More Than Making it Through the Day: 12-15 Months

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Routine and schedule to do with young toddlers. Get ideas on how to structure your day and do more than just make it through each day.

15 month old sitting on the grass

If you have a 12-15 month old, your biggest concern in life right now is likely discipline. You also are experiencing big changes with appetite and perhaps even sleeping patterns in the day.

You are starting to see your “baby” as more of a toddler and coming to realize the many things you need to teach him, and that might be a bit overwhelming.

This is a time period you really want to be sure you, the parent, are in the habit of doing more than making it from sunrise to sunset without drama. Focus on discipline and focus on learning activities.

You want to set solid expectations now so your future is easier. As difficult as a 12-15 month old seems, there is a reason they call it “terrible twos” and “threenagers.” You can’t ignore things now and hope it will get easier.

Let’s discuss the day.

MEALTIMES FOR PRETODDLERS

You might suddenly find yourself as stressed about food as you were when your child was a newborn. Things are changing, and you aren’t quite sure what is normal and what isn’t. Here are some common concerns:

Drop in Appetite: This is an age range when most babies…er…pretoddlers will severely drop the amount of food they eat each day. Most babies triple their birth weight in the first year, while in the second year they only add about a third of their birthweight (What to Expect the First Year, page 489).

Always keep in a mind a child will not starve herself. Read up on Food Amounts for Toddlers for tips.

Keep in mind, your child was able to go 2.5-3 hours between meals as a newborn baby and that will not change now that she is a pretoddler. If she doesn’t eat at her meal, you don’t want to turn to grazing a bit every hour out of fear she is starving.

Stick to scheduled meals and snacks (unless your child is sick). Your child will eat at meal times.

Weaning From Bottle: If you haven’t weaned from the bottle yet, make it a goal to start during this period. This can be a process–you don’t have to just drop it all in one day. Weaning: Breast, Bottle, and Formula

Learning to Self-Feed: During this age range, most toddlers will start to want to feed themselves with a spoon. This will likely come closer to the end of this age range.

Once your child shows interest, allow him to try. Expect a mess. So long as the mess is from your child just not being good at using the spoon yet rather than purposely making a mess, there is nothing to worry about (other than the fact that you have a mess to clean up). When letting him practice, be intentional about what he practices with. Yogurt sticks to a spoon better than applesauce, for example. See Toddlers and Spoons

Seeming Regression: You will likely find your child wants to feed himself and gets started. Then he decides that he wants you to feed him. You might then worry that he is regressing and will never feed himself. You might picture yourself spoon feeding a 12 year old.

My son did this; I had that worry. Some children really want independence, but then want to be a little kid again. Rest assured that your child will get to the point of eating independently. This will not be the last time you see your child waffling between growing up and staying little (I call it Peter Pan Syndrome).

Aligning Meals: If meals are not already in sync with the family, now is the time period to do so. Breakfast and lunch are most likely in line.

Dinner is the harder one because most families eat dinner later than the child can make it. If so, offer a snack after the afternoon nap to hold baby over. You could even just do the liquid feeding at that point without any solid foods.

Be sure to monitor the snack by paying attention to your child’s appetite at dinner. If he isn’t eating like he should, the snack was likely too large.

When to Align Baby’s Meals with the Family

Good Meals/Bad Meals: I have found that toddlers will often have a “bad” meal each day where they seem to eat nothing at all. They usually counter this with a “good” meal where they eat a lot. Transition yourself to looking at food intake as a whole each day rather than just each meal. It is normal for a toddler to have meals where he doesn’t eat much, even for a toddler.

Eating What Family Eats: During this time period, you will likely start to feed your child whatever the family is eating. There will obviously be some things he can’t eat because of safety (choking) or the food just isn’t appropriate for that age of a child yet. But other things can be given. Some toddlers will still stay on pureed baby food during this time period. See Solids: When Do You Stop Babyfood and Move to “Real” Food?

Dropping the 4th Feeding: Most toddlers will drop the fourth liquid feeding during this age range, though not all. Brayden kept it until 18 months. See Tips for Dropping the 4th Feeding

Bib Use: During this age range, Brayden was done with the bib. Your toddler is now watching everyone more closely and he will soon realize he is the only one eating with a bib. Kaitlyn continued her bib use through this stage, however.

12-15 months old routine and schedule

NAPTIMES FOR PRETODDLERS

Sleep should be of little worry during this stage. There are a couple of things that can come up:

  • Dropping the Morning Nap: Some babies are ready to drop the morning nap as early as 14 months. But be aware that most will be closer to 18 months. If you start having napping trouble, see this post: Dropping the Morning Nap (from 2 to 1 naps): Transition Time
  • You Slack on Consistency: As your baby becomes a toddler, you might start to slack on the consistency of meals and naps. You might start offering too many snacks or staying out during naptime. Be aware that eating patterns affect sleeping patterns and sleeping patterns affect eating patterns. This is not a time to stop concerning yourself with consistent naps. Your toddler might be able to miss one every so often, but don’t make it a habit.

Waketime Length. Your toddler’s waketimes continue to increase. Add to that mobility and curiosity and you have lots of time to fill and lots of discipline issues that crop up.

Read up on Optimal Waketime Length for Toddlers here.

INDEPENDENT PLAYTIME FOR PRETODDLERS

For most toddlers in this age range, independent playtime will continue in the playpen. At some point, you might transition to roomtime. See:

Starting Independent Playtime Late

FREE PLAYTIME FOR PRETODDLERS

Free playtime starts to change during this age range. You allow your child to choose the activity he plays with. That is why it is “free.” He doesn’t get to jump from activity to activity; you want him to learn to have a sustained attention span. But he can have more than one toy available to him during this time. Free playtime can really be any activity the child chooses. Your toddler still needs to be supervised during this playtime.


Read: How to Use Free Playtime in Your Child’s Schedule


STRUCTURED PLAYTIME FOR PRETODDLERS

Up to this point, structured playtime has been independent playtime. Now you add another element to your day. Structured playtime is when Mom decides the activity. This is a good thing for your toddler to learn to accept; in educational settings (and life), we don’t always get to choose what we do. This time can be art, music, puzzles, or other learning activities. The child can work alone or with a parent or sibling (see below).

Read all about How to Do a Preschool Homeschool here.

SIBLING PLAYTIME

If your toddler has siblings, you can have sibling playtime. This can overlap with other activities if needed. For example, the siblings can both color at the table together. Or maybe they will go outside to play together for outside time.

During this age range for Kaitlyn, I started to allow Brayden and Kaitlyn to be alone for longer increments, though still not very long. I always monitored them, also, after an interesting experience.

One time, they were playing in the sandbox together. Kaitlyn was about 12 or 13 months old, which put Brayden just under or at three years old. I ran inside to get something to work on the garden (which is right by to the sandbox). I was not gone for more than a few minutes.

When I came back, I found Brayden had kindly turned on the hose and washed Kaitlyn’s lower body off since it was sandy. This was a moment of childishness for him; he did not know there was anything wrong with it. She didn’t object in the least.

I realized I needed to instruct more before leaving them alone outside together. I also needed to observe more before being out of eyesight so I could grasp the things Brayden might do. I never imagined he would use the hose on her. I actually didn’t know he was capable of turning it on himself. It was really quite funny, but not something I let Brayden see I found amusing.

ONE-ON-ONE TIME WITH PARENTS

Continue to be sure to incorporate one-on-one time with each parent each day. This can overlap with structured playtime. Mommy or Daddy can sit at the table with the toddler while he colors and join in the coloring. It can also overlap with your bedtime routine as someone reads him a bedtime story at night.

FRIEND TIME

The older your toddler gets, the more he will enjoy playing with friends. At this age, play is still very much in tandem; they don’t really interactively play with each other. But being in each other’s presence is fun.

FAMILY TIME

It is fun to do activities together as a family. You might go for walks, read books, work in the yard, go out to dinner…the possibilities are endless.

BATHTIME

Bath time can be a fun time to get water play in. It is a good opportunity for your child to fulfill that curiosity with water. What happens when I dump a cup of water out? Your child can figure that out in the tub. Bath time has always been a big playtime at our house, and it has been a favorite part of our day. Read up on our Best Toys for Baby: Bath Toys

LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT FOR PRETODDLERS

Continue to work on language development for this age group. Her are some things that will help.

Sign Language: It isn’t too late to start this. I started Brayden during this age range. Watch for words that would help your child avoid tantrums. If you have been doing this for a while, you can most likely do a new word each day, or at least several per week. Read How To Teach Your Baby Sign Language

Reading: Reading is a fun activity to have as one-on-one time with a parent. Be sure to point to the objects in the book and name them for your toddler. Read up on The Value of Reading Aloud to Your Children

Talk Back: When your child talks to you, listen and talk back. Keep in mind the principles from the previous making it through the day post for ages 9-12 months old. Have conversations with your child.

How to Enhance Your Baby’s Language Development

TIME OUTSIDE

You can continue the activities you have been doing outside (walks, hikes, etc.). Here are some other ideas:

  • Sandbox: The sandbox is a fun place to play.
  • Mimic: Toddlers love to mimic their parents. If you garden, you might get some gardening toys for your toddler. If you have a lawn to mow, a lawnmower.
  • Bubbles: This is always fascinating for the toddler.
  • Outside Toys: See this post for outside toy ideas: Outdoor Toys Children Will Love

ARTS FOR PRETODDLERS

You can add some time for the arts. You might dance, sing, and/or draw. It is wonderful to pass on your passion to your children, but also be sure you expose them to arts that aren’t necessarily your interest.

For example, I love to sing and I love to dance. It is quite natural for me to expose my children to these items. I am not an artist when it comes to drawing, painting, etc. These are activities I have to make a conscious effort to add to our day because it isn’t a natural interest of mine. Here are our favorite art supplies.

TOYS FOR PRETODDLERS

Your child’s interest will continue to mature as he gets older. See this post: Best Toys for Baby: 12-18 Months

OTHER INTERESTS

Your toddler will start to show interest in certain subjects. Is it trucks? Perhaps a car show would be of interest. Maybe he is interested in animals? The zoo might be a fun trip. Look around your area for age and interest-appropriate museums to visit.

LEARNING TIME FOR PRETODDLERS

You might be especially interested in learning activities now. See these posts:

DISCIPLINE FOR PRETODDLERS

There are a lot of discipline concerns during the toddler years. Here are posts pertinent to this age group:

Routine and schedule to do with young toddlers. Get ideas on how to structure your day and do more than just make it through each day.

OTHER GOALS for PRETODDLERS

Conclusion

You can do more than just make it through each day with your young toddler. A few goals will help you be intentional about your day and set up your upcoming toddler years for success.

Find my other More Than Making it Through the Day Posts here.

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valplowman
valplowman

Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook

6 Comments

  1. The Morales Family
    March 6, 2009 / 6:02 PM

    I don’t know why we do this to ourselves – wait until they turn 12 months and then everything changes. I didn’t prepare for it ahead of time and it came upon me quite quickly – thank you for this post. It’s helping guide me along this new phase with my first lil one. A lot of great information!

  2. Plowmanators
    March 11, 2009 / 2:26 PM

    You are welcome!

  3. Lori
    March 11, 2009 / 9:35 PM

    My DD just turned a year old, so your post was very helpful to me. Thanks for all your links, too. Lori @ http://www.thetowells.com

  4. Plowmanators
    March 17, 2009 / 1:33 PM

    You are welcome Lori!

  5. Jana (Agnes)
    October 24, 2009 / 6:55 PM

    Hi, I have a question concerning meals of my almost 14 month old girl. From 1 year I stopped breastfeeding her and she is now on formula, she gets it in the morning and evening. She now started not eating well her solids after the morning formula.She used to eat really well even after the milk, but she hardly eats anything for breakfast now. In the evening she eats her dinner well, but she gets her formula after the meal and then she drinks little. I don´t know if its just the 1 year decrease in food intake or her wanting different food (I tried all sorts of things for breakfast.)Should I just go with it or give her her formula at different times? We now have 4 feedings with formula in the morning and evening.Thank you for your help.

  6. Plowmanators
    November 27, 2009 / 11:51 PM

    Jana, I would discuss this with your doctor. Liquid intake is still important at this age, and I believe 16 oz minimum is suggested.

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