Birth to eighteen months: an overview
In the first eighteen months after birth, an infant makes miraculous progress. In this relatively short time span, an infant sees her world through her senses. Babies gather information through touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. To help infants mature and learn, the caregiver should stimulate but not overwhelm them. The overall goal is not to “teach” your baby but to interact and explore her world with her. Older infants are on the move. They take great pleasure in discovering what they can do with their voice, hands, feet, and toes. Soon they practice rolling skills, crawling, walking, and other great physical adventures. Through “the eyes of a child,” here is what you might expect during the first eighteen months.
What I’m Like: I can’t support my own head and I’m awake about one hour in every ten (though it may seem more).
What I Need: I need milk, a smoke-free environment, a warm place to sleep, hugs and kisses, and to hear your loving voice. It’s not too early to sing or read to me. The more you talk and introduce different things to me, the more I learn.
What I’m Like: My hands and feet fascinate me. I’ll laugh and coo at them and you. I’m alert for 15 minutes, maybe longer, at a time. I love to listen to you talk and read to me.
What I Need: Talk to me, feed me, and sing to me. My favorite songs are lullabies. Cuddle me. I need fresh air, a ride in a stroller. Give me things to pull and teethe on.
What I’m Like: I may be able to roll over and sit with support. I can hold my own toys. I babble and am alert for two hours at a time. I can eat most baby food. Put toys just out of my reach and I will try to reach them. I like to see what I look like and what I am doing.
What I Need: Make sure I’m safe as I’m learning to crawl. I need happy sounds, and I like to be near you. Dance with me, tickle me, and tell me about the world you see.
What I’m Like: I’m busy! I like to explore everything! I crawl, sit, pull on furniture, grasp objects, and understand simple commands. I like to be with other babies and I react to their happiness and sadness.
What I Need: I need locks on cabinets with medicines, household cleaners, or other dangerous things. Put away small sharp objects. I need touches, nutritious food, and educational toys to keep me busy.
What I’m Like: I may be able to pull myself up and sidestep around furniture. I may begin walking. I make lots of sounds and say “Mama” and “Dada.” I’m curious about flowers, ants, grass, stones, bugs, and dirt. I like to get messy, ’cause that’s how I learn. My fingers want to touch everything. I like to play near others close to my age but not always with them. If I’m walking, please walk at my pace.
What I Need: I need lots of cuddling and encouragement. I need a safe place to move around as I will be getting into anything I can get my hands on. Read to me again and again. Sing our favorite songs. Give me freedom to do most things—until I need help. So please stay near.
Twelve to eighteen months
What I’m Like: I like to eat with a spoon, even if I spill. And I will spill, spill, spill. I will explore everything high and low, so please keep me safe. I may have temper tantrums because I have no other way of expressing my feelings or frustrations. Sometimes I’m fearful and cling to you. I like to have evening routines: music, story, and bath time. I like balls, blocks, pull toys, push toys, take apart toys, put together toys, and cuddles. Sometimes I say “No” and mean it. By eighteen months I can walk well by myself, although I fall a lot. I may jump. I say lots of words, especially the word “mine”—because everything is mine! I like it when we play outside or go to a park. I like being with other children. I try to take off my shoes and socks. I like to build with blocks.
What I Need: Let me touch things. Let me try new things with your help, if I need it. I need firm limits and consistency. Please give me praise. The more you talk with me, the earlier I will tell you how I feel and what I need. I need you to observe me and to understand why I’m upset or mad. I need your understanding and patience. I want a routine. I need you to not mind the mess I sometimes make. I need you to say I’m sorry if you made a mistake. And please read to me over and over again!
The Toddler's Creed
If I want it, it’s mine. If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine. If I take it away from you, it’s mine. If it’s mine it will never belong to anybody else, no matter what. If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
Eighteen months through two years: an overview
During the next stage of life, your child is beginning to define himself. Look for child care activities that spur his imagination and vocabulary. During the toddler years, children get into everything, so do your best to keep your child safe from a potential accident. Yet, realize accidents do happen even to the most careful parents and children.
What I’m Like: I am loving, affectionate, and responsive to others. I feel sorry or sad when others my age are upset. I may even like to please you. I don’t need you so close for protection, but please don’t go too far away. I may do the exact opposite of what you want. I may be rigid, not willing to wait or give in. I may even be bossy. “Me” is one of my favorite words. I may have fears, especially of sounds, separation, moving household objects, or that big dog.
What I Need: I need to continue exploring the world, down the block, the parks, library, and stores, etc. I like my routines. If you have to change them, do so slowly. I need you to notice what I do well and PRAISE me. Give me two OK choices to distract me when I begin to say “No.” I need you to be in control and make decisions when I’m unable to do so. I do better when you plan ahead. Be FIRM with me about the rules, but CALM when I forget or disagree. And please be patient because I am doing my best to please you, even though I may not act that way.
Three through five years: an overview
During the preschool years, your child will be incredibly busy. Cutting, pasting, painting, and singing are all daily activities. When your child starts kindergarten around age five, make sure home and child care activities include learning numbers, letters, and simple directions. Most public school kindergarten programs are usually only a few hours a day. You may need care before and after school. It is never too early to begin your search.
What I’m Like: Watch out! I am charged with physical energy. I do things on my own terms. My mind is a sponge. Reading and socializing are essential in getting me ready for school. I like to pretend a lot and enjoy scribbling on everything. I am full of questions, many of which are “Why?” I become fairly reliable about using the potty. I may stay dry at night and may not. Playing and trying new things out are how I learn. Sometimes I like to share. I begin to listen more and begin to understand how to solve problems for myself.
What I Need: I want to know about everything and understand words, and when encouraged, I will use words instead of grabbing, crying, or pushing. Play with me, sing to me, and let’s pretend!
What I’m Like: I’m in an active stage, running, hopping, jumping, and climbing. I love to question “Why?” and “How?” I’m interested in numbers and the world around me. I enjoy playing with my friends. I like to be creative with my drawings, and I may like my pictures to be different from everyone else’s. I’m curious about “sleepovers” but am not sure if I’m ready yet. I may want to be just like my older sister or brother. I am proud that I am so BIG now!
What I Need: I need to explore, to try out, and to test limits. Giving me room to grow doesn’t mean letting me do everything. I need reasonable limits set for my own protection and for others. Let me know clearly what is or isn’t to be expected. I need to learn to give and take and play well with others. I need to be read to, talked to, and listened to. I need to be given choices and to learn things in my own way. Label objects and describe what’s happening to me so I can learn new words and things.
What I’m Like: I’m slowing a little in growth. I have good motor control, but my small muscles aren’t as developed as my large muscles for jumping. My activity level is high and my play has direction. I like writing my name, drawing pictures, making projects, and going to the library. I’m more interested now in doing group activities, sharing things and my feelings. I like quiet time away from the other kids from time to time. I may be anxious to begin kindergarten.
What I Need: I need the opportunity for plenty of active play. I need to do things for myself. I like to have choices in how I learn new things. But most of all, I need your love and assurance that I’m important. I need time, patience, understanding, and genuine attention. I am learning about who I am and how I fit in with others. I need to know how I am doing in a positive way. I understand more about things and how they work, so you can give me a more detailed answer. I have a big imagination and pretend a lot. Although I’m becoming taller, your lap is still one of my favorite places.