Munchkin Mobility
Twelve to Twenty-Four Months

by Jane Bartley

Reprinted from VIP News 13/2, March/April 1997, a publication of the Visually Impaired Preschool Services of Louisville, Kentucky.

Editor's Note: If the name "Bartley" rings a bell, it's because you may remember reading items printed in Future Reflections by or about Dr. Ralph Bartley, Superintendent of the Kentucky School for the Blind. And yes, Jane is related. She is his wife, and she is a well-known and respected professional in her own field of orientation and mobility. Here is what she has to say about "Munchkin" mobility:

During the twelve months that a child is between one and two years of age, new skills are learned each day. Each child will develop at his or her own pace. As parents, care-givers, and interventionists, we must allow for individual differences, but we can encourage and teach skills that the child is ready for during our daily routine. Most of the necessary daily chores (for example, dressing, going out and about in the car, and picking up toys) can be fun-filled learning experiences for your little one.

Safety is always an issue with children, but once you have addressed safety issues in your child's environment, allow your child the freedom to learn about his world in a hands-on fashion. The days when your child will spend long awake periods of time in the crib or play pen are past. Your child's world has expanded, and he or she is ready to learn about it.

Now that your child is investigating (either scooting, crawling, or cruising your home), you will want to place familiar stationary items in his environment that help orient him and tell him where he is located. By creating ways to move from one place to another using familiar things, furniture, and sounds, your child will begin to develop some simple routes. Children tend to learn the most by doing things by themselves. Stand back and watch how your child problem-solves and travels through the environment.

Acquaint your child with the rooms in your house and make him aware of what is in each room. For example, in the kitchen we have the sink where we get water for a drink and the refrigerator that makes a noise and keeps our food cold. The texture of the carpet and the feel of the kitchen floor are noticeable to the bottom of his feet with and without shoes. His touching different surfaces (walls, furniture, floors, doors, windows) adds to the knowledge he is collecting about his environment. Allow your child to explore the stairs in your home. Let him sit on them, lie down on them, and feel how big they are. Tell him what the stairs are made of and why there is a hand rail. And then, in a supervised manner, let him explore the stairs.

Since "independence" is the long-term goal of orientation and mobility, don't forget to work on other areas where you can allow your child to experience age-appropriate skills and build confidence. Teach your child to hold and drink from a cup. Work on finger feeding and scooping with a spoon. Teach him to search for things he drops. Allow him to be involved in cleaning off his face and hands and washing and drying at bath time.

As your child learns new skills his world will just keep getting bigger and bigger. Get plastic wall plugs for the wall outlets and allow your child to explore from his room to the kitchen cupboards. The support and encouragement you provide in this second year of life will be a good investment in your child's future.