When we talk about your child’s development, we are referring to how your child grows physically and emotionally and how they learn to communicate, think, and socialise. There is increasing research that suggests a child’s first five years are crucial for brain development. In the first five years of life, children’s brains develop connections faster than at any other time in their lives. Their mental health needs nurturing and it is the time when foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout their life are established.
Loving and stable relationships help babies and young children learn what to expect of others and the world and builds their confidence knowing they are worthy of being cared for. It is also important that as children grow, caregivers can help them manage their “big feelings” when they arise. Recognise that children are still learning to regulate their feelings and understand their world. An infant mental health clinician can help if you and your child are having difficulties. This article by Raising Children is also helpful with tips about how to look after yourself too. There are also further resources and support organisations listed below.
Importance of relationships
Relationships are the foundation of a child’s development and affect all areas and stages of their journey. Children learn if their world is safe and secure, if they’re loved, who loves them, what happens when they laugh, cry, and much more. They learn communication, behaviour, social and other skills from watching you and your interactions with others. They also learn this from other carers and educators.
Importance of play
In the early years, the most important way to learn and develop is through play. Play is fun, giving them the chance to explore, observe, experiment and problem solve. Finding out how the world works – by experimenting and making mistakes – helps them learn. Interacting with your child through play, talking, and listening and being around other people and children heaps them learn key life skills. If you play with them, you demonstrate to them that they are important to you.
Importance of health, lifestyle, and connections
A child’s environment and lifestyle also influence a child’s development and wellbeing. Healthy eating gives your child nutrients to grow and develop. Setting them up with healthy eating patterns, in the beginning, provides them with healthy habits for life. Being a good role model yourself will help with this.
Being physically active helps develop their motor skills and having access to the outside world – such as going to parks, shops, child care or playgroups – helps them develop community connections and positive relationships.
Children develop skills at different times, even though generally development happens in about the same order in most children between eight and 18 months of age. They will learn to sit for instance, before they learn to crawl or stand before they learn to walk. Should you have any concerns, please raise them with your child’s doctor. Raising Children has a guide for baby developmental milestones and what to look for too.
- For tips on how caregivers can develop safe, nurturing bonds with their children, also see our blog: “Positive mental health begins in infancy”.
- Raising Children (the first five years)
- Raising Children (relationships)
- Beyond Blue (infant mental health)
Useful websites/resources for further information and support: