Ages and Stages

On this page you will find articles on:

Babies under stress   Anger
Social personalities   forming friendships
Feelings-happy babies   Changes in routines
Taking turns and sharing   Travelling with kids
Learning through the senses   Babies with a disability
Singing   Kids who act without thinking

Children in new situation

  Kids and cameras
Housekeeping jobs   Life at five
Copying   Foetal alcohol syndrome
Moodiness   Have children changed?
Accepting Changes   Two Year Olds

Click the headings on the right for more articles

Babies under stress

Everyone seems to have a different idea of what is best for children.  Even the politicians argue about bringing up baby.  Some say there should be pre-schools at every state school, with early education as the focus.  Some want more work-based centres.  Parents want affordable child care, but they want services to be child-focused rather than profit-focused.  I have recently read about research that shows babies and toddlers under three years of age, develop stress when placed in day care situations on a regular basis.  This is not the kind of news that working parents will want to read.  The research is presented in Raising Babies-Should under 3s go Nursery, by Australian psychologist Steve Biddulph.  The research will be hotly debated by those who work in the child care industry, by parents and by teachers and other professionals. 

Steve has long advocated high quality child care, but now in the light of the research he has studied, he suggests that babies do best with one-on-one care with a parent, close relative or a trusted regular carer.  The research has been carried out overseas and measures the amount of stress hormones in babies in day care, compared with babies cared for in the family.  The stress hormones are linked to aggression and anxiety in older children.

Steve recommends that

  • between the ages of 0 and 1, the baby does not go to day care.

  • between 1 and 2, baby spends only one short day per week in day care

  • between 2 and 3 the child spends only two short days per week in day care

  • between 3 and 4,the child spends only three short days per week in day care

It is certainly food for thought.

The book is published by Harper Thorsons and is not available in Australia except through the internet.  This information came from The Sydney Morning Herald 18/3/06


Social personalities

It is quite amazing how children in one family can be so different from each other.  Differences are often evident from birth.  Strategies parents found worked with one child may not work with another, even in things like settling baby or in introducing new foods.  Socialising is one area where important differences may be seen. 

Until a baby is between 8 and 12 months, most will smile at everyone.  Then, baby begins to react differently to people whom are not part of the regular family circle.  Adults sometimes say that baby is shy.  Baby may refuse to go to unfamiliar people or cry if familiar family members or caregivers leave the room.  In some babies and toddlers, this behaviour continues and the child clings to the familiar adult and becomes really distressed at separation.

Other children are so outgoing that they make friends with everyone they meet.  These early indications of temperament are good indicators of how the child will develop.  The shy toddler will generally continue to be quiet and reserved in unfamiliar social situations.  This child will need encouragement to socialise.  Explaining what is going to happen and talking about places and people you are going to visit or meet, will help these children accept unfamiliar routines.  Shyness is also a way of getting attention.  If you make a big deal of it, it is likely to continue and become more difficult.  Keep calm and react positively to the behaviour you want to encourage. 

My little grand daughter is 19 months old now.  She runs to meet familiar people.  With unfamiliar people, she watches and listens for a while after being introduced, before she approaches or speaks to them.  Sometimes she wants a lot of attention.  She said, “Mummy doesn’t like Daddy,” and moved her father’s arm from around her mummy the other morning when she wanted all her mother’s attention.  Her mother replied, “Mummy loves Daddy and Estelle,” and both parents watched what Estelle wanted to show them. 


Feelings - Happy babies

Everyone likes a happy child but what makes children happy?  Is it something a child is born with or is it something that develops after birth?  Some babies seem contented from birth while others are fretful and cry a lot. Some crying is essential.  It is the young baby’s only way of communicating. Crying also exercises the lungs and muscles. Most babies will have one period of crying a day when nothing seems to pacify them. New babies often wake and cry at night because they need to adjust to a routine.  However, frequent and prolonged crying will have an underlying cause and it is important to find out what it is. Here are some common causes for a baby to cry:

  • hungerdiscomfit – too hot, too cold, wet nappy

  • colic

  • bedding – poor support or wrapped too tightly

  • noises in the environment

  • bright lights

  • a medical condition

  • need for exerciseboredom

Finding the cause may not be simple but by working through the list, you will probably eliminate the problem. The causes may vary from day to day. Unusual food the mother has eaten can give a breast fed baby colic. If mother or baby is upset or over-tired, that can also result in colic.  Changes in routines or the environment may upset baby too, for example traveling.

Young parents with their first baby often worry and may even get depressed if their baby cries a lot. Their worst nightmare is that their baby has a major health problem. Look for simple answers first as most babies are born healthy and there are techniques that one can learn to settle a crying baby. These are as simple as

  • burping baby several times before putting her/him down

  • holding baby in different ways e.g. lying baby face down over your arm

  • patting baby after he/she is put in the bed

  • wheeling baby in the pram

  • taking baby for a drive in the car

  • using calming music when baby is put to bed

  • giving special anti-colic liquid available from the pharmacist

Feeding problems are common especially with first babies. The milk may flow too fast or a very small baby may not suck strongly and not get milk fast enough. I had to lie down to feed my first son as he was very small and my milk ran so fast it choked him. My milk came more slowly when I lay.

Medical conditions can be difficult to eliminate as many tests may be necessary. My second son cried a great deal.  Soon after birth, when the baby was not gaining weight, the doctor diagnosed fat intolerance.  A change to skim milk saw him gain weight but his crying did not improve. He was ten months old before a specialist gave us the correct diagnosis. Our son had Cystic Fibrosis and had been constantly hungry despite drinking well every three hours night and day, and also having solid food from four months of age. The condition meant he was unable to digest his food. With medicine and the correct diet, he became a contented baby almost overnight.

It is easier to determine how children are feeling once they can talk. Be a role model for your child.  Show through words and deeds that you love your children, and that they make you happy. Teach them to recognize and name their feelings. This will help them to cope with their emotions as they grow. To feel happy and loved is wonderful.


Taking turns and sharing

Children of four are learning to share and take turns.  This is an important social skill. As a storyteller, I tell stories every week at child care centres and children are involved in turn taking during the story.  Some children wait patiently until I ask them to do something.  Others keep reminding me ‘I haven’t had a turn.’  It is also important that children can take share an adults attention. 

When the children all talk at once, I cannot hear individual children and it is important that I listen to their ideas and the information they want to give me.  They are learning to put their hands up to let me know they have something to say.  I find that praising a child for waiting a turn has a very positive result. 

Children of three are also learning to take turns.  They will take turns to wheel a doll in a pram or to paint a picture if there are not enough easels set up. However, toddlers of two or under shouldn’t have to share toys or wait long for a turn.  Set up activities so that there is equipment and toys for two children.  They play side by side at this age rather than playing together.  It is important to have three brushes if setting up a painting activity for three children, or enough spades and buckets for each toddler to have one in the sand pit.  Take this into consideration  when children come to play at your home.  Parents of twins usually buy two of everything. This way disputes are kept to a minimum.

Helping children learn to share or take turns, is an ongoing exercise.  Sometimes there will be tears or grumpiness, but give positive encouragement and your child will learn this social skill.


Learning through the senses

A baby’s world is very physical.  They learn everything through their senses; through seeing, tasting, touching, listening and smelling.  Stimulation is important but most people stimulate baby without being conscious of the fact much of the time.  Most babies in our culture will be cuddled and spoken to often be comforted when crying  kept warm or cool according to the weather have toys and pretty things to see near their beds be given toys to hold a variety of food from about 6 months of age be encouraged to become familiar with many household items.  They will be taken shopping and will hear voices, music and traffic sounds.  Every day, babies learn more about our world.  There are many different ways of caring for a baby. Here are some of the differences you may find:

  • There is a regular feeding pattern.

  • Feeding is on demand

  • Baby sleeps in the parent’s bed.

  • Baby has own bed in parent’s room

  • Baby has own bed in own room

  • Baby is always held while awake

  • Baby is put down near adult but on floor or in pram or bouncinette when awake

  • The environment is usually quiet

  • The environment is noisy

Parents may change their pattern of parenting with the arrival of a new baby because circumstances have changed.  No one way is right or wrong.  The right way will be the one which works for you and your baby.  If baby seems contented, is growing and developing and taking an interest in life around her/him, you are doing the right thing.  



From early childhood my siblings and I sang as we did the dishes at night. We taught each other the songs we’d learnt at school. It was natural when I started my own family, to sing to my children. I recall my husband’s amusement when he found himself singing ‘I am a kangaroo…’ on his way to work. In the past he’d always hummed a piece of Mozart or Beethoven!  Our firstborn was about 16 months old at the time and was already singing his version of the many songs I sang to him.  I am sure our singing helped our son to develop a life long love of music.

My two year old grand daughter has been singing in tune for months now.  She has a large repertoire of songs learnt from her parents, myself, and from attending day care.  It is a natural part of her life to burst into song while turning the pages of a book or when she sees animals in the paddocks as the car goes along. 

My fourteen year old grandson and his cousin have just been to Sydney to sing in a choir. Many regional and city choirs gave a concert in Sydney Town Hall to raise money for a children’s hospital project.  The boys enjoyed every minute of the experience.  Live music, in the form of singing, and using musical instruments, has been an integral part of these boys’ lives from early childhood.  They like listening to recorded, music but actively producing music themselves, is what they like best.

Does your child sing?  Do you know the songs they learn at pre-school or school? 

Join your child in singing a song every day.  It can be a joyous experience, and it exercises your lungs.


Kids in new situations

Toddlers quickly become overwhelmed in situations where everything is new or exciting or they get too much attention. This happens during special occasions like birthdays, Christmas or holidays.  Excitement affects children and adults in a variety of ways. When over excited, your child may scream, show off by running around wildly or throwing things, talk in a silly or rude way, or refuse to take any notice of your instructions. Stressed adults often shout at their children and this rarely eases the situation. Children often do not want to go to bed; they don’t want to miss a thing, but behaviour goes from bad to worse when they are overtired. During holidays plan quiet, calm activities in between active exciting times each day even when you are not at home. 

Here are some ideas for school age children as well as toddlers:

  • Explain to children before hand where you are going and what they will see

  • watch for signs of stress and change activities when you see the signs  

  • take a bag of small toys that encourage solitary play to give to your child to calm him/her down

  • keep to routines at bed time

  • listen to quiet music while preparing and eating food

  • provide paper, colours, scissors that a child can use anywhere

  • take your child for a walk away from the excitement

  • sit together in a quiet place while waiting for something to take place

  • watch the clouds or smell some flowers or play games such as I spy

  • take some familiar books to read on holidays.

Visiting relatives or those not used to children can be boring for children and stressful for the adults.  Older children also need quiet amusements that they can use independently.  Cameras, portable electronic games, cards, notebooks and books of jokes take up no space. 

Planning for some quiet times will give everyone a  happy holiday. 


Housekeeping jobs

My small grand daughter loves to dust the furniture. She is just three but has been dusting enthusiastically for some months. As I visit child care centres, I often notice four year old children wiping down the tables with damp cloths too. By this age, they have good hand control and can even wring out a cloth. They are proud of their skills and of how well they have helped. To small children, housework is fun. It makes them feel important and is a skill we should encourage. Toddlers love messing about with water, especially pouring water from one container to another. It is easy for parents to become impatient when water is spilt on the floor or furniture. Taking a few precautions will make life easier.

  • Allow water play on easy-to-wipe floor areas, not on carpet

  • restrict the amount of water that can be used

  • a small teapot is easier to pour from than bowls or cups

  • encourage the child to help wipe up after

  • provide child with appropriate clothes or an apron

  • encourage water play outside or on a veranda



Copying is something we all do both consciously and unconsciously. Babies almost have an instinct to copy. When only a few days old, babies make sounds when an adult speaks to them.  A few weeks later, they copy expressions, smiling or scowling if the adult talking to them smiles or frowns. Parents with twins, triplets or other multiple births will be very familiar with the phenomenon of one baby cries, all cry. It comes down to the fact that children learn through their senses, especially from hearing and seeing. That is why it is so important to talk to children, telling them what to do, explaining in simple words and sentences, and showing them just what you mean.

Copying can be very annoying to adults as children grow. Our kids pick up habits from other kids. Those attending child care will probably pick up both desirable and undesirable behaviour. Finicky eaters may copy the children who are willing to eat everything; quiet children may copy rowdy ones. School-aged children may copy children who swear or speak rudely to adults or siblings. Habits are hard to break so if we don’t like what our children copy, explain why, and take steps to fix the behaviour before the habit is established.



What causes bad moods? I think it is the same for children as it is for adults. The mood is caused by

  • interactions with others

  • failed expectations

  • not being able to do what one wants

  • tiredness

  • too much stimulation

  •  the weather.

Adults tend to become cross when a child is moody and when they express that crossness, the child’s mood often worsens. If we know what has caused the mood it is easier to help the child feel better. Children can be taught from an early age to calm themselves down. It is a matter of finding the ideas that work with the individual and explaining that a change of pace or activity is necessary. Suggesting several activities will help the child to recognise what works. Here are some suggestions:

  • reading a book

  •  listening to quiet music

  • drawing or finger painting

  • playing by ones self with water

  • one to one time with an adult

  • having a bath,

  • body massaging

  •  looking through photographs and talking about them.

You can tell your child he/she needs to calm down and remind him/her what worked on a previous occasion. This will help your child to recognise stressed feelings and to take the appropriate action.


Feelings Anger

Parents are sure to get angry with their children at some stage. It is the stresses of life that make us boil over and sometimes what our children have done doesn’t warrant the fierce response we give.

Here are some common things that make adults angry :

  • tiredness

  • worry about finances

  • pressure at work

  • health problems

  • rudeness

  • lack of respect

  • mess

  • inclement weather

  • constant interruptions

  • lack of time.

What can one do? First make an honest assessment of your behaviour. Your anger may have erupted because of a little thing just like the straw that broke the camel’s back and an apology to the children will make everything okay again. Anger is not an emotion that makes one feel good. If you get really angry often, you need to find the cause and deal with it. Children learn from us. We are their role models so if we become angry often, they will think that is normal and acceptable behaviour and copy it.

When adults become angry with children we need to calm down? Here are some ideas:

  • take a deep breath and count slowly to ten before speaking or taking action

  • remove yourself from the child and listen to some calming music

  • take a walk in the outdoors

  • meditate

  • fill your mind with a picture of a calm, pleasant activity

  • write your feelings down

  • talk to an adult who won’t judge you.

Children as well as adults need to develop strategies to deal with anger themselves instead of relying on others to solve the problem. They can also use the above techniques to help control angry feelings. Additional ways to become calm are by

  • drawing or painting

  • looking at picture cards of baby animals, birds, butterflies, seaside scenes

  • stroking or wrapping pieces of silk, satin and other soft material or scarves around him/herself

  • sitting in a quiet secure area.

 Talk to your child about  angry feelings and help him/her to think of ways to calm down.


Forming friendships

Forming friendships is an important part of a child’s development. In my visits to child care services I see children who are very social beings, some who cling to one friend, and others who are happiest by themselves. A few children have problems socialising in their group. Children under three years are very egocentric. They play successfully alongside each other, in what is known as parallel play but cannot share. Three year olds need enough of the same equipment to avoid conflict. By four years of age children are developing sharing skills and this is an important skill in friendship.

The staff at  child services encourages children to share equipment, toys, attention, and facilities such as the bathroom, by waiting for their turn. Your child will form relationships with other children in the group that will develop into friendships. Many four year olds will form a special friendship but this should not exclude other children. If a child becomes grumpy or fretful when not sitting beside their special friend, socialising help may be necessary.

What can you do to help?

At home

  • be a good role model

  • help children to share with adults and siblings

  •  invite other children to your home for supervised play

  • comment on positive behaviour e.g. ‘good waiting for your turn,’ ‘I liked the way you shared your cars when Eric was here'

  • suggest strategies such as setting a time limit –‘when you've ridden the bike to the gate and back let Sally have a turn.’

  • offer an alternative, e.g. 'you want to play with this but let Sally play with …’  

In centres

  • socialising games can be set up by making partner activities with only enough set up for two or three children.

  • group time games might include conversation games in which children must respond to another’s words.

  • games and stories can give children practise in asking for a turn with a toy

  • encourage listening by introducing a show and tell section in which only one or two children have a turn at being the ones to show but everyone has the opportunity to respond by asking a question about the item

  • encourage one child to help another child

  • teach children that people make mistakes and there are different ways of doing things

  • help kids to be good losers in games such as snakes and ladders

  • encourage co-operation

  • remind children of appropriate behaviour and reasons why some behaviour isn’t acceptable

  •  talk about why we value our friends.

It is not uncommon for friendships made in our early years to last throughout life. A friend can make life wonderful.


Changes in routines

Establishing routines when a baby is young helps young parents to cope. A baby soon knows the routine of sleep, food, cuddles, bath time etc. Sometimes events change this, and baby responds in an unexpected way. For example when the family travels away from home, or when visitors come to stay, the routine will be disrupted. On travelling away, not only is the routine changed, but the environment will be different. There may not be a quiet room to put baby down in. There may be strangers who want to nurse and play with your little one. There may be older children who are not accustomed to a baby and have no idea of how to play near or with yours. When visitors come to your place, there may be more noise, more or less attention given to baby and you may be more rushed or stressed. Stress can affect the milk so baby gets more wind. Babies all have different temperaments so will react in different ways to change. A usually calm baby may become fretful, a demanding baby may thrive on the attention given by extra adults and children. Or baby may become very anxious, not wanting to let Mum out of sight. Another baby will become over excited, over tired and demanding. Here are some hints to cope with an unsettled baby or toddler:

  • Keep the routine as similar as possible

  • During travelling make sure that baby doesn’t become dehydrated

  • Take frequent stops

  • Arrange toys within reach of baby

  • Take familiar bedding and toys with you

  • Show older children how to touch baby and how to show him/her toys

  • Comfort a crying baby or toddler, making sure that he is physically comfortable, then give him time to settle before picking him up.

  • Make sure baby has regular quiet times away from stimulation.

With Christmas coming many families will be visiting relatives or having extended family to stay, plan ahead so that you will be able to have as calm a time as possible. Delegate work so jobs are shared and not too much load falls on one person. Enjoy every minute of this first Christmas with your baby.


Travelling with kids

An airport is an excellent place to observe children with their parents. I was delighted to see how independent even toddlers could be, and how calm their parents were. Often the queues were long, and flights were delayed but children didn't fuss or cause problems in the airport lounges where they waited. Luggage on wheels has been a wonderful invention and even children as young as three were pulling their cases along effortlessly and with enjoyment. Some children wore backpacks from which dolls or other soft toys peeped. Older girls had Barbie dolls stored in baskets and when they had a chance, pulled the dolls out for a brief game before repacking them and following parents. Boys played with cars or wheeled their luggage in circles, or up and down, but never far away. In five airports I only saw one distressed baby. This one, about eight months old, was screeching and kicking her legs in anger while her mother was juggling two enormous cases. After some time she produced a packet of cheese sticks but baby was too angry to respond. When she had put the cheese away, the mother began to push the stroller back and forth. Soon the baby settled and a small girl of about three and a half who had been watching the cross baby, then began a touching and smiling game with her. Her own happy baby brother of about four months, had been batting at a string of interesting toys that were fastened across his stroller. Every baby/child is an individual and will respond to different methods of calming. Travelling with a baby or small children is demanding. Most of the parents I saw had planned well, with snacks easily available and with favourite toys to keep the children busy and happy.

If you need to travel, talk with others who have already done this. Ask what they found made flying stress-free, plan well and enjoy your holiday.


Babies with a disability

When a baby is diagnosed with a disability the parents naturally are shocked. The future can seem bleak and the options of help may be a mystery. Finding a support group helps a lot but if you are in a regional area, there may not be a group. Now there are many online groups so parents with internet access will not be as isolated as before. Through the mail I’m sure most of us get requests for financial help for worthy causes. The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children,  (RIDBC) is one support group that sends me literature several times a year. I have followed up by looking at their website and it is inspiring to hear of the progress that children make when their parents discover the help that the organisation offers. 

When my second child was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, there was no organisation and I well remember the misery we felt. These days good help is available from and there are state branches. For those with a child affected with Down’s Syndrome, there are also state branches. Here is the site for NSW . Sometimes it is helpful if grandparents look up information and pass on what they learn to the child’s parents. It is always good for grandparents to do research if one of your grandchildren has a disability. One has more power if one has knowledge.

There is more and more awareness about autism too and I find the articles provided by La Trobe, for this e-zine very interesting. It is worth looking at  as it is possible to sign up for training on the web. If you don’t have a computer, many libraries in Australia provide free internet access. If you can’t operate a computer, take a teenager along with you. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you will learn the basics.

Whatever the disability that touches your family or your friends, never give up. That is the message I find when I read about the hardships people face. If you are one of the fortunate families with healthy children, think of a way you and your children can help others. You’ll be so glad you did.



Kids who act without thinking

It is natural for all of us to act or speak without thinking of the consequences sometimes but for some people acting first and thinking after, is their norm. It can be a most annoying habit and as children grow into teens it can be dangerous- think of drugs, cars, sport etc. Between the ages of two and five most kids learn some self control e.g. they stop screaming for dinner, they wait for a turn, they begin to understand that people have feelings they adapt their behaviour when asked, they use words instead of aggression. Some children have trouble learning to control their responses. Help your child by recognising the signs and taking preventative measures. Children need to learn the difference between feeling and acting – that it is okay to feel angry and can say  'I’m angry’ without hitting. He/she can find another way to solve the problem. Thinking out loud will help some children. Play games in which the child says ‘I’m angry. Stop, think’.

Puppets and dolls can be helpful with this. When your child is calm, use the puppets to act out a situation similar to one you have experienced with your child. This can be done in classrooms too. Storytime is an excellent way to introduce feelings and problem solving to kids.


Cameras for kids

Cameras are important in documenting our lives. Most of us have books and books of photos and now and then we get them out to remind us of the past. It is not until we lose those photos through some catastrophe such as fire or flood, that we realise their true value. Have you thought of giving your child a camera? It is amazing what a pre-schooler of four or five will record. My just five year old granddaughter had the opportunity to take some photos with her mother’s camera and we were quite amazed at the results. She went around their holiday venue snapping plants, animals, people and interesting textures. Her photos were actually arty. She also took pictures of her foot, insects, and furniture from different angles. Every picture had a story behind it that she was keen to explain. Imagine her delight when she received her own camera for Christmas.

The digital pictures taken can be used in different ways such as

  • a pictorial diary

  • to teach computer skills

  • in collage

  • as memory prompts in conversation

  • to create stories

  • aids to literacy

  • to make cards

  • to record insect life in your garden. 

Some pre-schools do provide cameras for the children to use. A camera will help your child to look at the environment in a new way.  


Life at Five.

Did you see the excellent series about life on ABC TV? The series began five years ago with Life at One. The study actually began in 2004 when 10,000 babies were studied and these children will be studied over the long term. However, only eleven families will be followed on TV as they develop. In February the two episodes about the children that the series follows, were shown.  The children, aged five, were about to start school and resilience and school readiness were the topics. The families come from a real cross section of the community and have had their share of real challenges since we saw them at three years of age.

In Australia now one in four families will experience separation and several of the children in the group are now in single parent families. All the children have coped well with changes.

I was interested to learn that since 1990, Australian men have found three extra hours a week to spend with their children.

We generally know that father’s are important for boys, but research shows that if a man spends significant time with his daughters, this has a very positive result throughout the girls' life.

The children in the series were fascinating, their different personalities made them delightful to watch, and I will certainly look forward to seeing how they have developed in two years time.


Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

This month ages and stages is about pregnancy as well as babies/children. We all know these days that women shouldn’t drink alcohol during pregnancy but it is now known that the most damage occurs as early as at three weeks. That is before a most women realise they are pregnant. Alcohol crosses the placenta from the mother’s circulation into the foetus’s circulation.

There are facial abnormalities as well as developmental delay in foetal alcohol syndrome. However, the facial characteristics of small eyes and ears and thin upper lip, may not happen if the mother did not drink alcohol during the brief period that the midface was forming - around the 20th day of pregnancy.

These days when an alarming number of young girls take to binge drinking, I wonder how many babies are being born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder? In fact 80% of children affected won’t get a diagnosis. Their symptoms will probably be neurological and behavioural. In foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, most babieswill have trouble sleeping and eating and may be cross or irritable. Amongst the most common symptoms as the children grow, are attention deficit, hyperactivity, poor problem solving skills and immature social skills which persist into adulthood. For a list of problems and lots more information look at this link:  This is all scary stuff. There seem to be more and more children with attention deficit. How much of this has been caused by alcohol we will never know. We want to give our kids the best possible start to life, but it is time for every woman of child bearing age to consider carefully before even a single drink!


Saying No

Saying ‘No’ comes easily to toddlers, especially the so called ‘terrible twos’, but for adults saying that word is often very difficult. Children at the ‘no’ stage, are exercising their wish to make decisions and become more independent. While adults must often say ‘no’ to small children, they sometimes feel very reluctant to say it to older children and especially to other adults. Older children may ask their parents to sanction certain activities they are really not keen on, because they are pressured by their peers or because they are afraid of being left out of things. However, those children may really be hoping that permission will be denied. They don’t want to take part but are afraid of losing face. Things are so much easier if a parent has said ‘no’.  The problem for adults, is to read between the lines to determine if their child wants a yes or a no, and also to fully weigh up the consequences of the decision.

For adults running families, the ability to say no to other adults is very important. It can have a very positive affect on one’s life. Saying no can

  • reduce stress
  • give you choices
  • empower you.

Life can become crowded with activities that we don’t enjoy and ones that others can carry out just as well. Such activities are removing us from quality family time. It can be hard to make the decision if you’ve always been the one to volunteer, or the family member everyone relies on. People in that situation may feel guilty, but it gets easier to say, no and you will be doing others a service as well as yourself – You’ll have time to develop other skills and you are encouraging others to grow in confidence.


Giving correct information

Children learn a great deal about life from information they are told, as well as from their own observations and experiences. If we tell a toddler something is hot, he/she may touch and discover the meaning of the word. In the future if something is labelled hot, that child will most likely believe you.

A study has been done to discover who children trust to give them correct information. Children are great question askers. Between ages 4 and 5 they begin to work out which people in their lives give them correct information and which ones don’t know the answers to their questions. We are unlikely to know the answers to every question kids ask and some adults make up the answers. A better idea is to admit to not knowing and help the child to find the answer.

Help children to find answers from

  •  books

  • the internet

  • other knowledgeable people

  • through experiments

  • through observation

  • through trial and error.

The study mentioned was done using puppets. Here is the link  Being right is not enough for four year olds.


Accepting Changes

Most people don’t like change, but what would we do without the innovators, the inventors, the researchers who constantly discover ways to improve our lives? In the last decade technologies have changed so much that many people, especially older people, question whether these changes are progress. Using a telephone is no longer a simple matter of dialling the number and speaking to someone who will help you. Even to book my car in for service requires choosing from a menu, while to contact Centrelink there is a whole rigmarole. The telephone voice of technology consistently fails to understand my clearly-spoken request and I hang up, go to town and stand in a long queue instead to see an actual person. I sigh and think about all those people who are illiterate, and those who haven’t learnt to use a computer or even a mobile phone.

Accepting change doesn’t just mean changes in technologies of course. In all stages of life we need to accept and adapt to changing circumstances. Becoming a parent is one of the biggest changes we will face. At first a baby is completely dependent on adults. Parents’ routines must fit the baby not the baby fit into the adults’ routine. By age two the toddler is able to do a surprising number of things and parents’ lives have gradually changed again. By school age our children are taking a lot of responsibility for their lives. Parents may be feeling liberated again. The parents of adolescents often feel redundant. By the time our children finish school parents who have looked forward to having independent lives once more suddenly find that stepping back is not an easy change.

Young people quickly adapt to changes in technology. School leavers tend to be so full of confidence that they fail to realise they have not yet learnt many life skills. Students often find it difficult to adopt best practise from the experts of the day and feel frustrated if not permitted to practise their own ideas when they enrol in training courses for careers. The ideas of each individual are important, but we need to open our minds to new ideas. We also need to discuss, debate, acknowledge mistakes we have made, and continue to adapt to changes throughout our lives.


Have children changed?

Tests developed in the mid 20th century showed that children reached certain milestones at certain ages. E.g. infants learnt to walk, run and talk between 12 to 24 months and at age five, they would be able to count to 10 and recognise some letters. More is expected of many children now because so much more is available for them to see and do and they quickly master new technologies. But are children really smarter or more mature at five than they were last century?

Some schools have replaced play-based learning such as sand, block, and dramatic play, almost completely, with academic book and pencil activities in the first year of school. New tests show that while children may learn the complete alphabet and copy sentences from a board, they still don’t understand what it is they have done. Guddemi, a researcher, says that ‘a child memorizes 2 + 3 = 5, but doesn’t realize that 3 + 2 = 5.’She also says,
‘You can train them, but the knowledge and understanding—the true learning—has not happened.’
There is a danger that those children who are not mature enough to complete the academic tasks may feel bored and stop trying. They may also experience failure depending on how parents, teachers and peers react.


Two Year Olds

My two year old granddaughter was here over Christmas and interacted happily with her 7 year old cousin and other children all older than she is. I was surprised at how much the two year old had developed in the last three months. Her behaviour was typical of the development of twos.

  • Imaginative play: Twos play well with older children and copy their games. My two year old joined in the games enthusiastically even when the activities were new to her.
  • Language: Two is a great time to introduce children to new words through both talking and reading to them. My two year old listened intently to conversations going on around her. Her understanding was not always correct but her ability to pick up and repeat new words and phrases, was excellent.
  • Physical activities: Twos have big energy reserves, can move very quickly and will play until they are exhausted. Water games, climbing and jumping are favourite pastimes. Two year olds like to find their own level instead of having an adult imposing restrictions but supervision is always necessary. My two year old normally has an afternoon sleep but was determined to keep playing with older children. Because she'd missed her sleep she often fell asleep over her evening meal.


Eat your dinner

Most parents are excited when their baby is old enough to taste their first solid food. The recommended age for this to happen is about 6 months of age when baby has good control of the head and neck. Pureed food such as pumpkin, potato, banana, rice cereal, and avocado are good choices to offer as early solids. At this age milk will remain the main food. Each new food should be introduced alone so that allergies and intolerances can be easily checked for. It is good to introduce a variety, including meat, fish and legumes, as the more foods a baby learns to eat, the easier it will be to feed your toddler a balanced diet. Most new food will cause the baby to gag but this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be offered again. It takes time for the unfamiliar taste and texture to be accepted.

Toddlers may reject foods that they liked as a baby and at that stage it is tempting to insist ‘eat your dinner’. This will turn meal time into a tussle instead of a pleasurable time. Remember that a child won’t starve if a meal or two is missed. It is better to clear the rejected meal away instead of trying to tempt the toddler to eat by offering favourite foods or trying one thing after another. There will inevitably be waste of food with babies and toddlers.


Saying NO

NO is a powerful word and one of the first words our kids learn. It is a very important word to understand as many aspects of safety depend on children responding at once to it. However, adults should use the word sparingly. Consider first:

  • Is this behaviour unsafe?
  • Is another child at risk?
  • Is the behaviour merely annoying me today?
  • Would I say ‘yes’ at another time or place?
  • Can I help my child do this action by making the task simpler ?

Overuse of ‘No’ leads to problems. ‘No’ might mean Mum or Dad will give in soon if I keep trying. Too many negative responses can also lead to frustration and anger. Try to offer alternatives instead. For example a whingeing child can be offered a piece of fruit instead of lollies at the shop, or a story from a book instead of watching more TV.


Understanding develops gradually.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most people thought of children as little adults. Now we know that children learn a little at a time. Presenting too much information at one time will confuse and perhaps frighten them. For example the big issues for the world today are sustainable living practices and global warming. Be aware of kids listening into adult conversations and how they may interpret what they hear. How much does your child understand? Primary school kids can understand that the planet is warming and we can do something about it. Pre-school children may think the world is going to catch on fire and burn. Pre-schoolers hearing about floods and other natural disasters, may think this will happen to them. Limit the number of such things your kids see on TV and be aware of frightening things they may have heard such as home invasions and assaults in the local area. Explain in simple terms and reassure them whenever necessary.


Red Nose Day

Nothing has more impact on a family than the traumatic and sudden death of a baby or child. The last Friday of June each year in Australia, is now dedicated to raising money through the Red Nose Day appeal Money raised helps the Sids and Kids organization which provides free bereavement counselling to parents, conducts research and provides education to prevent sudden death. Sadly over 3,500 families in Australia alone experience the death of a baby or child from unexplained causes each year. The death can occur during pregnancy, birth, in the first few months of life or even later.

In Australia the rate of SIDS has declined 82% since 1990, but still more research is needed. One of the most important factors in the decline of death has been the promotion of a Safe Sleeping Program. Here is what is recommended:

How to Sleep your Baby Safely:

1. Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side

2. Sleep baby with head and face uncovered

3. Keep baby smoke free before birth and after

4. Provide a safe sleeping environment

5. Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult care-giver for the first six to twelve months

6. Breastfeed baby if you can

For more information go to


Life for seven year olds

I began watching The Life of Children series with the first series of Life at One and now we can see those same children as seven year olds. The first episode in this age group looks at temperament. Genes as well as environment and effective parenting, form a child’s temperament and is the basis of their developing personality. In the fascinating program we see how children react to unexpected situations, how they interact in their families and classmates, how persistent they are, and how successful they are at self regulating their feelings. Different cultures value different temperaments. Some value quiet, undemanding children while others value outgoing, forceful ones. At this age they begin to take on responsibilities and understand why things are morally right or wrong. They also spend one third of their time with their peers at this age, and friends are very important to them. You can see the programs by going to They are well worth watching as they will give you more insight into your own child’s development.



Discipline really means to teach and guide. It is not about punishing bad behaviour, but about helping children to behave well. Traditionally we’ve heard about the terrible twos when toddlers begin to exert their independence and use the word NO so much. At age two, they see everything through their eyes; other people’s feelings are not understood  or considered. They are beginning to know when they themselves are sad, and may respond when told, that someone else is sad. Toddlers want their needs and desires met immediately and waiting is almost impossible. Threats don’t work, smacks, bribe, and shouting doesn’t work and the more the adult uses the word don’t, the more the child tends to use the word no. Children want your attention and don’t discriminate between attention for good or bad behaviour.

Here are some strategies

  • Distraction. This works well if you can distract the child before a confrontation begins. A child already screaming in the supermarket for a toy can’t be distracted.
  • Reward. Spending time with toddlers is a great reward as is setting up activities they enjoy. Remember to praise them for sharing or waiting or whatever they did, rather than saying they’ve been good.
  • Routines. Kids get confused when their routines change. Eating and sleeping at regular times help them to behave. Tired toddlers can’t be distracted and are difficult to calm down if they start to cry or be stubborn.
  • Time out removes your attention from the child but must be very short, just a few seconds.
  • Physical action is essential. Toddlers can’t sit still or take an interest in adult’s conversations or activities. They need to flit from one thing to another and have room to run, climb, throw balls, roll about etc. They can’t be careful with delicate things or furniture so they need robust toys and an easy to clean up environment. They hate adults to have long phone conversations.

It is exciting to see how competent toddlers can be doing things for themselves. They take more time to do things without help, but encourage them to be independent as this will avoid many confrontations.


Children and natural disasters

The impact of natural disasters on everyone is traumatic and people wonder about the best thing to do to help small children. A new approach is being taken in the Solomon Islands  and in Vanuatu. There is a high risk of earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis every season in the Pacific.  Teachers have banded together to develop action songs to prepare the children for these disasters. They use well known tunes such as Jingle Bells and compose words that will help the children to know what might happen and what to do if there is a disaster.  Caritas Australia has funded the development of a DVD that will help teachers and children. At first the idea was to help children from pre-school age to about 10 years, but as the songs became known, older children have joined in. The children have performed the action songs in their communities and this has meant the wider communities have joined in. Now they hope to develop more resources with a handbook so that other Pacific Islands can learn the songs too. This idea could be used in bushfire regions too.


Listening and communicating

Making a special time to listen to your child is a good way to find out about school, friends, worries, interests and abilities.

  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings
  • Try not to interrupt when the child is talking even if it is taking some time
  • Ask your child to tell you what happened without jumping to conclusions
  • Use meal times as discussion times with the kids about a wide variety of subjects
  • Kids are good problem solvers so they can often suggest a way to fix problem
  • Take problems seriously. If there seems to be a problem in the classroom, approach the teacher to find out more details


Kids taking responsibility

Do you have to nag your kids? Are you constantly reminding your child to put his school bag away, tidy her room, eat breakfast, hurry up and get dressed for school? Why don’t kids do these things they know have to be done, without being nagged? It may help if you do tasks together when it is something like tidying the room. Break jobs into small bites so that you might put the clothes away, while your child arranges the soft toys on the bed or wherever she wants them. Having a choice of how to arrange the room will also motivate your child. Other suggestions are

  • give each child a choice of tasks
  • set a time for doing tasks that won’t interfere with play
  • set age appropriate tasks
  • set goals with rewards your child really wants e.g. a sleepover if she has taken responsibility for her set tasks
  • use visual diagrams and pictures to show what your child has achieved and new steps to challenge him/her, a bit like growth charts for kids. You could make this together
  • recognise the positive things your child already does instead of nagging about the ones not done.


Helping your toddler overcome fears

Toddlers between 2 and 3 years may develop fears even though they have not had anxieties earlier. The most common fears will be separation anxiety, fear of the dark, of noises, and of imagined monsters that they have heard about in books or on TV or from other children. It is best never to ignore fears for although they may seem silly to adults, fears can be very real to a child.

·         Talk about the fear reassuring your child appropriately and truthfully. E.g. ‘You are feeling scared of the dog because he barked so I’ll hold you while you watch how he plays with the ball’.

·         If your child fears having an injection, it is not right to say it won’t hurt, but explain why it is necessary and that the hurt will soon stop.

·         If she is afraid of the dark, put a night light in there.

·         If she is afraid of the swimming pool or the water at the beach, introduce her gently and hold her securely till she gains confidence.

If your child’s fears increase in intensity or you feel you can’t cope, talk to your doctor.


Good manners matter

Little children have so much to learn and by three years of age it is time for them to be learning about good manners. Many people start teaching their baby by example at about 12 months of age that we say please and thank you. At three we can remind children to say these words when they want something or have received something.

Table manners are also learnt by example. All sitting together for a meal is a great way to reinforce eating rules. Manners will vary from family to family. For example in some families children mustn’t start to eat until the adults give the word and must stay at the table till they are given permission to be leave. In some families food will be eaten with the hands instead of with cutlery and there will be special rules about which hand is used. Manners in public eating places must also be good. It is unpleasant for others in a restaurant to have kids at the next table shouting, crying, standing on the chairs or running around.

Waiting for attention Children of about four years often interrupt adults just to get attention. Whenever the parent caring for the child answers the phone, the child may begin tugging at the adult’s arm begins or junior starts talking loudly. The same thing happens when Mum and Dad try to have a conversation together – and Billy or Molly seems to have something urgent to say that requires all your attention. 

 Your children need to see you have good manners and value good manners. So remember to follow the rules you set, especially when interacting with the kids.


Helping preschoolers with language, communication and literacy skills

Educators and researchers say that a preschool child with good language, communication and literacy skills is more likely to do well in the early years at school, than a child with poor skills in those areas of development. Children who do poorly in those early school years often fail to catch up to achieve their potential in the later years. What can parents ,carers and educators do to help good outcomes?

They can

  • see that all children attend high quality education and care programs in the year before formal schooling begins
  • see that parents and carers who struggle with communication and literacy themselves get help and support in helping their children
  • make resources available to communities through mobile centres, libraries and schools
  • read to children every day and talk about signs and words at home and everywhere in the environment
  • take children to a library regularly to choose books
  • Tell simple stories and encourage children to tell you stories

Although it is government policy that all four year olds should have access to preschool education, the statistics show that this is not being achieved. In some states more than half the four year olds are missing out. Reasons that children are not attending services are related to cost, lack of transport, mistrust, lack of understanding of what the service provides, parent or community involvement isn’t actively encouraged.

Parental support is necessary where parents have

  • low levels of confidence
  • little English and/or little education and.
  • little or no family support,
  • no transport so they are isolated in their homes.

There are support people out there, but parents don’t know how to find them.

One solution would be that playgroups with trained educators and assistants be set up in many more towns. Young mothers welcome the opportunity to socialize while their babies, toddlers and preschoolers play in a safe, stimulating environment. Helping mothers with their needs helps the children too. Higher levels of confidence will help mothers and carers to try new ideas and I to improve their parenting skills.


Mental health in the very young

The Early Childhood Social and Emotional Wellbeing conference in Canberra reported that there is a lack of funds for infant and early childhood mental health issues. Early intervention could halve the teenage and adult mental health problems. This statement got me thinking about the types of mental health issues babies and preschoolers might have so I did further reading. Behaviour indicating a problem might be picked up by the family doctor or the baby health nurse, but not seen as unusual by the parents, particularly first time parents.

By five months baby should be

  • making eye contact
  • vocalizing when spoken to
  • relating to family members by smiling and reaching out

Parents may be unconcerned as they think their baby is very good, rarely crying and satisfied to be by herself instead of being demanding. Baby’s weight and growth may be normal.

Other babies at risk are those where a parent, particularly the mother has anxiety problems, post natal depression or has not bonded well with her baby.

With preschool age children mental health problems may show up when the child cannot relate to other children, cannot play in a group, doesn’t concentrate, has aggressive behaviour or frequent tantrums. These types of problems need observation by professionals and often focus on parent child interactions. Parent groups, child care agencies and family development programs which focus mainly on the child can turn negative parenting around to positive parenting experiences.


Premature babies

A premature baby is one born at less than 37 weeks. With modern technology even babies born at 24 weeks can now survive although the earlier the birth the higher the risk. Babies born very prematurely face more problems some of which may affect development in the long term. The reasons for premature births are not clear. Women with a short cervix tend to be more at risk for giving birth prematurely and treatment with progesterone reduces the risk. However, scientists haven’t yet found a sure sign of which women to test.

A baby born after 34 weeks has a very good chance of survival and many hospitals are well equipped with neonatal wards and specially trained nurses and doctors to monitor and care for premi-babies. Parents are encouraged to ask questions about their baby’s condition and care, and to be part of the team supporting the baby. There are also organizations such as which help parents cope with the extra demands that a premi baby makes.

World wide there are 15 million babies born prematurely each year and of these one million will not survive. Despite the excellent facilities in this country, some babies die, especially in multiple births as the babies will be so very small. Losing a baby is a tragic and traumatic event and parents, especially the mothers, need ongoing support. is one organization that provides support for families following the death of an infant. One Australian couple who lost their premature triplets started a fund to raise money for lifesaving equipment at the hospital where their babies were born. The organization, Running for Premature Babies, now raises money for research as well as for lifesaving pieces of equipment. You can see details at



Copyright 2011-2013




Hand control

The mobile baby

 Growing independence
Playing with others
School talk
Learning through play
Clever fingers
Playing with food
Dealing with clothes
Opening doors
Changes in routine
Language development
Organizing skills
Bed time
Developing physical skills
Forming friendships
Babies at risk
Crossing the midline
Babies are demanding
New Babies
Acting together
Understanding time
Deaf and blind kids starting school
Helping fussy eaters
Encouraging independence
Saying no
Giving correct information
Two Year Olds
Eat Your Dinner
Saying NO
Understanding develops gradually
Red Nose Day
Life with a newborn
Life for seven year olds
Children and natural disasters
Listening and communicating
Kids taking responsibility
Overcoming fears
Good manners matter
Helping preschoolers with language, communication and literacy skills
Mental health in the very young
Premature Babies
AGES and stages page 3
AGES and Stages 1