Birth to 8 Months
I Learn About What My Body Can Do
- I have a good grip as a newborn. I will hold onto things you put in my hand. At about 3 months, I will start to reach and grasp things with both my hands.
- I recognize the smell and voices of those caring for me the most. I can connect sounds to their source, and my favorite sound is the human voice.
- I search for something to suck. This calms and soothes me.
- I turn my head or close my eyes when it is too bright.
- I will learn to hold my head up, roll, and probably crawl. I have favorite positions, but it’s good for me to spend time on my belly, back, and sitting up so I can see things from different perspectives. This also helps me learn to move in different ways. (But remember, I should always sleep on my back!)
- In the first 2 months, I can focus best on things that are 8 to 12 inches away.
I Learn About My Feelings & Who I Am
- By 4 months of age, if you watch closely, you can begin to see what makes me unique—my likes and dislikes, my interests, how I like to interact, how I deal with change.
- I can show you many feelings. I smile and wiggle to show you that I like playing with you. I frown or cry when you stop playing with me. I arch my back and turn away when I need a break from playing or interacting.
- I feel secure when you hold me and smile at me.
- I Learn About My Feelings & Who I Am
- I learn to comfort myself. I may suck on my fingers or hands.
- Sometimes I startle, get frightened, or have taken in too much stimulation, and I need help to settle down.
I Learn About People, Objects, & How Things Work
- By 6 months, I can tell the difference between people I do and don’t know. Sometimes, I may be afraid of strangers.
- By 8 or 9 months, I might like to explore my food and even feed myself with my hands. It might get pretty messy at times, but it helps me feel confident.
- I learn I can make things happen. I can shake a rattle and make a sound. I can kick a mobile and make it move. I can smile, and you will smile back.
- I love to play games like peek-a-boo with you. When I want you to keep playing, I wave my arms and legs and make sounds to let you know I don’t want you to stop.
I Learn to Communicate & Relate
- Between 3 and 4 months, I begin to really enjoy babbling to you. I’ll begin with vowel sounds (ohs and ahs) and move to new sounds and combinations, with Ps, Ms, Bs, and Ds.
- I have different cries, facial expressions, and body movements to tell you that I am sleepy, hungry, wet, scared, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, or even bored and want to play.
- I learn about words and the joys of language when you talk, sing, and read with me.
- I move my arms and legs, I smile and gurgle, when I am happy and excited.
- I will start to imitate the sounds that you make. My babbling may even start to sound like your speech. My voice might go up as if I’m asking a question. It may sound like I am saying a whole sentence.
8 to 18 Months
Make the Most of Playtime
Playtime is special. Not only is it fun, but it is critical to children's development. Play is their "work" and their way of learning about the world around them. Through play, babies and toddlers try out new skills, explore their imagination and creativity, and learn about relationships with other people. Any activity can be playful to young children, whether it’s rolling trucks back and forth or sorting socks. And any type of play can offer multiple opportunities to learn and practice new skills. As a parent, you are your child's very first and favorite playmate. From the very beginning of your child's life, he is playing with you, whether he is watching your face as you feed him or listening to your voice as you sing to him during his diaper change. He is at work, learning and exploring.
So what can you do to make the most of your child's playtime? Check out the tips below:
Follow Your Child's Lead
Provide an object, toy, or activity for your baby or toddler and then see what he does with it. It's okay if it's not the "right" way...let him show you a "new way."
It's great to show your child how a toy works, but try to hold off on "doing it for him" every time. You can begin something, such as stacking 1 block on another, and then encourage him to give it a try. Providing just enough help to keep frustration at bay motivates your child to learn new skills.
Read Your Child's Signals
Your little 1 may not be able to tell you using words when he's had enough or when he's frustrated. But he has other ways—like using his sounds, facial expressions, and gestures. Reading the signals that precede a tantrum help you know when to jump in or change to a new activity. Reading his signals can also tell you what activities your child prefers.
Look at Your Play Space
Is the area child-friendly and child-safe? Is there too much noise or other distractions? Is the area safe to explore? Is this a good place for the activity you've chosen, such as running, throwing balls, or painting? Checking out your space beforehand can prevent a tantrum, an accident, or a broken lamp.
Play it Again, Sam
While this desire to do things over and over again is not necessarily thrilling for moms and dads, it is for their young children. They are practicing in order to master a challenge. And when they can do it “All by myself!” they are rewarded with a powerful sense of their own competency—a confidence that they can are smart and successful beings. The more they practice and master new skills, the more likely they are to take on new challenges and the learning continues. So when you’re tempted to hide that toy that you don’t think you can stand playing with yet 1 more time, remember the essential role repetition plays in your child’s development.
Adapt Play Activities to Meet Your Child's Needs
You may be a parent, relative, or caregiver of a child that has special needs. A physical, mental, or social disability can pose the occasional challenge to play time. Still, all children learn through play and any play activity can be adapted to meet a child’s unique needs. The guidelines below can help you think about how to make playtime enjoyable and appropriate to your child’s skills, preferences, and abilities:
- How does your child react to different textures, smells, and tastes? For example, some objects may be particularly enjoyable for your little 1 to touch and hold. Others may "feel funny" to them. Read your child’s signals and modify the play experience accordingly.
- How does your child respond to new things? Some infants and toddlers, particularly if they have a special need, are easily over-stimulated, while others enjoy a lot of activity. Try starting playtime slowly, with 1 toy or object, and gradually add others. See what kind of reactions you get. Are there smiles when a stuffed bear is touched and hugged? Does your child seem startled by the loud noises coming from the toy fire engine?
- Involve peers. It is important for a child with special needs, just as it is for a child who is typically developing, to establish relationships with peers. Arrange playdates or look for opportunities for your child to play with other children, such as at the park or during a library story hour. Having fun with peers is an important way that children learn social skills like sharing, conflict resolution, and empathy—and also help prepare children for the school setting later on.
- Think about the environment. How do variables like sound or light affect your child? What is the background noise like in your play area? Is there a television or radio on? Are there many other kids around? If your child seems distressed during playtime, and you’ve tried everything else, move to a quieter, less stimulating area to play.
18 to 36 Months
I Learn About What My Body Can Do
- I can do so many things for myself—pour milk on my cereal, wash myself in the bathtub, dress myself in simple clothing.
- I can do so much with my fingers and hands: turn the pages of a book, scribble with crayons, and even draw shapes like a circle. I can thread beads with large holes and use kid scissors. I can stir the cake mix, work the VCR and TV remote, and help sort laundry.
- I kick and throw balls. I can stand on 1 foot. I learn to go up and down the stairs with only 1 foot on each step!
I Learn About My Feelings & Who I Am
- I am learning self-control. I understand more often what you expect of me. Sometimes I can stop myself from doing things I shouldn’t, but not always. I learn to control my behavior when you give me only a few simple, clear rules to follow and help me when I forget.
- I love my independence, but I also still need you to help me and to do things for me. Sometimes I push you away. Other times I want you to hold me close.
- I may have new fears—the dark, monsters, people in costumes—because I don’t really know the difference between fantasy and reality. My fears can make it hard for me to go to sleep at night and can make me wake up and call out for you sometimes.
- I tune in carefully to your tone and words. I can tell when you are very sad or scared or upset, and sometimes, I feel sad, scared, and upset, too. I know whether you think I am good or bad, pretty or ugly, dumb or smart.
- My curiosity can lead me into “off-limits” territory. I need you to keep me safe and to help me learn right from wrong.
I Learn About People, Objects, & How Things Work
- I am very tuned in to other kids. I am aware of differences, like gender, age, and skin color.
- I can “play pretend” and use my imagination. I will care for my dolls and animals. I will start to make up stories. I can turn my block tower into a house and even use a block as a phone. When you watch me and join in, you can learn a lot about what I am thinking and feeling. When we play that I’m the mommy going off to work, you see that I am learning to deal with our separations.
- I learn how to care for others by the way you care for me. I may rub your back or comfort a friend who is sad.
- I learn to explore toys and objects in more and more complex ways. I can organize them too—like putting all the toys with wheels together.
- I like to play with other kids. We are getting better at sharing but still need help often.
I Learn to Communicate & Relate
- I also communicate by using my body. I make up dances, songs, and stories, and I draw pictures that tell you what is on my mind.
- I can put words together into sentences.
- I can tell you about things that happened yesterday and about what will happen tomorrow.
- I like songs, fingerplays (like “Itsy-Bitsy Spider”) and games with nonsense words
- I love hearing and reading stories, especially about things I know—like animals, families, and places I have visited.
- I may get frustrated trying to express myself. I need you to listen patiently. It can help if you put into words what you think I am trying to say because it makes me feel understood and helps me learn new words.
- I may know up to 200 words in my home language and sometimes in a second language, too.
- Sometimes I like to “read” or tell you a story.
What Do Preschoolers Do
- Copy shapes and some letters.
- Draw and write with pencils, crayons, and markers.
- Enjoy the same books over and over and look at new books.
- Imitate adult writing by scribble writing.
- Listen to stories and to conversations.
- Make up silly words and stories.
- Master many rules of grammar.
- Retell familiar stories to themselves and others.
- See print around them and watch adults read and write.
- Talk to adults and to other children in complex sentences.
- Think about what the characters in a book might feel or do.
- Use language to think, to share ideas and feelings, and to learn new things.
Preschoolers like many different kinds of books.
- Ask the children's librarian at your local library to suggest books for your child. Get ideas from other families, caregivers, and people who know your child well.
- Let your child see him - or herself in books. Choose books about families like yours and people from your culture and ethnic group.
- Look for books that match your child's experiences:
- a change in the family--the birth of a baby.
- a new event--going to the dentist
- a special interest--bugs
- something familiar--going to child care
- Look for paperback versions of your child's favorite books, in English and in your family's home language. Encourage family and friends to swap books and give them as gifts. And remember that yard sales and neighborhood bazaars often have very inexpensive secondhand children's books.
- Make regular trips to the library to borrow books, tapes, and other materials. If possible, have your child get his or her own library card.
- Add information to help the child understand the story. "Blueberries are easy to pick because they grow on low bushes. Remember when we saw blueberries in the supermarket?"
- Expect and encourage interruptions. Stop to talk about the pictures and the story in each book, and the ways they relate to your child's life. Ask and answer questions.
- Read with lots of enthusiasm. Change your voice to fit different characters and feelings such as sad, excited, or happy.
- Set aside a time each day when you and your child can relax and read together. Make these special times when you enjoy each other's company and explore the new worlds and ideas found in books. Children who are read to are more likely to love books and to be strong readers.
- Bring along a bag of books when you leave home. Your child can read on the bus or subway, in a car, at the laundromat, and at the doctor's office.
- Set up a reading shelf, basket, or corner where your child can reach books without help. Store books upright so that the child can easily find the 1 he or she is looking for. Almost any room in the home--kitchen, bathroom, living room, or bedroom--is a good place to keep books.
- Show your child how you use books, newspapers, and other written materials to find out what time a store opens, what the weather will be like, or what you need for a recipe.
- Show your child that reading is an important and useful skill. Children love to imitate adults. A child who sees you enjoying a book or magazine will want to do the same.
Discovering the Written Word
Most kindergartners are on the threshold of becoming readers. At this stage, children typically read by looking at the printed word, but they often rely on their memory of the story and on the pictures. Kindergarten teachers immerse children in the world of the printed word so that many read some simple books by the end of the year. At home, you can extend your child's budding literacy skills by reading and writing together as much as possible, by encouraging your child to read, by playing language and letter games, and by introducing new words when talking together.
In just 5 years, the typical kindergartner has learned to understand all of the grammatical structures in her native language. She can listen to and tell complex stories. She can play with language by rhyming and listing words that begin with the same sound. Kindergartners begin to explore the relationships between listening and speaking and reading and writing. They learn which letters and sounds go together, recognize some common words, remember and create stories, and use all of these skills to read simple books and write simple messages.
Weaving language and literacy into everyday activities at home helps your kindergartner develop as a reader and writer. Simple projects like writing a grocery list together, making words with magnetic refrigerator letters, or just talking about what you see as you ride the bus can become important moments in your child's literacy development. Learn more ways you can support and inspire your kindergartner as he inches towards literacy.
For more information, visit PBS.
Cracking the Code of Words
The number of words your first grader can read and spell increases dramatically during this year. Children can achieve this through lots of practice, at school and at home. Through talking with adults, listening to books read aloud, and discussing everyday experiences, they continue to develop the language skills that help them learn to read and write. Most importantly, your first grader starts to crack the code of written language, as he sounds out words, learns to identify them, and understands their meaning.
First graders develop the tools for reading the printed word. They learn to recognize many common words by sight, and they develop strategies for decoding, or figuring out, words as they read. By the end of the year, most first graders are able to read easy books all by themselves. Writing daily helps your first grader learn to read by reinforcing the relationships between sounds and letters. At the same time, through talking and listening, she continues to develop new vocabulary and knowledge about the world that will help her understand what she reads.
First graders spend a large part of their day at school reading and writing. However, parents still have a huge effect on a child's literacy development. When you talk to your first grader about new words, listen to her read books aloud, and communicate with her teacher on a regular basis, you take simple but important steps in supporting her reading and writing. Learn more ways you can encourage and inspire your first grader as she learns to read and write.
For more information, please visit PBS.
Talking & Reading to Learn
Most 2nd and 3rd graders are able to read independently. The more they practice, the more fluent they become. At this stage, your child begins to focus in depth on the meaning of what she reads, and she uses reading as a way to help her learn many new vocabulary words and concepts. Second and 3rd graders use writing and talking to help them further develop their understanding of the books and the concepts they are exploring at school and in the world. Although 2nd and 3rd graders can do much on their own, parents can still help them to develop as readers and writers simply by reading aloud, talking with them about the books they read, helping to set up a homework routine, and communicating with teachers.
Your 2nd or 3rd grader is becoming a more fluent, efficient, and skilled reader. With lots of practice reading, he recognizes more and more words instantly, and he begins to read with expression that approaches normal speech. As they become more proficient readers, 2nd and 3rd graders are able to think about the deeper meanings in stories, learn new vocabulary words through reading, and gather new information from books. As writing becomes easier for them, they begin to use it as a way to clarify and extend their understanding of what they read. Likewise, they use discussion to make meaning out of what they read.
Even though 2nd and 3rd graders read and write independently, parents can still help them develop their abilities through regular, daily activities. You can extend the school experience at home by establishing good homework habits, helping with homework only when needed, and reading what your child has written. In addition, you can read and talk about books that are not part of homework assignments together and take trips to the library to find books your child likes to read. Learn more ways to help your child become a more fluent and independent reader and use writing as a way to understand what he reads and observes in the world around him.
For more information, please visit PBS.