At around 17 months old, your toddler may be expanding her vocabulary at a rapid pace. She may be using verbs and may even be able to say short sentences. Her hand and finger skills are also getting better day by day. Read on to find out what you can do to support your toddler’s development this month.

Toddler Development Milestones

Although your 17-month-old may reach certain development milestones a little earlier or later, these are some of the milestones you might see around this time:

  • Starts using active verbs. Not only might your toddler be pronouncing words more clearly by now, but she may also be using active verbs like “go” or “jump,” as well as directional words like “up,” “down,” “in,” or “out.” She may say something like “go down slide” or “I jump up.”

  • Expands vocabulary. You may find that your toddler’s vocabulary is growing more quickly than before. She may be able to say a bunch of words, especially those words for her favorite toys, people, and parts of her body. Soon, she may start putting words together to make two- to four-word sentences, such as “I want ball.”

  • Improves hand and finger dexterity. Your child may be able to pick up small objects between her forefinger and thumb more easily than before. As her coordination gets better, she might be able to scribble on a piece of paper or roll modeling clay in her hand.

How to Support Your 17-Month-Old’s Development

Here are some ways that you can support the development of your 17-month-old:

  • Name everyday objects. Help your child develop word associations by naming and explaining common objects and everyday activities; for example, you could say a pan is used for cooking food. You can even use toys to help illustrate this, such as by letting your toddler play with a toy kitchen or a toy phone.

  • Make brushing her teeth fun. Establishing good oral hygiene and tooth-brushing habits can never start too early. Place a smidgen of toothpaste on your toddler’s brush, and help her brush her teeth twice a day. (You’ll most likely need to be her helper until she's about 6 to 8 years old.) To make this less of a chore and more of an enjoyable activity, you could play music for about two minutes while you brush your child’s teeth. This can help reinforce that two minutes is the recommended amount of time for doing a good job of brushing her teeth.

  • Allow your child a transitional object. It’s OK to let your toddler use a blankie or a teddy bear to soothe herself. These types of objects might also help your child fall asleep, and give her comfort if she wakes up in the middle of the night. Just make sure that the object doesn’t have any parts that can become a choking hazard, like ribbons or buttons.

  • Weave books into your daily routine. Tuck some books into your car or diaper bag so that you can pull one out when you need it. For example, when you're at the grocery store, give your toddler a board book or two to look at while you're wheeling her around in the shopping cart. Just be sure to keep an eye out for any that get dropped in the aisles!

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 17-Month-Old

Don’t be surprised if your toddler is a picky eater from time to time—this is a normal part of toddler and preschooler development. Her appetite may fluctuate now that her growth rate has slowed, and she's forming likes and dislikes about many things, not just food. Even knowing this information, you may find it difficult to deal with the situation, but it won’t be impossible.

Following are some tips and strategies for how to handle your toddler’s pickiness and keep mealtimes pleasant:

  • Don’t force your toddler to eat. The more you urge or insist that your child eat a certain food or meal, the more she will resist it.

  • Give your toddler menu options. Offer your toddler a few healthy foods even if she’s being picky. She’s bound to choose one of them. However, if she doesn’t want to eat, save her plate for later when she gets hungry. A toddler during this time typically eats three small meals and two snacks per day.

  • Have a relaxing family meal together. Sit down to a family meal without the distractions of TV or smartphones, and serve the same foods to everyone at the table, including your toddler. If your family likes spicy food, set aside some unseasoned portions for your toddler. You may want to make sure that at least one of the foods on the menu is her favorite so there’s a better chance of her eating it.

  • Don’t use food as a reward. It’s not a good idea to reward your toddler with food, especially sweets. This approach can backfire, and cause more battles in the future.

  • Don’t give up on introducing a new food. It may take as many as 10 tries to get your child to accept a certain food. But once you do succeed, keep going in the same vein. For example, if you’ve finally succeeded in getting her to eat broccoli, you might introduce cauliflower. You may also try adding a little grated or melted cheese to make it more appealing

  • Make cooking and serving food enjoyable. Invite your child to help you prepare a few simple recipes. She might help you stir pancake batter for your Saturday morning family breakfast, for instance. When you serve her, be creative; for example, place berries on her pancake in the shape of a smiley face. Or you could cut some colorful vegetables into fun shapes or arrange them in a rainbow on the plate.

The Art of Feeding a Toddler

Follow these guidelines for feeding your toddler:

  • Make sure the food you give her isn’t too hot by testing it yourself.

  • Avoid food that is too spicy, salty, buttery, or sweet.

  • Ensure the food is cut up into small pieces or mashed so that it’s easy for your child to eat. (Children under 4 years of age don’t chew with a grinding motion, so it’s important that foods are in bite-size pieces.)

  • Keep your toddler seated during mealtimes. This is important for reducing the risk of choking, which is more likely if your child is eating while playing or “eating on the run.”

  • Teach her to chew and swallow her food before speaking.

17-Month-Old Toddler Sleep Schedule

At 17 months old, your toddler typically needs between 12 and 14 hours of sleep per day. By 17 months, your little one may be down to one nap a day.

Here are some safe sleep tips to follow for your toddler:

  • Keep your child’s crib mattress at the lowest setting so she can’t climb out

  • Ensure the crib is free of objects that your toddler could use to help her climb out, such as a large plush item or any toys that can be stacked

  • Although this may be a while off, once your toddler gets to the point where she is able to climb out of her crib you may need to transition her to a low toddler bed

  • Make sure the crib is positioned away from windows, drapes, electrical outlets, and cords

  • Remove any crib gyms, mobiles, or toys that are hanging over your toddler’s crib, if you haven’t already.

A Day in the Life of Your Toddler

Life is completely different with a toddler in the house. Here’s what a typical day might look like:

17-month-old Toddler daily routine

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Being Outdoors

If the weather is good, your toddler will enjoy spending time playing outside, whether it’s in the backyard, at the local park, or at a nearby playground. The following are some ways you can help protect your toddler when he’s outside with you:

  • Create a safe perimeter. To prevent your toddler from going outside without your knowledge, install door locks that are out of his reach, baby gates, or even alarms that alert you to movement. These precautions can help prevent your child from wandering out to the swimming pool (if you have one), or to the driveway, or onto the street. All pools should have a fence on all four sides and a gate with a childproof lock that’s closed at all times.

  • Keep your child close. Whether you’re near a busy street, in a parking lot, standing on a driveway, or in a quiet residential neighborhood, it’s a good idea to hold on to your toddler and keep a watchful eye on him.

  • Practice car safety. This is important when you or another family member might be backing out of your driveway. Make sure you know where your toddler is and that he is unable to run behind the vehicle. Although many new cars have a rearview backup camera, it’s still important to be extra vigilant and know where your toddler is at all times. And when your car is not in use, make sure that the doors are locked.

  • Apply sunscreen at all times. The sun’s invisible ultraviolet light rays are harmful even on foggy or hazy days, and even in winter when UV rays reflect off snow. You’ll want to ensure your toddler is protected. Look for a baby sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher and one that offers protection from UVA and UVB light. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside. Remember to reapply the sunscreen often, because even though the label says it’s sweat-proof and waterproof, no sunscreen really is.

  • Dress your toddler in appropriate clothing. Cotton clothing with long sleeves and long pants is a good to protect your child's skin from the sun in warmer months. SPF clothing and wide-brimmed hats are also recommended to protect your toddler from sunburn.

  • Make sure your child is drinking plenty of water. When your toddler is playing outside, it’s important that he stays hydrated. Dehydration can make your child ill.

  • Stay with your child when in or near water. Don’t leave your child unattended near an open body of water such as a lake or swimming pool.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • During this month, your 17-month-old might be able to do things like:
    • Build a tower out of blocks and then knock them down
    • Insert different shapes, like squares, circles, or triangles, into matching holes
    • Name familiar people or objects
    • Speak using two- to four-word sentences
    • Play make-believe games.

    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.
  • Many children make a big jump in their ability to understand language in their second year, though not necessarily when they turn 17 months old. At some point, though, you may notice that all of a sudden your toddler can understand nearly everything you tell him. For example, if you’ve just announced that it’s time for bed, he may bring you his favorite book—or he may run and hide when you say he needs a bath.
  • It’s often the case that boys develop speech and language skills later than girls, but as each child is unique and different, this isn’t something that is set in stone. Check with your toddler’s healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your child’s language development.

Your Life as a Parent: Create a Network of Support

It’s totally OK to need or want help sometimes—all parents do! A network of support can come in handy when you need an extra pair of hands, and the support you get from family and friends can make all the difference.

Need some ideas for creating a support network?

  • Reach out to family and friends who live nearby. Family members and close friends are wonderful resources, especially if you need an impromptu babysitter. They will enjoy being part of your child’s life.

  • Create a network among your neighbors, especially if you all have children of a similar age. It’s easy to feel isolated when you keep to yourself. You may also find that this new network can come in handy when you need someone to look after your child, or you might want to carpool to daycare or a local event.

  • Join a local organization or parent-child group. Check out your local YMCA or YWCA, or a religious center or community center. By getting to know other parents in your area, you can share parenting tips, bond over the experiences you share in raising a child, and perhaps even help each other out from time to time.

  • Look to your healthcare provider for support and/or a referral to a therapist or counselors. Don’t be afraid to discuss your personal family problems. Your provider is there to help you find the support you need.