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"Over to you, Mommy"

You're playing in the sandbox with your toddler when she solemnly offers you a leaf or a bottle cap. Then later, at home, she picks up your lipstick and hands it over. Why the constant giving?

Handing over objects, which kids start to do at about 15 months, is the developmental step after pointing. But just because your child chooses some little thing and is able to give it to you doesn't mean she's particularly attached to it or wants you to keep it. "This handoff isn't really about the leaf  -- it's about trying to communicate," says Nancy Budwig, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at Clark University, in Worcester, MA. "Toddlers don't really care what happens to the object; they care about the interaction with you."

So the next time you're handed a fallen leaf, take it as an opportunity for bonding. You can tell your tot about the tree it came from or name the colors of the leaves on the ground  -- and when you're done, show her how the wind can carry it away.

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