What Children Learn and What Parents Can Do to Help

BIRTH TO 3 MONTHS

Babies learn to:

  • Smile at people, coo
  • Follow moving person or object with eyes
  • Prefer faces and bright colors
  • Reach, discover hands, kick feet, lift head
  • Suck with pleasure
  • Turn head toward sounds

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Talk and whisper all the time
  • Offer rattles; large rings, squeeze toys
  • Sing lullabies, read nursery rhymes and poems
  • Hang bright pictures where baby can see them

 

4 TO 6 MONTHS

Babies learn to:

  • Prefer parents to other people
  • Repeat actions that have interesting results
  • Listen intently, respond when spoken to
  • Laugh, imitate sounds
  • Put objects in mouth
  • Grasp objects, bat at hanging objects
  • Smile often

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Read Mother Goose, simple poems
  • Sing songs and do finger plays
  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Provide toys and objects with bright colors and different textures
  • Provide cloth and soft vinyl books with bright pictures to grasp, chew and shake

 

7 TO 12 MONTHS

Babies learn to:

  • Remember simple events
  • Form simple concepts
  • Identify themselves, body parts, voices of familiar people
  • Understand own name, other common words
  • Say first meaningful words
  • Explore, bang, or shake objects with hands
  • Put objects in and out of containers
  • Sit alone
  • Creep, pull themselves up to stand
  • Be shy or become upset with strangers

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Point to things and say the words for them
  • Continue to sing and play music
  • Play simple games like peek-a-boo and ring-around-the-rosy
  • Provide: balls, blocks, nesting toys, soft plastic or wood vehicles with wheels, bath toys that float, dolls, stuffed animals or puppets
  • Have board books to read, old magazines to crinkle and tear

 

1 TO 1 1/2 YEARS

Toddlers learn to:

  • Imitate adult actions
  • Speak and understand more words and ideas
  • Enjoy stories
  • Experiment with objects
  • Walk steadily, climb stairs
  • Assert independence, but strongly prefer familiar people
  • Recognize ownership of objects
  • Develop friendships, but also play alone
  • Begin to understand what adults want them to do, but do not yet have the ability to control themselves

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Read books with simple stories
  • Play music with songs, rhymes and simple stories
  • Provide paper and large crayons or marking pens
  • Have large cardboard box to crawl in
  • Provide puzzles with 2-6 pieces and knobs
  • Let toddler play in a kitchen cupboard that has safe pots, pans, lids and utensils

 

1 1/2 TO 2 YEARS

Toddlers learn to:

  • Speak and understand even more
  • Solve problems
  • Show pleasure in doing things like helping with tasks
  • Exhibit more body control
  • Play more with others
  • Begin pretend play

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Read books with large, colorful illustrations and short stories
  • Provide tools for pretend play like brooms, toy telephones, and dress up clothes
  • Expand art box to include soft clay
  • Provide toys for outside play, like riding toy

 

2 TO 3 1/2 YEARS

Children learn to:

  • Speak with many words and complex sentences
  • Enjoy learning new skills
  • Have some sense of danger
  • Gain more control of hands and fingers
  • Act more independent
  • Act out familiar scenes

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Play classical, folk or children’s music
  • Read picture/story books, poems about familiar things
  • Expand art activities to include finger and tempera paint, brushes, blunt scissors, white glue
  • Play beginning games like lotto and picture dominoes
  • Provide wood puzzles with 4-20 pieces
  • Provide blocks for stacking and building
  • Encourage role-playing activities through use of puppets and dress-up clothes

 

3 1/2 TO 5 YEARS

Children learn to:

  • Have longer attention span
  • Act silly
  • Talk a lot, ask many questions
  • Want real adult things
  • Reveal feelings in dramatic play
  • Test physical skills
  • Share and take turns sometimes

 

Parents & Providers can:

  • Read more detailed books, simple science books
  • Expand art supplies to include potters clay, chalk, paste, collage materials
  • Play simple board and card games
  • Encourage rhythm activities by providing simple musical instruments such as triangles, xylophones, tambourines, etc.
  • Provide sand and water for play
  • Play simple ball games with child
  • Let child play with planks, boxes, old tires (check for safety!)
  • Provide miniature settings for play such as airports, farms, dollhouse