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Appropriate Behaviors for an 18-Month-Old

Between the tantrums and the messes, your nerves are shot. Your beautiful baby has turned into a high-energy toddler, and you're left wondering what's normal behavior and what's not. Dealing with a toddler is a bit like trying to wrangle a tornado. Toddlers are impulsive and unpredictable. Give yourself and your little dynamo some slack. Try to spend time each day talking and playing with your child. Not only will your little one be happier, but you'll come to understand and appreciate her moods and interests.

Social Emotional Development

The world is a big, sometimes overwhelming place for toddlers. Your toddler is rarely purposefully naughty, but she may lack the life experience and language skills to moderate her emotions. Your calm reassurance can set things right when the inevitable meltdowns begin.

"Eighteen-month-old children are interesting beings," says Faith Golden, M.A., a child-development specialist from Encino, Calif. "They are all emotion and no reason. They want to be independent yet still want you around all the time. They begin to have temper tantrums because they can't tell you what they want. Toddlers are easily frustrated and show this through tantrums. They are affectionate toward the people they know, but may scream when a stranger approaches."

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By 18 months, most toddlers can say a few simple words. Your toddler understands most of what you say. He may use gestures or grunts to communicate as well. The sooner your little one can verbally communicate, the less frustrated he'll be. To boost language development, talk with your child every day and use a rich variety of vocabulary words. Read simple board books and sing rhyming songs.

"Your toddler points to show you what he wants, so tell him the names of the things he points to," adds Golden. "This is a great time to start sign language classes, if you haven't already, as it gives your child a way to communicate without using words."

Motor Skills

Your 18-month old is a bundle of joyful, rambunctious energy. At this age, most toddlers can walk, but they may still be clumsy. This is the period when kids tend to suffer the most bumps to the head and skinned knees, so stock up on the Band-Aids and brace yourself. Some toddlers can jump or run. Toddlers are sensory explorers. In particular, they use their sense of taste and touch to learn about the world. Dr. Mark McKee, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist and author of "Raising a Successful Child," says, "Toddlers need opportunities to explore the full range of their senses in order to increase developmental achievements."

Your little one's fine motor skills are improving, too. She can open lids and containers. Curious toddlers get into everything. They pull pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards and empty bottles of shampoo and boxes of cereal onto the floor. If you haven't already childproofed your cupboards, now's the time.

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At 18 months, your toddler is just beginning to play with purpose. Infants explore toys. They bang them together, taste them and feel them. But as children become toddlers, they use toys symbolically. Your little one may rock a doll or make "chug, chug" noises when pushing a toy train. Toddlers enjoy playing with foam blocks, dolls, cause-and-effect toys, cars and simple art supplies. Toddlers also love sand and water.

More important than any toy, though, is a toddler's playful relationship with parents. As McKee notes, "There is nothing parents can buy that provides more pleasure than the time they give to their child."

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