Month 17

Toddler Development and Milestones: Your 17-Month-Old


Your toddler's grasp is growing stronger. Physically, he is developing his pincer grip, which means he can hold on to zippers and pencils. Emotionally, he is developing his empathy. Find out how you can help him on his journey!

Physical Development

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17 month old development and milestones: Such a cute age!

As your tiny tot’s gross motor development gallops ahead, his fine motor skills are also catching up. His little fingers are getting more and more dexterous. His pincer grip is growing stronger.

This means it’s time to get out pen and paper and watch him draw a line and even an arc. He is also able to hold on to a large zipper and do it up or down – as long as you hold down the fabric for him.

Even turning doorknobs and opening drawers are no mean feat if he’s tall enough. He might have even figured out how to undo his diaper, so keep a close watch on him! These could signal that he is interested in going to the potty, but most children don’t gain reliable control over their bladder until after they turn two years old. Instead, they rely on their mummy, daddy or auntie to remind them when to go.

As part of his 17 month old development and milestones, he will be up and running by now but is not yet fully-coordinated. Don’t worry if he is constantly bumping into the sofa and the coffee table, this is completely normal.

Dancing is another favourite activity, although he might still need to work on his sense of rhythm. But then the most exciting thing that parents can expect to see this month is signs of hand preference. Is your tot going to be right-handed or a leftie?

Activities to boost physical development:

Try spending more time playing outdoors in safe places. There you would have more space to practice running and kicking balls. 

If the weather does not permit outdoor play, you can still have some fun indoors as well. Turn on some music or sing songs together and just dance! It might seem like a super easy activity, but it does help your toddler to learn coordination, rhythm and motion.

Bring on the crayons and let him do squiggly lines. Not only is this great for learning colours, it helps him to practice his pincer grip as well as learn hand control.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child is unable to pick up small objects or pieces of food
  • When your child cannot walk unaided

Cognitive Development

A stronger pincer grip also means your little one is ready for the next phase of toys for toddler development: sorting games! Now is the time to break out those shape-sorting cubes, the colourful stacking cups and the wooden puzzles with the knobs on pieces for lifting and putting back into place.

When teaching him about shapes, it’s good to also mention colours. Although some toddlers quickly develop a preference for one colour (yellow is a firm favourite), don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t seem interested. Recognising colours is only just beginning!

Your toddler will still be putting things in his mouth. This is completely normal because he is using all of his senses to learn about his world – that includes tasting! Your task is to make sure his toys are clean. Give them a quick rinse every few days, and always after taking them outside.

As part of his 17 month old development and milestones, your toddler will begin to show the results of all his earlier explorations. He will let you know he recognises places and people, demonstrating his power of memory. Even switching your furniture around might gain you a surprised look on his face!

Activities to boost cognitive development:

Continue to give simple instructions like asking your tot to clean up his toys after playing. Talk about an event or about people that he might remember.

Get your child to point to different things every time you read to him. Lay out his colourful blocks and shapes and see if he remembers which is which. Show him how to group them according to shape and colours.

Your toddler is probably more interested in everyday things, so there is really no need to splurge on expensive toys. Sometimes, even just a simple empty cereal box can occupy his time. 

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child is unable to build a tower of at least three blocks
  • When your child cannot follow simple instructions

Social and Emotional Development

Your toddler’s grasp is growing emotionally as well physically. He is experiencing a wide range of emotions, from joy and delight to sadness, anger and frustration.

You can help him by naming his emotions so he knows what he is feeling: “I see you are feeling sad,” or “I see you are feeling angry.” Keep it simple. By naming his emotions, you show your toddler you care and understand.

Through learning about his own feelings, your bub also begins to understand that other people might be feeling the same. This is the basis for empathy.

As part of your toddler’s 17 month old development and milestones, he still doesn’t know how to handle big emotions and can easily feel overwhelmed by them. Other children might have a favourite toy to cuddle, a pacifier or other means to self-soothe. As your child grows older, he will learn new ways of dealing with his emotions, and let go of these habits.

Boundaries, routines and consistency give him a sense of security. Also, he will respond better to being told what to do instead of what not to do. However, be realistic in your expectations because no doubt his brain is hard at work. It is still very hard for him to remember all the rules.

You are still the most important person in his universe, and your tot would do a lot to gain your attention and approval. So any praise from you will lift his heart. Be sure to always let him know when he is doing something right, and shower him with kisses and cuddles.

Activities to boost socio-emotional development:

Do play with your toddler and teach him about sharing. 

When setting limits and boundaries, use the instructions like “yes” and “no” clearly. The important part is to be consistent and keep your explanations brief.

When reading to him, try to point out pictures that focus on emotions and briefly talk about them. All children develop at their own pace. Some process their emotions by sitting quietly in a corner, and some need to scream from the top of their lungs.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your toddler’s emotions are overly erratic from one activity to another
  • When your toddler shows no emotions at all towards people he is close with

Speech and Language Development

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17 month old development and milestones: What words does your tot say?

Speech is all about sound, and your little one is trying out all ways of making sounds! He might be whispering one moment, screaming the next, babbling all morning and growling in the afternoon.

This part of toddler speech development is training the mouth, tongue and vocal cords to move in different ways in order to form specific sounds and words.

During his 17 month old development and milestones, you can begin introducing descriptive words because he can understand better now. Before, communication was simple: noun and verb. Now you can add in adjectives, like: “Look, there’s a white flower” and “Do you see the big doggie?” Very soon you will hear him describing things back to you!

Similarly, instructions can become slightly more complicated, although it’s still a good idea to take things one step at the time. He can probably say about seven words pretty clearly. But to help him improve, you can enunciate the words clearly when talking and he will follow your cue. Besides, you are his most important role model. Reading definitely helps a lot, but so does everyday one-to-one conversations.

Activities to boost language and speech development:

You can encourage him by playing games, such as a whispering contest. You can pretend to be monsters and growl at each other, or engage in a singing match to see who can sing the loudest. And once he gets all his voice exercise with you, he’ll be less prone to screaming indoors.

When talking to your toddler, try a combination of words and actions. However much he might comprehend, seeing what you mean helps him work out what you want him to do.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child is not saying anything or trying to communicate in any way
  • When your child does not respond consistently if his name is called

Health and Nutrition

Eating habits can be erratic at this age especially now that he can express his likes and dislikes when it comes to certain food. He might decide to eat a lot today, then only take a couple of spoonfuls the next day.

As part of your toddler’s 17 month old development and milestones, he should weigh about 12.0-15.2 kg and be about 82-86.0 cm tall. 

Don’t worry too much. Our job is to provide him with a variety of wholesome, nutritious foods at meals and snacks in a relaxed, comfortable environment. Whether to eat it or not is really entirely up to him, to be honest. By allowing him to respond to his own internal cues of hunger, this will help him develop a healthy attitude toward food and eating. 

A toddler requires about 1,000-1,400 calories a day depending on how active they are. To meet this, he needs about three servings of half a cup of cooked pasta, 1 cup of cubed fruit, 1 cup cooked mashed or finely chopped vegetables, and 2 servings of fish or meat 1/3 the size of your palm. He will also need 2 cups of dairy, whether in the form of yoghurt or milk.

Immunisations due this month include DTaP and any other vaccines that he hasn’t taken since turning 12 months. Read up on how to handle common colds and ear infections as these are two health issues commonly found in toddlers.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If you’re concerned that your child isn’t eating a balanced diet
  • When your child is not active and not maintaining a healthy weight