Active, curious toddler

Question: I have an 18-month-old. My question is in relationship to the things that he do. He shows good reasoning skills and other things for his age. He will use a chair and move it around to get to climb to things that are out of reach. He will also use a stick or other long object to get things down from the walls. One time his dad left the garbage pale that is under the kitchen sink in the basement. He took the pale and returned it to its place. He was 16 months at the time. He climbs on the piano bench and pounds on the keys. He looks and the music book on the piano and points to the notes. It’s as if he knows you have to play by reading the notes. He get very frustrated when he cannot get something to work instantly. He have an excellent attention span. He can sit and listen while you read an entire book. He loves music and can sing to the words of some songs. I just have so many questions, however, I don’t want to take him to any specialist because he is too young. I want him to be a kid. He also sleeps for very short periods and this is since he was a baby.
– Jeanette

Answer: Your son sounds like an active, curious toddler who is investigating every aspect of his world. He is problem solving to increase his exploration and he is also studying the routines of everyone in the house. I agree with you to let him “be a child” but I would also support his interests by investigating age-appropriate programs for your busy, budding musician.

I am a strong advocate for parent-child programs for parents of young children. These programs plan music and play experiences that compliment a variety of areas of child development. They stimulate young minds and bodies while giving children (and parents) an interesting social network. You and your son will benefit from investigating new activities and play/learning materials together. Check your community newspaper, magazines, and schools for “mommy & me” classes.

You can also check the following websites for excellent, age-appropriate music programs for toddlers:,, and All of these programs engage young children in hands-on music experiences with the parent that build a great foundation for future learning. So much of the new research on brain development in young children cites music as an essential “brain builder”. Music-play, not just listening to recorded music, builds language and listening, sequencing and logic, social and emotional interactions, as well as physical coordination. Since your son is already drawn to your piano and to music, I would continue to encourage him. Sing, dance, and play a variety of rhythmic instruments together.

I suspect that his heightened frustration level coincides with his increased expectations about the world and the shocking realization by toddlers that they can’t really do it all themselves. Keep in mind that this is a peak time for tantrums that you cannot prevent. You can comfort your son when the tantrum is over, if he needs the reassurance. Sometimes children just need to release the frustration and then are ready to move on to the next thing. Other times they need our assistance to learn new skills gradually.

Do your best to break activities down to simpler tasks so your son can master the world in more manageable pieces. Try to balance his day between high-energy activities and quieter activities, especially since he doesn’t sleep much. Keep “quiet times” in your daily routine – all children need down-time. Some children need to be actively “taught” how to slow down. Be sure your sleep routines are consistent and predictable. You will also benefit from some down-time and balance in your day. This is a year in your son’s life for him to grow by giant leaps in both body and mind. Enjoy yourselves!

Good Luck,
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.

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