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What should I know about my child from:
 
Birth to 3 months?

Personal and Social Skills

  • Nurses at mother’s breast or sucks from a bottle
  • Comforts to soothing, gentle sounds
  • Smiles in response to adult’s smile
  • Looks at face when spoken to
  • Tells primary caregiver from other adults
  • Startles or cries at sudden loud noises

Activities

  • Provide a safe, peaceful environment, now and always.
  • Nurse baby or hold baby close while bottle-feeding.
  • Hold baby often; cuddle and caress baby.
  • Respond quickly to baby’s cries by meeting baby’s needs.
  • Smile at baby. Make eye contact.
  • Hang a crib mobile. (Remove it before baby learns to sit alone.)
  • Softly sing lullabies to baby and play soothing music.
  • Speak in a calm, soothing voice.

Language and Understanding Skills

  • Expresses hunger or desire to suck with cues such as making eager sounds, sticking out tongue, pursing lips, or other mouth movement
  • Shows excitement before feeding and other familiar routines
  • Expresses demands with cries or other sounds
  • Gurgles and coos
  • Responds to sound of rattle

Activities

  • Talk or sing to baby during feeding, changing, and bathing-and throughout the day.
  • Provide many different sounds for baby (soft music, rattle, birds singing, radio, bell).
  • Imitate sounds baby makes.
  • When you talk or sing to baby, allow time for baby to respond.
  • Listen to and watch baby to get to know baby’s cues.
  • Respond to baby’s cues.

Small Muscles Skills

  • Follows bright objects with eyes
  • Looks at object held in own hand
  • Attempts to grasp adult’s finger
  • Holds objects for a few seconds
  • Sucks well

Activities

  • Gently dangle and move objects in front of baby for baby to watch and then reach for.
  • Provide various textures for baby to feel (terry cloth, stuffed and live animals, grass, carpet, smooth wood).
  • Place objects (your finger, rattle) in baby’s hand to stimulate grasp.

Large Muscle Skills

  • Lifts head while lying on stomach
  • Holds head up when held in sitting position
  • Begins to reach toward object
  • Automatically turns head to one side while lying down
  • Moves arms and legs

Activities

  • While baby is on stomach, dangle black and white or brightly colored objects in front of baby to encourage baby to lift head.
  • Do not place baby on stomach to sleep. Back sleeping is safest, even for naps.
  • Hold baby in a sitting position with head and neck supported as needed, so baby begins to hold head steady.
  • To encourage sitting, briefly prop baby in corner of couch (supervised).
  • Help baby splash and move arms and legs during bath time.

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3 to 6 months?

Personal and Social Skills

  • Smiles spontaneously
  • Reaches for familiar people
  • Begins choosing toys
  • Begins to comfort self by sucking or by fingering a favorite blanket or other object

Activities

  • Provide a safe, peaceful environment.
  • Allow for quiet time.
  • Continue to respond quickly to baby’s cries by meeting baby’s needs.
  • Massage baby’s arms, back, and legs from top to bottom.
  • Make eye contact with baby.
  • Play Peek-a-Boo with baby.
  • Let baby look at self in mirror.
  • Sing simple songs for baby and help baby do motions with hands to the music.
  • Respond joyfully to baby’s smiles and gurgles.
  • Imitate baby’s facial expressions.
  • Give baby opportunities to interact with siblings or other children.

Language and Understanding Skills

  • Squeals and laughs
  • Babbles-combines vowel and consonant sounds (“goo-ga”)
  • Explores objects by putting them in mouth
  • Experiments by making nonsense sounds (“goo-ah”)
  • Begins to respond to own name by startling or looking
  • Begins to show likes and dislikes by reaching or turning away

Activities

  • Gently shake rattle beside baby’s head to encourage baby to turn head toward sound.
  • Continue to talk to baby during daily routines.
  • Listen for baby’s sounds and imitate them; wait for baby to respond to your sounds.
  • With baby on your lap, read picture books out load; point to and name objects in the pictures.
  • Point to and name objects in baby’s room and other places.

Small Muscle Skills

  • Pick up and holds rattle
  • Chews on hands, toys, and almost everything
  • Holds and plays with a toy using both hands at the same time
  • Starts to transfer objects from one hand to the other
  • Holds objects with fingers against palm of hand (palmar grasp)

Activities

  • Put object (rattle, your finger) in baby’s hand and gently pull it to encourage baby to hold on to object.
  • Help baby hold a safe toy with both hands to encourage baby to move toy from one hand to the other.
  • Help baby pick up safe objects (one-inch blocks, assorted shapes).

Large Muscle Skills

  • Reaches for objects
  • Brings objects to mouth
  • Turns from back to side
  • Rolls from stomach to back and then back to stomach
  • Pushes up on arms when on stomach
  • Holds head upright and steady without support
  • Kicks at objects

Activities

  • Put baby on stomach on safe surface (carpet, blanket) and dangle brightly colored toys in front of baby for baby to reach for or roll to. (Do not put baby to sleep on a baby’s stomach.)
  • Fasten soft mobile on crib for baby to kick. Move baby’s legs to demonstrate. (Remove mobile before baby can sit up.)
  • Give baby biscuits to baby to hold and suck.
  • With your hands under baby’s arms, hold baby upright and help baby support weight on baby’s feet. (Never hold a young baby up using baby’s arms or hands.)
  • Put baby’s favorite object just out of reach on floor to encourage baby to roll over.

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6 to 9 months?

Personal and Social Skills

  • Smiles at self in mirror
  • Enjoys peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • Becomes attached to a particular toy or object
  • Begins to fear strangers

Activities

  • Provide a safe, peaceful environment.
  • Avoid violent, angry sounds.
  • Hug and cuddle baby often.
  • Smile at and talk with baby.
  • Play How Big Is Baby, Peek-a-Boo, Pat-a-Cake.
  • Let baby play in front of large, secured mirror.
  • When you introduce new people to baby, allow time for baby to get used to the new person while you are still there.
  • Play with baby during routine activities (diapering, bathing, dressing).

Language and Understanding Skills

  • Starts imitating sounds
  • Uncovers toy that is hidden by cloth
  • Responds to own name (by looking, smiling, turning head, reaching)
  • Vocalizes to self when alone
  • Jabbers
  • Recognizes one or two specific names for people (mama, dada)

Activities

  • Look at picture books with baby. (Avoid letting young children watch television.)
  • Sing songs to baby.
  • Play Hide-n-Seek with toys under cloth.
  • Use different tones when expressing approval, disapproval, happiness, and other emotions.
  • Imitate baby’s jabbering.
  • Identify people by name.

Small Muscle Skills

  • Holds and feeds self a biscuit or other safe food
  • Rakes or scoops small objects
  • Grasps objects with thumb and tow fingers (inferior pincer grasp)

Activities

  • Give baby the opportunity to pick up safe foods (dry cereal, crackers) and feed self.
  • Let baby play with simple books made of cloth, cardboard, or vinyl.
  • Provide small toys and other objects for baby to pick up-but make sure they are too big for baby to swallow.

Large Muscle Skills

  • Sits unaided for a short time
  • May creep or crawl
  • Gets into a standing position by pulling up on furniture or an adult’s hands
  • Maintains a standing position by holding onto furniture or an adult’s hands
  • Rocks back and forth when on hands and knees
  • Plays with feet while lying on back

Activities

  • Encourage baby to pull up to a standing position by talking to baby and holding a favorite toy for baby to reach for.
  • Place a toy out of reach and encourage baby to try to get the toy by crawling to it.
  • Allow baby to stand holding on to furniture.
  • Allow lots of room and safe places for baby to crawl and explore (supervised).
  • Childproof your home, putting dangerous items out of baby’s reach.

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9 to 12 months?

Personal and Social Skills

  • Is aware of strangers
  • Tugs at or reaches for adults to get their attention
  • Begins drinking from a cup
  • Demonstrates affection
  • Begins to smile at own accomplishments

Activities

  • Avoid violence and anger at home, on television, and in videos.
  • Speak in a calm, soothing manner to make baby feel safe.
  • Have baby sit with the family during meals.
  • Play pat-a-cake with baby.
  • Let baby hold and try drinking from a cup containing a small amount of liquid. (A cup with a spout in the lid makes it easier.)
  • Hug and kiss baby often.
  • Respond with a hug or by talking when baby reaches for you.
  • Smile and hug baby when baby seems proud of an accomplishment.

Language and Understanding Skills

  • Waves bye-bye
  • Responds to “no-no”
  • Starts responding to simple questions (“Want more Juice?”) with gestures, facial expressions, and reaching
  • Shakes head “no”
  • Recognizes familiar words (mommy, daddy, ball, cookie)
  • Looks at pictures in book
  • Enjoys nursery rhymes and songs

Activities

  • Make puppet from sock and pretend the puppet is talking to baby.
  • Read nursery rhymes and sing songs to baby.
  • Help baby look at family photos and scrapbooks.
  • Point to and name objects.
  • Listen and respond to communication from baby.
  • Talk about activities as you do them with or near baby.
  • Ask baby simple questions (“Want a biscuit?”).
  • Say “no-no” to baby only when you mean it and don not change your mind.

Small Muscle Skills

  • Holds own bottle or cup with a spout
  • Picks up small objects using thumb and finger
  • Uses two hands together with coordination (picks up cup, bangs two blocks together)
  • Claps hands
  • Drops objects on purpose
  • Feeds self finger foods (dry cereal, crackers, small pieces of fruit)

Activities

  • Show baby how to stack blocks, boxes, or empty spools of thread.
  • Let baby play with safe, unbreakable pots, pans , and utensils.
  • Help baby put objects into a container.
  • Give baby empty boxes of various sizes to play with.
  • Give baby dry cereal to feed self. (Do not give baby whole grapes, hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, or other items baby may choke on.)

Large Muscles Skills

  • Gets into sitting position from lying down position
  • Sits down from standing position
  • Walks with assistance
  • Stands alone
  • Bangs two toys together

Activities

  • Play stand up/sit down imitation game.
  • Help baby walk with and without support.
  • Let baby “cruise”-walk around holding onto furniture. (Make sure you have child-proofed areas baby uses.)
  • Bang soft objects together and encourage baby to imitate.
  • Imitate baby’s actions.
  • Roll ball to baby and encourage baby to roll it back.

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12 to 18 months?

Personal and Social Skills

  • Enjoys having people clap
  • Shows affection or sympathy for others
  • Plays chasing and hiding games
  • Plays ball or other games with an adult
  • Shows specific wants by gestures and vocalizations
  • Becomes attached to favorite possession (blanket, toy)
  • Begins learning skills to become independent (removing garments, using a spoon or fork)
  • May have anxiety about parent leaving

Activities

  • Provide safe, peaceful environment.
  • Sing to child.
  • Make up songs to describe daily care routines.
  • Give child a washcloth and encourage child to “wash,” hug, and kiss a doll.
  • Let child help undress self.
  • Let child start feeding self with a spoon.
  • Ask child to show how big child is (help child raise hands high).
  • Take child on outings (zoo, park) and talk about the things you see and do with child.
  • Help child understand that although you may leave you will always come back.

Language and Understanding Skills

  • Points to body parts (head, foot) when they are named
  • Begins to say names of body parts
  • Points to several objects or pictures when they are named
  • Follows simple commands (“Sit down,” “let go”)

Activities

  • Encourage child to repeat familiar words.
  • While child is bathing or dressing, name body parts and encourage child to repeat the names.
  • Look at a picture book with child and help child name objects in the pictures.
  • Use simple cause and effect toys (busy box, jack-in-the-box).
  • Sing nursery rhymes and other children’s songs over and over again.
  • Do finger plays with child while singing songs (Itsy, Bitsy Spider).

Small Muscle Skills

  • Feeds self with spoon
  • Attempts scribbling
  • Stacks small objects
  • Builds tower of two or more blocks

Activities

  • Play game with blocks (stack them up, knock them down).
  • Encourage child to draw or scribble with a crayon or water-soluble marker.
  • Push, squeeze, and play with beanbags or soft sponge balls.
  • Encourage child to feed self with a spoon.

Large Muscles Skills

  • Walks alone
  • Throws a ball
  • Sits in a chair
  • Stoops to pick up an object

Activities

  • Hold child’s hand as child walks up stairs.
  • Allow child to walk and explore as much as possible, but always with supervision.
  • Provide pull toys and push toys for child to play with.
  • Roll and throw ball or bean bag with child.
  • Provide child-size furniture for child to use. Sturdy step stools or boxes can be used.
  • Roll a large ball to child and ask child to roll it back to you.

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18 to 24 months?

Personal and Social Skills

  • Likes being read to
  • Shows more independence by putting on clothes, feeding self, washing and drying hands
  • Exhibits curiosity and is “into everything”
  • Has special relationship with each parent or caregiver
  • Enjoys playing next to another child, but does not interact much with other child
  • Enjoys touching and hugging

  • May experience fear when separated from caregiver
  • Activities

    • Encourage gentle play; discourage violent play.
    • Encourage child to dress and undress self.
    • Encourage child to help with household chores (carry napkins to table, pick up and put away toys).
    • Encourage child to use both a spoon and a fork.
    • Give child time to get used to new situations and new caregivers.
    • Encourage child to play near other children by providing two of the same toy for them to use.
    • Follow through with appropriate expectations and discipline. (Don’t change “no” to “yes” because child has a tantrum.)
    • Show an interest in your child’s play.

    Language and Understanding Skills

    • Chooses among toys to play with
    • Imitates another child’s play
    • Begins to ask questions
    • Puts two or more words together (“Go out,” “Get up”)
    • Asks for items by name (ball, doll, cookie)
    • Follows one- or two-step directions

    Activities

    • Give simple directions for child to follow (“Get your shoes.”)
    • Play a simple game of Simon Says.
    • Read to child five to ten minutes each day; develop a bedtime book-reading ritual.
    • Do not allow child to watch many television or videotape programs. If child does watch television, watch with child and do not allow child to view violent or sexually explicit programs.
    • Answer child’s questions simply.
    • Label toy boxes/bins with picture of toy.
    • Give child enough time to finish an activity.

    Small Muscle Skills

    • Scribbles and imitates simple strokes (vertical line, horizontal line, circular stroke)
    • Takes off socks and shoes
    • Takes things apart and puts them back together

    Activities

    • Help child put objects through an opening in a container and then dump them out again.
    • Give child simple nesting boxes or plastic measuring cups to arrange.
    • Give child simple insert puzzle to complete (two or three pieces).
    • Allow child to finger paint with pudding.
    • Provide chalk, markers, pencils, paint, and brushes for use on sidewalk, large paper, newspaper.
    • Let child handle nontoxic modeling clay and shaving cream.
    • Provide paper for child to tear.

    Large Muscle Skills

    • Jumps with both feet
    • Moves body in time to music
    • Walks up and down stairs with help
    • Runs
    • Attempts to kick a ball

    Activities

    • Help child learn to jump with both feet by holding child’s hands while you jump.
    • Listen to music and swing, clap, and dance to the music with child.
    • Have short running races on soft surfaces (grass, carpet).
    • Play kick the ball.

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    24 to 36 months (2 to 3 years)?

    Personal and Social Skills

    • Says “I love you”
    • Interacts with other children in simple games
    • Verbalizes toilet needs
    • Continues to develop competence and independence in self-help skills (brushing teeth, feeding, dressing)
    • Helps pick up and put away toys

    Activities

    • Continue to provide comfort and a safe, peaceful environment.
    • Praise child when child indicates toilet needs.
    • Play simple games with child (Ring around the Rosie, Hide-n-Seek).
    • Help child play dress up.
    • Develop special interactions or “I love you” rituals (a special tickle upon greeting each other, a special nickname).
    • Respect child’s expression of independence, but provide guidance and limits. (Allow child to paint with water on sidewalk or porch floor, but not on inside wall.)

    Language and Understanding Skills

    • Follow two-step directions (“Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”)
    • Takes part in simple conversations (Responds to “What’s your name?”)
    • Answer simple what questions
    • Regularly uses two- or three-word sentences (“Me want juices.”)
    • Begins to make choices (which shirt to wear, whether to play outside or inside)
    • Asks many questions

    Activities

    • Allow child to make limited decisions (choosing some foods at mealtime, choosing one of two shirts to wear).
    • Ask child to follow directions. (“Pick up your doll and put it on the shelf, please.”)
    • Listen to and talk with child.
    • Read picture books for 10 minutes each day with child and talk about the pictures.
    • Point out colors of objects in pictures.
    • Give simple answer to child’s questions.
    • Label shelves and toy boxes/bins with picture and name of toy.
    • Sing songs and nursery rhymes.

    Small Muscle Skills

    • Uses spoon and cup independently
    • Turns handle to open door
    • Completes simple insert puzzle (4 to 6 pieces)
    • Unscrews lids
    • Builds 6- to 8-block tower
    • Snips paper with scissors

    Activities

    • Provide simple puzzles for child to complete.
    • Provide child with small safety scissors and paper to snip.
    • Provide sand, pudding, or finger paint for writing with finger.
    • Provide many containers with tops to open and close.
    • Provide a busy box or purse with simple hooks to undo, compartments to open, and other things for child to manipulate.

    Large Muscle Skills

    • Rides and steers wheeled toys
    • Pushes or pulls door open
    • Walks up stairs holding rail

    Activities

    • Arrange for child to play games with others (London Bridge Is Falling Down, Tag).
    • Encourage child to practice throwing balls and beanbags.
    • Provide practice in riding a tricycle.
    • Show child how to jump over a chalk mark or hose laid flat on the ground.
    • Run with child in safe places.
    • Let child roll on grass or sand

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    36 to 48 months (3 to 4 years)?

    Personal and Social Skills

    • Begins to play with other children
    • Shares toys and takes turns with assistance
    • Begins dramatic play, acting out whole scenes
    • Tests limits (when adult says “no,” child acts anyway to see if adult really means “no”)
    • Interprets reality to suit personal needs (“I don’t’ have to share because my brother doesn’t like cookies.”)
    • Develops sense of humor; tells silly jokes
    • Dresses, toilets, and eats with little help
    • May develop fears (of the dark, fire, animals)

    Activities

    • Provide a safe, peaceful, supervised environment.
    • Set up cooperative play situations (kicking a ball back and forth; working with another child to “cook” and serve an imaginary meal to dolls or adults).
    • Help children solve social problems. (“Tell him you don’t’ like….)
    • Describe desired behavior and have consistent expectations for behavior. (“Please walk next to me when we are in the store.”)
    • Respond joyfully to child’s jokes.
    • Give child enough time to dress, toilet, and eat independently.

    Language and Understanding Skills

    • Understands consequences of an event
    • Begins to understand time concepts
    • Recognizes and matches colors
    • Begins to classify and group objects (by size, shape, color)
    • Talks in short sentences and joins some sentences together
    • Sings, learns finger plays

    Activities

    • Set limits on behavior and explain why they are necessary. (“Running into the street is not safe.”)
    • Use appropriate words to describe past or future events (today, tomorrow, before, after, next).
    • During story time ask child simple questions about the story.
    • Encourage child to sort and match objects during routine tasks. (“Which things do we need to take a bath?” where do the forks go? “What other things could you wear on your feet?”)
    • Teach child songs and finger plays.
    • Talk about sequence of events and tell what comes next.
    • Provide access to a computer with appropriate children’s software. Use it together.

    Small Muscle Skills

    • Begins to draw people and animals, including head and some other body parts
    • Manipulates nontoxic modeling clay (making snakes and balls)
    • Stacks small blocks and names structure
    • Cuts with scissors
    • Completes simple puzzles (6 to 8 pieces)

    Activities

    • Provide table toys (puzzles, beads, blocks).
    • Provide large sheets of blank, unlined paper.
    • Allow child to paint driveway with watercolors or plain water.
    • Offer a variety of writing utensils (paint brushes, markers, colored pencils, crayons).
    • Allow child to use materials independently-do not push child to “make” something.
    • Provide material for child to manipulate (nontoxic modeling clay, finger paint, shaving cream, sand).

    Large Muscle Skills

    • Walks on a line
    • Balances on one foot for several seconds
    • Begins to hop on one foot
    • Throws a ball a few feet with one hand
    • Catches a bounced ball with two hands
    • Rides a tricycle independently
    • Uses a slide independently

    Activities

    • Make obstacles course for child to maneuver through (over chairs, under table).
    • Play catch with a soft ball, increasing the distance gradually.
    • Play catch with balls and beanbags of various sizes.
    • Create a tricycle path with props such as stop signs and drive through windows.
    • Play Follow the Leader, including challenging movements.
    • Play music for dancing.

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    48 to 60 months (4 to 5 years)?

    Personal and Social Skills

    • Plays with other children cooperatively
    • Explores gender roles (mommy/daddy) and community helper roles (firefighter, shop keeper)
    • Understands limits and defines them for others
    • Respects authority, though may still test limits
    • Participates in group games
    • Chooses own friends
    • Is sensitive about teasing
    • Likes silly jokes
    • Dresses, toilets, and eats independently

    Activities

    • Provide opportunities for role playing and pretending discourage violent play).
    • Group same-age children together or invite a child of similar age for a “play date” to encourage cooperative play.
    • Teach simple games (Duck, Duck, Goose).
    • Allow child to help set limits. (“How many turns will each child get?”)
    • Help child develop strategies for solving social problems. (“Use words, not hitting”; “what else could you do?” “What will you say next time?”)

    Language and Understanding Skills

    • Asks questions to gain information (Why…?, How…?)
    • Understand routines and can tell what activity comes first or next in a sequence
    • Plays with language, making up nonsense words
    • Answer questions about stories and retells stories with assistance
    • Joins sentences together

    Activities

    • Read storybooks to child.
    • Ask child questions about stories and have child retell stories.
    • Encourage child to act out stories from books or imagination and use different voices for the character.
    • Engage child in what if games to encourage child’s own storytelling (“What if you could fly….)
    • Expand the range of computer software available to child.
    • Arrange trips to the library, zoo, and special events such as parades.
    • Play rhyming games with child. (“Can you say three words that rhyme with cat?)

    Small Muscle Skills

    • Cuts on a line
    • Copies shapes
    • Prints a few letters
    • Draws to represent objects
    • Builds symmetrical structures with blocks
    • Makes sculptures with nontoxic modeling clay

    Activities

    • Provide building toys such as blocks.
    • Offer child a variety of surfaces to write on (construction paper, envelope, chalkboard, cardboard).
    • Encourage child to represent objects and activities through drawing.
    • Provide nontoxic modeling clay, sand, and paper and glue.
    • Limit number of different objects child may use at one time.

    Large Muscle Skills

    • Walks backwards
    • Walks up and down stairs without help, alternating feet
    • Hops
    • Begins to skip
    • Kicks a ball accurately
    • Turns somersaults
    • Follows movement directions (“Put your hand on your head, take two giant steps, then turn around.”)

    Activities

    • Let child help design obstacle course (balance beams, chairs to climb over, table to crawl under, see saws).
    • Roll and pass large plastic hoops to each other.
    • Organize a noncompetitive kick ball game.
    • Take child to playground to practice climbing, balancing, and other movement activities.
    • Play Simon Says, including challenging movements.
    • Skip with child from the house to the car.
    • Encourage child to practice walking backwards.
    • Play music for dancing and provide musical instruments child can play while dancing or marching.

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