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Helping your baby grow from 0 to 5 years

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Understanding how your baby grows is important for all parents.
  • A nurturing environment can help your baby's brain develop, as they learn how to speak, move and interact with other people.
  • Babies learn how to better deal with stressful situations later in life if they are shown love and encouragement in childhood.
  • A loving environment can be given by a single parent or both parents together or being in a home with other family members.

How can I help my baby grow and develop?

You can help your baby grow and develop by providing a nurturing environment. This can help develop your baby's brain activity as they learn how to speak, move and interact with other people. Cuddling, talking, singing and eye contact will help their brain grow in a healthy way. Their early life will affect how they perform at school, behave in relationships and cope with stress in their adult life.

It's best for babies and children to sleep in their own beds, in their own spaces. Try to keep this space, as well as clothing and linen, smoke-free to keep them safe.

Babies learn how to better cope with stressful situations later in life if they have been exposed to love and encouragement in childhood, free of anger and mean behaviour.

What if I'm a single or separated parent?

A single parent, both parents together, or having other family members in the home can create a loving environment. The most important thing is that your baby has love and support and is kept safe.

Relationships Australia and local single parenting groups can support separated parents. They can help with challenges in adult relationships or parenting responsibilities.

If your child has more than one regular home, create a similar routine and a specific space for them. This will help them feel safe in both of their homes.

Birth to 3 months

Your baby's brain starts to develop even before they are born. It continues to grow, and learns from their environment and interactions with people close to them.

Babies communicate by making sounds, so responding to their calls for attention strengthens the bond between you. It can also help to set them up for healthy adult relationships.

It is safe to place your baby on their tummy while they're awake — if you are with them. This strengthens their neck and encourages them to use their arms and kick their legs, which helps their physical development. But they should always sleep on their backs.

3 to 9 months

By now your baby can recognise the important people in their life. They learn from the person or people who give them the most care and loving attention.

They will learn to roll over, to move into a sitting position, crawl, and how to pull their body up to a standing position as they become stronger.

By 6 months, your baby will be starting to eat solid foods and this is the time to set up good eating habits. The nutrition your baby gets will set them up for a life of good health.

Your baby will be making more sounds and will be interested in things they can hold in their hands.

Babies will smile easily and enjoy being around other people who are happy. They enjoy games of peek-a-boo, looking into the mirror, and looking for hidden objects (for example, hidden in your closed fist).

9 to 18 months

Your baby will be curious about everything and will go from crawling to walking and start to explore. You will notice they explore most new things by putting them into their mouth.

Your baby now knows their name may try and sound it out, or use it together with 'I', 'mine', 'I do it myself'.

They will need cuddles and attention as they learn to interact with other people and their world.

They like to make a noise, and simple drums and shakers will provide them with a low-cost toy. Fun things for a child this age include filling and emptying containers with safe objects, supervised play and crawling around the house. Choose toys that are safe and designed for your baby's age and stage of development.

1 to 2 years

Your toddler will enjoy playing games with you.

Singing and talking with your toddler will help them learn to talk, start learning how to take turns and how to share with other people.

Inside games for children include singing, making music and dancing. Walks outside and 'working' in a garden are also fun learning activities.

Reading books, looking at pictures and playing dress-ups will all help their reading and storytelling skills. Cardboard boxes of any size and shape can become toys and cubby houses.

Toddlers will also be keen to help their carer with chores around the home and respond to encouragement and praise.

Most small children love chasing games, but take care to ensure your child doesn't run into danger around roads, fire or water.

2 to 4 years

At this age the best way for your child to learn is by spending time with you. You can tell them stories and teach them how to look after themselves by putting on their own clothes and helping to prepare food.

They are also learning about feelings and can be distracted with play. They are learning to notice when they are angry or upset, or have behaved the wrong way, and how to control themselves.

They enjoy activities like making home-made musical instruments, painting, mixing food and putting collages together.

They are also learning how to solve problems and to notice when others are hurt or sad.

5 years

Children of this age need to know they are loved and praised when they behave well and help around the home. You can also gently guide them and teach them when they are not behaving well.

They enjoy role-play games and making up their own stories. They like dress-ups and masks, and can pretend to be their favourite characters from what they have seen or read.

Outside games they enjoy at this age include playing in the garden, learning about the natural environment and stories of the land.

Resources and support

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

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Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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