Q: My 22-month-old daughter always asks to be carried. However, it is hard for me to hold her for a long time. How can I encourage her to walk more?
Young children need a lot of encouragement from parents during the transition from being held to walking on their own. Try to give your child ample opportunity to walk and run at home and outside so that she can strengthen her leg muscles. You may encourage her by using activities she likes, “You need to practise walking if you would like to run faster in the playground.” Praise her when she decides to walk by herself.
On the other hand, we may take the child’s perspective. Comparing to being carried by you, when she walks by your side, you are relatively farther apart from each other. She will also get less attention from you. At times, she will still need to be closer to you and will thus ask to be carried after walking for a while. Tell her that you understand her feelings and guide her to walk. You may say, “I know you want to be in Mummy’s arms but I am so tired that I can’t carry you now. Let me hold your hand and walk together up to the next block.” When you are walking with her, try to bend down to talk to her to give her attention.
Besides supporting her independence, you can show her that you care about her and spend more quality time with her to foster the sense of security. She will gradually develop her confidence and independence and will walk by herself.
Q: My son will turn two next month but he still refuses to part with his pacifier. What can I do to wean him from it?
Some parents find it embarrassing for a child approaching 2 years old to use a pacifier. Some are concerned about the impact of pacifiers on teeth growth. In fact, most dentists agree that pacifiers do not impose negative effect on children’s teeth before the age of 4. Toddlers are using pacifiers as a source of comfort or as a means to soothe themselves to sleep.
Actually, most children give up their pacifiers willingly once they see that their friends at school are not using it. There is no need to hurry the weaning process. Your child might find it hard to adjust if his pacifier is taken away all at once and might suck his thumb instead. It would be even harder to wean him off his fingers.
Some parents are worried that the pacifier would affect children’s language development. There is no strong evidence to support the concern. Nevertheless, if the pacifier is affecting your child’s opportunity to talk, interact or play with others, it is a good idea for him to part with his pacifier. You can help him look for a comfy substitute, such as a stuff toy or a small blanket, and let it accompany your child to sleep. You can decrease the frequency of your child’s use of pacifier gradually, or set aside some specific time such as bedtime that he can use his pacifier. As time goes by, he will get used to parting with his pacifier.
Q: My son has been using a spoon and a fork to eat for a while. Why does he return to using his fingers recently?
Children of 18 to 24 months old enjoy exploring the world through their senses. He can feel the texture of the food with his fingers and it is easier to control his fingers than a fork or spoon. Eating with their fingers despite that children are able to use eating utensils is a common transient regressive behaviour in child development. It should not be a cause for concern. As his hand and finger skills develop over time with maturity and practice, he will become more and more comfortable with using his fork and spoon.
You can still set the spoon and fork on the table and encourage him to use them although your child does not use them all the time. Eat together with him at the table to show him the proper table manner. Remember to praise your child when he behaves well, so that he knows what you expect from him. Praise him if he does use his fork or spoon, “Good job! You are using your fork to eat your carrots!” To facilitate his sense of mastery, you may give some assistance if he is not very skilful yet in manipulating the utensils. Take protective measures such as covering the floor with a plastic sheet if you are afraid that he will make a mess. However, do not get mad at him if your child plays with his food. He might get upset and stop eating. As a result, both of you could get upset and eating might become a battle. When your child has mastered the skills of eating with a spoon and fork, you can set some rules with him, such as “Eat with your spoon and fork at the table”. Eventually, he would develop the proper eating behaviour.