As a parent, you want to know whether your child is on track and what to expect at any age. You can help your child towards appropriate activities, and get greater insight into why junior does, thinks or acts in certain ways. Do remember, however, that no two children are alike or develop at the same pace. If you are worried that your child is not “achieving their goals”, speak to your child’s teacher or doctor, who may refer you to a specialist.
0 to 3 years
In the first three years, you’ll see an amazing transformation in your baby — he’ll morph from a helpless, mewling and puking bundle into an all-running, jumping, speaking, potty-trained little person with a distinct character.
Baby grows stronger with each passing day. His neck muscles strengthen and he learns to grasp and control objects. By the end of the first year, he will be crawling, coasting and maybe, even walking! Hand-eye coordination increases in leaps and bounds this year; keep your little one stimulated with activity centres that fit across a stroller, car seat, or bouncy chair. From 18 months, your toddler is more mobile and will soon be running. By 3, your mini-dynamo can run, kick a ball, jump and walk backwards. Encourage lots of physical activity and games.
Babies 0 to 12 months learn by using their senses. They love discovering — touching and mouthing objects, hearing voices and music, and seeing fascinating sights. So, play with your baby — that’s how they learn. Try a simple game of hiding objects to find, and peek-a-boo. They will help develop your child’s memory and teach them about object permanence.
By 2, your toddler should have a vocabulary of 20 to 50 words, and be able to use two- to three-word phrases; they will labels fruits, animals, vehicles, colours and toys, and love to say “No!”
By 3, your little learner has a vocabulary of at least 100 words. They can speak in short phrases, enjoy stories and rhymes, and sing simple songs. Children this age begin asking “What?” and “Why?” Keep talking and reading to your child, and share your knowledge. The world is a very exciting place.
Social and Emotional
Babies respond to sound, especially their parents’ voices. In the first few weeks, tjeu begin to recognise voices and makes small “throaty” noises in response. At about 2 months, your baby smiles. From 4 months onwards, they laugh and squeal with delight, and whine when a toy is taken away.
From 18 months, you may begin a battle of wills with your toddler as they tries to assert their independence. For example, bath time for your 2-year-old may be a struggle, but once in the tub, they won’t want to come out. If coaxing doesn’t work, make a game out of a task you want them to carry out.
At this age, they’ll make use of a powerful weapon against you — the temper tantrum! These usually occur when junior is angry, tired, frustrated, or does not get their way. Ignore the tantrum or give them a time-out. With lots of patience and love, you can turn the terrible twos into terrific twos.
Between 2 and 3, your little one will start showing interest in other children. Playmates are important, so encourage them to interact with peers by arranging play dates, taking them to the playground or joining a playgroup.
4 to 6 years
As your munchkin grows, their world will begin to open up. They become more independent and will begin to focus on people outside your immediate family. Their interactions with those around them will shape their personality and how they think.
During this stage, your child will be able to ride a tricycle, use safety scissors, as well as dress and undress themselves. Their coordination and balance improves. Encourage a wide range of physical activities — dancing, ball games, karate, swimming or go to a kids’ gym. But also let them try activities that improve their fine motor skills, like art and craft, or let him do simple fruit washing or setting the table. They will know how to swipe and use phones and tablets, but do not let this be their only physical outlet.
Children this age enjoy craft work, colouring and painting — they are able to work independently for short periods and are proud of their work. They may also begin to enjoy simple board games. By 5, many children can recognise simple words and may even enjoy reading. Try extending the length of books that you read to them; listening to longer stories help extend their concentration skill and ability to focus. Gradually go from books with more pictures than text, to ones that are more text. Direct his focus to the words on the books and relate the meaning to the text, this develops his brain and his eye coordination.
Children this age are eager to please and need approval and encouragement. So, praise their progress. Building self-esteem is very important at this age. You should offer encouragement and praise while they work on a task, not just when they’re finished.
Social and Emotional
As parents, you need to be strong role models in moulding your child’s understanding of right and wrong. Help them adopt a sense of responsibility by involving him in household chores, like making the bed, loading the washing machine, setting the dining table, or watering the plants.
Children this age respond to rules and boundaries. Set clear rules at home and build them into the daily routine, like when your child should go to bed and how long they can watch TV (on the TV or on your iDevices) or play games. Be very specific and clear about what behaviour is acceptable and what is not, and be consistent.
Your budding actor also enjoys drama and fantasy play. Have a dress-up box at home, but take care not to limit it to only gender-specific costumes, such as princesses for girls and soldiers for boys. Include other costumes like a doctor’s kit, animal masks and so on.
From age 4, your social butterfly would have learnt, although reluctantly at times, to share and take turns. They will begin making friends and may even have a best friend. As their language skills develop rapidly, they can speak in grammatical sentences. Your little one is able to articulate their needs, differentiate the rules of various languages and speak two or more languages, if taught.
Your little monkey likes to repeat or imitate what they see or hear from adults or television programmes. So, watch what you say and make sure to keep abreast of their TV-viewing habits!
7 to 10 years
Children between 7 and 10 years have a lot happening in their lives. As parents, it is important to remain involved in their lives without stifling them. They are about to launch into a new period of growth and development — adolescence — and that will involve many physical, emotional, social and intellectual changes.
Children in this age group have well-developed hand-eye coordination, good balance and improved gross motor control. They can maintain control of their body while moving, such as when riding a bike, skipping, skating and dancing. They will also be able to use tools and will probably be old hands at technology.
Encourage your child to develop hobbies, especially those involving a range of motor skills. Activities such as cooking and craft work will fine tune skills and instil a sense of achievement; group sports will teach them cooperation, and start them on the road to lifelong physical health.
Your child has a large vocabulary and an increasing attention span. They can be logical, thoughtful and reflective and are able to understand reasoning and make appropriate decisions. By this time, they are also reading and writing independently, encourage both of these to broaden their horizons and widen their ability to understand differing views and perspectives.
Social and Emotional
They will want to be perfect and can be self-critical, often manifesting by getting frustrated, avoiding tasks or putting themselves down a little. Be patient and understanding of volatile emotions and moods, be consistent with behaviour expectations and have logical consequences for both appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.
Peers are increasingly important, especially the idea of having close friends, being part of the group and being “cool”. These could affect their self-confidence. So, compliment them for being cooperative and for personal achievements, and offer praise when they take responsibility, such as when they tidy their room, puts away their shoes or help with a task.
Your mini may increasingly avoid an adult’s help. Provide opportunities for independent decision-making in simple things, such as choosing their outfits, choosing what present to buy for a friend and handling pocket money.
They will become gradually more modest about their body and body image. At the same time, they will also show more interest in gender issues and people of the opposite sex, although they may or may not admit it! Be prepared to listen.
Now better able to cope with losing, they may also be more competitive.
This age group can be particularly sensitive about their abilities, so they need encouragement. Avoid comparing your child with others, always focus on what your child is improving on and what they are still working on.