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New this month: A budding artist
Your toddler may surprise you now by drawing vertical and horizontal lines, and maybe even a circle, although scribbling still carries the day. These drawings may seem simple to you, but they're a sign that many aspects of your child's development are on track. Drawing with a crayon involves fine motor skills such as grasping and holding, as well as hand-eye coordination and imagination. If you can't recognize any straight lines in your toddler's scribbles or your child doesn't seem interested in drawing, it's too early to worry. It probably just means that your child is more focused on developing gross motor skills right now, such as walking, running, climbing stairs, and pushing and pulling toys and boxes.
What you can do
Set up your toddler with big sheets of thick paper taped to the table (paper that slides can be frustrating). Most toddlers work best with thick, sturdy crayons or washable pens. If your toddler isn't interested in sitting down to draw at the table, offer some alternatives: chunky sidewalk chalk to use outdoors, paper pinned to an easel instead of a flat surface, or soap crayons to use in the tub.
Other developments: Exploring body parts, taste-testing, hidden surprises
Your toddler is curious about everything right now, and that includes allthe parts of her body. Remember when, as a baby, she discovered her hands and feet and couldn't stop playing with them? Well, something similar may be happening now with her genitals. If you catch your child exploring her private parts, don't panic. This is a normal stage in every child's development. At this age, the best response might be to ignore it. If you're in public and embarrassed by the behavior, try distracting your child with another activity and explaining that some things are done only at home. If you need an analogy, explain that touching yourself is something most people like to do alone, like taking a shower or going to the bathroom. For more advice on dealing with genital touching, see our article.
You may also notice that mealtime is more complicated than it used to be. Your toddler now considers flavor, texture, and even color when putting every morsel into her mouth. Continue to offer new foods often, but don't force her to taste things. Eat the food yourself without making a big deal about it — eventually she'll be curious enough to give it a try. Or you can encourage her to smell, touch, or even just lick the food. Talk descriptively about the food. "Yum, look at the bright red pepper. Hmmm, it smells sweet and it's crispy when I take a bite."
Even though your toddler can probably chew fairly well, it's still a good idea to offer bite-sized bits of food, especially meat, chicken, fish, and vegetables to prevent choking. Your 20-month-old has the fine-motor skills to handle a spoon or fork, but don't be surprised if she doesn't always want to use her utensils. She knows there's more "hit" and less "miss" if she feeds herself using her hands.
Your toddler is also intrigued by toys such as jack-in-the-boxes, nesting blocks, or shape-fitters — anything that contains a hidden surprise. Her interest will extend to everyday events with a surprising twist, too. Expect to catch her peering down the bathtub drain to see where the water goes, looking in your purse for your car keys, or checking the trash can after you've thrown something away.
See all our articles on toddler development.