For infants, drinking is about nutrition. Drinking formula or breastmilk is more important than eating until around the first birthday. After that, drinking should be driven by thirst. Unfortunately, it is often driven by a desire for a sweet treat. Some children also drink because they are bored or there is nothing better to do at the moment. Sometimes a toddler or preschooler is offered a sippy cup as a distraction or as a way to get quiet.
You can encourage good drinking habits with a few simple steps. First, encourage your child to sit down to drink. This means the child stops playing to drink. This also reduces mess-both spills and dripping cups on the floor. By 15 months, most children can easily walk into the kitchen and sit down to have a drink. Keeping a cup of water on a small stool works well. Pick up the cup off the stool and sit down to drink. When no longer thirsty, get up and put the cup back on the stool.
A one year old who sits down to drink will also learn to drink from an open cup more quickly. If you doubt that toddlers can do this, peek into a daycare room that requires toddlers to sit at the tables for snack. Each child drinks what they want before getting up to play. There are a few spills but 3-4 ounces is an appropriate serving size and does not make a huge puddle. A cup this size is also easy for a toddler to hold in one hand.
If you as an adult need to take a drink along on an outing then pack one for your child. Also consider a packing a drink if your child will be playing outdoors or engaged in another activity that causes him to sweat. Try to wait until your child should be thirsty or asks for a drink before pulling out the cup. If he throws it down, put the cup away because he is not really thirsty.
So your 1 year old unexpectedly repeats a dirty word just like she repeats other words. What should you do?
If at all possible, do not react. Act as though what she said is not really a word. Then redirect her attention with a question like “Where’s your nose?” Most children need to repeat a word several times in order to commit it to memory. If she starts thinking about something else, the undesirable word is less likely to be remembered.
If you are reading this and thinking s***! it’s ok. Lots of parents make the initial mistake of acknowledging when their kids say dirty words. If your child is still learning to talk, this will be easier. I often use a rhyming word in a phrase. Kids mispronounce things all the time and we correct them. It will be nothing new for your child. For example, F***! from your child could be followed by “Duck says quack. Quack! Quack! What does a dog say?” Once again, the child’s last thought is about something unrelated to the dirty word.
Simontaneously, those who use dirty words need to clean up their language. (Oops! is always socially acceptable.) Sometimes this means someone needs to stop yelling “Shut up!” at the dog when he is barking too much. Realistically, anything that kids hear repeatedly will probably become part of their vocabulary. It takes a few days to mostly break the bad habit of expletives and months to completely retrain yourself. For guests in your home, a cute money jar can help. Label it something like Michelle’s College Fund, Each Dirty Word $1.
In children who are not yet verbal, tantrums are commonplace. They send a clear message to adults that the child is unhappy with the current situation. He might want down on the floor, want the m&m’s in the checkout line, not want to give up that magazine he was destroying or just be tired. Almost all children go through a stage of frequent tantrums. The goal is to make tantrums only a temporary stage.
For children under 12 months, distraction often resolves the tantrum. For older toddlers, ignoring works well. After you start to ignore tantrums, you may notice that your child checks to see if you are watching and then revs up the tantrum to get your attention. In other words, “if I’m a little more obnoxious, maybe they will give in.” Shortly after this part of the tantrum, your child may attempt to get your attention by being cute or kind. This is your cue to give some attention while remembering you still need to ignore the tantrum.
Tantrums are a lot of work. If they never result in getting what your child wants, your child will give up and try a different strategy. If they work occasionally, then they are worth the effort. (Think of how many times you checked the change slot of a coke machine after finding a coin once.) You may also find that your child stops tantruming with the adults who ignore the tantrum and continues with the adults who occasionally give in.
Ignoring tantrums in public places can be difficult. In a store, you can take your child to the car until the tantrum is over. The employees will happily hold your grocery cart for a few minutes. The restroom is another way allow your child to finish in a less public area. Regardless, if you give in while in public, your child will realize that tantrums work in public places even if they don’t work at home.
Brushing teeth is a widely acknowledged good habit for health but how young should you start? Do you brush the teeth of a four month old? Do you wait until your child is off the bottle? Do you wait until your child shows an interest?
Using a traditional (small size) toothbrush in a four or six month old is difficult. At that age, a damp washcloth works well. The rubber “brush” that fits over your finger also works. Of course, neither is a good choice if your child bites hard enough to hurt. At such young ages, using whatever is convenient for the parent is fine. By six months of age most children are skilled at eating off a spoon. Shortly thereafter, you can teach toothbrushing etiquette–no biting, etc.
Some infants and toddlers are motivated to cooperate by the taste of tooth cleanser. You notice I did not say “toothpaste”. Most children under the age of 4 years do not like the flavor of adult toothpaste. Many kids describe it as burning or hot. For any child who is likely to swallow the tooth cleanser, fluoride-free is the safest option. This is often labeled “training paste” in the store. It comes in flavors like grape. Since it is tasty, some children will eat it. Eating fluoride toothpaste is not safe so stick with fluoride free until you can trust your child to spit. There is also an enzyme based cleanser for infants and young toddlers that is safe to swallow.
So how do you teach good toothbrushing etiquette if you missed the window at 4-8 months? You can still start. If your child has 2 or more teeth at 6-12 months, I would not choose to put my fingers in his mouth. By that time, biting is inevitable! Stick to the little toothbrushes that look like adult toothbrushes. If you child is starting to grab the spoon when you feed him, go ahead and buy two toothbrushes. That way, your child can hold one while you use the other. This greatly reduces snatching and frustration. For children who are starting to want to brush their own teeth, bath time is perfect. After undressing and before getting in the bath means less mess to clean up. The time it takes to ready the tub is great for how long to brush too!
You may have noticed the wide variety of ages mentioned in this post. The age range considered to be normal for the first tooth is between 4 and 15 months old. Yes, it is a huge range. Average is 6-7 months. Fortunately teeth have little bearing on a baby or toddler’s ability to eat food so this variability is harmless. Go ahead and teach your child gum cleaning etiquette at six months even if she doesn’t have teeth. It will save you lots of frustration later.
Lastly, every community’s water supply has different amounts of fluoride. Different brands of bottled water also have different amounts of fluoride and some filters remove fluoride. If you are unsure if you child needs fluoride supplementation, ask your pediatrician, dentist or local health department.