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WHAT YOUR TODDLER CAN DO

Language

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Some babies say their first words at nine months, others not until they are two years old, and boys often talk later than girls. Between one year and 18 months, your baby will be actively listening to what you say and the way that you say it, and may even try out a few words. If your child isn't talking at all by the time they are two, take them for a hearing test. It may be that repeated hearing problems are delaying their speech.

Sometime during their second year, your toddler will grasp the powerful idea that one thing can represent another: words, for example!

The first words that toddlers learn are the important ones: 'mummy', 'daddy', 'Tom' and 'Katy' which represent significant people, and other words like: 'dink' (for drink), 'bic' (for biscuit) or 'bath'.

This labelling process speeds up intellectual development. It helps your toddler learn more quickly by giving them useful pegs on which to hang anything new. Language helps your toddler sort things out. And from now until they are about six years old, your child will learn words at the astonishing rate of six to 10 new ones every day.

From about the age of two, toddlers learn to combine words - usually an 'action' word (not always a verb), and an 'object' word as in, 'Mummy come',or 'Jack drink'. However, right now your baby's most useful two words will probably be 'what that?' as he or she strives to name more and more of the things that are important.

Help your toddler talk

• Have some time without the television or radio on, so you can chat.
• Talk to your toddler one-to-one and make it fun.
• Sing nursery rhymes, read repetitive stories.
• Talk about what you're doing as you do it, so your toddler can match the context to the words: 'Here's your mug', 'It's bath time now', 'Which fruit shall we buy?'
• Look directly at him or her when you speak.
• Make your toddler feel you value what they have to say, even though it may be hard to understand.
• Leave him or her space to answer, but don't insist that they do.

Standing

Some time after nine months, your baby will begin to pull themselves up to a standing position. However, like all their new-found skills, they are better at starting than stopping, and the only way back down is onto their bottom, or by calling for you.

To stand alone your baby needs four things: to be able to stretch out their hips, their knees, to have strong leg muscles, and to be able to balance. If any of these is missing they will stand later. However, if your baby isn't standing by 16 months, speak to your doctor.

If you hold on to one or both of their hands at this time, your toddler will love to step purposefully on alternate feet. And once they have learnt the trick, they can cruise or coast around the furniture, side stepping as they go.

A push-along toy with wheels and a heavy base will help them walk. They will use the handle to pull themselves up to a standing position- make sure the toy is strong enough to take this treatment without tipping over. Other toys that help develop the leg muscles are tricycles and ride-ons.

If your toddler can sit on a toy truck and propel themselves along by pushing against the floor, the next step is learning to pedal, which takes a considerable amount of co-ordination.

Walking

A few babies walk as early as nine months and a few more not until they are two years old. Such variation is quite normal, but if your baby isn't walking by 18 months and you are worried, ask your doctor to check him or her over. The average baby walks on their own, albeit unevenly, at about 14 or 15 months and stops by falling over or bumping into furniture. More a lurch than a walk - but wonderful none the less.