books, dancing, photos etc – it appears to be almost a “desperate” attempt to get him to stay. We have tried giving him something of my daughter’s ( a toy etc) to take with him explaining that he will bring it back soon – so she feels he will have to return.

As my husband has to work away we do need to get to a situation where my daughter can deal with this without becoming extremely upset and understands that he will come back when he goes away. Any advice would be very welcome as it is so upsetting to see her get so distraught.

Your daughter is at the age where separation anxiety can be quite strong. Although it is distressing to see that she is so upset it does mean that she has formed a strong bond with her father despite his repeated absence. This phase will pass as she develops her reasoning and the distress she displays at present should disappear.

A few months ago your daughter probably did not show such distress when your husband came home and then had to go out again. This is because, for her at that age, once out of sight her father was also out of her mind. By the age of one year a baby’s reasoning has developed so she can understand that, although she cannot see someone, she knows they do still exist. Her clinginess to you when her father first goes away is very understandable. She reasons that if Daddy can go away then so might Mummy. By reassuring her in the way you do she soon realizes that this is not going to happen. Because your daughter has such a strong bond with her Daddy she is delighted when he returns. But then imagine her distress when he goes out to work. At her age she has no concept of time at all. You may tell her that Daddy will be back by teatime but that means nothing to her. For all she knows he has gone away again for a length of time. She knows he still exists and she has strong feelings towards him but he keeps disappearing.

As your daughter gets older she will get more used to the idea of time, although a real concept of it does not happen for many years yet. By providing her with a routine to her day you will help her come to learn the differences between waving good bye to Daddy for one or two weeks or waving goodbye until teatime. Many toddlers of this age can be heartbroken every morning when Daddy leaves for work, even though he returns home every night. They have no way of reasoning yet so feel real distress when their father leaves. Your daughter is having to cope with a more difficult situation, that of long and short absences, but not yet having the mental capability to distinguish between the two.

The way you are already dealing with this situation is good. Being positive but keeping things quite light will help her get used to Daddy coming and going. It is wonderful that she is so pleased to see him and wants to show all her things to him when he is home. Many fathers who have to cope with repeated separations may find that their toddlers are reluctant to come to them when they are home, preferring instead to be with Mummy who is the known constant presence in their life.

There are a couple of things you could try with your daughter to help her over this phase. Although you already talk about Daddy and speak with him on the phone when he is away have a small daily ritual of saying good night to him. Find a photo of him, a head and shoulders quite close up would be best, and place it in her room. Every night as part of her bedtime routine make a point of saying, “Good night” to Daddy. She may like to kiss the picture. This small way of acknowledging that Daddy is part of her life even when not in sight could help.

Secondly, it is easy to try to hide your own feelings from your daughter but sometimes acknowledge to her that you too miss Daddy when he is away. You may feel she is too young to understand your words but babies and small children are very perceptive to an adult’s moods and feelings. By expressing sometimes that you miss him or that you are happy he is coming back soon will help her as she develops her own feelings.

Until able to express herself verbally your daughter will find other ways to show how she feels about the situation. Showing all her things to Daddy is her way of telling him he is important to her. A small child will proudly show to Daddy, when he comes home in the evening, the painting she did at nursery. If your daughter is beginning to scribble with crayons start a box in which to keep some of her drawings, so she has plenty of different things to show Daddy when he comes back. Because your husband is away for stretches of time it is to be expected that your daughter will want to make up for this when he returns and she will find things to keep his attention on her. Encouraging her to have a special place to keep things to show Daddy will help her understanding that he will come back to see them.

As well as giving a toy to her father to look after let your daughter have something of his to keep. It could be an old wallet, but one she has seen him use, a key ring, anything small which could have a special place next to his picture in her room. Although you don’t want to make a big deal about his absence you do need to acknowledge it to her. This is the way your life will be in the next few years. Your daughter will grow to accept it, as children are very adaptable and she will not have known her life to be any other way. In a few months her anxiety every time he leaves the room will diminish. She will be old enough to remember that he is coming back at tea time and that teatime will happen after she has been to the park but, until she has reached that stage in her reasoning, be prepared for tears and upset.

Once your daughter is showing less signs of anxiety each time her father leaves you could begin to keep a simple calendar for when he is away for a length of time. Quite small children are reassured by the visual impact of each day being crossed off with a reassuring “ X “ after tea and counting the diminishing number of days left until Daddy returns.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My son of 14 months has begun to throw tantrums when he is told he may not do something. He also seems to ignore the word “No” both at home and nursery, returning to what he was trying to do even when he has been moved away.

My son of 14 months is becoming very strong-willed and determined to get his own way. When he tries to do something, such as empty the fridge, and is stopped he throws himself backwards onto the ground screaming with rage. If I catch him about to do something such as fiddle with the video controls and say his name followed with “No” he will smile at me very cheekily. At nursery they have commented that he does not listen to the word “No”. Even if they remove him from what he was trying to do he will go right back and try all over again.

Am I expecting too much from him to really understand the word “No”? Is his natural curiosity just so strong he cannot resist doing things he has been told not to do? I am not sure if my son does not understand or if he does and is choosing to ignore us, which would mean he is becoming strong-willed and headstrong.

At this age a baby is beginning to explore every aspect of his world. He is naturally inquisitive about everything and still is not yet able to understand why you won’t let him empty the fridge. This can be the start of the “terrible twos” which refer to the second year of life rather than beginning at the age of two.

It can be a time of frustration for both you and your son. You will be trying to prevent him from touching things, or acting in a certain way, and he will show his determination by returning again and again to forbidden places that he is desperate to explore. This is not “naughty” behaviour as such. At this age he wants to explore everything he sees and even if he has been told several times before that he may not empty the fridge or fiddle with the DVD player he is unable to always suppress his desire to explore.

When dealing with headstrong and determined behaviour you need to be very specific to prevent it becoming a battle of wills. It can begin to feel as if you use the word “No” a lot of the time, and your son’s resulting tantrums are very tiring to deal with constantly. This is why you need to be aware of potential problems before they occur.

Look around your home from your son’s point of view. You may need to get down on the floor to see it from his level. You may notice that things such as the video player are at his eye level so he is bound to be attracted to the dials and flaps. Working out how to make his usual play area as child friendly as possible will go a long way to help stop a lot of confrontation between the two of you. There should still be one or two things which are restricted to him, as this is the way he will learn the meaning of the word “No” but, by removing a lot of potential flash points, he will be able to explore his surroundings more freely.

Move video, CD and DVD players to high shelves or into cupboards protected by child-proof locks. Take away any breakable objects and cover all power outlets. The fewer reasons you have to say “No” the more meaningful they will become.

At this age the use of distraction can go a long way to defuse situations before they get out of control. Rather than waiting until your son has got his hand on the fridge door anticipate what he may be about to do and distract him. Instead of saying “No, don’t go into the fridge” find something to take his attention elsewhere. This could be drawing his attention to something, such as a cat in the garden or taking him to another room to find a toy or occupation, to engage his interest. This does not mean he will not return to the fridge later on: his curiosity does often get the better of him.

When your son does continue with his course of action and you have to stop him, make sure you are at his eye level when telling him “No”. Your tone of voice will tell him that you disapprove of his actions. The word “No” will mean nothing to him if said in an everyday voice and without conviction. There is no need to shout at your toddler but you need to be firm. This will mean using a lower tone of voice than usual. If he tries to avoid looking at you when you are beside him hold his arms to his sides so he has no alternative but listen to you. At this age long explanations will just wash over his head so use short sentences. If he constantly tries to empty the fridge then always use the same words to stop him, “No, you may not empty the fridge. The door needs to stay closed”.

If your son goes on to throw a tantrum deal with it in the way best suited to him. Some toddlers will not mind being held whilst having a tantrum, but this may infuriate others even more and they are best ignored until it is over. If your son does let you hold him do this by sitting him on your knee facing outwards. Hold him firmly around the middle, and restrain his arms if you are able. This may help him get rid of his frustration and rage quicker and he will begin to calm down. Once he is calm again, give him a cuddle and then find something you can do together.

You do need to set limits on certain areas of your toddler’s life in order to keep him safe. He will not understand that but you must always be consistent, even if it means going through a tantrum until he understands that you are not going to change your mind. Everyday safety procedures such as being strapped into a car seat, holding your hand when crossing roads and not standing up in the bath always need to be observed. If you are inconsistent over matters of safety your son will not learn that some things in life are non-negotiable. As he gets older you will be able to use more explanations but at this age keeping it to a simple, “I am keeping you safe” is enough should he begin to refuse to co operate. If he insists on standing up in the bath remove him after one warning. If he refuses to hold your hand when crossing a road, ask him once and then pick him up and carry him over. You cannot take him out in the car unless he is in his seat, strapped in. Although he seems to be headstrong, most toddlers will realize very quickly it is just not worth having a tantrum over something which is not going to change.

Being prepared for confrontations goes a long way towards preventing them.Have a positive attitude and try to use language which gives your son the idea of co-operation. When you are going out in the car tell him where you are off to and what he is going to do. “Let’s go to nursery now, I wonder what you will do today” is better than “You must be strapped in “.

This age group can be very demanding as the limits imposed by parents and carers seem to be constantly tested by the toddler. By beginning to set reasonable limits now, which are acknowledged by all who deal with him, your son will get through this phase in time. Ask at the nursery from which activities your son needs to be removed. Explain to the nursery staff how you set limits at home by making his surroundings as child friendly as possible. In a nursery setting there should also not be too many restrictions although one or two are likely. Ask the staff to deal with your son in the same way as you deal with him. If they are unable to distract him in time then they must remove him from the undesirable activity and give him a short explanation as to why he may not do what he wants to do.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My daughter of 15mths has little speech but one word she uses constantly is “no”. She will say this when either asked to do something, or told to stop doing something. At first it seemed quite amusing but now I feel as if every day is battle of wills from the moment she gets up. How can I get her to have a more positive response to things? Or is this just a phase?

This is just one of the many different phases of your child’s normal development.  She has now reached the age where she is beginning to assert herself emotionally, physically and verbally and is gradually learning the skills that will eventually lead to her becoming independent.

Your daughter has probably realised that she is getting a strong response from you when she uses the word “no” repeatedly. Try to adopt a new approach:  when she says “no”, try to distract her.  Most importantly, do not challenge her response by becoming either agitated or questioning.  Toddlers quickly work out how to get your full attention, even if this attention is negative.  Praising positive answers and ignoring negative ones, will immediately begin to lessen your daughter’s wish to say “no” repeatedly.

To help you to deal with what can seem a disconcerting stage, think of different ways of phrasing sentences and questions so as to give your daughter less opportunity to respond with a “no”. Instead of saying, “Let’s put your toys away now” you could say “Which toy shall we put away first?”   Encouraging your child to take part in making decisions will also help her to understand that she does have some influence over what she does.  It is important to offer her some choices at this age, although these should usually be limited to not more than two or three options; for example, “Would you like to wear your blue jumper or your green jumper?”. The question phrased in this manner is much more likely to produce a positive response than “Let’s put your green jumper on”.

There are, of course, some situations where offering a choice is not appropriate, such as bedtime.  But even this could be turned into a positive action if, instead of saying “Would you like to go to bed now” you could say “its bedtime now, let’s go and find Teddy”.

To help you to cope with this stage of your daughter’s development:

  • Let her make some decisions
  • Phrase questions carefully to avoid a “no” response
  • Encourage positive behaviour by thanking her and giving praise for being helpful
  • Be firm and consistent on non-negotiable situations

You might also find it helpful to take a look at Gina ’s book, “The Toddler Years”.  It has lots of useful advice and suggestions for understanding and dealing with the different stages of a child’s development.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

I have a very boisterous 15-month-old girl and she is quite strong willed! How do you approach discipline at this age? For instance when we go to toddlers’ group she just runs in and pulls everything off the shelves; each time I ask her to stop she just runs to something else. She doesn’t seem to be able to concentrate on anything for any period of time.

At 15 months old your daughter’s concentration skills are just beginning to form as well as her social skills. Remember for her everything is new and just needs to be explored and she does need time to do this, however, quite rightly, you do need to start implementing good solid boundaries with her as to what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

You do not want her running into toddlers’ group tipping boxes here there and everywhere, as she is more than likely to repeat that behaviour at friends’ houses, making any visits you make together very uncomfortable.
You do not mention what she is like at home. The skills she learns at home will often be repeated when she is out and about.

You can help develop her social skills as well as her concentration levels by working and playing together at home.

  • You may have too many toys out at any one time for her, and being a typical toddler, her mind will jump from one toy or toy box to another. Pack some of her toys away and swap them around every few days. This will allow her time to play and explore the toys that are available to her.
  • When you do play together, do you have times where she has no other distractions like the TV? At your daughter’s age, playing with toys and concentrating on what she is doing is so much more difficult if you have a cartoon playing in the background distracting her.
  • Find simple toys and games that she will have to concentrate on and you can do together, i.e. peg jigsaw puzzles, shape sorters, story books, large Lego blocks. Stay away from toys that make noises as that will just excite her.
  • Playing together with your daughter is one of the best ways to help her improve her concentration, as she will enjoy the closeness of being with you and listening to you. Praise and reward her for being clever like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Equally with you helping her to do a jigsaw puzzle, her confidence in her own ability will improve, and will make her want to try and do another jigsaw even if you are not watching and helping her.
  • After you have finished playing get her to help pack away what you have being playing with before you move onto the next toy.

With these skills in hand, when you go to toddlers’ group, practice what you have being doing at home. Arriving at toddlers’ group is very exciting for your daughter, but do not let her charge off, think of a toy she might like and go with her to find it and play with her for a little while; if she then starts to run to another toy go with her, help her get what she wants and then let her play with it. Each time she has finished playing with a toy encourage her, with your help, to return it to its box or shelf.

Keep on doing this, until the initial excitement of arriving at the group wears off. This should then allow you time to have a coffee and a chat!

Remember to go back to her and give her some time before she starts to get bored and agitated, leading to her pulling toys off shelves, which is her way of demanding attention from you and everyone else in the group.

This ways both her social skills and her concentration levels will begin to blossom, and you will enjoy going out with your daughter.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Behaviour

My daughter Harriet is 13-months-old and sometimes gets really scared of other people – not only strangers, but sometimes friends of mine whom she has met several times before. She looks at them fearfully and bursts into tears. Today we went to a singing group for the fourth time. The first two times were OK but the next two occasions we had to leave after ten minutes because she just wouldn’t stop crying and it was rather embarrassing. Once a week she stays for a couple of hours with a friend who has a son the same age. She has been going there for two months and she still becomes hysterical when I leave, and cries for about 15 minutes before taking a dummy and remaining rather solemn until I return, when she has another cry. However, at home she is happy and active and doesn’t cry when I leave the room etc. I have been at home with her since she was born, but we have always been out and about a lot and go to several baby and toddler groups, where she is happy to play with the other babies if she can see me. However, if I go to the toilet she does start crying. All the other children her age seem to be so laidback and happy to be left at crèches or with babysitters. I read recently that fear of strangers is linked to insecurity and lack of bonding in the first six months.

This made me feel very despondent and guilty as unfortunately Harriet was taken away from me straight after birth and taken to another hospital (where there was no room for me) for two days because of complications. Do you think this brief initial separation has played a part in causing this strong anxiety? Other than this, Harriet was a very easy baby and she has only ever experienced a secure, loving atmosphere. Is her anxiety normal, or can something like a birth-experience cause this sort of behaviour?

Firstly, congratulations on having a happy, active 13-month-old. That’s great. Now, let’s look at Harriet’s reluctance to leave you when out of her own familiar environment. At 13 months, Harriet is the age where ‘separation anxiety’ is at its most prominent. This is a normal reaction in a young child. What this means is that children of this age are most likely to become distressed if put into a new environment or if their mother goes out of their sight, for even a second. Securely attached children, that is children who have bonded well with their primary carer, use them (usually the mother) as a ‘secure base’ from which to begin to explore their environment. As you outline, Harriet has been used to having you around all the time. Therefore Harriet feels it is imperative to always have you with her, especially in new and unpredictable situations which may cause her to feel stress. Harriet’s behaviour clearly shows that she is securely attached to you as she does become distressed if you leave but can be easily comforted by you when upset. You describe a very typical scenario of Harriet being able to play well when you are in sight but becoming distressed if you leave. I am sure you notice her playing happily yet looking at you regularly to check on your whereabouts. Your presence in this situation gives Harriet the confidence to try new things and move further from you but if she feels threatened in any way, she will rush to be near you again. Children all go through this development until such time as they feel safe to do things without their parent. Of course, this happens at different rates with different children and is affected by their personalities and their environment. It seems that it takes Harriet time to get used to new situations and it may be that she is a child who needs longer than other children or who is somewhat shy or sensitive to what is happening around her.

It is very positive that Harriet is being exposed to different social situations which will give her many opportunities to get used to a variety of scenarios. Going to toddler groups, seeing friends and so on will all enable Harriet to get used to seeing new people and to learn that they are not threatening and that these situations can be safe. As you describe, Harriet is taking some time to adjust to experiencing these new situations and despite doing them a number of times is still showing signs of distress. However, the more she is exposed to them the easier they will become and in time it is very likely that Harriet will become more at ease being with different people and will not be frightened of them. She needs to be exposed to these situations in a calm, careful and relaxed manner as children take their cues from their parents, so if you are showing signs of distress it is likely it will transfer to her. However, I know how difficult it is to see your child in distress and as you can anticipate times when she will get upset it is natural for you to become more anxious yourself at these times. So give a lot of thought to how to introduce her to the situation, tell her what is going to happen, who is going to be there and so on, every time you go into it. You can reassure her that ‘Mummy will be with her’ or ‘Mummy will leave and come back soon’, as appropriate. You must judge what situations are appropriate and try not to overload Harriet at this stage with lots of new experiences. With regard to leaving her with your friend, it may be advisable to leave her for a very short period at first, gradually increasing that over time.

It is very unlikely that the experiences following her birth have contributed to Harriet’s worries as there has been plenty of time for Harriet to develop the appropriate bond and attachment with you. Although it was very difficult for you to have Harriet taken away from you following her birth, it was for a relatively short period of time, after which the bonding process between mother and child began in earnest. Harriet and you have had many months to create a warm and secure bond, and the loving environment which you describe will stand Harriet in good stead throughout her life.

As Harriet gets older, I am sure you will notice that she becomes more confident and less threatened by people and experiences. And remember, this stage will not last forever!

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Learning

My 15mth son has begun to clamp his mouth shut when it is time to brush his teeth.

I am beginning to dread getting my son ready for bed as he just refuses to have his teeth brushed. He will open his mouth for me and then clamps tightly shut onto the brush and wont let me do a thing. He thinks it is hilarious and shakes his head from side to side with a big grin on his face. When he first began to do this I did laugh with him but now I am not sure how to get him to stop this each and every evening. I am worried his teeth will not be cleaned properly so have to resort to all sorts of antics to get him to open up again. When he does I can only do a quick brush round as he wriggles and squeals so and I am worried I will hurt his mouth with the brush. What can I do to stop this evening pantomime?

Now your son has learned that he can really get to you over brushing his teeth he will continue to do so unless you turn the situation on its head. Having laughed with him he will continue this behaviour every night unless you radically change your approach to teeth brushing. Begin by buying a new toothbrush for him. They come in all shapes and colours. You may be lucky and find one featuring a favourite story or cartoon character.

Recently onto the market are “Teach me toothbrushes” which have a small head and a guard on the handle to prevent the brush being inserted too far into the mouth and causing damage. Present his new toothbrush to him with a flourish and put a whole new strategy into play.

Use a very small smear of low -fluoride toothpaste on the brush as small children will often suck off the toothpaste. Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can lead to fluorosis which causes white spots or patches on the tooth enamel whilst the teeth are forming. Dental experts point out that too much toothpaste on the brush will cause your toddler to salivate and so want to swallow, so really use the smallest amount possible.

The position you adopt to clean teeth can really help. Many parents make the mistake of standing in front of their toddler and holding his chin. This position can lead to the mouth being hurt if the toddler moves at the wrong moment. The head of the brush may dig into his inner cheek which can be painful. Ask your son to lie down on the floor and place his head on your lap. This should be far more comfortable for him. He has something to lie on that is soft and you can see into his mouth better. If he does wriggle it is easier for you to keep control of the brush, and it is far harder for him to escape completely.

Use a clean finger to slip inside his inner cheek and begin to brush the front teeth. Depending how he reacts to all these changes you may be able to do a much better job right from the beginning, or you may have to work each day at moving further and further around inside his mouth as he becomes more used to the procedure. Getting him to hold a brush in his hand whilst you do this may help. Try not to rush the job, even if you feel in the beginning that not all his teeth are being brushed. You are getting him to co-operate with you so that each day you can move gradually further and further towards the back of his mouth. Remember to praise him for being co-operative, even if this has only lasted a few minutes.

Using silly songs and rhymes can help. There are plenty of short rhymes and jingles about teeth in children’s song and poetry books, or just sing songs he knows.

Turning this time into a game can help, too. Pretend to be an animal or vehicle, especially if he has a favourite one. Just in the way you use coercion to get him to eat at times, you may have to resort to this in order for him to have his teeth brushed properly each day. Although you may play games to get him to co-operate he needs to gradually learn that brushing his teeth is something which happens every day, twice a day. Until he is old enough to do this job effectively on his own, which is around seven years of age, he will need your close supervision. The sooner he accepts that this is part of his daily routine the easier it will be for both of you.

If he still continues to play up then brush his teeth using one hand and hold a hand mirror in the other so he can see what is being done to him. He may then feel more in control of the situation and so co-operate.

Toddlers love to copy so let him see you brushing your teeth in the morning. If you are not already brushing his teeth after breakfast you should begin to do so. If you don’t want to take your son upstairs again after breakfast have a second set of brushes and paste for yourself and him in a downstairs bathroom. Although your son is far too young to clean his teeth properly on his own let him have a turn at it. Offer him his toothbrush whilst you brush your own teeth at the same time. Show him how to use small circles across the tooth’s surface, not up and down or along the teeth. Once he has had an attempt and you have finished your own get him to lie on the floor, in the same way that he does after his bath at night, so that you can then clean his teeth yourself.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Other Advice

How much television should I let my 17-month-old watch?

Should I allow my 17-month-old to watch TV or videos every day and for how long should he be watching? He is beginning to show signs of wanting to watch TV when he can’t find anything else to do. Also, how do I monitor what is suitable for him?

Most of us are aware of the statistics relating to small children and how much TV they watch daily. Clearly, when children watch TV, they are not actively engaged in any other kind of play or physical activity. Consequently, too much television is not good for a child’s creative development or for their health.

Your son is little, so you are in full control of how much TV he is allowed to watch. You may need to do a bit of research on what is available to under-fives, and if you have cable or satellite TV, there are many more options to consider. Videos are slightly easier to monitor, but again decide sensible limits as to when and for how long your son can watch. Video/DVD viewing should be included in the daily amount you allow for TV in general. Most videos for small children are divided into small chunks, but getting to the off-switch at the right time is crucial.

TV and video form part of most children’s leisure time, so set some limits to make it an enjoyable part of your son’s day, but not an easy option that he turns to when he can’t think of anything else to do. At his age, half an hour a day is about right. This may be a video before bedtime when he has his milk. Alternatively, it could be mid-morning if he is an early riser and needs a quiet time in his day. Decide when he is allowed to watch and stick with your plan. You can always record a suitable children’s programme and then let him watch it at the time you have set aside.

Using the TV as a babysitter is tempting but not advisable. Ideally, you should sit with him and talk to him about what he is watching. Small children are less likely to fall into a TV trance if they watch with an adult who interacts with them. Comment on what is happening, sing the songs together or make the craft projects. In this way TV will become a fun and educational experience.

It may also be interesting to monitor your own viewing habits. Do you put the TV on during the day for company? Do you or your partner sit in front of sport on a Saturday afternoon? You need to set an example, so use the video recorder and catch up on your favourite programmes when he is having a nap. TV has a place in your child’s world, but teaching that there is an “off” switch as well as an “on” switch is an important part of parenting.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Other Advice

We want to take a family holiday with our 18-month-old daughter

In August my husband and I will be taking Sophia, who will be 18mths, away with her half brothers and sister. They range in age from 7 to 11 years and don’t live with us full time. We plan to stay in a hotel near a theme park so the older children will be occupied. I am worrying about how we will be able to stay out all day with Sophia, who still takes a lunchtime nap in her cot. Can we expect the hotel to provide a cot and other equipment? Should I start to get her used to being somewhere different for her nap, like in her stroller? Does being away from home usually bother toddlers of this age? We have a nine-hour flight to get to our destination, so should I allow time for her to get over any jet lag?

How much Sophia is affected by being away from home will depend on the kind of child she is. Toddlers who are used to being with older siblings are usually good at adapting to a different pace of life, but be aware that if her sleep and appetite get too disrupted, she may get frustrated and be more liable to tears and tantrums.

Plan for the flight carefully, packing a bag with all her needs, which you can stow under the seat. Contact your airline in advance and ask for bulkhead seats, which will allow some space to play on the floor. Also check if you can take your buggy to the boarding gate, and if they stow it in the cabin rather than the hold.

Contact your hotel to check whether they have travel cots, highchairs, baby alarms or a listening service, so you can pack accordingly. Remember that any electrical equipment, such as a baby alarm, will need a converter plug outside of the UK. If you are hiring a car, check ahead to make sure an appropriate car seat will be fitted. If you decide to take your own, the airline may allow you to take it on board, which will provide a familiar place for Sophia to sit for short naps. Check this out when booking the flight.

How well Sophia copes with the flight depends on its timing. Most toddlers are less affected by jet lag than older children and adults. Try to keep to her sleep and meal times while flying and set the local time on landing. Depending what time it is, she may need a short nap on arrival to enable her to go to bed a few hours later than usual. Keep to her normal bedtime routine as much as possible. Remember to bring any special toy or comforter, and pack it in her hand luggage so it is accessible. Once she wakes in the morning, follow local time for her daily routine of naps and meals. If you manage to keep these roughly in place, she is likely to adapt well to being with her older siblings and with busy days.

By all means get her used to napping in her buggy before you leave, but also consider returning to the hotel on some days to let her have a proper lunchtime sleep in a cot. Sophia’s needs must be considered, as well as her brothers’ and sister’s, even though this is a special holiday time with their father. If you feel she is becoming tired and overwhelmed, have a quiet morning pottering around the hotel grounds and meet the others later in the day. It is better for you to miss a few of the treats with the older children, if it means that Sophia is not too overtired and difficult to handle as a result.

You might also consider using room service for breakfast some days, especially if the hotel is large and the dining room a long way from your room. The children can then eat breakfast and pack up for the day, without too many trips up and down in the lift. Turning to your evening meal, most hotels will accommodate small children needing to eat early. Some evenings, if Sophia is not too tired, you could all enjoy an early family dinner together. On other nights, feed her in the room and use a monitor or listening service to enjoy supper with the older children. Being flexible about arrangements will work best. Plan each day according to everyone’s preferences, but be willing to change the plan if Sophia seems exhausted, even if it means you have to split up for a while. Also, don’t try to do too much. Even older children appreciate breaks and quiet times when in a busy and exciting environment.

Pack healthy snacks and drinks for everyone each day, and include a few small toys and books for Sophia so you can find a quiet spot to rest, if needed, or amuse her in restaurants. Before you leave for your holiday, download and print colouring pictures from children’s websites. Take three or four each day with a small pack of crayons to give her something to do if she gets bored while waiting in queues or for food to arrive at the table. Her brothers and sister can join in too. They make instant place mats, which can be thrown away when finished.

Taking children of different ages on holiday can work well, as often the older children enjoy the company and simple pleasures that a smaller child can bring. Allowing for time together and time apart will ensure that everyone’s needs are catered for, with the result that it should be a happy holiday for all.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Other Advice

My son Harry has just started walking at thirteen months. Over the weekend, while my mother-in-law was staying, and watching Harry, she commented that he had “flat feet”. I have checked on the Internet, but cannot find any advice on the subject. Harry has had the appropriate medical checks during his first year, and the doctor didn’t seem to find anything wrong with him. Is this something I should be worrying about?

All babies appear to have flat feet. The reason for this is that a baby’s foot initially has a large fat pad on the inside arch which slowly decreases as they grow. The ligaments that hold together the bones of the arch of the foot are also lax and flexible. This wad of fat causes them to have a waddling gait when they first start walking and the high inside arch seen on most adults’ feet doesn’t start to develop until around two years old and will not be fully developed until around six years old. Children usually start to take adult-like heel-toe steps around three to four years old.

Development FAQ: 12-18 months – Other Advice

My daughter, Jemima, began to walk four weeks ago when she was thirteen months old. She has been wearing soft, leather slipper shoes, but these are not very robust, and I worry that she will hurt her feet when we are outside. I took her to the shoe shop, and the assistant told me that ideally a child should be walking for six weeks before fitting proper shoes. Is this right, and are there any other tips for taking care of my child’s feet that you could recommend?

Current advice recommends that a toddler is walking for six weeks before one buys that very special first pair of shoes. Do ask for guidance offered in a good shoe shop when choosing shoes for the first time. Your daughter’s feet need to be properly measured, and the shoes should ideally have a low cut and a roomy fit. It is tempting to choose cute fashion shoes, but these “off-the-shelf” shoes rarely have width fittings, and cannot guarantee such a good fit. Shoes that are too wide or too narrow can do as much damage to a child’s feet as shoes that are too short or too long.

After your child’s bath, always dry carefully between the toes. Keep toe nails trimmed straight across and not too short, and be careful not to cut down the side of nails. Do check your child’s feet regularly for signs of pressure from shoes and look out for blisters or red patches. Allow your child to go barefoot as much as possible indoors and on the beach. (Seek professional advice if you notice rashes or hard raised areas or if your child complains of itchy feet).

When you buy socks, make sure you buy them the same size as the shoes, and keep an eye that they are not too tight after repeated washing. Do avoid hand-me-down shoes, since ill-fitting shoes can damage a child’s growing foot.