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Helping your baby grow from 0 to 5 years

5-minute read

Understanding how your baby will grow is important for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents. Every parent, every family wants to do the best for their child. What happens over the first 5 years of their life determines their future happiness and success.

Their early life will affect how they perform at school, behave in relationships and cope with the pressures they face in their adult life.

Giving your baby the best environment possible will enhance 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 the brain to grow in a healthy way.

A loving environment can be provided by a single parent or both parents together, or being in a home with extended family members.

If children are moving between locations under a shared parenting arrangement, having a routine and a designated space for their things will make them feel safe and secure in both of their homes.

The ideal environment for babies and children is to sleep in their own beds and be in spaces free of any type of smoke in the air or smoke particles trapped in clothing or bed linen.

Babies learn how to better cope with stressful situations later in life if they have been exposed to love and encouragement during childhood, free of angry exchanges and threatening behavior.

Separated parents can ask for help to manage difficulties in adult relationships or parenting responsibilities from organisations such as Relationships Australia, local single parenting support groups and from their local Indigenous health service.

Birth to 3 months

Your baby’s brain is developing from the time they are born, and how it grows depends on the signals received as they start to recognise and learn from their environment.

Babies communicate by making sounds and crying. Responding to their calls for attention encourages the bond between your baby and you, and sets them up for healthy adult relationships.

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

3 to 9 months

By now your baby is recognising and learning from the person giving them the most care and loving attention.

They will learn to roll over, to move into a sitting position 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 establish good eating habits. The nutrition your baby receives will set them up for a life of good health.

Your baby will be making more sounds and 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 where objects are hidden for them to find.

9 to 18 months

Your baby will be curious about everything and will go from being able to crawl to then walk and start to explore. You will notice they examine most discoveries by putting them into their mouth.

Your baby can now recognise their name and will need cuddles and attention as they learn to interact with other people and their environment. They like to make a noise, and simple drums and shakers will provide them with a low-cost toy. Filling and emptying containers and supervised play crawling around the house are fun things for a child this age.

1 to 2 years

Singing and talking with your toddler will help them learn to talk and start learning how to take turns and 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 develop their reading and storytelling skills. Cardboard boxes of any size and shape can be converted to 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, telling stories, and teaching 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 while they are learning how to identify 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 recognise 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.

They enjoy role-play games and making up their own stories. They like disguises 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, and learning about the natural environment and the stories of the land.

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Last reviewed: August 2019

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