Baby Development Month-by-Month: Month 17

Your 17-month-old is full of energy and busy working on a whole host of new skills at this age. She may be throwing toys and food with gusto across the room, removing her nappy when you have just put it on, and exercising those vocal cords at every opportunity.

While she may seem fearless at times, she likes to know that mum is nearby to offer comfort and reassurance as needed.

Here is what you can expect to look forward to this month.

Feeding and sleeping

Your little one will continue to need around 13-14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, made up of 11-12 hours at night and likely one nap during the day. Most toddlers will have dropped their morning nap by now so the afternoon one may extend a little to up to two hours.

Separation anxiety, teething and nightmares can all contribute to a sudden sleep regression but stick to her usual routine as you try to uncover the cause of wakefulness and she will soon settle back down at bedtime. Your little one may also try distraction techniques and excuses to avoid going to bed so consistency is key. Try to wind down 1-2 hours before bedtime, limiting screen time, high-energy activities and snacks and in the hours before sleep.

Continue to offer your toddler three meals per day, a couple of healthy snacks, and around 400ml of whole cow’s milk or breastmilk, alongside her vitamin drops. Avoid anything high in salt or sugar and avoid adding these to her meals or offering drinks other than water or milk.

Many toddlers go through a fussy eating stage around now, suddenly refusing foods they might previously have enjoyed but try not to react to this behaviour. Continue to offer a variety of foods, perhaps in different ways to see if she will enjoy her jacket potato topping on the side rather than on the top of the potato for example. It also helps to make mealtimes an occasion, involving the whole family and talking together about your day. This will encourage healthy eating habits as she observes family members perhaps eating the vegetables she is refusing, using a knife and fork, drinking out of an open cup, and so on. You may even want to get a little toddler stall so she can stand next to you in the kitchen and watch – or even help – you to prepare ingredients for a family meal.

Communication

At 17 months, your child might have quite a handful of recognisable words at her disposal, even if it takes mum or dad to decipher them for other people. She may start out by using the same word for similar things, for example ‘dog’ to refer to all small animals but she will pick up more vocabulary as the days and weeks go by.

Your little one will understand a lot of what you say at this age and may be quite adept at following instructions, such as ‘can you pass me that crayon please?’ or ‘where is the ball?’. If you do have a little chatterbox on your hands, you may start to notice her using active verbs such as ‘go’ or ‘run’ in her day-to-day speech.

If ‘no’ is her response to everything, try to avoid asking questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, instead offering options such as ‘would you like some strawberries or a banana?’ This will support the development of her vocabulary while also making her feel like she has some control over the things she does, even if the options you have provided are limited.

Toddlers may occasionally show some aggressive behaviour at this age, perhaps biting or hitting in response to not getting her own way. While this can be difficult to manage, it is a normal development stage and will pass. Continue to model good behaviour to show what is acceptable and what is not. Firmly say something like ‘no, we do not bite’ when she acts this way, then distract her from whatever it was that caused her to bite in the first place. Reprimanding her later on, or using techniques such as the naughty step are unlikely to work as will not associate what is happening now with what she did earlier on.

Senses and physical development

Your little walker will be growing in confidence with roaming around, running around and climbing over low objects. She may also be able to bend to pick something up, stand back up again and continue walking unaided and without wobbling.

You may notice an improvement in her pincer grip and manual dexterity as she picks up smaller items between her forefinger and thumb. This will later mean she can confidently scribble with crayons and use things such as Play Doh to squeeze and press, building up those all-important hand muscles.

Playing with your seventeen-month-old

Make the most of her ability to throw things by playing catch with a soft ball in the garden. This will develop her ability to thrown underarm, as well as her hand-to-eye coordination, while hopefully teaching her that throwing games are for outdoors, not in the living room.

As her walking confidence increases, she will likely be able to enjoy getting on and off ride-on toddler vehicles, pushing herself along with her feet.

Sorting games are also great at this age, providing plenty of opportunity for her to learn about the differences between colours and shapes. You can also ask your little one to retrieve familiar objects when you say their name, for example when unpacking the weekly shop, ask her to find the apples.   

Continue to read together daily, supporting language development, helping to develop her ability to visualise and use her imagination, and offering a lovely bonding activity for the family.

While the above indicates what you can expect to see your toddler doing this month, it is important to keep in mind that all children are unique and will develop at their own pace. If you have any concerns about your baby’s development, talk to your doctor or health visitor.

Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett

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