Building it into your day
The first three years provide a great opportunity for learning. Babies and toddlers need stimulation to help make the most of this time and make learning possible. The best way to do this is to talk to them from the moment they are born - in your home when they’re beside you or out and about, just talk, listen and respond to your baby as much as possible. Play, sing and encourage them as much as possible – have fun together. Read aloud or tell stories – all these natural activities will help to build the foundation for your child to learn more.
Ages and Stages
Babies and children learn differently and reach the important stages of learning in different ways and at different times. In each age group we talk about some of the learning stages to look out for and how you can help your baby and your children to learn. We give possible ages when children reach certain stages of learning but often these ages don’t quite fit and the stages happen at other ages – earlier or later. So it’s important not to feel there is a problem if your friend’s child is doing things differently than your child.
1. Talk to your baby about what you are doing, where you are going and what you see. Your baby will learn to talk by hearing other people talking. Sing or say nursery rhymes to your baby and sing as much as possible. Your baby will love the sound of your voice. Examples are “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” and ones with actions like “I’m a little teapot”. Later when your child uses a word, add another one, for example when they say “cat”, say “nice cat”.
2. Play with your baby - newborns love physical play, gently tickle their face or count their fingers and toes. Repeat sounds your baby makes. Listen and point out to your baby sounds that are around you.
3. Read - share stories and books at an early age. Spend time with your baby looking at books, 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a difference.
4. Move, reach and grasp - encourage your baby to reach for things - mirror toys or bubbles - it's these movements that help build the muscles that lead to scribbles that will help with writing later on. When your child is concentrating by themselves and once you know they are safe, allow them to explore by themselves.
5. Count with your baby. Count their fingers and toes and going up and downstairs.
For tips on play from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, click here for babies (birth to 12 months) and here for toddlers (12 months to 3 years).