At around 16 months old, it’s not unusual for your child to believe the world revolves around him—and in a way it does, as he gets the lion's share of your attention. This self-centered viewpoint is normal, and you might see it in action when, for example, he acts out after another child reaches for his favorite toy. He may also experience separation anxiety around this time; luckily, there are ways you can help your toddler cope with this challenge, which we’ll explain. Keep reading to learn more about your toddler’s development this month and to find out what else might be in store during this time.

Toddler Development Milestones

Just like all children, your little one is developing at his own unique pace. Here are some of the developmental milestones he may reach around this time:

  • Becoming more sociable and self-centered. Even as your child develops his social skills, becoming more sociable with others including children and adults, he thinks that the world revolves around him. He isn't able to understand just yet that other people have feelings and thoughts that could be different from his own. When other children are around, for example, he may attempt to take their toys but be very possessive of anything he sees as his own. At the same time, your toddler might be intrigued by other children, especially if they are a little older, and try to imitate them. He's likely to be quite physical with other kids and may hit or bite when he becomes upset. To minimize these incidents during playdates, be sure to offer plenty of toys, and hide any of the favorite toys that you know may inspire a battle. Be prepared to act as the referee when needed, but rest assured that this type of behavior won’t last forever. It’s a natural part of your toddler’s development during this time.

  • Experiencing separation anxiety. It may be difficult for your toddler to be separated from you around this time, especially when he’s tired, ill, or scared. He may fuss or cry when you’re not around, such as when you're at work, or may wake up in the middle of the night and call out for you. Go ahead and remind him that you’re there for him when he needs you and that you’ll be back; eventually he’ll feel more secure and will understand that you won’t disappear forever, and that you’re coming back. Don’t try to sneak off when you have to leave the house or drop him at daycare, as this may have a negative effect and cause him to become even clingier. Brief separations are actually a good thing, as they can help your toddler become more independent over time.

  • Improving problem-solving skills. Problem-solving is something you’ll see show up in the way your toddler approaches play. He wants to know how things work, and might be attracted to mechanical toys, switches, buttons, and knobs. For example, if you’re in an elevator together, he’ll always want to press the button. It’s a good idea to provide him with a range of toys and activities that are challenging for him but not so difficult as to frustrate him. Imitation may also influence your toddler’s problem-solving skills. For example, he may have seen you throw garbage in the trash can, and so he now knows where the trash goes.

How to Support Your 16-Month-Old’s Development

Here are some examples of how you can support your 16-month-old’s development:

  • Encourage play and social interactions. At this stage of your child's development, playing with another child usually means playing side by side, which is called parallel play. In time, and with practice, toddlers acquire the skills to cooperate and interact during play. To get things going, organize a playdate so your toddler can be with other children around his age. Also, take every opportunity to play with your toddler. Not only is it important for his development, but it offers a wonderful chance for bonding.

  • Provide simple toys or safe objects to play with. Simple objects like toy blocks, plush teddies or dolls, and puzzles as well as safe household objects like unbreakable containers and wooden spoons help in the development of your toddler’s imagination as well as his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It's fun to watch him pick up a wooden spoon and pretend it is a magic wand, or use it to stir a make-believe cake. Don't feel pressured to buy new toys to keep him engaged and happy—you may even find that when you do your little one’s more interested in the box it came in than the toy itself.

  • Develop routines. Around this time, it’s important to be consistent and predictable when it comes to your toddler’s daily schedule, With a reliable structure in place, your toddler has an easier time learning rules and expected behaviors. To accomplish this, create a daily routine and stick to it when possible. For example, having bedtime at the same time every evening, naps at a regular time, and mealtimes and snacks offered around the same time each day. Your child will come to expect this, and it might help him develop good habits.

  • Play music. Playing fun or calming music for your toddler may have a positive effect on his emotional well-being. Experts believe that playing calming music can help with mood, sleep, stress, and anxiety.

  • Set boundaries. You may need to establish some physical and behavioral boundaries and limits for your toddler around this time. He’s at the age where he wants to get into everything, which may create unsafe scenarios—like pulling open drawers that could fall on him, opening kitchen cupboards that may store chemicals, or sticking his fingers in electrical outlets. First, what you can do is to make sure these areas are baby-proofed. Then, when you see him headed toward trouble, redirect his attention: play a game with him, or sit him down on your lap for story time. It will be hard trying to anticipate your toddler’s every next move, but it will be worth it in the long run.

  • Introduce rhymes. You remember this one from your childhood: "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall." Not only are these rhymes fun to say or sing with your toddler, but they serve as an important mental exercise. Learning rhymes familiarizes him with sound structures as well as letters. When rhymes and poems are recited and read over and over, your child starts to realize that certain sounds and letters go together—which is an early step on the road to reading!

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 16-Month-Old

For a 16-month-old, three small meals and two snacks a day are typically the norm, but you may find that your little one is hungrier some days and wants to skip a meal or a snack occasionally on others.

When it comes to mealtime, offer your little one a few nutritious options with a variety of tastes and textures, and then let your toddler pick. You might be surprised to learn that when your toddler is given the choice of a range of healthy foods, over the course of a few days he will eat a balanced diet that matches his activity levels and metabolism.

Special Diets

Feeding your toddler can be challenging from time to time, and if your family adheres to a special diet, like a vegetarian or vegan one, you may need to take extra care to make sure he's getting the nutrients he needs. Your toddler's healthcare provider or a registered dietitian can help you put together a menu plan for a healthy diet that meets your growing child's requirements for calories and nutrients, and you'll learn which food sources are best to supply extra vitamins and minerals.

In some cases, your provider may recommend you serve fortified foods like iron-fortified cereals and grains to ensure your toddler gets all the nutrients he needs. In other cases, the provider may also recommend dietary supplements. Follow your provider's advice to ensure your toddler gets everything he needs to grow and thrive.

16-Month-Old Toddler Sleep Schedule

As each child is different, the sleep patterns of your little one may be quite different from another toddler. Generally, at 16 months, your child may sleep anywhere between 12 and 14 hours a day, which includes one or two naps.

You may find that your toddler is resistant to going to sleep at bedtime, especially if he’s just been doing some exciting activities that have taken up all his attention. Establishing a nightly routine that helps him wind down, such as having a bath and then reading a book, may help him settle more easily at night.

A Day in the Life of Your Toddler

Here’s what a regular day with your toddler might look like in your home:

16-month-old Toddler daily routine

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Dealing With the Common Cold

At some point, your child will come down with a cold, especially if she’s in regular contact with other children, either at the playground or in daycare. Even though there is no medication that prevents or cures the common cold, there are things you can do at home to keep your child comfortable as she recovers.

Here’s what to do if your child has cold or respiratory symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose, cough, and/or fever:

  • Make sure she gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of water or other non-sweetened liquids

  • If your child has a stuffy nose, you could use saline nose drops or spray to offer some relief

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier in your toddler’s bedroom to help soothe her airways, especially if she has a cough, so she can breathe more easily

  • If your child has a fever, her healthcare provider may recommend that you give a single ingredient over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help bring her temperature down and keep her more comfortable. If your child has a fever of over 103 degrees Fahrenheit that lasts for more than 24 hours, call her healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Always check with your child’s healthcare provider before giving your toddler any medicine, and to make sure you're giving the correct dosage.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • During this month, your 16-month old may be able to do things like:
    • Pick up a ball or another object that is in motion
    • Take apart a toy and put it back together again
    • Say a number of single words
    • Follow simple instructions you give.

    Keep in mind that each toddler develops at a unique pace, and your little one may develop these skills a little earlier or later than this.
  • At 16 months old, your toddler may take one to two naps per day. In total, she may be sleeping between 12 and 14 hours per day. Keep in mind that, since each child is unique, your child’s sleeping and napping hours may differ.
  • Here are a few ways to deal with your child’s tantrums and possibly help eliminate them:
    • Think of them as performances, and take yourself—the audience—out of the equation by ignoring your toddler, leaving the room, or calling a time-out, which involves sitting your child down and having her remain quiet and still for short time
    • If the tantrum happens in public, take her out to your car or a nearby restroom to let her tantrum finish
    • Once the tantrum or the time-out has finished, briefly explain to your little one why it was wrong of her to react in that way so that she can begin to understand why the behavior is inappropriate
    • During a severe tantrum, your child may hold her breath. This can be scary, but try not to overreact if this happens as your child may keep up with the behavior, knowing that she can get a rise out of you.
  • Some toddlers are naturally more aggressive than others, but your own parenting style can also influence her behavior. If you find that your child has an aggressive behavior that includes kicking, biting, or hitting, you may want to observe her reactions closely and set limits when necessary.

    Punishing your child’s behavior by spanking or hitting is not recommended, as it can cause her to become more aggressive, reinforcing the idea that this is how others should be treated. The best ways to keep her aggressive behavior in check are to set a good example by being a role model, establishing clear boundaries as to what behavior is expected of her, and praising her for good behavior.

Your Life as a Parent: Making Comparisons

It’s natural for you to compare your child’s development with a child of a similar age, and wonder why your toddler may be smaller, or taking a longer time to talk or walk. Try to remember that each child develops differently and at her own pace. Your toddler may be ahead in one area, but behind in others and vice versa. This is all a natural part of developing into a unique person.

It’s best to try not to compare your child to other children, or even to one of your older children who may have developed at a different pace.

It’s also a good idea to try to block out unwanted or unsolicited advice from other parents or well-meaning strangers who may think they have all the answers. Instead, talk to your toddler’s healthcare provider about any concerns you may have about your child’s development.