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Learning About Sizes

When Sophia Fogel of South Pasadena, CA, turned 21 months old, she tried on a pair of cowboy boots in her mom Sandra Barrera's closet. Too big: They went to her thighs. Since then, she's squeezed into a baby seat (too small) and wedged her body inside an empty toy bucket (way too small). All Barrera can do is laugh.

It's hard not to, though your child isn't trying to amuse you. At around 18 months, once toddlers have mastered walking and can recognize themselves in mirrors, they'll try figuring out how they "fit in" with the world. Every time they put on your shoes or climb into a box, they're learning how their bodies measure up in relation to the objects and spaces around them, says Celia Brownell, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the Early Social Development Lab at the University of Pittsburgh.

Since your kid won't be more aware of her body size until she's about 2 1/2, be prepared for some mishaps as she experiments. To help her size things up:

  • Play dress-up together with your clothes, her clothes, and her doll's clothes. Don't forget the camera!

  • Break out toys like nesting cups and stacking rings so your child can get hands-on practice with different sizes. Bowls and plastic containers work, too.

  • Let her explore closets and cabinets while you supervise, but keep heavy and sharp objects and things with small parts off-limits. And avoid risky combos, like your stilettos and the stairs.