Ages and Stages

These articles will be of interest to people who have a baby or want information about the stages   of development of babies and toddlers from birth to three years. There are also articles about older pre-school children.

On this page you will find articles on:

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Hand Control
It is amazing the progress a child makes in the first two years of life.  One of the most exciting milestones for a parent is when the baby becomes aware of his/her hands.  This happens between three and four months of age.  Hang bright objects close to baby.  Tie them securely.   Baby will begin to reach out to touch them.  Items don’t have to be toys.  Choose pretty ribbons or streamers, cheap decorations, even a foil pie plate.  These things will attract baby’s attention and move even if touched very lightly.  Things that make a sound are even better.  Baby soon learns to bat at these.

As soon as baby is able to grasp something, safety must be upgraded.  Now objects must be suitable for holding and mouthing as baby will mouth everything that he/she can grasp.

At first babies use the whole hand to grasp things.  It is some months before they begin to pick up items using the first finger and thumb. 

Toddlers become very skilled with their hands.  They love to pick up small items and put them into containers.  Always take care that toys don’t have small bits that may come off and become a choking hazard.  Toddlers will still taste things that are not food.  Take care with food too.  My little grand-daughter is 17 months old.  She loves to feed herself but sometimes puts too much food in her mouth at one time.  Pips in fruit can also be dangerous.  Never leave a toddler alone to eat. 


Helping fussy eaters

Fussy eating habits often develop when a child is a toddler. One reason is that a toddler likes to be on the go and eating takes them away from play.  Another reason is that between growth spurts, the appetite will probably be small. If your child is gaining weight, there isn’t any need to worry.

Here are some tips:

  • eat with your toddler, company helps the child to eat

  • have three main meals a day plus several very small snacks

  • keep food choices to no more than two if your child is fussy e.g. will you have cheese or yoghurt, rice cake or toast

  • let the toddler help prepare food

  • make the food look attractive

  • encourage self feeding, and praise efforts

  • offer foods from each food group

  • have a regular time and routine for eating such as washing, sitting at the table or in high chair

  • serve small helpings

  • choose healthy snacks e.g. yoghurt, cheese sticks, rice cake with vegemite or cheese spread, fruit icy poles, fruit kebabs.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The Mobile Baby
Encouraging baby to crawl or take those first steps is an exciting milestone but suddenly a whole new world is there to explore.  To avoid chaos the house has to be reorganized. Safety comes first.  Many things will have to go out of reach now.                                                                          Here is a list to consider:

  • The heater

  • Hot food on low tables

  • Pills and medicines

  • Steps,stairs

  • Electric cords

  • Power points

  • Tools

  • Pens, pencils scissors and sharp objects

Go into each room and take a long hard look.  What safety hazard can you see for baby? Are there 

  •  things on the coffee table that you don’t want torn or chewed up?

  •  table edges that will give baby’s tender head a nasty bump?

  •  mats to slip on?

  •  TV buttons going to cause a problem?

  •  pot-plants that can b e tipped over, or eaten?How many ‘no… no’ items are there

Baby will learn the meaning of no but it is important to allow lots of exploring.  Remember that baby learns through the senses, especially through touch and taste.  Help your baby to explore.  Enjoy looking at the world through baby’s eyes once more.  You’ll be surprised at what you discover.


Growing Independence: I can do it myself

It takes a long time for children to become independent but there are many exciting milestones along the way.  We feel proud when a little one takes his/her first steps or when baby gets up or down the steps without help.  As children become more and more independent, parents and carers need to be patient and this can be very frustrating.  Young children will gain physical skills, confidence and self esteem if you let them do things for themselves.

Let toddlers have a fair go.  Help them learn to:

  •  feed themselves and wipe their mouths

  • wash hands

  • brush hair

  • clean teeth

  • take off clothes

  • put on a hat

Be patient when older children want help you, or you ask them to help.  You can avoid mess by doing jobs yourself but try to stand back and give help only if the child needs it.  They can:

  • wipe noses

  • put on socks and shoes and do them up

  • put on most clothes and do up buttons

  • bring in the mail or post letters

  • set the table and spread their own toas

  • twater plants

Encouraging your child to practise skills will mean a happy child now, and a skilled child later.


Playing with others

Babies with siblings are lucky.  They have children to watch and learn from right from the beginning.  One of the most important skills they gain is how to interact with others. Children enjoy the company of other children and need same age companions to play with. Good playgroups, child care centres, and pre-schools offer safe, attractive environments where children play and learn together.

Some parents must send their baby to day care at a very young age because of work commitments.  Other parents don’t have that pressure and can choose if, and when they will send their child to a centre. 

 What are the benefits to parents?

  • Child free time to exercise or follow a hobby

  • Time to spend with other family members

  • Study time

  • Catch up with friends time

  • Career can continue

  • The chance to develop more social contacts

What are benefits to child?

  • Having fun with other children

  • Playing with different toys and equipment

  • Access to a bigger range of playthings

  • Learning social skills such as taking turns, sharing

  • Becoming more independent

  • Gaining confidence

  • Interacting with other adults

A caring staff and a safe, interesting environment are essentials at any child minding centre. Never leave your child at a centre you don’t feel quite happy about. Take time to select a centre. 

 Look for :

  • Happy children

  • A calm atmosphere

  • Staff talking to children

  • Staff happy to explain things to you

  • Flexible routines

  • Evidence of the program that is followed

  • How children are supervised on equipment, in bathroom, at meal times

  • The philosophy behind the centre (e.g., is tolerance encouraged? 

  • How are children disciplined? 

  • How are differences in gender, race, and abilities seen?)

When you are sure you have found a centre you can trust with your child, send him/her with confidence. Child’s play is wonderful. Every child learns through play.



Once children begin to put words together, adults have a window into how a child’s thoughts work and listening to a child thinking is fascinating. I kept a small notebook of the wonderful things my children said and through the years it has given us many a laugh. Opening it at random this morning I read an entry that recorded a four and five year old discussing God, angels and the devil. Children pick up ideas from many sources and use those ideas creatively. I have a wonderful book about listening to children, encouraging them to talk about their ideas and communicating with them. It is called Chasing Ideas by Christine Durham (Finch Publishing 2001).Look for it in your library or contact Christine From this book you can learn how to ask the right questions to stimulate conversation and get ideas flowing. There are many answers to problems and fascinating conversations to be had if we can listen and guide our children without judging.

Children have ideas on everything and it is worthwhile finding out their view of the world. By asking children why, what, when where and if questions, you will stimulate their thinking and encourage them to solve problems. Adults often answer for their children. Resist, and give them time to answer themselves. Even a two year old can be encouraged to think about actions. Begin with stories. Ask the child about the action in the story – what might happen if…Look at the pictures, at the clothes, the homes, cars toys etc. and compare them with ones familiar to the child.  Encourage pre-schoolers to join in conversations at the meal table.  Our world needs creative solutions and our children are the future so lets stimulate their minds and hold conversations without judging them.


School talk

When children begin school they mix with a lot of new people and it quite common for them to copy the way the new people in their lives talk. This will vary from the way they hear words pronounced, to adopting an accent, to new vocabulary including swearing.

Not all people object to swearing. Some accept it as okay for adults to swear but not children. In a family this confuses the children. Children pick up words very easily. You will know immediately if your child has heard you using a swear word, probably when you were angry. Explain to the child that you said this when you were angry but you don't like it and will try hard not to use it again. Make sure that you don't use words that you don't want your child to say. Help the child to deal with feeling angry without swearing.

If your child comes home using language that you don't like, tell your child the word is not acceptable and be firm. You can: explain

  • 'In this family we don't like that word. Please don't say it again.'

  • model a different, acceptable word

  • explain that swearing can hurt someone's feelings.

With older children who persist in using an unacceptable word, give a consequence such as not being allowed to have a friend home or to go on an outing or watch certain programs until he or she has apologized and can stop using swear words.

Language is a powerful tool. Let's help our children to use it positively.


learning through play

Recently I took an exchange student from Germany who is in senior high school, to visit a pre-school in my town. The children in the three year old room were all involved in activities at the tables at the time. I explained to him that playing with coloured plastic pegs on a pegboard, painting, pasting coloured paddlepop sticks onto paper, and cutting pieces of dough with scissors are all activities that help children to learn about colours, sizes, numbers and at the same time help muscle strength, hand control, and concentration that will be needed in writing. I asked him if he had been to a pre-school as a small boy. He replied that he had, but he’d no idea that the materials he’d played with had helped him when he’d reached school age.

It is good for us all to reflect from time to time about the games our children play and the materials they use. Don’t be shy to ask at your child's centre, why certain activities are provided.  In early childhood centres, much thought is put into the materials that are put out for the children. The scissors I’ve mentioned for example are good because

  • children are gaining the skill to open and close the scissors

  • the scissors cut easily through dough 

  • the children gain confidence though success (trying to cut paper at this stage would be frustrating)

  • children are engaged in a fun activity

  • fingers. are exercised


Clever fingers

Between 12 and 18 months of age, toddlers pick up almost everything from snails and caterpillars to cake and books and examine them in detail. With every hand and finger task they undertake, their hands are becoming more flexible, more nimble. Toys help them to master everyday tasks. Grasping blocks, sorting pegs, picking up stones, exploring the features on busy boxes, using matchbox cars and turning the pages of books, will all help to strengthen little fingers and toddlers love these kinds of toys.  Don’t forget to include things from nature to sort such as cones, shells, leaves fruit, vegetable and flowers. Unpacking the shopping bags is great fun for little ones.  Be sure to supervise.

It is fascinating and sometimes frustrating to watch small children trying to pick up and manipulate objects. Tasks that seem so easy to us, are difficult, their little hands can be so clumsy.  I often use a felt board and felt pieces when I go storytelling at childcare centres. Some children are invited to place a felt piece on the board for me. For the two year olds this is quite difficult. The three year olds find it easier, while the four year olds have no trouble at all. Can you find something colourful in your house for little fingers to pick up?____________________________________________________________________

Dealing with clothes

One of the biggest tasks a parent (particularly a mother) has to deal with, is coping with clothes. Every day there is a new pile of dirty ones and when these are washed, it is pegging out, bringing in, folding, ironing and putting away. It brings to mind that old song ‘It was on a Monday morning that I beheld my Darling…

These days most Australian families have automatic washing machines and many, according to the children I’ve asked in local child centres, have dryers as well. These machines certainly remove a lot of the drudgery that my Mother had to cope with, but clothes can still cause loads of stress. When, oh when are children capable of dealing with their own clothes?

Toddlers can:

  • throw dirty clothes into a basket - Keep it in the bathroom and establish a routine to throw clothes in it before bathtime

  • sort a few socks into pairs ready for you to fold together

  • open drawers and put undies away,

Pre-schoolers can:

  • also feel in pockets for tissues or toys

  • sort clothes according to colour

  • remember to put hats and shoes in special places

  • wriggle under the beds to look for lost clothes

School-aged kids can:

  • fold their clean clothes

  • hang them up

  • carry a basket to the laundry

  • put socks in to soak

  • iron easy things

Older kids can:

  • be responsibe for putting out all their dirty clothes

  • operate the washing machine

  • use the dryer

  • help Mother by pegging out or bringing in the washing.

If the washing chores are shared, no person should be stressed too much, but training must begin early so jobs become automatic. We all want clean clothes so let’s make it as easy as possible.


Changes in Routine

In a dream just before waking, somebody said to me, ‘Anyone can stop an earthquake’! What an extraordinary thing to hear. It set me thinking. I came to the conclusion that families experience many events in their lives that are the equivalent of earth tremors if not quakes. The holiday period is a perilous time as there are so many changes in routine that behaviour is one area in which tremors may be felt and have to be stopped.

Tired and excited children have trouble paying attention, listening to others, concentrating, following directions, sharing, keeping still and remembering what and when they have to do something.

Children do not easily recognise that they are tired. Much of the behaviour that threatens to become earth-tremor behaviour, occurs because of tiredness.

When overtired, children tend to

  • cry or scream

  • show-off

  • squabble

  • hit or kick

  • refuse to come

  • take risks

  • speak rudely

  • make unreasonable demands.

The best course of action is to plan events allowing for rest periods or quiet periods after each unusual activity. An exciting energy filled day should be followed by a quiet, undemanding day. Within a family there may be quite a wide range of ages so plan for everyone. Think ahead of how you can cater for each child at the same time. At the zoo, the youngest will need to be wheeled in a stroller but the older ones can have responsibility to go ahead to see animals of their special interest, queue to buy food, take photos and report back regularly to parents. At the beach, little ones need to be close to adults at all times but older, good swimmers can be in the water independently as long as they report back often.

I hope your holidays will be earthquake free.


Organising skills

Teaching kids organizing skills or organising your pre-schoolers clothes is a real challenge. My teenage grandchildren cannot believe how many things their three year old sister owns. It isn’t just toys but clothes too. They are sure they didn’t have as many when they were that age but their Mother remembers differently. I walked into my little granddaughter’s room to see for myself and was amazed. The wardrobe was open and I saw at a glance that she has enough undies, tops, and skirts for a princess or a model. There is no way she could keep her clothes organised and in the right drawers.

When I started school my mother thought I had a luxurious wardrobe as I had five dresses – one for each day of the school week – and a hair ribbon to match each dress. I had a dress for Sunday school too and some old clothes for weekends. Most women had only one best dress in those days too. That dress was worn to church every week, month after month and sometimes year after year. Our wardrobes and drawers were never crowded. It was easy to keep them tidy. Clothes were given away when the children outgrew them and were bought with room to grow into, never just the right size to fit.

This reflection on my childhood doesn’t help my grandchildren to organize their clothes or possessions. Organisation needs to begin when the child is young if it is to become a habit. Perhaps there should be two sections to a wardrobe. Part could act like a linen press where the parent  goes each week to select clothes. These clothes could then be put in the appropriate drawers for the child.  Ten pairs of undies, socks, and tops will give a child plenty of choice and prevent that mass of clothing that invites the kids to fling things onto the floor while finding the wanted articles.

With toys I think I’m in favour of the idea that when something new arrives, something old must be given away. However, think carefully before insisting on that. Ideally the child should decide which object goes.


Getting hurt

When a baby reaches out to explore another baby or an animal, one of them may get hurt. It is common for babies to pull hair, poke eyes and pat enthusiastically.  Toddlers and babies have no concept of how to touch gently. They need many demonstrations accompanied by suitable words, before this is understood. What does an infant do if hurt? The primary response will usually be crying. A toddler may however, strike back at the other child. A hit for a hit, a bite for a bite, a hair pull for a hair pull. Before the adult minding the toddlers knows what is happening several children are screaming and dealing blows at each other. What is the best way to react?

Remove both babies from danger, calm both babies down by cuddling and using a soothing voice, distract baby by giving him/her something to hold or watch, re-introduce the babies to each other under close supervision using a game or object that won’t cause conflict

If your baby or toddler has been hurt by another child while at day-care, talk calmly to the carer to find out what happened. Shouting and blaming others can make the situation worse.


Spending time with kids

A parent of  a newborn baby spends most of every day attending to the baby's physical needs . Feeding, changing, washing, comforting takes many hours. It can be exhausting. When baby isn’t being fed or changed, he/she is usually asleep. Parents look forward to the next stage when mealtimes don’t take so long, when the baby can be alone some of the time, when the adult’s life can begin again. The fact is that time in a family is always in short supply. A toddler with beginning independence, a pre-schooler who can play with friends, a five year old who has started school, all still takes hours of an adult’s time every day. During these hours spent with the child, social, emotional, physical and cognitive learning takes place. Most learning won’t be planned, it just happens, especially learning through the senses by touching, listening, hearing, tasting and thinking.

Between four and eight months, baby is into a routine and personality begins to emerge. While some babies will still seem happiest while being cuddled, others will be content to watch what is happening in their environment. By setting baby in a bouncinette, on a rug or in a pram, it is possible for the primary care giver to give attention to baby while attending to other tasks or to other children. This is also a first step in developing self reliance. Second children are lucky as they often have a sibling playing nearby, making sounds, moving, in fact making entertainment. If your baby is your first, you will be surprised how he/she will be attracted to other babies and children. Humans are essentially social beings.


Parent/child relationships

After a baby is born people talk about the necessary bonding that takes place between mother and baby. Fathers also develop strong bonds with their offspring especially today when the father may do a lot of the caring. As children grow, people tend to expect the bond between parent and the children of the same sex to be stronger than the bond between the children of the other sex.  This is no doubt natural and perhaps we need to make an extra effort to maintain closeness as our children become school age and particularly in the teenage years. It is often mothers who take both girls and boys to extra curricular activities and urge them on, Do fathers take their daughters to sport, ballet, drama or music often, or only occassionally?

Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • How well do you know what your primary or teenaged son/daughter thinks?

  • Do you take an active interest in your son’s/daughter’s after school activities?

  • How often do you do something with your other sex child – just the two of you?

  • How do you react when your other sex child says they don’t like boys/girls?

  • Do you discuss a wide range of topics in your family including gender issues?

  • Do you encourage the kids to engage in activities that were traditionally associated with one gender?

  • How critical are you of the kids and do you know how they feel when you criticise them?

  • How do you react to sibling rivalry and arguments?

Try to keep that mother/son relationship and the father/daughter relationship strong throughout life.


Babies at risk

A baby milk formula company in China, Sanlu, that is partly owned by the Fonterra company in New Zealand has been adding melamine, to the milk to give the impression that it is higher in protein. Melanine, is normally added to plastics or fertilizer and the result is that over 6,000 babies are seriously ill. Three babies have now died and 150 have acute kidney problems. Families are hurting not only because babies are suffering, but also because the product was not withdrawn from sale for over six weeks after the company knew what had happened. Heads of companies are passing the blame from one to another.

This tragedy is surely a sound reason for mothers to persevere with breast feeding. Breast milk is the best milk for a baby. It comes sterile, at the right temperature, and full of the correct balance of nutrients provided the mother is not on drugs and heeds advice about foods that may affect baby with colic etc. More support should be given to help mothers establish and maintain a good milk supply. Mastitis and blocked milk ducts are the main reasons women give up but this can be avoided if action is taken early enough. Pre-natal classes are a good place to deal with potential problems and to tell expectant women where to get help. I recall my daughter found massaging the breast while under a hot shower would relieve a blocked duct.

Since writing this information a week ago, the number of sick babies has blown out to almost 60,000! Authorities say melamine leaches into food from plastic packaging too and the safe level to consume is 0.5mg  for each kg. of body weight. this means a 20kg child could eat 10mgs per day with safety. Highest levels of melamine eaten per kg. in China were 2500mgs. per kg. How frightening. Animals have been affected also. Many  products that had contaminated milk added in production such as biscuits and sweets have now been recalled in many parts of the world.(NZ Herald, Sept 26th 2008)


Sick Children

It is always worrying if your child is sick and getting treatment can be very stressful. When my children were very young we could ring for the doctor to visit our home if the child was very ill. Nowadays that is impossible. However ill a child is, we must bundle them up and either go to the surgery or to emergency at the hospital. Often there is a very long wait in an unfamiliar environment which can upset both the parent and the child. By the time you actually see the doctor, the child may not be co-operative in an examination, and the doctor may seem dismissive of your concerns, or rushed and be writing out a script before you can tell the whole story. We have all heard horror stories of tragedy when proper attention was not given by health officials. Minimize stress by introducing your baby to people outside the family from birth, taking your toddler to the doctor for your appointments so he/she will be familiar with the environment and the people, talking about how the doctor can help sick people, telling stories - use the child’s toys to role play sickness, medicine, doctors, nurses, injections etc.

In an excellent parenting monthly newsletter I read the following tips for how to get the best from your doctor.

  • Prepare to state in one or two sentences why you've brought the child in (or why you're calling for an appointment), and identify the symptoms you have observed.

  • Write down the sequence of events of your child's illness, being as specific as possible about times and dates.

  • Describe the quality and quantity of the symptoms (how many times did your child vomit in the night, for example), and what, if anything, relieved the symptoms or made them worse.

  • Review and be ready to tell the doctor about your child's medical history, particularly previous hospital admissions, surgeries and injuries.

  • Write down (or take with you) any medications your child is taking and what the dose and frequency are.After your child has been examined, and the doctor has made a recommendation, you'll want to ask: What therapies is the doctor suggesting and why? What are the risks of each?

  • If the recommendation is to do nothing, is there any risk to this?

  • If the recommendation is to do nothing, but your child has symptoms, what can be done about the symptoms?

  • If medication is being prescribed, what side effects should you watch for?

  •  If your child is being treated by anyone other than the regular doctor—for example, in an emergency room or by a specialist, here's a question you should ask: "How will the results of this exam and any tests be communicated to the regular doctor?"

These tips are taken from How to Talk to Your Child's Doctor: A Handbook for Parents  by Christopher M. Johnson, (Prometheus Books)

  • The chapter, "When The Conversation Turns Sour," provides three valuable reminders to those of us who are not physicians:

  • Intervene immediately if you do not understand the doctor, or if you are concerned the doctor has not understood you or your child.

  • It is the doctor's responsibility to communicate with you in a way you can understand; you have every right to insist on this.

  • If you believe the doctor's behavior has been inappropriate, consider contacting the hospital or clinic's patient relations office.

  • If the doctor is in a small private practice, consider a letter to him or her outlining your concerns.

Reprinted with permission from Parenting Press News for Parents, copyright 2008. For a no-cost subscription, see



There are over 200 germs that can give us colds and kids are likely to catch about 8 colds a year. As they are very easy to catch from each other, it is no wonder that families are rarely cold free. When they have a cold, kids feel tired and irritable especially when they can’t breathe easily and their throats or ears are sore. Babies and toddlers will not be able to drink or eat as much as usual. They may vomit when mucous runs down into the throat. They may cry even when you are holding them. A sick baby doesn’t sleep well either and the whole family suffers. Never delay in seeking medical help if your baby or toddler is unwell. An slight fever can become life-threatening in a matter of hours.

Try to avoid colds in your family. Here are some tips

  • Wash your hands a lot.

  • Use tissues when coughing or sneezing then put the tissue in a bin.

  • Cough into your elbow rather than your hand if you have a cold.

  • Keep away from sick people.

  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

  • Have plenty of sleep.

  • If you feel unwell stay at home to avoid spreading germs


Mobile toddlers

By 18 months of age almost all children will be very mobile. From 18 to 24 months toddlers are into everything. They will climb, run, jump and have boundless energy and will not want to stay still or in one place for long. However they will have long concentration spells when they are investigating their own interests. Their fingers will become very clever at unlatching gates, picking open, packets and undoing bottles and purses. It is at this age that carers and parents need to be especially vigilant. Bench tops are no longer out of reach of a climbing toddler. Cupboards full of detergent, shampoo, soap powder, bleach etc. become real hazards for little ones. All medications and cleaning substances must be in locked places. Toddlers can make a mess with good cooking ingredients too. Flour, dried fruit, sugar, salt, pepper, curry powder, and breakfast cereals can turn a kitchen into a nightmare mess in a very short time when a toddler decides to upend containers. If your toddler is very quiet, He /she is probably conducting some science experiments. Check out what play is under way. Remember that they love to poke things into little spaces like power outlets, noses and ears. Check that power outlets are appropriately covered and keep small beads and seeds away from little hands. Shouting "NO'' at your child is not the answer. Discovery and experiment should be encouraged as they are vital to learning, so keep the environment free of danger.


Crossing the midline

Have you heard the expression crossing the midline’? It is about left brain /right brain communication. The left side of the brain sends messages to the right side of the brain and the right side sends to the left side. In most people one side becomes dominant resulting in us being right or left handed and this is important. People who don’t have a dominant side have difficulties in many areas. Dominance should be established by age 5.

The skill of crossing the midline is also important and is usually tested for about six months of age. If the baby can roll over to reach out for a toy that is placed on the other side of the body, the skill has been achieved.

Children who haven’t learnt to cross the midline may have difficulty with co-ordination and concentration, and in some learning tasks such as, reading, spelling, organising and understanding instructions.

Simple games will help all children to strengthen the skill. Here are some games:

  • cross the arms and hold the ears
  • hold the nose with right hand while holding the right ear with the left hand. Change hands. This is great fun when you get up some speed
  • pat right hip with left hand and left shoulder with right hand
  • play two drums simultaneously when crossing the arms
  • clapping games where children face each other and clap right hands then left hands together

Children will enjoy these games and if older kids and adults join in everyone will benefit.


Interrupting adults

Why do children always seem to interrupt adults when we are doing something important? Kids want attention NOW. They are not good at waiting and they learn how to interrupt at a very early age, it becomes a habit. At one of the centres I attend as a storyteller, one child always begins his interruption with “Excuse me…"and another by saying “I have a question”. These are good strategies but can still be inconvenient at times. Other children tap the adult on the arm, or head, or begin to annoy another child, or make more and more noise until their goal is met. The interrupting habit can be cured but takes patience and time. First learn to recognise if the child needs your immediate response. If he/she is in the middle of toilet training, or there is danger, don’t expect the toddler to wait.

  • Respond quickly.

  • Focus on the child to find out the need and say, ‘Just one minute’

  • Build trust by being sure to then attend to the child in one minute. Set a timer if necessary.

  • Choose times for long phone conversations when your toddler is asleep.

  • Have a supply of interesting objects to give to the child to occupy him/her while a visitor is there or while you are stirring the custard etc.

  • In the car use audio cassettes to entertain child, or games to keep child looking out for landmarks

  • Sing songs, tell jokes in the car.

  • Be a good listener yourself by not interrupting when your child is telling you something.

  • Praise child for waiting for your attention.

  • Allow interruptions when it is possible and child does it correctly. Remember it is hard even for adults, not to interrupt.


Babies are demanding

There is a new baby in my family. There is nothing more wonderful and no one more demanding. New Mothers, especially first time Mothers, are continually tired and spend all their waking hours feeding the baby and attending to essentials such as washing, cooking and eating. They wonder if they will ever be able to cope; will life ever get back to normal? It is most unlikely that any new Mothers will be reading this as they will be much too tired and busy to spend time on the internet. Who can help and support them?

  • Grandparents

  • friends

  • community baby health professionals

  • neighbours

The people mentioned can offer important support with ideas to help reassure new parents that life will settle down. If the baby is gaining weight the parents can be reassured that all is well despite days when the infant may be fretful.

Fathers need support and attention too. They must adjust to going to work after broken nights’ sleep, and accept the altered focus of their partners and will have extra financial commitments to meet. Books, parenting magazines and TV programs can be very useful to the whole family. They can be accessed at any time and have the special benefit of being independent of family so there is no pressure to follow family traditions.

Baby groups are of especial help as young parents support each other comparing experiences, exchanging ideas. Bonds with other young mothers will help them make friendships and in a few months will help the babies to begin socializing with their peers. For young mothers away from public transport or for mothers who cannot drive, isolation is a real difficulty. I know there are some volunteers who visit young mothers so they will have someone to talk to, someone to ask when they are not sure what to do. To find out about children’s services in your town, ask at the maternity section of the hospital or at a chemist shop.


New Babies

A baby comes into the world knowing quite a lot of information. Baby already knows the voices of both parents and the type of music they like best. He/she knows what time of day Mother is most active time and most relaxed time. Researchers have found that a baby will remember the mother’s favourite soapie on TV for up to a month after birth. If Mum has been used to watching a TV show at a certain time of day baby will be soothed when that same routine is followed after birth.

Babies thrive on routines but it takes some weeks to establish one and for life to settle into a pattern. Many babies will have accepted a routine that is manageable for the mother after six weeks. For other babies it will be closer to six months. Mothers may worry about a crying baby, but it is all right for a baby to cry. Check that he/she is not hungry, is not troubled by wind, is changed, in a comfortable place to sleep and has interesting pictures or mobiles to watch while awake, and perhaps some soft music to listen to. If all these needs have been addressed and baby is crying, he/she is probably just exercising  the lungs.



Adults value a companion. Life can get very dull if there is no one to speak to and no one to watch. Babies value a companion too. From birth babies study faces and about six weeks they begin to smile at their parents. After parents it is other children that most fascinate a baby. My five year old granddaughter recently met her nine week old cousin for the first time. Baby watched her big cousin with great interest and it was a mutually beneficial experience. An older child will learn a lot about babies when they have the opportunity – their physical abilities, their needs and likes and dislikes. For baby, having an older child present is an excellent learning experience. Baby will smile, listen, try to babble, reach out to touch, kick and move about with pleasure. Baby’s face will light up when the older child comes near. Always supervise though, as accidents can happen if a child tries to lift the baby or gives her an unsuitable toy. The older child can be hurt if baby pulls hair or scratches.

If your baby is your first child and you haven’t any children near by, find a playgroup where you can go regularly so your baby sees other infants and toddlers. Baby can do so little for the first three months and a parent can’t always be near to entertain him. Taking baby to see others regularly, will help develop socializing skills.


When to start school

An ongoing study about the age at which kids start school has begun in Australia. The study will endeavour to find out the best age for kids to start. It looks at the cognitive, social and emotional abilities. So far it has shown that the cognitive abilities of those who start school early are not as good as those who start later, but the social and emotional abilities of both groups are the same. This was a surprise to parents of the children tested, as the reason for holding a child back from beginning school is usually for social and emotional immaturity if there are no obvious learning delays. Boys did better if they started school late. There was no difference between children from financially disadvantaged homes and those from homes with adequate finances.

The level of education achieved by the parents didn’t have any significant role in the decision to keep children back or sending them early to school. Most schools give parents guidelines about school readiness before enrolling children but it is more important for schools to be ready for children than for children to be ready for school. That means that teachers and curriculums must be flexible. The study will follow the children in the study for several years so that results will show whether cognitive ability continues to be slower as children progress, or whether they catch up in their cognitive skills.

Such studies are interesting and add to our knowledge of child development.


Making friends

Friends are important throughout our lives but are especially important when children start school. Without friends your child won’t be happy. How successful your child is at making friends will depend on a number of social skills. Michael Grose, an Australian parenting expert, says parents can help their children develop the required social skills.

Your school age child needs to

  • smile and look friendly

  • know how to join a group

  • be able to hold a conversation

  • have good manners (asking, please and thankyou)

  • share possessions

  • be a good loser

  • make up after a disagreement.

How good is your child at these skills and how can you improve them? It is never too early to begin socialising. As soon as a baby can make sounds, they will take turns with you when you talk. This is the basis of conversation and a first step in making friends.

Children in larger families have an advantage over only children in developing social skills but if your child attends a pre-school or often plays with other children they will have plenty of experience. I interact with children each week at a variety of child care centres and while most of the children are keen to talk to me, there are some who shrug their shoulders when asked a question and never hold a conversation with me. They don’t want to take turns in the activities. They sit without smiling when the rest of the group is actively involved. Teachers will help these children to gain confidence in very small groups first and to interact with their peers in simple tasks such as giving out fruit and musical instruments and by insisting on good manners such as saying please and thank you. At home they also need practise. Shrugging doesn’t start a conversation but parents can help their child to recall what has happened in the day, and speak about it. Encourage your child to relate events to the other parent. Sometimes a wildly silly tale by one parent will prompt the child to tell what really happened.


Crawling babies

Once your baby becomes mobile, you must re-assess safety. A crawling baby is like a scientist – loves experiments. The whole home environment is there waiting to be touched, pulled, thrown, tasted and unravelled.

Shelves with books, pottery, food, lamps, knitting, cigarettes and nick knacks are now in reach. Electric cords, TV buttons, cupboards and pot-plants will all come in for examination and rough treatment.

It will not be possible to remove all the things that will attract a baby, so it will be easiest to put barriers in place to confine baby to safe areas. Consider gates to close off halls and outdoor areas, stairs or steps.

A play pen will keep baby confined to a safe area. A high chair is a good way of keeping baby safe while you are preparing or eating food. Baby will quickly become bored in a confined space such as a high chair or play pen unless given something to play with. Play things don’t have to be toys. Spoons, pots and pans, plastic cups and scraps of coloured material are just s good.

Once mobility is achieved, every day sees baby moving faster and reaching more corners of the home. The next step is pulling himself/herself up and there are even more safety issues then.

Tables, chairs, sharp corners, sharp objects, small objects, electric power points, hot coffee, sweets, medications. Train yourself to have a safe place for everything and to put everything in its place.

Find storage spaces for baby’s toys that are quick and easy to use, pack books and magazines into shelves so tightly that they cannot be prized open by little fingers, put childproof locks on cupboards, move all medications to heights children cannot reach.

Teach baby by a using stern voice and saying No at essential times. There are some things are not  to be touched and it won’t take baby long to learn about them as long as most things are child friendly.

Babies are not born naughty. However, it is easy to turn a good baby into a naughty child by scolding natural, investigative behaviour. Provide an interesting environment with things baby can feel, pull apart, bang, drop and move around. The key to a contented baby is an interesting interactive environment.



I guess that all kids whinge at times. It is probably the equivalent of the nagging that parents often do as the kids grow older. However, whinging can become a common response when a child doesn’t get what he/she wants, and it is unpleasant. The child is obviously unhappy about something, and an adult will usually respond by giving in to the child’s demands or by becoming angry.  For example your child might want you to read a book, and if you ignore or deny the request, the child says ‘but I want you to read me a story. I want you to read it now,’ in a whinging voice. When your child whinges, listen, assess (is the child unwell or tired? Has he been ignored for a long time?)  and offer choices or a timeframe, e.g. ‘If you can ask me in a pleasant voice, I’ll read to you as soon as I’ve done the dishes. Or, ‘Put your grumpy voice away please and ask me again. I’ll read to you later as I’m busy now but you can help me to make up a story while I’m doing the dishes.’ Sometimes your child will whinge for something that you don't want to grant. In those cases, be firm but give some other alternatives he/she can choose from.

Expressing anger at the child will generally make the matter worse. Reinforcing pleasant voice requests by commenting ‘I like that happy voice,’ will help him/her to stop whinging. Sometimes one child seems to whinge more than another in the family. Giving that child some focus time when the other one is asleep or occupied will help him/ her to feel valued.


Acting together

Its great to do things together with your children whatever their ages. If you start this when the children are young, it is easier to keep doing it and so keep in touch with their interests and abilities. Once kids get to school age, their peers take up most of their time and many parents stop spending so much time together as families. Family times can be so much fun when a couple of families join together for leisure activities. If your child plays soccer or tennis, goes to little athletics, swimming or learns ballet, there are bound to be opportunities for you to watch the children side by side with other parents. Extend that casual meeting with the parents of your child’s friend, and make a new friend yourself. You can
  • make the effort to socialise together at home or at some other venue
  • invite your child’s friends home at weekends or after school
  • offer to drive both lots of  kids to sport sometimes
  • allow your child to have a sleepover
  • talk to your child about their friends
  • be positive and show you like their friends.


The One Year old

Recently I read a book called The Importance of Being Seven. It is a novel, not a child development book, and the child in it believes that things will be better for him once he turns seven. It got me thinking about real children and how they cope with each age. My own granddaughter will soon be one year old and I’m looking forward to visiting her for the event. She crawls very quickly now. She is standing alone, says several words and continually talks in her own way. She understands quite a lot and definitely knows her own name and says Mum and Dad to the right people. She waves goodbye, claps her hands at the right place when her Dad tells her a familiar rhyme. She has two teeth. In fact she is a very typical one year old.

A one year old loves to explore the world around and needs toys that help develop skills of mobility such as push toys. Here are some toys that are popular and also help development.

  • a doll’s stroller - pushing encourages walking

  • a sit on toy that is propelled by using the legs - builds leg strength

  • toys that use hands and fingers will build fine motor skills

  • stacking blocks and nesting containers - help finger and hand strength and eye/hand co-ordination

  • simple puzzles or busy boxes with things that come out and can be put back - help memory, eye/hand co-ordination are fun.

Buy reputable toys that are strong and have pieces that are too big to swallow. Ones that make a sound when pushed or turned will be popular. At this age too your baby will be wanting to feed himself/herself with a spoon and will be holding his own cup to drink from.A One year old shows love and affection for family and needs lots of cuddles. He /she doesn’t know what naughty means but is beginning to know what you mean when you say no. He/she recognises people from outside the family but will not go readily to strangers.

The first birthday is a wonderful milestone. There is so much to celebrate. Congratulations to baby and to the parents.

Learning through stories

Four days a week I visit child care centres to tell a story to the children. Most children love stories and can learn while they listen and watch. During my story sessions, children are involved in some way such as in

  • following instructions

  • making sounds

  • counting and  repeating phrases.

  • They are also concentrating, learning new words and taking turns in doing something relevant to the story.

Taking an active part, helps learning. Story time is not just a time-filler.

Many people think that stories have to come from a book or from the TV, but stories are everywhere in our lives. With your toddler you can tell a story about his/her day.

Stories can be funny or sad; about the weather or the pets; about how to cook the dinner or about how the milk got from the cow to the bottle in the supermarket. As children get older, include problem solving ideas and organising skills in story form. What can a child do if he leaves his lunch behind? What can she do if her friend says ‘you’re not my friend any more’? What can children do if they are feeling very angry?

Even pre-school children can think of ideas of how to solve problems if you ask, ‘What do you think will happen next?’ Accept all ideas and discuss the likely consequences of each solution with the children. Story telling like this around the dinner table at night will help all family members. It is a great way to deal with world news too. What would your children do if there was an earthquake, a tsunami, a bushfire, or a plane crashed into the house? How do they feel when they hear about disasters like that? How could they help someone else who is sad or hurt? 

Make stories a regular part of your family life.


Making friends

Friends are important at every stage of life. While a baby is still very young the first steps in friendship are taken. A baby first forms relationships with the immediate family, then with people who come into contact often. Baby learns that friendly people smile and by six weeks of age most babies begin to smile back. It is a memorable milestone.

Trust and body language, especially smiling and touch, are important in friendship. A baby soon learns to trust and love the carer who offers comfort and security. Babies very soon take an interest in children - another step in making friends. From the time baby can hold out a hand and take something from someone, she/he is learning the social skills of talking, turn taking, sharing and ultimately friendship. Older children make excellent first friends for babies. The older child can be encouraged to play turn taking with baby by handing baby a toy and asking for it back then repeating the giving and taking. An older sibling should not have to share all toys with baby but playing close to each other with appropriate toys, usually works well. If the children are close in age, having two of favourite toys will avoid squabbles. Praise the older child when he/she plays and shares with baby. Tell the child how much baby loves to be near.


Understanding time

Time is very significant in our lives but it is a concept that children only gradually begin to understand. So much of our vocabulary has reference to time e.g.

minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, dawn, sunrise, dusk, sunset, evening, night, midnight. Babies and toddlers really don’t have a concept of time. But we tell them to wait a minute even when they don’t know how long that is. Gradually they get some idea of the time between breakfast and dinner; between birthdays, or when tomorrow will come.

For a child waiting to go to school next year, the time to wait must seem like an eternity. However, five year olds are beginning to have a good idea of what adults mean when they mention a set period of time. Using a calendar and marking off days will help your child to gain an understanding of how time passes. Many families mark the time before a significant event by counting the number of sleeps before the date arrives. 



From a very early age children want to do their own thing. Even before the age of two, often known as the terrible twos, they can make quite a fuss when they object to parental authority. It is natural for parents to set limits for children in such things as times to go to bed, the kind and amount of food they eat, the environment they play in. However, compromise is a tool that will ease many situations so that children can have a significant say in what they can do. Giving children a choice is the first step in learning to compromise with a child, e.g. you can wear this dress or this one, or you can have a piece of melon, or an apple. As children grow older compromise is more important. If children’s wishes have not been respected and parents have imposed rules and conditions without any discussion or any willingness to compromise, secrecy and disobedience can be the result. Of course safety has to come ahead of compromise.

Children are influenced by what their peers do. Peer influence grows stronger as children grow older. Unrestricted access to the internet, and failure to monitor your child's social life, are unwise risks. Parents may be branded as authoritarian, or durasic, by their offspring when the precautions they take are only sensible. Rules, such as finishing homework before using Facebook, or completing household chores before going out with a friend, allow both parents and kids to feel they are in control of their own lives.


Deaf and Blind Children Starting School

Starting school is a big step in every child’s life, but especially big if the child has a special need. I have been reading about the education opportunities provided by RIDBC which is the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind children. The stories of young children and their families are truly motivating. The society has different programs that help from birth and right through school, helping each child to have an education that suits his or her needs. After help provided by specially trained educators, many deaf or blind children will be able to attend mainstream schools. For children living in rural areas, Teleschool takes education into the child’s home every day. Go to for more information.


Tips to encourage independence

We need to begin encouraging independence from an early age. Here are some tips:

  • Buy clothes with Velcro fasteners so toddlers can put on their own shoes and do up jackets

  • praise your kids when they try to do new things

  • let kids speak for themselves rather than answering for them

  • make your house child friendly e.g. move the bed away from the wall so a five year old can make his own

  • teach the steps necessary to complete tasks

  • teach one task before starting to teach a new one

  • don’t always be in a hurry- give kids time to complete tasks independently- practise will make them faster

  • make tidying up easy and quick with baskets, shelves, drawers for their toys and clothes

  • give explicit instructions when teaching your child to clean up e.g. put all your socks in this drawer, put all the books on this shelf and the blocks in this basket.


Imagination and reality

Toddlers develop great imaginations and enjoy pretend play. They can pretend to eat imaginary food and listen to imaginary conversations with their toys. However it is from that age that children appear to tell lies. This is probably because they cannot delay their need for rewards. Children will say they’ve washed their hands so they can have food right away in order to save time. To an adult it is perfectly obvious that the hands are not washed. The child has not yet learnt that people look at things from different points of view. By three you can begin to help children to understand which stories are true and really happened, and which ones are just pretend.

By age five children will know that it is wrong to say hands are washed when they are not. They will know it is wrong to draw on the wall but may blame someone else even though they know they did it themselves. Children need to learn the difference between imagination and reality, truth and lies, but it is a gradual learning.

Showing the evidence of a broken cup or scribbling on the wall, while not making a big issue of it, will help a child to understand the responsibility of actions instead of laying blame on someone else. Try to avoid giving your child opportunities to tell untruths e.g. instead of asking your child about his/her hands say, ‘You didn’t wash your hands. Go and wash them now.’ And ‘You drew on the wall. Help me to clean it off and then you can draw on some paper.’ Also help your child not to exaggerate. Many children will say that they have done things they’ve really heard about in stories.  They will boast that their Dad has done the most extraordinary feats.

It is great for children to have a vivid imagination, but it will take time for them to sort out reality versus imagination, truth and lies.


The role of grandparents in childcare

While grandparents can play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives, the early years are particularly important. It is then that strong attachments are often made. With many women returning to the workforce before their baby is two years old and with many single parents raising children, more and more grandparents are taking on the care of their young grandchildren. Some recent research showed that in 2011, 937,000 children are regularly cared for by grandparents. Two years later, there are bound to be more. Grandparents are involved because

·         childcare costs are too high

·         waiting lists at child care centres are long

·         there are more single parent families who cannot afford to pay child care

·         there are not enough centres to provide the type of care required

·         they seek to have close ties with their grandchildren

·         parents want family members instead of strangers to care for their children

·         drugs and other social issues mean children are at risk and grandparents step in to give the children a stable family life.

While most of the grandparents involved in caring roles are pleased to do so, they do need a support network and should feel valued both by the families they are helping and the wider community. Childcare like many other aspects of life, was different a generation ago and it is helpful for grandparents to have updates on the best way to help today’s young children. Most people look forward to retirement so that they can follow interests they have developed over the years and probably take the pace of life a bit slower or at least have a less stressful lifestyle. Caring for grandchildren can take a lot of energy and can be stressful too.

The NSW government has introduced a Grandparents Day which will be the last Sunday in October. Do something special to show appreciations of the grandparents in your life on that day.


Research on SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS, continues to be of grave concern to parents of babies in the first year of life. There have been many theories and recommendations made in an effort to prevent apparently healthy infants from dying suddenly.

Babies most at risk of SIDS have

  • low birth weight
  •  a mother under 20 years of age
  • a mother who smoked or used drugs during pregnancy
  •  sleep in the same bed as parents
  • sleep on their side or stomach
  •  sleep on soft surfaces or with pillows
  •  a respiratory infection, are bottle fed.

New research has discovered that the cause may be an abnormality in the brain stems which contain four neurochemicals that keep blood pressure and oxygen levels constant. Babies who don’t have this abnormality rouse and turn their heads if there is some stress while asleep and so continue to get enough oxygen. Babies with the abnormality failed to react correctly to the stress. The research is now focusing on the development of a blood test that will identify babies at risk.


Children who argue

Gifted children often argue about everything. They argue about rules, homework, tidying up, bedtime, food, in fact they want their opinion to be law on everything. But they are children and need guidance in many spheres of their lives and arguing isn’t the way to go forward.

By arguing children try to gain power over adults. They see parents in particular as the people who have all the power in their lives and they want power too. They want adults to respect their ideas and more than just giving respect, they want us to take orders from them. A six-year-old will probably go into a bad mood when a parent won’t oblige and say yes to their current request, but an 8 year old will persist much longer asking why he/she isn’t allowed to go to a sleep over, go out to play, watch an R rated movie, etc. Life can be made quite difficult by these regular arguments.

Power struggles are bad for both adult and child, resulting in deadlocks with the child arguing more and more and finding other ways to defeat the parent. When a child argues a parent shouldn't join the argument. Parents need to

  • stay firm with the decision, but not show anger
  • repeat your decision if necessary
  • give a simple explanation for why you can’t allow the behaviour
  • explain what will happen if the child doesn’t cooperate
  • leave the room if necessary
  • refrain from punishing in anger
  • give small punishments as they work better than large ones
  • thank your child when he cooperates without an argument.

Every child needs to gradually gain independence in his life, but arguing and gaining control and power over a parent isn’t acceptable. Think out the consequence of failing to comply beforehand so it will be appropriate and increase it if the child continues to argue. Bright kids are bright enough to stop arguing if you have shown them previously that consequences are carried out. Above all stay calm so the child sees their argument is not swaying your judgment.


Allergic reactions

A recent survey found that parents who had failed to have their children immunized against serious diseases did so because they were afraid that their children would have adverse side affects. Although serious side effects are rare, it only takes one case to upset many families and make parents over cautious. It is really important to prevent the spread of serious illness by immunisation whenever possible. Speak to your doctor to get the facts if you hear people suggesting that immunisation is risky or not necessary.

A much more common allergic reaction is from baby wipes where it is estimated that one in 10 people will be allergic to a chemical commonly used in many baby wipes. The chemical, methylisothiazolinone, is also used in sunscreens, shampoo, moisturizers and deodorant. A baby with nappy rash, may really be suffering from an allergy to the wipes in use. There is a high rate of allergy and it is increasing each year.




Copyright 2009-2014




Click the headings on the right for more articles

Copyright 2008


*Babies under stress

*Social Personalities


*Taking turns, sharing

*Learning through the senses


*Kids in new situations

*Playing with food



*Housekeeping jobs

*Opening doors


*Language development
*Bed time
*Developing physical skills
Forming friendships
Changes in routines
Travelling with kids
Babies with a disability
Acting without thinking
Cameras for kids
Saying thank you
Life at five
Helping fussy eaters
Tips for Independence
Children in Kindergarten
Saying no
Imagination and reality
The role of grandparents in childcare
Research on SIDS
Children who argue
Allergic reactions