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Your child enjoys playing with other children but you’re still their #1 play mate too. You can help guide your child with these Nurture, Explore & Share tips

This is a new and exciting time for your toddler as they are busy exploring, playing and discovering the world around them. You can learn more about your toddlers play time using the Nurture, Explore and Share tips. Play time and discovery will become more enjoyable at this time.

Warm summer days offer endless possibilities for fun in the sun! Planning activities can feel overwhelming at first but it may help to view activities in a different light. In support of your child’s lifelong learning, an activity can become part of a week-to-week adventure between you and your child, guiding a pathway to discovery through hands-on experience beyond home. The weekly project consists of many activities to build on your child’s interest and natural curiosity to learn about how the community is connected in one big circle. Project activities are special because they are intriguing to both children and parents and promote questioning to further understand the topic of interest (i.e. growing an herb garden).

You are partners in your child’s journey to learning about the world! Enjoy your child’s excitement for learning because the project you plan stirs up their curiosity. Parents are also learners, you are supporting your child’s curiosity by bringing them to environments for further exploration. For example, if your child asks how towers are built you might say “I don’t know exactly, but there are a lot of different materials and people with many skills to make that happen. Why don’t we find out about the materials first?” This is the opportunity for you and your child to connect by sharing a journey of knowledge together.

What we found out this summer!

Children create meaning based on what they see and do in the environment. Your child’s curiosity starts from anywhere and anything that catches their attention (ex: the grocery store, nature walk). You and your child are both investigators, working together to solve the mysteries of the world. For example, when your child moves food around on the plate, they could be wondering why carrots are orange in colour. You are the driving force to your child’s development of knowledge. A project starts with a question to discover what your child already knows about a topic. For instance, “Why do you think carrots are orange?”. Then, build on your child’s thinking by asking what else they want to know more about. For instance you might ask, “Do you wonder where we get carrots?”. A single topic will need multiple activities to understand beyond what is already known. With each question, an activity is created for you and your child to find new information that supports developmental domains such as social, emotional, and communication.

At the end of each week, you will create a special activity to celebrate your child’s discoveries. For example, hosting a picnic in the park after a week of learning the food groups and where food is purchased. Sharing and exploring curiosities with your child means you are investing in a lifetime of memories and creating a lifelong learner. Remember, children are always taking in new ideas and trying to make sense of them. We understand that spending time with your child is important and summer is a great time to start. In this summer guide, you will find 8 weeks of project approach ideas. For each week, a different topic is explored and organized into a simple daily activity appropriate for you to enjoy your child (toddlers and preschoolers). Remember, the provided project approach ideas can be changed to reflect your child’s interests and schedule.

Tips about Project Planning

  • Projects are about discovering how your child views the world before the project investigation begins;
  • Projects are about asking questions from your child’s perspective;
  • Projects are about searching for more information to provide a deeper understanding of a topic;
  • Projects are about using what you’ve learned and applying that knowledge to day-to-day routines.

« Download the Summer Guide Project Chart (PDF) »

« Summer Activity Guide Part 1: Everyday Moment Summer Activities »

Have you wondered how your response affects your child’s emotional development? In general, children are naturally curious especially when it comes to taking the first few steps. As a new parent, it is normal to cringe or tear up when you watch your little one fall. As your child explores their surrounding environment with the help of your hand, falls are bound to happen, on soft and hard grounds (i.e. grass, sand, concrete, rocks). The best part is you can support their walking through encouraging words. Positive encouragement goes a long way to strengthening your child’s perseverance to stand up and continue walking.

Learning to walk is a skill your young child will master over time, when your give your child hugs and lots of positive encouragement; you will soon find your child walking on their own! There are many ways of displaying positive encouragement; parents can express emotions in different ways, both verbal responses and with facial expressions. Some parents are familiar with comforting their child’s fall with their tone of voice (ex: “you’re okay sweetie”), using facial expression is another tactic you could also use. Facial expressions offer nonverbal responses including eye contact, smiles, and winks that are used to motivate your child to get back on their feet. Your facial expression and verbal response build their persistence and motivation to become independent walkers.

Persistence is a temperament trait that affects how we act and respond to life. Your child can have traits different from yours that may or may not complement in how we react to the challenge of learning to walk. Your child looks up for love and support as they learn to walk – verbal responses and facial expressions (positive encouragement) help them get back up when they fall. You are the best motivator for a child to persist in learning to walk!

Your positive encouragement helps your new walker to:

  • Feel happy and excited about learning to walk
  • Hear and recognize emotions as you say a positive verbal response (ex: I see you fell down, are you okay?)
  • Build self-esteem and confidence qualities


  1. Emotions help us recognize words quicker and more accurately
  2. A baby’s brain is one quarter the size of an adult
  3. On average, a baby will begin walking between 12 to 14 months (but every child is unique, so it could be earlier or later)

Everyday Moments throughout provides you and your child memorable opportunities to learning through summer adventures! A time to capture sights and sounds where you and your child make new sensational experiences. Whatever you have planned for the summer, creating a summer routine adds memories to the precious moments you already spend with your child.

What are Everyday Nature Activities?

For new parents, summer is a great time to bring your child outside to explore nature using their five senses: hear, touch, smell, sight, and taste. This could be your child’s first time exploring nature; take it slow as they become more comfortable with their senses as you explore those moments together. For instance, you could point to a flower and describe the petal and stem colours. Then, smell the flower together to discover a particular scent. Being able to share outdoor Everyday Moments means your child will become more comfortable exploring nature-like features such as plants, animals, and weather conditions. A nature activities offers a variety in terms of materials, along with new ways of experiencing existing indoor activities. A planned routine could mean your child feels more prepared and confident to conquer the activities planned for the day!

Planning a routine is like having a tool box of activities to experience throughout the summer. Having a variety of activities on hand makes life easier for you and your child to plan activities and build your schedule. Summer time feels warm and light, feel free to change up activities to fit your child’s interests and environment. For example, if it rains when you initially planned an outdoor picnic, don’t be afraid to host an indoor picnic!

Activities Anytime Anywhere

Everyday Moment Summer Activities

› Wake Up Time

Infant : Massage your Baby: Arms and Hands
Toddler : Toddler Sees Mr. Sunrise
Preschooler : Preschooler Wake-up Routine

› Meal Time

Infant: Baby Feast Food Experience
Toddler: Toddler Picnic
Preschooler: Preschool Ice-cream Snack

› Play Time

Infant: Baby Nature Walk
Toddler: Toddler Playing Ball
Preschooler: Preschool Painting with Nature

› Tidy-up Time

Toddler: Toddler Cleans up a Mess
Preschooler: Preschool Tidy-up Time

› Change Time

Infant: Baby Tickles
Toddler: Toddler Colour Day Game
Preschooler: Preschooler Buttons

› Bed Time

Infant: Baby Bath and Wash Time
Toddler: Toddler Sees Twinkle Star
Preschooler: Preschool Bed-Time

Everyday Moments are precious moments in the day where nurture, explore, and share happen between you and your child (i.e. wake-up, meal time, bed time, story time). A summer routine is unique because children can respond differently to the outdoor environment (i.e. weather, plants, animals, scent). The outdoors provide another place to bond with your child. Bonding time supports your child’s emotional and social development to think out loud and describe feelings of other and of self. Activities in this summer guide are geared towards babies, toddlers, and preschoolers which you may find helpful to add to your summer routine.

Participating in summer activities is entertaining and enjoyable, however, planning the activity can be just as fun! Hunting for materials for an art project for example, can be a game in itself. One way to get into planning is to be as curious as your child is. For example, you might point at a beautiful rainbow and your child might ask “What is a rainbow? Add an outdoor element to your painting activity outdoors, by painting the colours of the rainbow with your child with sticks and leaves instead of paint brushes.

Spending time with your child creates a lifelong social and emotional connection towards a loving relationship. When your child is familiar with your voice and touch, they will respond with safety and security. Your child will thrive knowing you are there to support them even when they feel afraid. Is your child afraid of walking under a running water spray? To reassure your child’s fear, you might say, “The water is surprising, but if watch the rhythm of the fountain, you might figure out the best time to run through, watch me!”. Exploring new activities together in a nurturing environment helps to develop their understanding of fear and how to overcome those fears.

Did you know:

  • Pretend play helps your child to develop problem-solving and social skills to be able to share ideas and feelings.
  • Building independence means giving your child time to try a challenging task such as pulling their shirt over their head.
  • Sharing feelings develops your child’s emotional understanding of others and self.
  • Your child can overcome fears based on your reassuring voice. For instance, you pet the dog and say “This is a nice dog”. Wait for your child to pet the dog, then in a calm voice respond, “The dog loves to be petted by you, I’m right here”.

Complete Summer Guide PDF download coming soon!

« Summer Activity Guide Part 2: The Pursuit of Summer Fun »

For many new parents, the thought of an Everyday Moment might not represent anything particularly special. Perhaps those moments start to feel just like routine parts of every day.

But there is magic in the Everyday Moments you are already spending with your child. Magic in moments like waking up, meal time, diaper change time, bath time, play time, reading time, driving to the store, walking to the park, bed time.

In each of those Everyday Moments are opportunities to really connect with your child. And they are moments to cherish. Talking with your baby, pointing and talking about what you’re doing, cuddling and tickling when changing a diaper, singing when driving in a car, cuddling anytime is a good idea.

And here’s the magic part. If you do all these things while spending time with your baby through the Everyday Moments, you will be supporting your child’s healthy social, emotional and intellectual development as you interact with your baby. You do not have to plan a special event or buy a bunch of things…an Everyday Moment should feel natural because they do happen naturally throughout the day as you continue to nurture and share moments with your baby. Nothing complicated, only time with your baby is a moment well-spent in promoting developmental milestones (i.e. social, emotional, thinking, language, body and hand movement).


By sharing Everyday Moments your baby is learning many things at once, take this opportunity to be an explorer with your baby. An example could be when your baby is staring at an object (ex: trees, cars) or person; take this opportunity to describe what they might be observing. Say “you’re looking at orange leaves up on the tree” instead of “are you looking at that tree”. The more you describe, the more your baby hears words to build on language skills. This way, your baby will not only learn words but also become aware of the things in their environment.

One of the most common and frequent Everyday Moments is during bedtime when you tuck your baby in. This is an ideal moment because there is so much to do during bedtime. Some bedtime suggestions include:

  1. Cuddling
  2. Reading a story to your baby
  3. Sharing about your day
  4. Singing a lullaby song to your baby
  5. Talking to your baby (Remembering the food you ate with your baby or the time you spent together).

More Everyday Moments activities: Infants | ToddlersPreschoolers


  • When you respond to your baby crying middle of the night, you become more mindful of their different types of cries
  • Eye-to-eye contact with your baby provides a strong communication bond
  • Your hormones can effect bonding time with your baby (i.e. keep smiling)

Why wait to take advantage of the nice weather? Take some indoor activities outdoors, as your baby develops important relationships, and learns new words. As new parents, it is important to encourage your baby to use their five senses (to touch, to see, to hear, to smell and to taste) because it encourages them to try new challenges, negotiate activities, and cooperate with others. Developing these lifelong characteristics in the early years will benefit your baby’s healthy development.

As new parents, playing along with your baby means your baby will be less stressed and more willing to explore in their everyday life. The five senses (touch, smell, see, hear, taste) are the pathways to your baby’s learning; this is what your baby brings to every new environment. The moments you spend exploring and nurturing your baby’s development through nature walks, nesting boxes, and songs, the more your baby will be motivated to explore the world! Participating in your child’s play is the window into who they are!

Did You Know…?

  • Lacing, pinching a clothes pin on a line, and using a spray bottle, all help build your child’s finger muscles for writing later on.
  • Providing different spaced boxes allows your child to compare sizes (i.e. smaller, bigger, really little) that build on their thinking development.
  • Babies are very sensitive to your tone of voice and your natural body scents.

Have you ever wondered how your child is learning, for example, learning languages? Little do we know, it’s all comes from the way we speak and how much we speak. In other words, repeating words and sentences to your child can improve their development in language and literacy—their ability to read and write. Below are some great tips that will support you as a parent in taking part in your child’s speaking, understanding, writing and reading skills.

Reading bedtime stories

What are the reasons behind reading to your child? There are many benefits but the most important is that reading helps your child learn new words and understand different languages. The best part is, you can read to your child in more than one language and they will still learn to speak and understand that language. The key is to keep reading to your child, as much as possible, especially the stories they are most interested in.


  • A child needs to hear 1000 stories before they will learn to read
  • Reading aloud to babies builds their memory skills
  • Asking your child what’s not in a story could expand their thinking and imagination
  • Bonding– chemical change of skin to skin while reading

Repeating words & sentences

How is your child able to remember so many words? It all depends on how many times you repeat a word. Your child will learn as many words as you say out loud but the key is to repeat words again and again. For example, when you take your child grocery shopping, you can name the items you place into your basket such as “this is orange juice”. The more detailed the sentence, the better for your child to understand. Grocery shopping is not the only time to teach words to your child, you can teach your child at any time of the day or night: dinner time, bath time, cooking, play time etc. The everyday moments you are already spending with your child are the very best times to build language and literacy skills.


  • 50% of words in English language can be learned by just sounding out the word
  • Children need to hear a specific word 250 times before they remember it
  • The more words parents use when speaking to their baby, the greater size of their child’s vocabulary by the age of 3

Singing songs

Songs and nursery rhymes are always a great way of leaning new languages. Usually, your child will end up getting bored by simply hearing the words but you can make it more fun by singing songs and nursery rhymes to them. This way, your child is not only having fun but also learning new words through the songs and nursery rhymes. The songs below may be enjoyable for your child because they consist of many repeating words:

More songs with lyrics »


  • A child who knows 4 nursery rhymes by the age of 4 will naturally be a better reader by age 8
  • During the first few months, your baby just likes to hear your voice, so it doesn’t matter what you sing or read to them
  • When you sing, your voice soothes your baby

As you look back at history in our society, fathers typically have not played a significant role in the early years of their child’s development. More typically, mothers have taken on that role, becoming the primary caretaker through those early formative years. Fathers would participate less frequently in their children’s everyday moments such as feeding, bathing, bedtime, reading, etc. largely because they were working, but as often, because there was a general discomfort with knowing what to do and how to do it. In today’s world, times have changed. More and more fathers are breaking the stereotype, spending quality time with their newborns and taking a much more active role as Dads, particularly through those first 5 years. And it turns out- this is really important for the healthy development of their child.


  • Father’s Day is celebrated the third Sunday in June in over 50 countries around the world.
  • In the underwater world of the seahorse, it’s the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.
  • Children highly involved with their fathers or a consistent male role model have a lesser chance of acquiring behavioral problems.
  • Québec has the highest “paternity leave” rate for fathers across Canada.

Just as a baby benefits from the love and nurturing of a mother, a baby also benefits from the love and nurturing of a father. There are special ways for fathers to become really involved in the everyday moments they share with their children:

  • Holding your baby near you and talk to them- this actually helps their language and literacy
  • Once Mom has finished breastfeeding, take the opportunity to cuddle with your baby with soothing tones – this will help you bond together
  • Read picture books daily; even infants benefit from you reading to them
  • Play – every day! You are your child’s #1 playmate!

As children grow older they often look up to their fathers for advice; they can share everything with their fathers, just as they do with their mothers. Studies have shown that children with involved fathers or a consistent and positive male role model, build meaningful relationships and are more ready to go to school.

With Father’s Day just around the corner (June 19th), we celebrate Dads!

Your baby is growing and will almost be a toddler! They are exploring the world around them and enjoy playing with different adults and children. You can help them explore with the Nurture, Explore & Share tips. Everyone can play with your baby, the more the merrier!

Provide your child with opportunities to interact with new children as play partners they might get a little anxious if you leave, stay closeby to allow your child to develop a sense of security and play freely with other children. Continue to play with your baby and use these Nurture, Explore & Share tips to help build a healthy relationship. Your baby will be most comfortable playing with you but encourage them to play with other babies or adults!

Your baby is starting to understand the world more and increasingly beginning to enjoy toys more. Toys are a fun way to help your child explore, but you can also play simple games with your baby. These Nurture, Explore & Share tips will help your baby feel comfortable around you. Your baby will enjoy playtime even more when they play with others! Make sure to use reading examples wherever possible – ultimately instilling a lifelong love of learning.

Your baby is precious, everything in the world is unfamiliar. This is the time to bond with your baby and discover one another. These Nurture, Explore & Share tips will help you connect with your child during their earliest months. Inviting other family members to play is even more exciting!

1. At about this age, children start to think more about the feelings of others.

You can talk with your child about things they do that affect other people. For instance, ask how your child would feel if someone interrupted them while talking. You might agree on a signal, like touching your arm, for when your child wants a turn to talk.

2. During the preschool years, your child will learn to share you with other people.

Give your child the chance to be involved with you or other children for short periods of time. Praise your child for the times when they are playing contentedly on their own.

3. Encourage your preschooler to try new things.

Refrain from pushing  beyond your child’s limits. An activity may seem easy to you, but your child may not be ready for it. Listen to your child, especially when they are scared. Avoid making them try something because you want to do it or you see other children doing it.

4. Resist the impulse to take over your child’s play and make it better.

This may reduce your child’s self-confidence. It can make your child feel as if their work is not worthy of your appreciation.

5. The most important way to build your child’s self-esteem is to make sure your child knows they are loved.

Your child will then begin to see himself as a good, lovable person. Each time your child learns a new skill, right from the earliest days, let your child know how well they have done. You should also encourage your child to cope with new situations, but only expect what’s likely for their age, not perfection.

6. Give your preschooler lots of chances to play – alone, with brothers and sisters, with other children and with you.

When your child plays, they are practicing skills in every area. Your child thinks, solves problems, talks, moves, co-operates and makes moral judgments. Play is helping them get ready for the real world.

7. Praise your child’s attempts to try new things and to deal with frustrating situations.

Never punish, shame or ridicule a child who tries and fails. This can damage or destroy their fragile self-esteem. For the same reason, don’t look for perfection or constant success. Expect only what your child is capable of for their age and stage of development.

8. Make it clear what your expectations and limits are – it helps to prevent problems.

Enforce these limits consistently but always respect your child. Try not to yell, or humiliate your child, and never use physical punishment.

9. When you spend time with your child, let him take the lead sometimes.

Choose what you’ll do together by talking about possible choices and exchanging points of view.

10. A child needs to be given choices as they build confidence and independence.

Deciding what to wear each day is a good place to start. Offer your preschooler two or three choices that suit the weather and (hopefully) the occasion. Even if your child’s choices are not what you would prefer, be happy that your child is happy.

1. Now is the time to start setting limits that go beyond safety.

Decide on a few rules that really matter. For instance, “be gentle” and “no hurting others” are good rules for a toddler. Try not to have too many limits or rules about little things that are not important. If you do, everyone will end up getting angry. Let your child know what the rules are and stick to them. Be firm and be consistent. Remind her of the limits before going out or doing something new. And make sure your child’s caregivers know the rules, too.

2. Toddlers respond better to limits when they feel loved. Try talking to your toddler in a positive way.

Say, “Please close the door quietly,” instead of “Don’t slam the door.” Pay attention to his good behaviour and tell him that you are proud of him. This can build your child’s self-esteem and he won’t want to battle with you all the time.

3. It takes time for toddlers to learn to make friends and get along with others.

Their social skills will improve as they learn to talk and control their movements more. Playing with your child will help her get ready to be with others. Talk with her in a happy, playful way. You can even act out ways of dealing with new situations that your toddler will face.

4. When you need to leave your toddler with a new caregiver, start by introducing them for short periods of time when you are there, too.

Try to let your child get used to the caregiver before you leave them full-time. For the first few days, stay with your child and the caregiver for a little while. This will help your child adjust and help you learn more about daycare. Stay for a little less time each day. This will make the first couple of weeks easier for you and your child.

5. Bring your toddler’s favourite toy and a snack when you go out.

Talk about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. Tell him how you expect him to behave (“Stay with Mommy”). Also be careful about the time of day you go – children need their snacks and naps. If you think the outing will be too much for your child, leave him at home or with a caregiver, if you can.

6. Toddlers need routines.

They learn to expect what will happen next. This gives them a feeling of control. Bedtime routines are important and can make life happier for everyone. Set a regular bedtime hour. Make a routine that includes calming things like a bath or reading a book. To help your child learn the routine, tell her ahead of time what the next step will be.

7. Toddlers will get into mischief.

Faster than you can imagine! They are busy exploring the world around them. It is not difficult for them to break things or hurt themselves. Make sure your toddler has safe surroundings and is never alone for long.

8. All toddlers break the rules at times.

How you respond depends on the situation and your child’s age. Think about how your child is feeling. When he misbehaves, it’s often because he is upset. He isn’t trying to make you mad – he just doesn’t know how to tell you what’s bothering him. Try to figure it out. Was he bored without you? Was he excitedly trying new things? Understanding your child’s feelings may help you guide him better.

9. Your toddler needs to know that you will be there when she needs you.

A secure child will more eagerly explore the world around her. If you notice that your child is having difficulty, stop what you’re doing and go to help her. If she is finding it hard to be part of the group, try giving her a toy related to the group’s play to help her join in.

10. Being a parent can be tough.

Parents need to give each other support. Some parents form groups to talk and help each other out. Ask your local health unit, library or community centre to help you find one of these groups. It’s important you know you’re not alone. Research confirms that all parents both need and want help!

1. Long before your baby can talk, they are learning about language.

They are sending you clues about what they need, wants and feels. They will test different cries, gurgles and facial expressions to see how you respond. Then they’ll keep doing the ones that get the results they want. As they learn that they can make things happen, they will develop confidence and want to try new things. Keep on talking with your baby. Try repeating the sounds they make and adding new ones.

2. Learning to “read” your baby is fun, but can be a challenge.

They smile – you smile back. They reach out – you touch their hand. If they turn their head away when you speak, that can hurt you. But she may be telling you they are tired. Or maybe they need your voice to be softer. They may just want to be left alone for a moment. It takes trial and error to figure out what your baby is trying to tell you, so be patient.

3. Babies experience relationships through their senses.

The best way to tell your baby you love them is with lots of talking, cuddling and eye contact. You cannot always be there when they want a hug. But when they are“asking” for a hug, do your best to deliver.

4. Your baby forms a secure attachment to you as you care for them.

Through daily routines, your baby learns that they can rely on you. They gain a feeling of safety. This trusting attachment sets the basis for their future relationships.

5. You cannot spoil your baby by responding to their needs.

Babies are born with a need for human contact. In the process of providing it, you learn more about them, and they learn more about you. They learn that they can count on you.

6. Special moments need time.

Not all of your one-on-one moments with your baby will be happy and special. You need to spend lots of time getting used to each other for those special moments to happen. They will happen more if you focus on your child while doing everyday things.

7. Babies are most ready to learn when they are calm and alert, in a quiet environment.

This is a good time to spend with your baby and to play.

8. Toys can’t take your place.

Giving your baby toys and other safe things to play with is good for their development. But playing WITH your child is even more important to their well-being.

9. Even when you are really busy, it’s important to make time for your baby.

Housework isn’t the top priority. If you have a partner, try to take turns with chores and with spending time with your baby. Build a circle of friends, relatives and neighbours. We can all use a bit of help!

10. You don’t have to be perfect to be a terrific parent.

So relax. And your child doesn’t have to be perfect to be a terrific child. You will both make mistakes, and you will both recover. So enjoy each other now because babies grow up quickly!

As your infant grows a little older, here are some things to add to your daily routine.

It’s a good idea, whenever you’re with your baby, to just carry on a running conversation about what you’re doing. This is an important way of preparing them to speak for themselves later on.

Realize that since crying is still your baby’s main way of communicating with you, it helps to learn to be more aware of what many of your child’s cries mean, such as “I’m hungry,” or “I need changing,” or “I’m tired or bored,” or “I want attention.”

And, as your baby becomes more interested in exploring their world with you, and shows interest in colours, music and touching things, it’s best not to over-stimulate your child. For example, there’s no need to buy all sorts of toys at this age, although your child will enjoy toys such as rattles to grasp and bright objects to look at. Ordinary household objects and regular routines like feeding, bathing and dressing usually provide enough stimulation.

Baby and toy stores are full of toys for babies. Our experts have put together a list of some of the most popular options to help you choose what will work best for your new baby.


Mobiles help your baby focus and improve their vision. Watching moving objects stimulates your baby to track the object with their eyes, and if the mobile offers music or sounds, this can enhance your baby’s listening skills.

  • Encourage your baby to take notice of their surroundings by pointing out the mobile’s features, colours, characters or lights if it has them
  • Change the mobile’s position every once in a while, or change your baby’s position so they get a new view.

Music Boxes

Playing music or recordings of sounds from nature is a great way to enhance your baby’s listening skills as well as to calm and soothe your infant.

  • Use a crib soother to help stop crying or calm them down, this helps to support your baby’s efforts to self-regulate.
  • Sing or hum along with the music to encourage your baby to focus attention on you and to feel soothed by the sound of your voice.

Soft or Stuffed Toys

These toys help to encourage your baby’s emotional and intellectual development. Babies recognize and respond to faces very early. As they develop the ability to focus, seeing a familiar face is comforting to them. The soft, cushy texture of a stuffed toy is also soothing, especially when babies are not being held and cuddled.

  • Place the toy or doll within her view at arm’s length away. The doll’s face will be a source of visual interest, and the soft texture of the fabric will be interesting to touch.
  • Hug, kiss and coo at them. Near the end of the first month, demonstrate cuddling and nurturing behavior on a stuffed animal. for your baby.
  • Move the doll up and down in front of your child, then a little to the left and to the right. Watch to see if your baby is able to track the doll with their eyes.
  • Be sure to remove any stuffed or soft toys from your baby’s crib when they are sleeping.

Child-Safe Activity Mirrors

Babies love to gaze at their own reflection; they are fascinated by what they see. This encourages self-recognition, enhancing their emotional development. It also fosters eye-hand coordination as baby reaches to touch the mirror.

  • Initiate your baby’s sense of self-recognition by pointing to their reflection in the mirror, and then to your own.  Play a peek-a-boo game.  Also, point out your facial features to help your baby make the connections.
  • Go to other mirrors in the house and show your baby how your reflections show up in those mirrors, too.
  • Give them some tummy-time play. Position this mirror in front of your baby so when they are ready to put their face up, they can look at themselves in a new way.

Manipulative Toys

Manipulative toys examples include simple rattles; teethers; light, sturdy cloth toys, squeeze toys; toys suspended above or to the side of baby for batting and grasping. Your baby will start to grasp these toys at about 6-8 weeks. As they move their hand, they will be attracted to the colours and the sounds.

Although, these toys can encourage your baby’s development, you will still remain as your baby’s favourite toy!

Learn more about choosing baby toys for your infant


Travelling as a family with baby in tow, can be fun, but it does require some planning ahead.

Consider the following if you are traveling by car:

  • plan that the drive will take longer than you would normally expect.
  • take a break after every 2 hours – this gives your baby some time to be in a different position than the car seat – consider some tummy time or time on his back so he can kick and wiggle.
  • have one parent sit beside baby so you can be close by to attend to her needs – take turns with your partner – it provides each of you a break from driving or entertaining your baby.
  • you know your baby and baby’s schedule, if possible plan your trip when your baby normally naps or has a longer sleep, this will allow him to have part of their nap during the time you are driving. Try and avoid driving when your baby is having their fussy time of day.
  • some babies are more sensitive to travel than others – tummy upsets, changes in elimination or eating may happen, carry extra diapers, hand wipes and waterless wash where it can easily be reached.
  • have toys, rattles, books, music or items to distract your baby when she gets bored – even singing to her will help.


  • pack items for baby that are used frequently at the top of their bag i.e. diapers, wipes, bibs, a variety of mix and match clothes in dark colours (they hide any spills or stains) suitable for changeable weather, suitable outdoor clothes including a hat, any diaper creams or ointments.
  • baby’s blanket, soother, or special toy, stuffed animal that baby likes will help her feel more comfortable during your trip.
  • any medication or vitamins that baby takes.
  • take a large resealable plastic bag for smelly and dirty clothes.
  • remember baby’s health card, and if you are travelling outside of your country your baby’s passport.
  • some parents find it helpful to pack a nightlight to use in their hotel room; it provides enough light if you need to attend to your baby in the middle of the night.
  • don’t forget your stroller or baby carrier
  • place an extra change of clothes at the top of your suitcase, just in case baby has a spit up that lands on you.

At your destination:

  • see if your hotel provides cribs and book one in advance of your trip.
  • when possible try to maintain baby’s normal routine including bed time routine.
  • use soft lighting or a plug-in night light if baby wakes during the night.

Sometimes new parents feel awkward with their new baby or have trouble relating to her. This is a normal feeling and will usually pass.

Our experts have developed some tips to help you when you’re feeling this way.

If you are having trouble relating to your baby, here are some tips that may help.

Remember that bonding is a process that takes caring, patience and time. Your feelings for your baby will grow stronger over time.

Understand how important you are to your baby. Your baby needs to feel comforted and protected by you.

Although some of these things might feel awkward at first, here are some ways to begin to build a warm relationship with your child (even if you don’t feel that warm at first)

  • Hold your child close, talk warmly about what you or your child is doing, and provide hugs and kisses.
  • Try singing or telling a story to your child – whatever songs or stories you like. Be yourself and your baby will come to love it.
  • Try playing some games like peek-a-boo or ‘I’m going to get you.’

Even if it feels like this is “not really you,” create your own version of these activities. Over time, both you and your baby will become more relaxed and appreciative of each other.

Hitting the toy store when you’re a parent can be an exercise in being overwhelmed. There are rows and rows of shiny, colourful objects and it’s hard to know which ones are worth the price. First-time parents can be especially unsure, as it’s hard to know what their new baby will enjoy and what toys will help with her development.

In order to choose the best toys available, parents need to understand a bit about their child’s development. Our experts have created the following list of skills that a one-month-old has developmentally – these are great things to keep in mind when choosing toys for a newborn. But remember, your baby’s best toy in the first year will will always be you!

Typical Emotional Skills

  • Enjoys/needs a great deal of physical contact and tactile stimulation.
  • Responds positively to comfort and satisfaction.

Typical Fine Motor Skills

  • Stares at colourful objects 8 – 14 inches away.
  • Follows person with eyes while lying on back.
  • Generally keeps hands closed in a fist or slightly open.
  • When fingers are pried open from their usual fist position, baby grasps the handle of a spoon or rattle, but drops it quickly.

Typical Gross Motor Skills

  • Lifts her head when held against your chest; his head sags, flops forward or backwards when not supported.
  • All arm, leg and hand are usually held in a flex position; when they do move it is with little control.
  • When lying on her back, you will see the tonic neck reflex which is characterized by the head turned to one side; the arm on the side that the head is turned is extended while the other arm is bent upwards.  The leg on the side that the head is turned is extended and the other leg is bent at the knee.  This is similar to the position that a fencer assumes.
  • When on her tummy, she turns her head to clear her nose from bed; may lift head briefly.

Typical Intellectual Skills

  • Cries when hungry or uncomfortable.
  • May make throaty sounds like ‘ooooh’ or ‘aaaah’.
  • Pays close attention to faces of those closest to him.
  • Responds to loud or sudden noises with a sudden start; this is one of the early signs of a developing response system.
  • Focuses on high contrast patterns and faces; prefers these to bright or big objects.

Typical Social Skills

  • Fixes eyes on your face in response to your smile.
  • Moves body in response to your voice during interaction.
  • Quiets down when looking at familiar faces.
  • Engages in eye contact.

Here are some kinds of toys your infant might enjoy.

Babies learn to talk long before they say their first word. Therefore, both you and your partner should talk to your baby, right from birth. Listening to and becoming familiar with the sounds of language help your baby’s brain get ready to speak. Try to talk to your baby as you feed, change, dress, soothe, bathe or play with her. For example, you can describe what you’re doing, or put what you think she is feeling into words.

Try to look at and smile at your baby, and be expressive and animated when you’re talking to him. When your baby starts to make sounds, try to repeat them and add to them. For example, if your baby says “ba-ba,” you can make it into a word, like “bye-bye” and wave as you say it.

Another way to prepare your child to speak is to talk about things your baby is seeing as you go through your daily routine. For instance, on a walk you could point out the leaves on a tree or children playing. And as your baby begins to reach for objects, repeat the name of what she is reaching for.

It’s also a good idea to read lots of stories and rhymes to your baby, and sing songs. It doesn’t matter if your baby doesn’t understand the words. The more he hears language, the more easily he will learn it.

Don’t think you can speed things up or avoid having to talk to your baby by playing tapes or the radio. It’s just not the same. Your baby needs warm interaction with you, the expression in your voice and the smile on your face in order to feel secure enough to learn. So, when listening to tapes or the radio, join in. Sing along, talk back to the radio and dance with your baby to the music.

Babies are born with the need to form close relationships with caring and responsive adults – what childhood experts call “attachments.” If children don’t have the opportunity to develop close, uninterrupted attachments with nurturing adults during the early years, young children will find it more difficult to learn, to become confident and to trust others.

Babies can form consistent attachments with the people who are around them most. These few important relationships create a sense in your child of what kind of world this is and what her place is in it.

A secure attachment to caring adults helps your child learn to adapt to circumstances more easily, and to overcome difficult situations throughout his life. This kind of attachment helps your child to believe the world is a friendly and safe place. Having a parent or caregiver who learns to understand and respond to a baby’s signals, such as picking baby up and comforting him when crying, will help to form a secure, healthy attachment.

Relax, and don’t worry about making mistakes. It will take some time for you to learn what your baby is trying to communicate. All parents learn by trial and error. As long as your baby knows she can count on you most of the time, she’ll be amazingly flexible and forgiving.

Every day, there are plenty of opportunities to use Comfort, Play & Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting. The following examples from our experts show how you can support the social development of your baby while doing your routine errands.

When you are running errands with your baby, he often gets lots of attention from the people around you. He sees many new faces and hears new voices, so make sure to talk to him and let him see that you are close to him so he feels comforted by your presence. This will help him develop a sense of security and give him the confidence to face unfamiliar people and surroundings.

You will also find that your baby is interested in the other babies you meet along the way. Don’t hesitate to stop for a few minutes and let your child interact and play with them; they may “socialize” by making eye contact and communicating through sounds or gestures.

When you leave the house and return, say “Good-bye” and “Hello” to other family members. Over time, this teaches your baby that he always comes back to his family, and that he can trust them to return when they go out too.

When you’re taking your baby outside, especially in very cold or very hot weather, it can be tough to decide how many layers your baby needs. Dressing your baby can be different from dressing yourself, so making the right decisions take some thought. Here are a few tips to get you through winter and summer weather.


Avoid the sun as much as possible. Too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer later in life. Avoid using sunscreen on babies younger than six months of age. If your baby is less than six months old, your best bet is to keep his skin covered and stay out of direct sunlight. For babies older than six months, avoid being in direct sunlight during its peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on days when the UV index is 3 or higher, your baby should be wearing sunscreen. Use unscented sunscreens that:

  • Have a rating of at least SPF 15
  • Block both UVA and UVB rays
  • Are waterproof

Avoid sunscreens with ingredients such as PABA, which can trigger allergic reactions. Slater the sunscreen on your baby 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside and reapply every 2 to 3 hours, or after your baby gets wet or sweaty.

During hot weather alerts, keep your baby indoors or in the shade, and avoid the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Baby’s summer wear:

  • Dress your baby in loose-fitting lightweight clothing with long sleeves to cover arms and legs.
  • Put a wide-brimmed hat on your baby.
  • Put UVA/UVB-blocking sunglasses on your baby to protect her eyes.
  • If you’re using a baby carrier or sling, make sure that it’s not lined with heavy fabric and that your baby is not too hot.

In hot weather, because babies and toddlers dehydrate and get sunstroke more easily than adults, be sure to give your baby lots of extra fluids in addition to the ones he gets at meal-time.


Babies cool down much quicker than adults, so they’re more prone to frostbite and wind chapping. Keep that in mind when you’re picking their clothing and use these rules of thumb:

  • Dress your baby in one layer more than you’re wearing .
  • Don’t stay outside for too long – if your baby is suddenly fussy, that could mean she’s not comfortable.

Be sure to watch for the physical signs of frostbite and keep an eye out for exposed fingers and toes: A frostbitten nose, ears, fingers or toes will start to turn white.

Baby’s winter wear:

  • A hat that covers his ears is a must.
  • UVA/UVB-blocking sunglasses and a visor on baby’s hat protect his eyes on sunny days, especially from light reflecting off snow and ice.
  • Warm socks, booties, a scarf or neck warmer, and mittens keep your baby’s hands and feet toasty.
  • Dress your baby in lightweight fabrics such as polyester or fleece.
  • When riding in a car seat put your baby in a snowsuit or bunting bag that will allow for correct placement of car seat straps.
  • When riding in a stroller put baby in a fuzzy-lined stroller seat, or a bunting or baby jogger bag if you regularly walk with him.
  • Rain covers on strollers can protect baby from wind, rain and snow.

Skin-to-Skin contact is holding or laying your baby on your chest or abdomen with your baby just wearing his diaper. This can be done immediately after your baby is born and in the weeks and months following his birth. You can put a light receiving blanket over baby. Both mom and dad can provide skin-to-skin contact with baby.

Skin-to-skin contact has many benefits for your baby, including babies that were premature. Immediately following birth, it helps your baby adjust to the world around her. She is warmed by your body heat, her heart rate and breathing stabilize and her presence helps to release Oxytocin, a hormone in Mom’s body that will help in breastfeeding and keep Mom’s uterus contracted. Your baby’s senses are heightened immediately following birth; she will smell her mom’s body, look at her parents, hear their voices and feel their touch. Skin-to-skin contact in the weeks and months following birth continues to offer benefits to your baby such as:

  • Helps increase breast milk supply as frequent skin-to-skin contact allows baby frequent access to breastfeed
  • Baby has an increased ability to keep warm
  • Increased comfort from the warmth of your body, hearing your heartbeat and closeness of your voice
  • Improved weight gain
  • Increased baby-parent bonding
  • Improved oxygen levels in baby
  • Continued improvement in baby’s breathing patterns and heart rate
  • May help calm baby during painful procedures

A sippy cup hits the floor with a thud and your baby laughs madly as you mop up spilled milk and remind her that we don’t throw our things.

Later, she pulls every item out of the kitchen cabinet, spilling pots, pans and cooking supplies all over the floor. As you stack up the extra dishes it can be hard to see the positives of this behaviour.

Your baby, however, is just experimenting and learning about her world. When she drops her cups or pulls items out of cupboards she wonders what will happen, what will you do? Will the same thing happen if she does it again? And again?

Babies are miniature scientists. They learn about their world by experimenting, observing cause and effect and testing everything—including you. And they are relentless!

A baby who is experimenting is not misbehaving. Babies and young toddlers are way too young to know right from wrong. It may try your patience at times, but when you scold your baby or deem the behaviour naughty it puts both you and your child into a negative space. Instead, be patient and positive. Your persistent little scientist—with not a whole lot of memory yet—will definitely need your patience and guidance through positive parenting. Stay positive by criticizing your baby’s actions, not your baby and setting a good example, not throwing items when you are angry or frustrated.

Placing babies on their backs to sleep can decrease the risk of SIDS. However, some babies who sleep on their backs develop flat spots on the backs of their heads.

This does not affect brain development, but the flat spot can develop over several weeks and become permanent over time. This is often called Flat Head.

By alternating the way you position your baby in the crib or infant seat, you can help to prevent flat head. For example, one day place your baby with his head pointing toward the headboard of the crib; the next day, place him with his head pointing toward the footboard of the crib. Babies can turn their heads and will do this, especially if they have something interesting to look at, like a brightly-coloured toy or mobile. Make sure you place it close enough for your baby to see—about 10 to 15 inches away.

The other way to help prevent flat head is to be sure to give your baby some tummy time several times every day while your baby is awake.  Tummy time not only takes the pressure off the back of your baby’s head it also helps the muscles in your baby’s neck, to develop further.  You can do this in a variety of ways

  • Lay on your back and place your awake baby on your chest;
  • Place a blanket on the floor and place your baby on their tummy – you can even lay beside them and talk or sing to them;
  • If you have an exercise or birth ball you can rest your baby tummy-side down on the ball, hold the baby in this position and gently move the ball.

Some babies may not like being on their tummy, listen to your baby’s cues and try again at another time. Begin with short periods of time at first and gradually increase the amount of time they are on their tummy.

Here are some tips that will help you encourage your baby to begin talking.

  • Try to respond to whatever type of communication your child makes, such as pointing and gesturing.
  • Provide your child with a model for conversation. For example, ask some questions and talk about what your child is doing and what you and other family members are doing.
  • Try to speak slowly, naturally and clearly to your child.
  • Read stories together.
  • Give your child lots of opportunity to be with other children to hear their conversations.
  • Try to help by putting your child’s feelings into words in situations that make him frustrated.
  • Sing and dance to music together.

If you find that your child makes no attempt to speak by 18 months, doesn’t use many gestures to communicate, or seems to have trouble understanding what is said, discuss this with your child’s physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

Babies are born with the need to form close relationships with caring and responsive adults, which are called “attachments.” If children don’t have the opportunity to develop close, uninterrupted attachments with nurturing adults during the early years, young children will find it more difficult to learn, to become confident and to trust others.

Infants and young children can form consistent attachments with the people who are around them most. These few important relationships create a sense in your child of what kind of world this is and what her place is in it.

A secure attachment to caring adults helps your child learn to adapt to circumstances more easily, and to overcome difficult situations throughout his life. This kind of attachment helps your child to believe the world is a friendly and safe place. Having a parent or caregiver who understands and responds sensitively to a baby’s signals, such as picking baby up and comforting him when crying, helps the baby form a secure, healthy attachment.

Relax, and don’t worry about making mistakes.  All parents learn by trial and error. As long as your baby knows she can count on you most of the time, she’ll be amazingly flexible and forgiving.

There are things that you can do to help teach your baby the difference between daytime naps and going to bed at night. It is suggested that starting with a consistent bedtime routine from the very first night. Routines really help ready your baby for sleep by gradually decreasing stimulation. New parents are often exhausted as they realize that their baby doesn’t know the difference between night and day – meaning many sleepless nights and a big adjustment to their usual sleep schedule.

Here are some suggestions you can follow to create a routine:

  • Give your baby a warm bath – keep in mind that some baby’s develop dry or irritated skin when bathed daily, so this may not work for your child.
  • Give your baby a massage.
  • Dress your baby in different clothing at bedtime, such as pyjamas.
  • Make sure your baby has a dry diaper.
  • Read a book to your baby (even though baby doesn’t really know what you’re reading, this can be comforting and it is a way to bond).
  • Quietly sing a lullaby or play soothing music.
  • Keep the lighting low – use a night light or draw the blinds.
  • Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
  • Feed your baby.
  • Walk, rock or cuddle to help relax and calm your baby.

If your baby wakes up, always respond. Once you’ve figured out and solved the reason for waking – hunger, wet diaper, etc. – keep talking and other stimulation to a minimum. This will make it easier for your baby to settle again.

For more about bedtime routines, see the following articles:

Click here to learn more about your baby and sleep.

Both new and seasoned parents strive to help create some order out of the possible chaos of the few first months and routines are a great way to achieve that.

Here are some some common routines you might establish with your little one.

Bedtime Routines

Did you know that a nightly routine can help your baby learn to go to sleep and to sleep better? Now, what parent would turn that down? So how do you do it?

Watch your baby for signs of sleepiness; closing his eyes, squinting, rubbing his eyes or face, yawning, etc. Those signs present an opportunity to start a bedtime routine. If your baby likes water and relaxes in it, this would be a good time for a quiet bath, if instead a bath wakes him up or dries out his skin, perhaps soft music will help him relax. Once he’s dressed for bed, cuddle up together and read a few books. Help him to learn the difference between day and night by making his surroundings quiet, dark and cool when putting him to bed.

The same goes for naps. Creating a predictable routine to ease into a nap will help him learn to do this for himself. On another note, some babies have a very difficult time waking up, especially from naps. They rise totally disoriented and many cry very hard. A wake-up routine that provides them with the comfort they require is very important for these babies.

To learn even more about bedtime routines check out our articles on sleeping.

Mealtime Routines

Until your baby is 12 weeks or 3 months old, she should be eating on demand and she may still be feeding during the night. After that, you may notice that your baby feeds about five times a day at fairly predictable times. This pattern is actually the beginning of her future eating routine.

By the time she’s 6-months-old, her eating patterns will be more noticeable and predictable. This is also the time that you’ll start to feed her solids, iron rich foods, such as iron-fortified rice cereal and meats. Some experts feel this helps to establish mealtime routines. You can start your baby’s mealtime routine at this time, perhaps feeding her on your lap at the dinner table or using a high chair pulled up to the table, and using a baby spoon or plate.

Watch this Infant Mealtime Video for strategies and tips!

Play Routines

Talk to your baby from the beginning of his life, even though he can’t hold up his end of the conversation. Sometime during these first 6 months, he’ll start making the beginning sounds of talking, maybe even responding to your chatter. Now that’s exciting! Talking to your baby about what you see, what you’re doing, about everything, helps him to learn language and communicate.

Playing is the work of babies. It’s how they learn about themselves, others and the world around them. By the time your baby is 3 months old, set aside regular play time every day.

While playing with your baby, teach him about his world—the textures of items, the different sounds you can make with your voice, the different shapes and colours of objects. Everyday activities, such as diaper changing, bathing or helping your baby to wake up, all provide opportunities for you to make teachable moments from the everyday moments you spend with your child.

For some parents, the idea of babies having routines sounds crazy, while others knowingly nod their heads in agreement. Both new and seasoned parents strive to help create some order out of the possible chaos of the few first months and routines are a great way to achieve that.

Babies are born into a world where everything is new to them, and they arrive without much memory to help them remember from one day to the next. Their brains are growing at an amazing rate, though! The more the learning circuits in their brains are repeated, the easier it becomes for them to learn—about us and how we live.

Starting a Routine

While it is important to feed your baby on demand for the first several months of life, once you start to follow a pattern, you’ll help your newborn learn to trust that you will soothe her hunger—if not right this minute, then soon. The same goes for sleeping. Newborns don’t know the difference between night and day. Starting from the first day at home with your baby, follow a nighttime routine of bathing, changing, feeding, lowering the lights and eventually leaving the room. This will help your baby transition into the nighttime sleep routine, teaching her that night is the time for sleeping.

Don’t expect your baby to understand or stick to a routine right away. The patterns that will become routines will soon be clear to you.

To help pave the road to a routine, do things in the same order each day, as you get a feeling for your baby’s rhythm and for what works for both of you.

Our experts have created a list to help you understand why it can be important to have a routine.

Routines help your baby learn about all of the following:

  • Your baby will learn to trust you and know that you will make her feel safe and secure.
  • A routine will help your baby learn and remember things. Repetition helps build your baby’s memory as she learns to recognize predictability in her strange new world. This makes your baby feel safe and secure. She’ll be able to relax and will have the energy she needs to be curious, to want to explore and learn new things.
  • Your baby will begin to build social and language skills. For example, if you always say “goodbye” when someone is leaving, your baby will learn the word “goodbye,” the meaning of the word and the social response that goes with it.
  • Routines will help teach your baby about the concept of past, present and future. The repetition of routines helps your baby become familiar with things, which boosts her brain development.
  • Your baby will start to build skills. Routines, like a daily bedtime story, give your baby a chance to learn and practice skills, practice taking turns and understand new ideas, such as “wet” and “full.”

Click here for some common routines you might establish with your little one.

When babies are awake, it’s important for them to have some ”tummy time” every day. This helps prevent babies from developing a flat spot on the back of their heads.  It also gives them the chance to develop muscle strength and it encourages them to practice movements that are part of normal physical progress. Daily tummy time prepares babies for important milestones, such as pushing themselves up, crawling and walking.

Before you begin tummy time, wait until your baby’s cord has come off—about a week to 10 days. Be prepared to have tummy time right along with your baby. She may need to be coaxed at first because lifting her head is hard to do. However, she will love your company. Have fun!

When toddlers get upset, it can be very hard on them and the people around them. Here are several suggestions from our experts to make things easier on everyone.

  • Offer your child a safe quiet place to calm down, away from others, but where she knows she is not entirely alone.
  • Help your child regain control of his emotions by teaching him deep breathing and to think about good things.
  • Try to calm your child by gently changing the scene into something more positive, like baking cookies, going for a walk or cuddling together while you watch TV.
  • Encourage positive, fun physical activity, like jumping on cushions, to help release strong feelings.
  • Most importantly, try to keep yourself calm when your child is upset. Remember that you can’t be helpful unless you are in control of your own emotions.
  • During your regular daily life provide a good example of coping with your own emotions by saying things in front of your child like, “I’m sure I can get through this if I slow down and think about it.”

Some toddlers are more expressive, some more timid. Some are very physically active, and some are more sedate. Some are sensitive to loud noises, while others are not bothered at all. Some thrive when surrounded by people, while others are content to play alone quietly. These differences are what we call temperament, and much of this becomes evident in the first few months after birth.

As parents, it is important to recognize and accept the basic temperament of your child, so you can respond appropriately. For example, if your child’s temperament is timid, introduce new activities slowly and allow time for him to build up confidence. If your child’s temperament is highly active, give advance notice of changes, so she doesn’t fly off the handle. And, if your child’s temperament is easy-going, remember that even though she copes well, you are still needed – so check in and stay connected.

At around 18 months of age, children will begin showing more independence, such as insisting “I do it myself.” It’s important to understand that your child sees herself as the centre of the universe – not in a selfish way, but in a self-centered way. In other words, she believes everyone is experiencing what she is experiencing; what she knows, everyone knows. This happens because, at this age, seeing herself as a separate being can be a bit scary and confusing.

You also may notice that your child’s moods swing rapidly – between being proud and bold, to whiny and scared, or even to being angry and throwing tantrums. This, too, is part of your child’s struggle for independence.

It’s around this time that children start experiencing the new emotions of pride and shame. Dealing with these emotions can be very tricky, so try to be careful not to make your child feel ashamed of his efforts to do something, even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you expected. For example, feeding himself is usually pretty messy at this age. But acknowledge his efforts and soon the neatness will come.

Socially, children will enjoy playing near other children, but not necessarily with them. At this stage, your child isn’t ready for you to teach her to take turns. That comes a little later. In the meantime, provide opportunities to have other children around, but be ready to gently intervene (many times) when her lack of sharing skills needs shaping.

Remember, each child is unique. Not all children develop at the same rate in each area, such as movement, communication and relating to others, so this information is meant only as a general guide. If you have concerns about your child’s development, you should consult your child’s doctor.

Every day, there are plenty of opportunities to use support the social development of your toddler while doing your routine errands.

Describe your toddler’s good behaviour when you go out in public together. For example, when you are at the bank, say things like “You are being so patient while we are waiting in line”. This will give your child a sense of comfort and help her feel good about her skills.

Make play a part of your errands by making a stop at the park or by inviting another parent and child to come along so that your child can enjoy interacting with other children in different environments. This will make errands more fun for both of you and help your child learn to interact with others.

Outings with your toddler are full of opportunities to teach your child to respect limits and obey rules. Remember that children are more likely to cooperate and comply with your requests when you teach them in a positive way by saying things like “Please hold my hand when walk on the sidewalk” instead of “Don’t let go of my hand”.

If you are going on a trip

If your child has a favourite stuffed toy, blanket, etc, don’t forget to take it with you on your trip. Children who need a special object to feel safe and secure at home will need it just as much, if not more, while they are away. Make sure to bring extras in case some of these precious objects get lost in transit. This, along with some favourite games and books, will help to maintain a sense of routine and familiarity that will be very comforting to your child in the midst of all the new things he will see and do.

You may not be able to take a vacation from being a parent, but you can take advantage of your break to explore the more fun aspects of parenting. Take your child to a local festival, ask the hotel staff to help you find children’s activities in the area, or simply take the time to play in the water with your child at the pool or beach. By spending time with her and playing with her, you are making her feel important and giving her opportunities to use and develop a wide range of skills.

Take advantage of being in a new environment to teach your child about different things. You and your child may be seeing trees, flowers, animals and other things that you never see at home. Outings in your new surroundings are adventures that will stimulate your child’s curiosity. Encourage him by showing an interest in his discoveries, pointing out new things, answering his questions and letting him share his impressions with you.

If you are staying close to home

When you plan special outings, take along what you need to prevent little problems from becoming crises: pack some favourite snacks in case there is no food available when your child gets hungry. Carry a lightweight change of clothing in case of falls, spills, etc. It is also a good idea to bring the stroller in case you end up walking more than you planned. Responding to your child’s basic needs in this way will comfort him and help ensure that everyone has a good time.

While it’s tempting to squeeze in lots of activities in the little free time you have with your children, remember that less is often more for young children because they tire quickly. Choose one activity per day and take the time to really enjoy it together. You may also want to invite a friend and her children along. This will allow the activity to be a social one for both you and your child.

Plan to arrive at the activity, event or place early in the day when your child is still fresh and has the energy to appreciate what is happening. This way he will be in the best disposition to participate fully and learn new things. Later, discuss with your child what she saw and did and encourage her to share this experience with others who were not there. Doing this will exercise her memory and help her practice her story-telling skills.

When it comes to a child’s language development, it’s safe to expect that by 24-months, or 30-months at the latest, the average child will be saying 50 different words and/or two-word combinations, such as “throw ball,” or “red ball.”

Although most children can say simple words in their first year and small sentences by age two, some children begin talking at a later age. We don’t really know why some children begin to talk faster than others, but it does happen.

For some children, language can continue to develop without many words. These children may need to have more time to recognize the patterns of language and how to say what they are thinking.

For others, particularly children who have older brothers or sisters, a pattern may develop where they let the older children speak for them – reducing the need to speak for themselves. But this doesn’t mean the late talker is less intelligent. When your child does start to speak, it may even be at a more advanced level than you’d expect.

Although it is better if your child can speak for himself, it’s okay to let older children speak for your child, as long as he tries to communicate in some way, like using gestures. No one should shame or criticize your child for not being able to talk – it’s something he can’t help.

If you find that your child makes no attempt to speak by 18 months, doesn’t use many gestures to communicate, or seems to have trouble understanding what is said, discuss this with your child’s physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

To help your child to talk more, it’s a good idea to talk to her whenever you’re together, carrying on a flow of conversation about what you’re doing, and about what she is doing. Try to be animated, using gestures and lots of expression in your voice. Emphasize important words and phrases. But you should pause frequently and for what may seem to be a long wait, so your child has a chance to digest what you have said and to respond. It also helps to have lots of books around and to read to your child often.

Try to encourage his talking by asking some open-ended questions (such as “How do you…?” or “What do you think?”) or by talking about subjects he is interested in. Sometimes, for very quiet children, a good beginning is to ask him to fill in words in familiar rhymes or stories that they know by heart. Really listen to your child, getting down at his eye level and looking at him when he talks. When playing together, follow your child’s lead and talk about what you’re playing with.

It may be tough, but try not to get frustrated by what sounds like “baby talk” from your child. And don’t correct your child’s speech too much. The best thing you can do is set a good example in the way you talk. If you are concerned that your child is behind in language, you may want to call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to inspire your child’s creativity. Being creative doesn’t have to start with expensive materials from the toy or art store.

Creating toys and activities for children from recyclable materials or “beautiful junk” is important for two reasons:

  • Common household materials are an inexpensive way to provide play opportunities for young children
  • Children’s creativity and thinking skills can be developed at the same time that you are being an environmentally conscious parent

The following list can be used along with scissors, glue, yarn, paint and markers, in order to construct and create anything your child’s imagination suggests:

  • egg cartons
  • milk cartons (all sizes)
  • plastic containers, bottles and jugs with lids
  • boxes (large and small)
  • aluminum pie plates
  • styrofoam trays
  • paper towel and toilet rolls
  • cardboard tubing
  • old wrapping paper
  • road maps
  • muffin tins
  • popsicle sticks
  • old, clean paint brushes
  • wooden clothes pegs
  • used envelopes
  • old Christmas cards
  • old pantyhose
  • netting
  • paint chips/samples
  • pamphlets
  • brown paper bags
  • buttons (all colours, shapes and sizes)
  • egg shells
  • coffee cans and lids
  • empty film canisters
  • juice lids
  • carpet samples
  • spools; ribbon rolls
  • bottle caps
  • yarn; ribbons
  • magazines; catalogues; calendars
  • cloth scraps of different fabric
  • leather or suede remnants
  • lace, trim or rick rack
  • cardboard
  • hangers
  • beads; old jewellery
  • wood scraps; dowels
  • discarded wallpaper sample books
  • inner tubes
  • pipe lengths
  • old newsprint

Use recycled materials from around your house to encourage your child’s imagination and creativity while having fun together!

Work, household chores and social activities all put a strain on your time with your toddler but it’s really important to spend quality time together. This will help build a trusting relationship, and reassure your child that he can count on you. But you can’t turn on quality time like a light switch. It comes sometimes when you least expect it, if you spend enough relaxed time and do enough things together.

You will, no doubt, start by looking for things that you can do to free up more time for family, such as:

  • Deciding which household chores can be left undone or be done imperfectly in order to make more family time.
  • Leaving certain things until after your child has gone to bed to make the most of your time together.
  • Turning some routines, such as driving to daycare or doing the dishes, into quality time by singing together or talking seriously about what is happening in your lives.

There will be occasions when the time you spend with your toddler may have to be juggled around a bit, but try not to skip them entirely. Also, try to spend time alone with EACH of your children.

Remember that children like things that are predictable. So plan your quality times so that they can take place regularly. Maybe you can eat dinner together, or go to the park first thing every Sunday morning.

It is important to remember that no matter how old a child is, all areas of development are intertwined, and progress depends on nurturing every facet of development – social, intellectual, language, emotional, gross and fine motor. Each child develops at his own pace within a distinct period of time. Every child is unique and requires different care.

Toddlerhood is a balancing act for everyone, as your child struggles between the need to be independent and try so many new things and the need to rely on and feel protected by parents and caregivers. As a result, toddlers shift suddenly in their emotions, going from “me do it” to tantrums when they are frustrated. She wants help, but then again, she doesn’t – it’s all part of becoming an individual. Lots of patience and encouragement are essential, as parents and caregivers guide toddlers who need to do so much for themselves. Toddlers cope much better with separation and are better equipped to form new attachments. Although routines are important, so are flexibility and giving your toddler easy choices. Parents and caregivers are beginning to see a real sense of their child’s temperament and personality.

Your toddler demonstrates a new level of self-awareness – by how he calls himself by name, identifies body parts, recognizes himself and family in a photograph, dresses himself and has a simple understanding of having his own things. Practicing self-help skills is an important part of a toddler’s day, and many children begin toilet training during this time. Toddlers can communicate feelings, desires and interests using words and gestures. They also have a good idea of where things are located in and around the house or at child care.

By age two, many toddlers can play on their own and concentrate on an activity for a brief period of time. There is more and more pretend play with props, looking at books and singing simple songs. As toddlers gain more control over their bodies, they love to run, kick balls, jump and climb, get on and off chairs, step backwards and sideways, go up and down the stairs and push and pull toys. As the movements of the small muscles become more refined, toddlers can do simple puzzles, take lids off jars, fit a series of objects into one another, draw vertical lines, turn pages of a book one at a time, build bigger towers and use a fork. It is during this age range that children begin to sort and match things, count, tell the difference between “one” and “many” and start distinguishing colours and shapes.

Toddlers continue to play alongside other children. Sharing can be encouraged at this age, although it should not be expected to be perfect. At times, toddlers become very frustrated, especially if they are unable to make themselves understood, and may bite others as well as hit or pull hair. A lot of play is accompanied by language, as now toddlers have a vocabulary of approximately 50 words. They can name familiar everyday objects, use two-word sentences and communicate whole ideas with one word, such as “milk” for “I want a glass of milk.” Sometimes it can be a difficult task for parents and caregivers to figure out exactly what the child wants. Toddlers begin to have a basic understanding of time, such as “soon,” “not now,” and “after your nap,” but do not have a concept of “yesterday.” And “no” is still a very popular word with the two-year old!

It is very important to give your toddler plenty of opportunities to cooperate with household chores: setting the table, cleaning spills, cooking, loading and unloading the washing machine, sorting dirty clothes, etc. Your toddler has a fascination for all these activities and by allowing her to participate in them you are not only making her feel important and helpful to the family, but you are also giving her a great opportunity to develop inner aptitudes for concentration, order, calmness, coordination, and motor skills, as well as teaching her to take care of her environment.

It is important to limit your child’s exposure to TV and other media. In times when we are bombarded with images and stories in the media about difficult and upsetting topics, be they flu pandemics, natural disasters, wars or terrorist attacks, parents often cannot avoid their young children hearing or seeing information about these events. Here are some strategies to help you and your child manage the stress and upset that can result from seeing upsetting things in the media.

Through television and other media children can sometimes be exposed to violent and disturbing images of war, terrorism, pandemics, disasters and tragic accidents. Some are affected by these images more than others. However, young children are very sensitive to their parents’ and caregivers’ reactions. If you and your spouse are upset, or if your child’s regular caregiver or teacher is upset, chances are good your child will become distressed too.

It is a good idea to limit young children’s exposure to violence or upsetting stories in the news. It is even more important to limit your own exposure, if it is preoccupying you or distressing you. Turn the TV and radio off. Reassure your child that you are basically all right, even if you are sad. If it is important for you to keep track of what is happening during a traumatic event, then turn on the TV or radio at key news moments to catch up. But turn it off again and reconnect with your child.

It is also important to limit the time you spend worriedly talking about the event or situation with others and give your child some quality attention. Some children are very sensitive and if you are anxiously talking to teachers, grandparents, neighbours and others.

If your child does see some news event that upsets him, or upsets you, talk about it. It is not necessary to explain it in detail. You can simply say that a sad thing happened and some people got hurt and died. In many cases you can tell your child that the event happened far away, and emphasize that you and your family are safe. Don’t forget to tell him that the people in charge are doing everything they can to protect you against the danger, and to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It may also help some children feel better if they help out in some way. For example, they can send drawings or letters to the communities touched by the event.

If your young child is still anxious over an event that happened more than one month ago, consult your child’s physician.

Going on an outdoor half day or full day trip with the kids? Here are some things to keep in mind.


Keep everyone warm from head to toe. There’s nothing worse than you or the kids being cold. Check the weather for the area you are planning to visit – temperatures can vary significantly across relatively small distances.

Be prepared with extra layers. Even after checking the weather and dressing appropriately, you may reach your destination and realize it is chillier than expected. Keep extra layers in the car that can easily be added under your child’s snowsuit.

If there is snow, make sure things are waterproof. Kids of all ages love the snow – rolling in it, playing with it, and generally covering themselves in it. Make sure that snowsuits, boots, and especially mittens are waterproof. Labels will indicate if the garment is waterproof. If this is not stated on the label, the item is likely not waterproof. For your young day tripper, mittens are best rather than gloves.

Check for wetness at lunch. It’s not unusual in the winter for people, including children, to sweat if they have been physically active. This can often make clothing wet. If you are continuing in the afternoon, make sure clothes are dry – especially socks and mittens. Keep extras with you to change into.

Put some tissue into your child’s pockets – it may be needed along the way.

Keep some lip balm with you in case of chapped lips.

In the Car

Weather during winter is unpredictable so better to be prepared. Keep extra snacks (including water) and blankets in the car as well as an emergency kit.

Keep some age appropriate activities your child can use to pass the time in case of traffic or other unexpected delays.

Adjust your child’s clothing to meet the climate of the car. If the kids have been in snowpants and many layers during the day, reduce the number of layers for the car ride home. Hot kids soon become cranky kids and our ability to respond while driving is limited.

Take along some of the kids’ favourite tapes. A sing song can make the ride fun for everyone.

Winter Activities for the Family

Tobogganing is a great family activity that everyone can take part in. Some things to remember:

  • Dress warmly ensuring that coats, mittens and boots are waterproof.
  • Check in with your child frequently to ensure s/he is warm and dry.
  • Have your child wear a helmet that is approved for outdoor winter activities.
  • Children 5 years old and under should not go down alone. This means you will need a toboggan that can seat two.
  • Try to pick a hill that isn’t filled with skiers and others who may overwhelm a young child.
  • Toboggan away from roads and any bodies of water.
  • Ensure the hill is clear of any obstacles including large trees or rocks.
  • Also ensure there is adult supervision with young children.

Skating is another family activity that is often close to home too! Remember to:

  • Dress warmly ensuring that coats, mittens and boots are waterproof.
  • Check in with your child frequently to ensure s/he is warm and dry.
  • Have your child wear a helmet that has a mouthguard on it.
  • Make sure an adult has checked the ice if skating on lakes or ponds.
  • If you are introducing your child to skating for the first time, choose a rink that is not too crowded or overwhelming for your child.
  • Ensure there is adult supervision if you are not joining your child.

Winter activities can be loads fun so long as you are prepared and everyone is warm.

When children play, they are practicing skills in every area of development: thinking, solving problems, talking, moving, sensing, cooperating and making moral judgments. This natural form of learning is very similar to the real world, because instead of learning one thing at a time, children have to learn – and use – several ideas and objects all at once. Playing is also fun – it makes children happy, and leads to easier and more effective learning.

In the early years, children explore or play by doing the same thing over and over again. For example, toddlers make block towers, just to knock them down. This repeated practice helps learning and builds confidence. Children learn what objects are like, and what they can do with them. They are beginning to make sense of their world.

As children grow, they add make-believe to their play. When children pretend, they are showing what they know. For example, when they put a block to their ear and say “Hello,” children are showing that an object can be a make-believe telephone, and that a telephone is used for talking to people. When children build a castle or an airport, they have to think about their goal, and figure out how to make the castle or airport. That involves being creative and solving problems.

In pretend play, children are making sense of the world, trying out things they’ve learned and seen, and thinking about their feelings. They sort out fantasy and reality. You can tell a lot about what your child is feeling and thinking just by watching her play.

Around the time your child begins school, games with rules become part of play. Games encourage children to use strategy, logic and moral judgments to follow the rules. Board games like Snakes and Ladders, card games and team sports are all games with rules that help children learn to take turns, negotiate, problem-solve and get along with others.

Toddlers don’t understand when other people don’t feel like they do, or that sometimes they are not the most important people in the world. But does this mean that they won’t grow to be kind and caring individuals? No, it does not.

You may wonder if children will ever be kind and caring when they constantly interrupt your phone conversations or fail to understand that “Mom is too tired” to play with them. You may also be surprised at how cruel young children can be to each other. Toddlers simply don’t understand that other people don’t feel like they do, or that sometimes they are not the most important people in the world.

Most parents hope their children will learn to be sensitive to others and act with kindness. But caring doesn’t happen unless children themselves are treated with sensitivity and kindness, so it helps to be aware of what you can do to encourage empathy.

Empathy develops from infancy when children are treated with kindness and understanding. Empathy is often described as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – in other words, to understand how someone else feels and how to respond to them. When children feel valued and loved, they will naturally respond to others that way.

It may not be until school age that your child has the thinking skills needed to learn how to take someone else’s point of view, and what to do about it. But by showing your child love and sensitivity from the day he is born, you’re setting a good example for learning to be kind and caring.

Sibling rivalry can develop for many reasons:

  • In some cases it’s due to the personalities of the children
  • Other times children may feel jealous
  • For example, one sibling is really good at playing sports or is really good at school, but the other one struggles with these things.

Some sibling rivalry is to be expected.

  • For example, if you had two best friends living together in the same house they would have some conflict and arguments from time to time.

The goal then is not to try to prevent sibling rivalry, but instead helping your children deal with any issues that arise between them in a constructive way.

If the rivalry takes the form of physical fighting between the children, it is very important for children to know that there is a “no hurting” rule.

  • As opposed to just saying, “no pinching” or “no grabbing”, letting your children know that there is a “no hurting” rule widens their understanding of negative behaviours.
  • Let them know right away that you won’t tolerate that behaviour by saying, “we don’t hurt anyone in this family.”

If the children are arguing constantly, letting them work things out on their own is good in many cases.

  • Be ready to step in when these little arguments start turning into long-standing issues.
  • New research shows that children can suffer immensely if verbal taunts and threats by brothers and sisters go on and on.

To keep things peaceful, try to give each child one-on-one attention at least part of each day. This will make each child feel that they are still special to you.

Don’t compare your children.

  • Sometimes parents fuel sibling rivalry by using one child as an example to the other. They ask, “Why can’t you listen like your brother?” or “Why can’t you have a clean room like your sister?”
  • This tends to create resentment rather than be helpful.
  • Let your children know that it is okay to be different.

When jealousy takes over, it’s important not to blame one child or the other.

  • Encourage the children to talk about their feelings of envy and jealousy.

It’s not going to be easy, but try to stay calm and listen to what they have to say in these situations. Try to emphasize the strengths of each individual child.

Share the consequences.

When there is an issue that you are brought into, don’t take sides. Ask each child for their side of the story without any interruptions. Ask the children what they think the solution is and, if it is reasonable, support their solution. If they can’t come up with a solution you can proceed with a couple of options.

  1. Ask the children to work out a solution, and until they do, they are not allowed to do anything else.
  2. Come up with a solution yourself, but make sure that both of the children are involved. Don’t give a consequence to just one child. Remember it takes “two to tango.”

Have you children apologize when they do something wrong.

  • Saying I’m sorry is critical to the maintenance of loving relationships. It says that “I care that I hurt you or upset you.” At the end of any issue, have your child apologize to the other.
  • If both are involved in “causing” the issue they should both apologize.
  • If they are not ready, ask them to sit quietly until they are, even if it takes a while.
  • Finally, make sure the tone is right, an angry, “I’m sorry,” does not convey the right message.

Learning to talk is a gradual process. It’s common for a child’s speech to become less clear as she tries to use more words with more difficult sounds, because these require more effort and motor control.

Your child may in fact end up saying as little as possible during different stages of learning to talk, or they may begin to act up, out of frustration at not being able to communicate the way your child would like.

It is very important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s attempts to communicate, and to encourage these attempts.

Here are some tips to use if you’re having trouble understanding what your child is trying to say:

  • If you don’t understand what your child is saying, encourage them to repeat it by saying things like “Tell me again” or “Tell me more.”
  • If you got part of what your child said, repeat the part that you understood, and ask them to fill in the missing parts.

Watch your child closely.

  • Watch for eye movements or gestures that might give you a hint about what your child is trying to say.

Ask your child for help. 

  • Make it appear like you’re having trouble hearing by saying things like “I didn’t quite hear that” and ask your child to say it again.

If after all of your attempts, you still can’t understand what your child is trying to tell you, you may have to apologetically say that you do not understand.

Usually children’s speech improves over time. If you are concerned that your child’s speech isn’t improving or if your child keeps acting up out of frustration over not being able to be understood, you may want to discuss this with your child’s doctor. You can also call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519, and they will guide you to an appropriate referral if needed.

You know what it’s like when your little one starts in with that whiny tone. It can drive even the calmest parent crazy!

When preschoolers begin to whine, the most important thing to do is not to give in.

  • If you do, it will teach your child that whining is a good way to get what they want, and they will do it again, and again. Instead, let your child know that you expect them to speak to you without whining.

Acknowledge your child’s efforts when they speak without whining.  If your child keeps whining, stay calm and ignore it until they speak properly. If you think your child is really overwhelmed by a situation, though, they may need a hug or a back rub to break the cycle.

Here are some suggestions from our experts to prevent whining:

  • Watch for situations where your child may get bored, and prepare for them.
  • For example, have a bag of toys for your child to play with while you’re on the phone.

  • Teach your child the difference between whining and asking properly.

  • Try to pay attention to your child when they talk to you in a normal voice.
  • If you ignore your child when they are asking for something nicely, your child may start to feel that the only way to get your attention is to whine.

It’s a good idea to help your child learn to manage his emotions, but remember you don’t want to stop young children from having feelings all together. It’s much better to help your child learn better ways of dealing with his feelings instead. Here are several things that you can try:

Try to set a good example for your child. When you find yourself getting upset or frustrated, try saying things out loud like, “I’m sure I can get through this if I slow down and think about it.” This is a great way to teach your child how to calm himself down and remain in control.

Help your child put what she is feeling into words. Teach her what to call different types of feelings.

Talk about the way people in storybooks and pictures are feeling, and talk about what might cause those feelings.

Explain that you understand she’s upset or angry, but at the same time let your child know that some behaviours, like hurting others or constantly whining, are not acceptable.

Take your child’s feelings seriously and acknowledge how he is feeling. Never say “It’s not such a big deal” or “Why are you so upset about that?” Instead, help your child understand that many people have similar feelings on occasion, and some people have them more often. Then discuss the acceptable ways to express them.

Be a positive influence when your child does get upset by helping to calm him and change the situation into something more positive.

Avoid labelling your child by his feelings, such as “He’s always been an angry boy” or “She can’t help it, she’s shy.” Too often, a child will start to believe what is being said, and live up to the label.

If your child’s control of her emotions doesn’t seem to be improving, consult your child’s physician for referrals to appropriate family services in your area.

Some children are shy. They “hang back” in groups. They need your assistance to learn how to become comfortable talking and playing with others.

The main things to remember when trying to help a child like this to cope with new situations are:

  • Don’t label a child “shy” or introduce your child as a “shy child.” Sometimes children will define themselves as this and never move beyond the label.
  • Don’t push your child into situations that he might find overwhelming. It’s important that you accept your child’s nature and help him develop ways to overcome his shyness – that may take time and patience. Instead of pushing, offer your child opportunities to be involved with others with your support.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time by talking about new situations, such as what she will encounter, or who may be there, and talk with her about ways to become involved in groups.
  • Don’t nag your child about being shy. Parents who get irritable or impatient with a child’s shyness may find that their child reacts by being even shyer.

Remember, every child is unique. Some children will be shy, to a greater or lesser degree, all their lives. It’s important for them to feel valued for who they are.

Children benefit from playing alone, with siblings, with other children and, most importantly, with you. Adults are special partners in play. You encourage your child to concentrate, to try new things and to deal with frustration. Parents are also partners in play when they make their home safe for play and provide a choice of things to play with that are appropriate for each stage of development.

Blocks, boxes, pails, water, playdough, dolls and ordinary things around the house, like pillows and plastic containers are wonderful stimulating playthings. These materials can be used in different ways and at different ages. Many toys advertised on TV have only one use, so they limit the imagination, rather than encourage it. Such toys can be expensive, may soon be forgotten and do little to help your child’s development. On the other hand, some toys have many uses and “grow with your child” for a long time.

When playing with your children, let them choose what to play with. Children need to be leaders in their own play, so try not to take over their games or activities. Let your child tell you what he wants you to do, and very gradually add new stimulation, like more things for him to play with. Research has shown that giving a child too many new things to do or play with at once can be overwhelming, and can make learning more difficult.

Adjusting to a new setting takes time. Your preschooler needs to know that you are on his team as he moves towards being comfortable in a new daycare or school.

Here are several ways to help your child adjust to a new daycare or school:

Let your child know that you realize change isn’t easy and that you know it takes time to adjust to new places, people and things.

Be supportive and encouraging, not impatient or frustrated.

Explore the new area, or new daycare or school with your child in advance of going there on the first day.

Along with your child, get involved with new groups and activities at daycare or school. This will help you feel more connected to your child’s new situation, too.

Help your child find the playgroups and activities she has always liked doing, and try to get her involved, outside of daycare or school.

Where possible, allow your child to stay connected with friends from his old daycare or school.

Ask your child what you can do to help – children often have great ideas about how you can help them feel better.

It would be a mistake to let your child stay home from a new daycare or school just because he is afraid and doesn’t want to go. But don’t force your child to get involved in outside activities too soon – he’ll let you know when he is ready. And try not to say things like, “We moved three months ago – aren’t you over it yet?” That will just make your child feel worse.

If you find that your child is sad, withdrawn, angry, acting out, doing unusually poorly in the new daycare or school, or showing physical symptoms of anxiety and things don’t seem to be getting better even long after the move, consult your child’s daycare provider or school teacher to see if they are noticing the same behaviour, and then consult your child’s physician.

By age three, your child is becoming more and more her own person and you’ll be able to get a real sense of personality. Your child will gain self-esteem and a sense of who she is. Children are not as afraid of being abandoned now, and are generally optimistic and cheerful.

Your child is probably more willing to please you, but that won’t stop him from expressing his own unhappiness and opinions about things. This is actually a step forward, because your child will learn to stand up for himself, so try not to discourage it totally.

Your three-year old will be sociable and capable of some cooperative play, although she still won’t be great at taking turns or sharing. She may spend more time negotiating how to play, and with whom, than actually playing. For example, “I’m not playing with you today, I’m playing with her.”

Your child will be getting better at pretend play, with themes and stories, not just roles. His play may often have a “danger and rescue” theme with him taking the lead as the strong character, like Superman or a lion. Try to give your child the opportunity for play, both alone and with others, as often as possible.

By now, your child will begin to understand simple rules and be better at controlling her impulses. There may be fewer tantrums, because she can express herself and her feelings better with words. She may label feelings, like “I’m mad” or “I’m tired.”

Your child will also begin to understand that other people have feelings too. He will have more understanding of what “no” means, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll do what you’re telling him. Setting consistent limits and expectations continues to be important at this stage of development.

Remember, each child is unique. Not all children develop at the same rate in each area, such as movement, communication and relating to others, so this information is meant only as a general guide. If you have concerns about your child’s development, you should consult your child’s doctor.

Pick up your toys! Eat your dinner! Hang up your coat! Sound familiar?

When you tell your preschooler over and over again to do something, she can become pretty good at tuning you out.

Here are several ways to avoid nagging all the time:

Talk to your child when everyone is calm, about what is expected, what the rules are and develop a schedule for the tasks.

When your child doesn’t do what you want, instead of nagging, go to your child, get her attention, ask what she is feeling about the task and why she is hesitant to do it. Then, after you’ve dealt with your child’s reasons, in a calm way make it clear what your child is to do.

If your child often refuses to do, or never gets around to doing what you expect, speak to other parents to find out if what you’re expecting is reasonable. And ask what they do that works, instead of nagging, that gets things done.

Don’t nag to the point where you’re yelling and making threats about what will happen if your child doesn’t do what she’s asked, especially threats you know you won’t carry out (“If you don’t pick up your coat, you’ll have to wear it for a week straight!”). This is usually ineffective. Once you’ve lost your temper, all that most children think about is how upset you are. Be calm and consistent. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Follow-through is very important.

As your young child learns to play with others, she may need your help to learn what behaviour is acceptable. If you see that your child is upset when playing, encourage her to put all her emotions, particularly her frustrations, into words. Try to identify with your child’s feelings, but let her know that there are still certain ways that one should behave in such a situation: “You want to play with that puzzle, but Jason has it now. Even though you really, badly want it, you will have to wait.”

If there’s been a problem with another child, help your child see the other child’s point of view, and talk about possible solutions to the problem. “You grabbed Jason’s puzzle and now he is very sad. Please give Jason the puzzle back and wait until he is finished.” You will need to be a good role model, as your child will be watching you to learn social skills. You will need to avoid reactions like rudeness or impatience. Little children watch adults all the time, and copy our worst as well as our best behaviour.

Making friends works best if you let your child choose when he wants to play and whom he wants to play with. Children don’t necessarily become friends with each other just because their parents are friends or relatives. Learning to get along with others takes time, so don’t push your child to play with others.

If your child is having difficulty becoming part of the group or getting along with others, watch him, and see if there are ways you can help him join in. Sit on the sidelines with him and discuss what is happening in the room, where he would like to play and how he could join in to be accepted. Or give your child a toy that will fit in with the group’s play, in order to help him join the group.

Does your child ever have trouble sharing? If so, you’re definitely not alone.

Our experts have come up with several suggestions for helping your preschooler learn to share:

Be a role model. If you share and take turns with your child, he will experience how nice it is to have someone share with him, and will learn to do the same thing with others.

Try to let your child have enough space to play beside another child, but make room for her own toys and activities. When children are very young, it’s a good idea to have duplicate toys to make everybody happy. Allow your child to think of a toy as “mine, mine, mine!” but also acknowledge your child when she lets someone else take a turn. Describe how the other child feels when she shares, such as, “Johnny is so happy you gave him a turn with the ball.”

Be a guide. If your child wants a toy another child has, help him find some other interesting toy or activity in the meantime, to help him learn to wait.

Be patient. Know that it takes time for children to be ready to share, so don’t expect your child to be too generous too soon. And certainly don’t punish her for not sharing or taking turns. You want sharing to be a happy experience – not something your child feels forced to do.

At about three years old, help your child sort it out with other children if an argument develops over a toy. This will give him the skills to eventually work things out himself.

And finally, until you feel your child can handle them, avoid situations with too many children. They can be overwhelming if a child is in the middle of an “all mine” stage.

Taking a young child shopping for gifts and groceries in crowded stores and malls can be a stressful event for parents and children alike. During the holiday season, it can be even more intense. Nonetheless, if you take your child with you on your shopping excursions, you can turn this event into a rich learning experience.

Remember that young children learn new things constantly, and that there are many ways and many opportunities to teach while you are shopping together:

  • Involve your child in some of the shopping decisions. Ask your child to help you choose a gift for a friend, a sibling, or a family member. Present some choices and discuss what this person would prefer, and talk about how happy this person will be to receive a gift. This will help your child learn to see things from someone else’s point of view.
  • Make shopping fun. Play games such as “I spy with my little eye…” or talk about colours and shapes.
  • Be a good example. Model patience for your child when waiting in a long line by talking about how it makes you feel and how you can deal with it. For instance, “I don’t like waiting like this, but I have to. Maybe time will go by faster if we talk about the decorations we are going to put in the house later.” Be prepared and bring some snacks from home to eat while waiting in the check-out line.

Watch for signs that your child is getting overwhelmed. At this age it is still difficult for children to behave appropriately in stressful situations, and it is a good idea to keep shopping trips as short as possible.

We often hear that children are like “sponges”, and that they can learn any language easily while they are young. This is true, but only when they have lots of exposure to the language. Children can only absorb as much as they are given. This means that for your child to develop his or her ability to use both languages equally well, your child must hear and eventually speak both languages often.

In some communities, this can happen naturally if both languages have equal status and the child is exposed to various people, in the family and beyond, who speak one language or the other (or both). In other cases, raising a bilingual child requires conscious planning and effort. Both parents will need to agree on their strategies for making this happen.

If one of you speaks English and the other parent speaks a minority language, like French in many parts of Canada, or any other language that is not widely used in your community, it is important to create opportunities for the child to be exposed to that language. Children understand from a young age that one of their languages is not used very much outside their home, and because they naturally have more opportunities to hear and speak English, their ability to use the other language may lag. This can lead to a situation where the child understands the other language, but does not speak it.

Here are some tips to help your child be bilingual:

Speak your own native language to your child. You are a better model for your child when you use the language you know best.

Develop a social network that includes both languages. Attending friendly gatherings, community events and doing other activities with people who speak each language provide opportunities to practice, and reinforce the message that both languages are useful and valued.

Ensure that your child develops a strong foundation in the minority language from a young age by enrolling him or her, if possible, in a child care or preschool where the minority language is the primary or only language spoken.

Research and create a list of services available in the minority language, and give them a preference (e.g. health professionals like doctors and dentists, as well as libraries, movie theatres, community centres, etc). This may involve planning ahead, or driving a little further, but your efforts will greatly benefit your child.

Make sure you have books, videos/DVDs and music in both languages in your home, and that your child is exposed to them. This reinforces your child’s language skills and strengthens your child’s appreciation of each of your cultures.

Arrange visits to and from family members who speak the minority language. Stays abroad or visits from extended family can give a boost to the language that tends to be neglected.

Depending on the languages you speak and the community where you live, some of these options may not be available. The important thing is to create as much balance as possible between the two languages, and to start doing this as early as possible in your child’s life.

When you and your preschooler argue it can be hard to keep your cool, but there are ways to handle these squabbles that will help resolve the situation and hopefully cut down the number of arguments you face.

An argument is hard on everyone involved. Tempers flare and it’s not always easy to stop and listen to what the other person is trying to say.

It’s important to remember that there are at least two sides to every argument. And that there are complicated feelings at work on both sides. While you may be feeling that your child isn’t recognizing your authority, your child may be feeling she isn’t being heard, and that her views and feelings aren’t important to you. Both of you are sure to be feeling frustrated and hurt.

It is good practice to repeat what you heard your child saying. For young children, they may have some trouble saying what they really mean and it is helpful to make sure you are getting their message. For example: “What I hear you saying is that you want to finish the show before you clean you room.” If your child agrees that is what they are saying you can then give your position.

When someone feels you are listening to them it is usually easier for them to listen to you.

Validate the child’s feelings. “I see that you are angry,” or “I hear that you are feeling upset,” are great statement to make that let your child know you not only hear what they are saying but what they are feeling.

Identify if feelings are getting in the way of solutions. When feelings are high it can stop anyone from listening, but especially a child, who sometimes stops listening and responding to you. You cannot reason with a child who is in the middle of a temper tantrum or starts to stomp their feet. Let the child know that you know they are angry, or upset, or frustrated, but they need to calm down before you can talk with them. Give them some space and time and do not get into any discussion or arguing while they are in their “temper.” This is a great life skill to teach a child while they are young and one that many adults have not learned well.

Also, if your emotions are overwhelming you, let the child know that you need to calm down before you go on. This is great modeling. Once you are in control of yourself you can sit down with your child to go through their side and to give yours.

Don’t go on forever. Once all has been said it is time for a solution or decision. If it is something small you may consider having the child make the decision. If it is something more important or a consequence is required then you need to make the decision. Once made, the message to your child is that the arguing is over. There is no appeal court. If your child continues to argue the best response is silence or to ignore them. Follow up on whatever the decision is and give them time to calm down and respond.

Acknowledge their behaviour, Comment when your child behaves in the way you want them to act; For example; “Thank you for saying what you think so clearly,” or “Thank you for calming down so we can deal with the problem.” Or “Thank you for doing what you need to do and not arguing anymore.”

Once you’ve realized that TV, videos and video games are probably going to be a part of your child’s life, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to make sure they don’t do more harm than good. The single most important thing you can do is become involved in what your child is watching at home and at school.

Try to watch, or be close by, whenever your child is watching TV or a video, and then make sure you talk to him about what he has seen. By doing so, you turn an otherwise solitary activity into a social and learning experience.

It’s important that you’re aware of what good options are available. For example, suggest or choose certain stations that don’t have commercials during children’s programming. And select children’s videos and games that are educational as well as entertaining. Finding these alternatives may take time, but your efforts will be rewarded.

Try to organize activities for the time immediately after a TV program or video ends so your child is eager to get involved in something else.

Be wary of letting your child watch programs intended for adults. Many parents think that very young children can’t understand the content of adult programs, such as soap operas, crime shows and newscasts. But research is discovering that children might actually be absorbing these scenes. With this in mind, tape “adult shows” for later viewing when infants and young children aren’t present.

Finally, it is recommended that you limit your child’s TV viewing to no more than two hours a day. This leaves plenty of time for her to do things like read, draw, play with others and exercise.

Some children are shy. They “hang back” in groups. They need your assistance to learn how to become comfortable talking and playing with others.

The main things to remember when trying to help a child like this to cope with new situations are:

  • Don’t label a child “shy” or introduce your child as a “shy child.” Sometimes children will define themselves as this and never move beyond the label.
  • Don’t push your child into situations that he might find overwhelming. It’s important that you accept your child’s nature and help him develop ways to overcome his shyness – that may take time and patience. Instead of pushing, offer your child opportunities to be involved with others with your support.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time by talking about new situations, such as what she will encounter, or who may be there, and talk with her about ways to become involved in groups.
  • Don’t nag your child about being shy. Parents who get irritable or impatient with a child’s shyness may find that their child reacts by being even shyer.

Remember, every child is unique. Some children will be shy, to a greater or lesser degree, all their lives. It’s important for them to feel valued for who they are.

Sometimes it seems to be impossible to get your child to clean up his toys. Our experts say that this is normal. Encouraging your child to cooperate and complete chores can sometimes be frustrating. Try to avoid a battle of wills:

Warn your child ahead of time that “soon it will be time to tidy up.”

Make it into a game or something you do together. For example, “how fast can we get the toys cleaned up?” or “let’s put these toys to sleep” – make it something you can enjoy together. Cleaning up doesn’t have to be the end of your fun together or the end of play.

Encourage your child to participate in making decisions. For example, allow your child to choose between picking up the stuffed animals or putting away the blocks. Allowing him to have some choice will communicate to your child that you respect his individuality. If children feel that they have some control, then they are more likely to cooperate.

Recognize your child’s contribution toward helping clean up and acknowledge her positive behaviours.

Remember to set limits and be consistent. It may seem easier to clean up yourself, rather than taking the time to make sure your child participates in chores. However, this creates the risk of encouraging further stalling and delays during clean-up in the future. Be patient and remember that learning to complete chores cheerfully takes a long time.

The ability for a preschool child to sympathize and empathize with others is influenced by a child’s experiences – how she is treated by those around her, world events that she may hear about, and by the behaviour she observes toward others. A simple definition of empathy is the ability to recognize the emotions that another person is experiencing. Sympathy builds from empathy as a person will be moved to show concern or sadness in response to someone’s emotional state.

For example, following many world disasters we often hear about young children demonstrating in many touching ways their capacity to empathize and sympathize with others in need.

As this capacity develops in your child, you may find your child:

  1. Asks more questions about how certain events or experiences make others feel.
  2. Asks you specifically how certain things make you feel.
  3. Begins to make some conclusions about how others might feel in certain situations.
  4. Begins to show both empathic and sympathetic behaviours during pretend play with a doll or playmate, e.g., says “Don’t cry baby. Mommy will make it better.”
  5. Begins to comfort and express concern for another individual.

Such behaviours are to be celebrated in children. This capacity is fundamental if we want our children to be caring, respectful and generous individuals. While recent world disasters have brought to our attention to warm-hearted examples of preschoolers who have created pictures to raise money for other children, parents need to be aware how this growing ability influences the different areas of a child’s immediate world. The ability to empathize and sympathize affects:

  • A child’s interactions and reactions to others
  • A child’s belief about his /her ability to make a change on someone’s behalf
  • A child’s network of relationships
  • A child’s current and future personality

Our ability as parents to support the development of this capacity is profound. Parents, who show sensitivity and responsiveness to their infants’ and toddlers’ needs, have preschoolers who are more secure and pro-social in their relationships with other children. Here are some other parenting behaviours that contribute to building a child’s capacity for empathy and sympathy:

  • Talk to children about how their behaviour makes other children feel, e.g., if a child hurts another child. Offer suggestions how to rectify the emotional situation;
  • Model caring behaviour toward others so that children can see how it makes other people feel;
  • Take time to discuss emotions and feelings associated with problems or situations; and
  • Take every opportunity to let children know they have the power to make another individual happy by showing them an act of kindness.

You can help your child cope with the death of a pet by helping her to understand that loss and grief are a natural part of the cycle of life. Encourage your child to tell you what she is feeling and answer any questions. There are also books available in the children’s section of the library about a pet’s death, that you can read and talk about together.

Remember, it’s not the size or kind of pet that matters, but how important it was to your child – so don’t say things like, “It was only a goldfish.” If your child feels you don’t approve of the depth of his loss, it just makes it harder for him to cope.

It may be comforting for your child to have some kind of a farewell ceremony for the pet. Put a picture of the pet in your child’s bedroom. Encourage everyone in the family to talk about their special memories of the pet.

It’s not a good idea, while your child is grieving intensely, to try and distract him with fun activities. It can be very hard to accept the loss of a pet that was really loved. Children need time to experience all their feelings and accept the loss. Don’t rush to replace a pet in an attempt to help the child feel happy. Grief is an important natural process for all of us to learn about.

It is not unusual for a child to feel strongly and intensely sad about the death of a beloved pet for a period of six to eight weeks. However, if it lasts longer than this, consult your child’s physician. It may also be helpful to consult your child’s daycare provider or school teacher to see if this behaviour is happening away from home, too.

Knowing how to share is an important skill for getting along with others, but parents shouldn’t expect a child to really understand “sharing” until around the age of four.

It’s not surprising that it takes time to be able to share. There is a lot to learn. Children have to be able to control their impulse to grab something. They have to be able to see another child’s point of view, understand time well enough to feel that it’s okay to wait for what they want and be able to talk enough to sort out who gets what, and when.

Preschoolers spend a fair amount of their playtime working out who will have what, who will do what and who can play. This is normal – it’s how they practice the social skills needed for friendships. At this stage, children are better able to exchange both ideas and toys. They like to give and take.

If by age four your child still doesn’t cooperate with others, and is hostile, it’s best to get some help. Consult your child’s physician for referrals to appropriate family services in your area.

According to our experts, the key to effective communication between you and your preschooler is active listening and providing an appropriate positive response. This may sound simple, but sometimes we forget to use these important skills with our young children.

Here are their suggestions to enhance your communication with your child:

  • Active Listening: when your child is speaking with you make sure you are:
    • Looking at your child (“what you are saying is important,” is your message)
    • Eliminate distractions (music, reading, etc)
    • Don’t interrupt (let your child finish what they are saying)
    • Summarize (what you said is…so and so….did I get it right?)
    • Let you child know that you appreciate them sharing their thoughts or concerns with you. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, but if your child feels you have heard them it gives them a greater sense of connection with you and actually decreases arguments.
  • Providing an appropriate response: Sometime children will say something that upsets us, or we jump to a conclusion, or we provide a consequence to a child for something that they told us they did. These responses teach children not to communicate with us. Instead, thank your child for sharing with you and, if there is an issue, ask the child what they think would help or should be done. Children are usually pretty fair and understand right and wrong, as well as the need to “fix” things. Instead of responding to their confession with, “That was a bad thing you did, so go to your room,” you might say, “Thank you for letting me know about that. I am proud of you for telling me the truth, but now we need to do something about what you did. What do you think would be fair?”
  • Timing: If you child is in the middle of something, (watching a TV show, brushing his teeth, etc.) you should tell him that you would like to talk about something and wait for him to finish. Remember that if you are busy, or you know you have to leave in a minute, you will not be able to be an active listener.
  • Play: One of the best ways to communicate is while a child is playing a game or with a toy where he is also able to talk with you. Colouring, building blocks or puzzles are some examples. As he is enjoying his activity you can ask him about his day, what was interesting, etc.
  • Create routines: Have a “talk time” every day at the same time. You can schedule one early in the morning, at supper or just before bed, whenever you regularly have a bit of quiet time together. For young children this would only be a few minutes, but it becomes a part of their daily life to have time to communicate with you. At supper, for example, you might have each person say one thing that was good about their day and one thing that was not so good.
  • Go on an adventure: Go for a drive in the car, a hike, visit the museum or beach and talk about what you are seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. You can even do this in your imagination and pretend you are flying in a plane and talk about what you are seeing or doing.
  • Read: Reading books to each other and talking about the story afterward is a wonderful and easy way to foster communication with your child. You can do this with TV shows or movies as well. Ask your child what they think about things that are happening. “What do you think he is feeling right now?” Why do you think she did that?” “How would you feel if they did that to you?” If you are watching a show together don’t have the communication get in the way of your child following the story. If that is happening wait and talk about it once the show is over.

Keep in mind that even if you do all these things, your child may still not want to talk with you. Pressuring children to talk will usually make them clam up even more. Talking about things that your child is interested in will help, but sometimes the key is to wait until you child initiates a discussion. When this happens make sure you are using your active listening skills.

Some children seem quiet and reluctant to talk. Some don’t naturally and easily use language to express their needs and wants, to comment on things, to get information or to entertain others. Other children may use language comfortably, but only in familiar situations. Being quiet in new situations is very common in children, particularly young ones. But you may be concerned that your child is too quiet, too much of the time.

There are many reasons that a child may be reluctant to speak. Two fairly common reasons are:

  • When placed in a new situation, your child may be worried about what to do, or be concerned about being away from home or from parents. For a child, deciding not to speak is one way to feel some control over an unfamiliar, somewhat scary situation.
  • Your child may feel pressured or embarrassed to speak, like the fear that many of us feel of talking in front of a crowd.

The important thing to remember is that your child isn’t trying to embarrass you by not cooperating, or “acting dumb.” She is just dealing with the situation as best as she can, so be patient and understanding. If the situation doesn’t improve, or gets worse – for example, you notice your child only talks to one parent, or not at all while at day care – it’s time to get some help. Consult your child’s physician, or call the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists at 1-800-259-8519.

In September, many children will attend school for the first time. They will be expected to be able to communicate, to demonstrate basic knowledge, to socialize with others and to show independence. As a parent, you may wonder if your child is adequately prepared for these expectations in kindergarten. Do play experiences in the early years provide a solid foundation for your child’s school readiness? How can you, as a parent, and other care providers develop children’s academic skills through play? Here are some activities you can enjoy with your child which are examples of how play nurtures the skills that contribute to school readiness.

Communication: Play with Spoken and Written Words

  • Talk to your child often and show her the many ways she can use language. Engage your child in storytelling experiences. As she listens to the words and participates in telling stories, she will learn important conversational skills. Sing songs, recite rhymes and do fingerplays together to help your child to hear the intonation and rhythm patterns of language. Introduce your child to new and interesting words, to help her build her vocabulary. These are ways to teach your child to love language and to enjoy the wonder of words!
  • Show your child how writing can help him to express his ideas. When your child draws pictures, ask him to tell you a story about them and write down his words. This allows him to see the relationship between spoken words and text. Include paper and writing tools among his toys and dramatic play props so he can explore the different ways he sees writing used through his imaginative play (e.g. making lists or creating a birthday card). As he practices printing he will discover that the magical markings he is making have meaning!

Basic Knowledge: Play to Encourage Literacy and Basic Math Skills

  • Read to your child every day. As you enjoy your child’s favourite books together, help her to identify alphabet letters and to recognize and make their sounds. Explore words in the story. What do they mean? Can she find examples of different words around the house? Talk about the story and ask open-ended questions about the characters. Can she guess what might happen next? Invite your child to tell you a story about the pictures and then see how closely her words match the text. Story time can give your child reading skills that last a life time!
  • Build your child’s understanding of math concepts like counting, sorting, patterning, recognizing shapes and measuring through his every day play. Recite rhymes like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe to familiarize your child with number words. When your child plays with toys, count them so he can match the words to actual objects. At tidy up time he can sort the cars, people and blocks into separate baskets. Make necklaces from beads of different shapes, sizes and colours to create patterns. Provide building materials for your child or recyclable items for creating three-dimensional artwork. Make a growth chart so your child can discover how tall he is. Exploring math in ways that are fun will add to his math skills one by one!

Socializing: Play to Support your Child’s Interactions

  • Play and interact with your child every day. Parents are a child’s first playmate, so it is important to make time together for games and make-believe. When you play with your child, you will see things from her point of view and have the chance to follow her lead. She will also learn from your example and have your support as she learns about rules, other people’s feelings and solving problems. Entering the world of your child’s play helps your child to enter the world of school confidently!
  • Encourage your child to engage in dramatic play experiences with his peers. As children interact in an imaginary situation (e.g. doctor’s office), they talk, assign roles, create and follow rules and use symbolic thinking as they decide upon using one object to represent another (e.g. a block is a telephone). These are important social and thinking skills that they will use as they learn to co-operate, take turns and get along with others. Pretend play prepares your child for kindergarten in very real ways!

Being Independent: Play to Build Confidence and Self-Control

  • Help your child to develop strategies for controlling his emotions, behaviours and thoughts. Talk about the way people in storybooks and pictures are feeling, and talk about what might cause those feelings. This will teach your child the words for different emotions and help your child to describe his own feelings and those of other people. When playing games together, be a positive influence if your child gets upset. Help him to be calm, to try to remain positive and to know that he might not win or be first all the time. Being able to calm himself on his own will help your child be more excited about being and playing with friends!
  • Provide opportunities for your child to practice self-help skills. Including clothing in your child’s dramatic play props enables her to dress independently and to become more able to manipulate buttons, zippers, buckles, laces and Velcro. She will feel pride in her ability to do things for herself and develop the confidence to try when faced with new challenges in kindergarten. The success she experiences when learning skills through play will encourage her to achieve success in other learning areas!

There are many things that happen at home every day that help to build a strong foundation for your child’s academic success. Remember, the time you spend playing with your child now is an investment in her future!

You and your child are enjoying a play date when suddenly, your toddler grabs a toy from the other child. What do you do?

Aggression in toddlers is normal and more frequently driven by frustration and the impulse to get what they want, than by the intent to hurt someone. Toddlers tend to fight over possessions; they just know that they want something and they want it now!

Learning to control their emotions is a challenge at this stage. Tantrums are quite common and sometimes go with aggression. Toddlers can easily use aggression to gain attention. They do it spontaneously or imitate others and experiment with different behaviours. “No!” is a word toddlers love to use to assert their growing independence.

While physical aggression increases with age – generally peaking between the second and third birthdays – the good news is that somewhere around age three, the frequency of physical aggression should begin to decrease.

When emotions turn into aggressive behaviour, help your child learn how to channel those feelings
into acceptable behaviour. Using these strategies to prevent or to respond to aggressive behaviour will help your toddler contain his emotions and get along with others.

  • Respond to aggression with words of acceptance for what he is feeling, e.g., “I know you are angry.” He needs to know someone understands him.
  • Talk about what might be making your child feel the way she is feeling, e.g., “I can see you are angry because I won’t let you eat that. Let’s go over here and talk about it.” Your toddler needs to know you care about her feelings and that you will help her to cope with them.
  • The life of a toddler can be full of “no’s.” Be sure to notice and reward his good behaviour.
  • Provide opportunities for pretend play during which your child can experiment with and express different emotions. Join in the play so you can act out different emotions and show your child ways to work out challenging ones, without becoming aggressive.
  • Have play dates with other children on a consistent basis and be present so you can help your child deal more positively with any frustrating experiences that might lead to aggressive behaviour.
  • If your toddler hurts someone, get involved immediately. Toddlers need your help to understand what is wrong and how to repair the harm. Stay calm and avoid overreacting as this can actually increase aggression in children who are using aggression to gain attention.
  • Look into your child’s eyes and speak calmly, but firmly. You might say, “No hitting/pushing/ biting people!” and point out, “Look. You hurt him and he’s crying.” Young children need to learn the consequences of their aggression.
  • As things calm down, give a short explanation of what went wrong, acknowledging your toddler’s feelings, e.g., “I know you were mad, but what you did hurts. We don’t hurt people.”
  • Teach your child to say, “I’m sorry,” and help your child learn how to patch things up.
  • Encourage your toddler to use words to describe his emotions through activities such as pretend play or reading books together. Language offers children an alternative to expressing anger and frustration through aggression.
  • During daily routines and activities talk about your own emotions or those that your toddler may be feeling and expressing.

Positive Parenting Strategies to Cope with Aggression

  • It’s not helpful to be harsh, but it is necessary to be firm. Your toddler’s memory is under construction, and she will test to see if you are definitely consistent in many different settings.
  • It’s important to be a good example in handling your own anger and frustration. Brothers, sisters, and playmates will be imitated, too. Remember, set a positive tone for your toddler’s behaviour through your own actions, those of your other children and by choosing friends for your toddler who will be good models to copy.
  • Provide lots of reminders about what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. It can be frustrating having to tell your child something over and over again, but some children need to be told many times before they fully understand you.

If your preschooler pushes someone, how can you teach her a better way to get what she wants?

Aggressive behaviour is a normal and typical part of growing up and it is critical for parents to help their children learn how to manage it. As preschoolers get older, they show less and less physical aggression mostly because the parts of their brains that control aggression are better developed. However, because preschoolers are bigger and stronger, they are capable of more harm when
they do get rough.

Preschoolers are also smarter and more calculating. They test their growing independence with strong opinions about what and who they like to play with, and what they like to do. To get their way they negotiate with friends, parents and caregivers. Every day, playmates try to figure out who will have what, who will do what and who can play. Later, they will remember what worked, or didn’t. This leads them to choose more indirect forms of aggression and use their increasing language skills to get what they want. They make fun of and exclude certain friends; they tease, taunt, and call each other names. The goal of this type of aggression is to harm another person through insults or isolation.

Use the following tips to respond to aggressive behaviour, and help your child learn appropriate strategies that will help him meet his needs and interact with others in constructive ways.

  • Read stories together about some of the angry feelings or aggressive behaviours your child has shown. Talk about the emotions the characters are feeling. Ask your child how else the characters might handle their feelings. Remind your child of situations when she felt that way, too. Recall together whether the outcome was good or bad, and what could have made it end better. Preschoolers are capable of learning alternatives to aggression. The more choices your child can see, the less likely she is to act aggressively.
  • Praise your preschooler for positive behaviour, without overdoing it. Complimenting your child is especially important when he clearly chooses not to act aggressively. Moderate praise makes your child want to please you.
  • Pretend play gives preschoolers the chance to test different emotions, including anger. If you take part in your child’s pretend play you can be right there to explore other ways to resolve those feelings without physical or indirect aggression.
  • Take the lead in making up stories where people get frustrated, e.g., “Jennifer was playing ball when Jack came and took the ball from her.” Encourage your child to make up the next part. Ask, “What do you think Jennifer did?” Decide together how everyone in your story will react. Have your child draw pictures to go along with the story and share them with others. Learning to talk about and share feelings are good alternatives to physical aggression.
  • “Rough and tumble” play is normal in children this age. It helps preschoolers learn social skills, the boundaries of their strength, and when to stop. However, parents need to monitor children’s play. Parents are very important in helping preschoolers master the fine line between rough physical play and physical aggression.
  • If your child hurts someone, include her in treating the hurt child. This helps her to develop empathy for others and understand the pain her actions can cause.
  • Help your child learn how to apologize and make up. Understanding how to take responsibility for hurting someone and taking steps to make things better are critical skills for preschoolers.
  • Be a good role model by managing your own frustrations. When you are frustrated, share your feelings and talk about different ways you might cope that are not physically or indirectly aggressive.
  • Provide routines that include frequent reminders about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. For instance, if you go to the park, remind your preschooler that it’s important to wait her turn and not push her way into line.
  • Communicate rules and limits and be sure they are age appropriate. Talk about these daily to ensure that they are understood. Observe, monitor and respond consistently when rules are broken.

Positive Parenting Strategies to Cope with Aggression

  • Stay calm.
  • Treat any child who may have been hurt by the aggressor.
  • Make sure no one is laughing or encouraging the child’s aggressive behaviour.
  • Try to understand what caused the aggressive behaviour to explain it to each child involved.
  • Tell the aggressor why the behaviour is inappropriate and what she can do instead.
  • If necessary, apply age-appropriate consequences.
  • Be consistent with any consequences, and follow through.

Positive Parenting Strategies to PREVENT Aggression

  • Observe what happened before, during and after aggression. Look at what triggered it, who the victim was, what the behaviour was, where it occurred, what stopped it, and how everyone felt about it afterward.
  • Be patient, firm, direct and consistent in your directions and requests regarding your family’s expectations on manners, chores, routines, and ways of interacting with others. This helps your preschooler understand and manage his emotions and relationships on a daily basis.
  • Set a good example for your child. Modeling positive ways to resolve conflict and communicate when emotions are involved has a big impact on your child’s development of positive social skills.

Even very young babies can show aggressive behaviour, like howling and thrashing. But how should you react if your 11-month old hits another infant?

Some typical adult reactions to aggression include punishment, laughing at it, or just pretending it didn’t happen. Some even think it is best just to “let the kids work it out” and not interfere at all. Like anger, aggression is a normal part of a child’s development and dealing with it is one of the most important challenges of parenthood. How your child displays her feelings and behaves with others can be influenced by her temperament. Differences in temperament will cause some children to be more aggressive while others are hardly aggressive at all.

When infants display anger and aggression, it is often due to discomfort, pain or frustration. Older babies will use aggression to protect themselves, to express anger or to get what they want. When your baby is aggressive, it is because he has not learned a better way of behaving.

Use these strategies to prevent or respond to aggressive behaviour. They will help your baby learn more appropriate ways of behaving with others.

  • Your crying baby is telling you something and it is important for you to respond. When you do, your baby will learn to trust you and other adults and know that you will respond consistently and sensitively when he is uncomfortable or upset.
  • Use a soothing voice and gentle touches. Expressing warm feelings through touch is crucial for your baby’s emotional development.
  • Try to understand what caused the aggressive behaviour and eliminate as many sources of
    frustration as possible.
    This helps her feel safe and secure.
  • Create safe play spaces so your baby can move through the house without constantly being told “don’t touch” and “don’t do that.” Too many “no’s” will frustrate and anger your baby.
  • Provide your baby with periods of play with you or other caregivers throughout the day. Play is a wonderful way for your baby to learn about his environment and how to relate positively with the people and things that make up his world.
  • When playing with your baby, provide many examples of your own caring behaviour, and use simple words like “softly” and “gently” to describe your actions.
  • Talk to your baby, congratulating him on every effort. Even if he doesn’t understand the words, he understands he is important to you and this makes him want to please you which is critical when he needs to follow your directions.
  • Support your baby’s early efforts to soothe herself. Thumb sucking or hugging a soft toy or blanket are rarely hard habits to break, and they help your baby learn to calm herself.
  • Provide your baby with consistent daily routines, which are the prelude to rules. Taking the guesswork out of his day will help him develop a sense of what to expect and how to respond to your family’s routines and activities.
  • Infants need to learn to cooperate and share. If your baby is grabbing or hitting another child, let her know that it is not OK. Show her how to ask for toys how to offer toys to others or redirect her attention to another toy or activity.
  • Use simple words to let your baby know that her behaviour is too aggressive. Remember, it will take lots of repetition before your baby understands what “no” means.

Positive Parenting Strategies to Cope with Aggression

  • Stay calm.
  • Treat any child who may have been hurt by the aggressor.
  • Make sure no one is laughing or giving the child’s inappropriate behaviour attention.
  • Try to understand what caused the aggressive behaviour to explain it to each child involved.
  • Tell the aggressor (even a baby) why the behaviour is inappropriate and what she can do instead.
  • Be consistent with any consequences and follow through.