Dealing with a picky eater

Q: My two-year-old son is a very picky eater. Do you have any advice to help increase the number of vegetables he will eat?

A: Dealing with a picky eater can be difficult for parents, but be patient. Continue to offer a variety of new  foods, and avoid getting into power struggles. Some helpful hints include:
• Remember, your responsibility ends with the serving of nutritious foods. You cannot make your son eat. He must decide that for himself.
•Keep a regular schedule of meals and snacks. Don’t allow your son to make you a short-order cook.
• Avoid serving snacks close to mealtimes. New foods seem most attractive when a child is hungry.
• Place small “one or two bite” portions of the new food on your son’s plate—alongside more familiar foods—at each meal.
• Be patient. Make no comment whether or not your son eats the new food. After five or ten exposures, the food may not seem so “new.” Then he may decide to try it onhis own. If he does, begin serving the new food on a regular basis.
• Invite your son to help prepare meals. Children are more likely to eat foods that they’ve helped prepare.
• Be a good role model. Children notice what their parents eat. So, eat your vegetables and your son may, too!

GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site:

Boosting parents’ self-confidence

At one time or another, almost all parents question their self-confidence. Parents wants to be able to act decisively and confidently, but the influence of neighbours and relatives and what they will think can be upsetting.

Here’s an idea that may help. Most decisions revolve around two categories—needs and wants—
and it is important to determine which is which. Needs must be responded to inthe interests of children’s development. Wants may be considered but theymay also be rejected in the interest
of health, safety, or family priorities. So, while children need good food, they may want only ice cream. Parents who feel obliged to satisfy all their child’s wants may discover they are harbouring a little tyrant. Many parents are afraid of losing their child’s love if they deny them all they want—children do often become frustrated and sometimes angry when thwarted.
Yet is impossible to satisfy 100 percent without parents becoming irritated and indignant. A compromise is, first, to recognise the difference between needs and wants. Then, if you feel secure in your love for your child, you can accept the consequences of your decision—without fearing your child’srejection or criticisms from relatives or neighbours.

GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site:

When the going gets tough – hang on!

Hang on!

Most parents know what it is to worry about how well their children are doing. Most parents also know how good it is to enjoy and savour their children’s growing up experiences. In every child’s growing up, there are ups and downs. One day you think she’ll surely be President. The next day you think you’ll be lucky if she manages to stay out of jail! These swings between good and
bad feelings about your child are all part of the business of being a parent. Being a parent is a truly great experience, but at times, it can cause you exasperation!

Be assured that such wild swings in feelings are perfectly normal. Like most other parents, you probably also wonder sometimes if you’re doing the right thing. In fact, it may encourage you to know that:
1. Almost every parent has felt what you are feeling now;
2. There are so many good things about your child’s growth and development which can give you pleasure;
3. One or two problems now won’t affect your child forever.

You can get from this stage in your lives to the next stage by:

1. Living with your child’s developmental problems from day-to-day;
2. Enjoying her, laughing with her, holding her close when the dark moments close in upon both of you, and
3. Simply getting through the ordinary routines of each day.
If you ever feel being a parent is getting too difficult for you, talk to a close friend or relative or other parents who can share their experiences. Whatever you do, don’t mentally bite your fingernails or waste your emotional energy in wondering if you are a “perfect parent”, whatever that may mean.
Don’t hover over your child. Don’t constantly ask yourself, “Is she doing all right?”
Don’t pressure your child into performing at ever-higher levels.
Don’t make her feel that you love her only if she performs well. She should
know that you love her because she is your child. Above all, let your child know in a hundred different ways that you love her. The knowledge that she matters, that she is loved for herself
alone, is the greatest gift you can give your child.

GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of:
2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd.,
Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG
Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334.
Web Site:

Building active, healthy families

Our thanks to the HSE website for these tips on how to help our children and ourselves get active!

You can help your children or any children you look after to be active. Children whose parents or guardians are active are more than 5 times as likely to stay active.

Families play an important role in:

  • decreasing the chance of childhood obesity
  • decreasing the risk of children developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • helping children to build strong muscles, healthy bones, agility and co-ordination
  • improving the self-esteem, mood, energy and sleep patterns of children

How much physical activity children need

Kids need to be active every day. All activity, no matter how short, counts – whether it’s organised sports or active play at home.

Aim for a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day.

Moderate activity is when breathing and heart rate increase, but a conversation is still possible.

Vigorous activity is when breathing becomes heavy, heart rate becomes faster and it’s difficult to keep a conversation going.

Fitness for different age groups

Children learn more physical skills in their first 6 years than at any other point in their lives. These are called basic or fundamental movement skills. They are the building blocks for lifelong activity.

Babies and physical activity

It’s just as important for babies to be active as it is for toddlers and older children.

Your baby needs lots of opportunities for free movement in a supervised and nurturing play environment. Limit your baby’s inactivity, for example being in a child car seat, to no more than an hour a day except when they’re asleep.

Before your baby begins to crawl:

  • encourage them to be active by reaching, rolling, pulling, pushing and learning to move their head, arms, legs and body
  • play on a floor mat with your baby
  • put a toy just outside their reach, so they have to make an extra effort to stretch and reach for it
  • place your baby on their tummy for a short time every day to allow them to stretch and develop their muscles

Always supervise your baby when playing on their tummy. Never let your baby fall asleep on their tummy.

Toddlers and physical activity

Get your toddler active every day for at least 3 hours, spread throughout the day. Young children are naturally active and are generally always on the move.


  • light activities, such as building blocks or playing on the floor
  • more vigorous activities such as running and jumping
  • ball activities like kicking, catching and throwing
  • music and action songs
  • chasing games
  • copycat activities such as skip, jump, hop

Rest and napping in between active play is important too. Activities like drawing and making puzzles contribute to your child’s overall development.

Physical activity for children over 3

If your child is over 3 years old and can walk unaided, they should be physically active every day for at least 3 hours, spread throughout the day.

Tips for keeping children over 3 active:

  • At least one hour of activity should be structured and energetic, for example, swimming or playing a game of chase.
  • Activity does not need to take place all at once – short sessions of 10 to 15 minutes can be built up over the day.
  • Limit the time your young child is not active to an hour a day, except when they’re asleep.
  • Make sure they play outdoors as well as indoors daily.
  • Encourage your child to develop a wide range of movement skills – for example using a climbing frame, riding a bike, playing in water.

Screen time

Children aged 18 to 24 months should spend as little time as possible in front of a screen. Those aged between 2 and 5 should spend no more than 1 hour a day.

Read more about screen time and young children.

Physical activity for children with health conditions

Talk to your GP before increasing your child’s physical activity if your child has any kind of health condition, disease or disability. Most health conditions are helped by being physically active.

If your child has a movement or sensory difficulty, you can adapt the activity. Find your local sports partnership on to find what disability programmes are running in your area.

Listen to your child and allow them to be as active as their ability allows.

Related topic

Being active with a health condition or disability

Get your child motivated

Tips for encouraging activity in children:

  • Get active yourself – children learn through example and are 5 times more likely to be active if their parents are.
  • Choose the right activities for your child’s age – if you don’t, your child might become bored or frustrated.
  • Keep the focus on fun – children don’t want to do something they don’t enjoy.
  • Play active games with your children – such as ball games, skipping, running games.

Examples of activities for children

Think about encouraging your child or teenager to get active through:

  • active recreation, such as hiking or skateboarding
  • walking, running, cycling or swimming
  • sports including Gaelic football, hurling, basketball or tennis
  • martial arts, such as karate
  • active games involving running, chasing, throw and catch

Strengthening and flexibility exercises

You can help your child even more by including muscle-strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening exercises in their fitness habits. Your child should do this 2 to 3 times a week.

Examples of strengthening and flexibility exercises for younger children:

  • Games such as tug-of-war.
  • Rope climbing.
  • Swinging on playground equipment.

Examples of strengthening and flexibility exercises for older children:

  • Climbing walls, sit-ups, push-ups.
  • Strength exercises with resistance bands.
  • Sports such as gymnastics or dance.

Develop a healthy lifestyle

Find more ways to get your child fit and healthy from START – ideas for getting active and ways to make a positive, healthy start.

Related topics

Physical activity for children

How to improve your fitness

Fitness for your lifestyle

Healthy eating for families

Tummy time

Here is some excellent advice on Tummy Time from the HSE website

Getting your baby to lie and play on their tummy keeps them active. Tummy time helps to strengthen their head, neck and back muscles, and lets them experience feeling on the front of their body.

Your baby needs to be physically active several times each day.

Read more about how play can help your baby’s learning and development

A firm and flat surface

Place your baby on a firm and flat surface for tummy time. During the day you can place your baby on their tummy with their hands out at either side to support themselves. You must stay close to your baby while they’re in this position.

Always place your baby on their back if they fall asleep during tummy time, to reduce the risk of cot death.

Your baby shouldn’t be inactive or in a restricted position for longer than 1 hour, except when sleeping.

Ways to do tummy time

The images and information below has been reproduced from

Here are some ways to put tummy time into your baby’s routine.


Lie down on the floor, sofa or a bed. You can lie flat or prop yourself up on pillows. Place your baby on your chest or tummy so that you’re face-to-face. Always hold your baby firmly for safety.

Tummy to tummy

Eye-level smile

Encourage eye contact by getting down to your baby’s level.

You can roll up a blanket and place it under their chest and upper arms for support.

Eye-level smile

Lap soothe

Place your baby face-down across your lap when holding or winding (burping).

Place a hand on your baby’s bottom to help calm them.

Lap soothe

Tummy-down carry

Carry your baby ‘tummy down’. To do this, slide one hand between your baby’s legs and stomach. Use other hand to support baby’s head and neck. Nestle your baby close to your body for comfort and support.

Tummy down carry

Tummy minute

Place your baby on their tummy for 1 or 2 minutes every time you change them.

Tummy minute

Visit for more information on tummy time

For more advice on everything to do with your baby/toddler see

Motherhood and anxiety

Becoming a mum is a huge life changing event, which can impact greatly on our mental health. We are told that pregnancy and post-pregnancy are one of the happiest times of our lives.

So what happens when it isn’t? We feel that there is something wrong with us. We compare ourselves to other mums. We end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We hide how we feel. We put on our ‘mask’. The mask hides the often panicky and anxious feelings, the mood swings, the tears and the low confidence.

 “How are you?”- someone asks.“I’m grand, fine, I’m good”- you answer.

How many times a day do you tell yourself or tell other people this? The mask you have created shows the world “I’m grand, fine, I’m good”. It does not show the world the depths of fear, worry and depression you feel. Yet wearing this mask can be exhausting.

When someone asks you “How are you?” part of you might want to tell them the truth, BUT then fear hits us. Fear feeds Miss Anxiety, allowing her to create negative thoughts, assumptions and beliefs, leading to thoughts like; “Will I be judged? Will I be seen as not coping? Will they think I am a bad mum? Will I be a burden to them?” So you answer “I’m grand, fine, I’m good”. Whilst telling ourselves, that these feelings will pass, I am a modern mum, just keep going. BUT what if these feelings don’t pass, what if you don’t talk, will you be wearing your mask for years?

If you can relate to this, please know you are not alone.

If you find yourself unable to sleep due to racing and repetitive thoughts. If you find yourself making excuses to avoid meeting friends, going places or phoning into work sick. If when you get in your car or close the front door, you start to cry, know that you are not alone. Know that you are not a failure. Know that you are not a bad mum.

It is believed we have over 60,000 thoughts per day. Yet the thoughts we attach an emotion to can become very real to us. We create a story and play out what will happen in our minds. We convince ourselves this is what is going to happen. We are feeling the emotions involved and our body is physically responding by our muscles tensing, our stomachs feeling sick or we have a panic attack. All this from a thought, a thought that if you break it down, you probably have little or no evidence to back up. Yet we assume that these terrible things will happen.

Examples of Anxious Negative Thoughts:

  • “I can’t”
  • “What if”
  • “Yes, but”.

 “Coping with anxiety can be overwhelming. It may trigger your fight or flight response, while using all of your physical and mental energy”.

Living with anxiety every day can be exhausting. It is always present no matter what you are doing, or how much you need to focus on different tasks. It can impact on your daily life, and spill over into other areas, such as your relationships, your job and completing household chores. This can make you feel even more overwhelmed.


  • The impact of anxiety on your brain

During times of increased anxiety, the brain can be so overwhelmed with stress, that it will reduce the levels of energy it provides to different areas of your body. This can lead to digestion problems or tension headaches, which can be caused by feeling more stressed and overwhelmed.

  • The impact of anxiety on your mental health

When we talk about feeling overwhelmed, we are talking about how anxiety usually causes us severe stress that affects our thoughts. Anxiety makes it so hard to focus on anything other than your anxiety, therefore the more you focus on anxiety, the more anxiety you will feel. Some people may feel a lot of emotional distress, causing them to cry, become more irritable or lose hope that their anxiety will stop.

Anxiety or panic attack sufferers often feel that they have no control over their situation, and that anxiety is now controlling them.

  • The impact of anxiety on your physical health

Anxiety can lead to physical symptoms; however physical symptoms can often lead to anxiety. Severe anxiety leads to physical ailments especially during an anxiety attack such as:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Difficulty in catching a breath
  • Feeling sick

How to manage your anxiety

Anxiety can be managed. The best way to stop feeling overwhelmed from anxiety is to learn to control it. Below are some tips that may be useful, in overcoming the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety:


  1. Distraction: 

It can be difficult to distract yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed. However, it can be done. By calling a friend and talking on the phone, your mind finds it hard to focus on your anxiety and talk on the phone at the same time.

  1. Go For a Walk:

Walking also makes it difficult for you mind to focus on your anxiety. Listening to music, or a radio programme can also distract your mind from anxious thoughts. Walking also moves blood around your body, and this helps to control your breathing and your heart rate.

  1. Controlled Breathing:

Controlling your breathing is important, as anxiety symptoms can create new anxiety symptoms. Breathing in slowly, and breathing out slowly can help if you are hyperventilating. When someone experiences a panic attack, they can hyperventilate. Hyperventilating stops your body from creating enough carbon dioxide, because you are breathing it out too quickly. This can lead to chest pains and feeling dizzy.

  1. Keep a diary:

When your thoughts are too overwhelming, another effective thing to try is writing your thoughts down. This has been shown to have a positive effect on our mind. Our thoughts have been released from our mind and we can now see them in black and white. This can also help to clarify your thoughts.

  1. Exercise:

Exercise is also a powerful tool to combat feeling overwhelmed. It uses up energy and tires out your muscles, whilst improves your breathing so that your symptoms are not as severe. Exercise is not only beneficial for your physical health, but for your mental health too.

  1. CBT:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a technique used in counselling to help manage anxiety. You can try this at home by separating yourself from your thoughts by rewording them. For example you may say to yourself: “If I go to that meeting, I will make a fool of myself” or “I’m having the thought that if I go to that meeting, I will make a fool of myself.”

The power of this new way of thinking is that you are taking a step back from your anxious thought. When you add “I’m having the thought that…” you take away some of the anxiety’s fear. It’s not always about stopping anxious thoughts but about changing them.

So what can you do?

  • Mammy Meet Up

Find yourself a group of other mums. There are a number of groups such as Mama Squad in Letterkenny and Tea & Toast in Buncrana. You may find that it is through a Parent & Toddler group or a Breastfeeding support group that you find a group. For others it may be just a group that meets to go for a walk or go to the gym. What matters is that you find others that you can talk to – and have some fun along the way

  • Counselling

If you feel you are struggling with your emotions then counselling may help. Counselling offers you a safe space to talk about how you’re feeling. You will not be judged. Your doctor can refer you to a counsellor, alternatively you can see what counsellors are available in your area. If you feel anxiety is controlling you, and you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, talking to a trained professional can offer you the support and help you need to move forward.

(Contributed by Sarah Barr New Beginnings Counselling 0864477867)





Yes, parenting can be a struggle!

Every parent finds parenting difficult. There can be days when it feels like everything is a struggle.

Be kind to yourself. It’s important to look after yourself too. Some of these tips might be helpful for you.

Make time for yourself

You deserve some free time for relaxation or fun. Take opportunities to socialise or relax when they come.

Here are some tips that might help you make time for yourself:

  • Don’t worry about maintaining the perfect home – cleaning can wait if you need a break.
  • Try not to cook meals from scratch every day – batch cook in advance or use leftovers for meals.
  • If you can, ask your partner or friends and family to help you free up some time.
  • Don’t feel guilty for leaving your child with a childminder – you know they are being well looked after.

Try for a fresh start

If you’re having a difficult day, try to take a moment and start again. This can be easier said than done, but it can help to turn a difficult situation around.

If you’re losing patience with your child, draw a line under it, and try again. You can deal with this situation. You will feel more confident when you have had success.

Let your children make decisions

You can do too much for your child. Some will fight for their independence. Others will allow you to do everything for them.

Give your child the space to make mistakes and learn from them. This will support their independence and confidence.

Tune into your child

Every child is different. Some children are quiet and will love playing with puzzles and jigsaws. Other children have high energy and need to run around a lot.

Let your child show you what they like. Have fun together doing activities or games that suit their personality type.

How you speak about your child

Be careful about how you speak about your child in front of your child. They are always listening.

Children will live up to both high and low expectations.

Say sorry

It’s OK to say “I’m having a bad day. I’m sorry that I shouted at you. I love you.”

This sets a good example for your child. They will learn to say ‘sorry’ too.

Pick your battles

Don’t try to change everything. Small changes can make a big difference. Celebrate the small wins.

Problem solving

Children are always learning from how we cope with problems or mistakes along the way.

Get them to help you with small jobs or problems around the house. Talk them through how you solve problems.

This will teach them problem-solving skills early in life. Praise them for solving smaller problems themselves.

Social media

Make an effort to limit social media use daily. Make this a family rule.

Limit the use of social media around your children. It doesn’t allow you to bond with your child.

Don’t compare yourself to others on social media. Families that look perfect on Facebook have bad days too.

If you feel that one bad day has turned into a bad week or month, talk to your GP or public health nurse. They will guide you to services that can support you.

For more tips and advice for parents see


Join the Youthscape Programme this July

Youthscape is a 34 week programme which consists of: 6 weeks initial engagement during which the participants will meet with their key youth worker for 1 hour a week to get to know each other.

This is followed by the 16 week delivery phase, which starts on 22nd July 2019.  During this phase the participants will gain an OCN level 1 in Personal Development, Citizenship and Good Relations.

Following on from this is the Transition Mentoring phase, which runs for 12 weeks.  This phase involves workshops from guest speakers, some of which will include – LGBTQ+, alcohol/drug awareness, causes and preventative measures for criminal offending, internet safety and many others.  They will also receive one to one support to help them move onto whichever avenue they wish to pursue, as well as help in building their confidence and self esteem.

Interested? See the contact details on the poster.


Tips on toilet training

John Sharry co-author of the Parents Plus parenting programmes gives some tips on toilet training

Toilet training our two-year-old is a bit of a strain

closeup of legs of the child sitting on the pottyQUESTION
I was wondering if you have any advice or can point me in the direction of help as I am struggling with toilet training my little girl, who is two years and 10 months old. We had a failed attempt in August and decided we wouldn’t try again until she was ready. Last week and this week she has twice instigated using the toilet herself. On the first day of trying she sat on the toilet with no problem and did a pee two out of four times though she had some accidents as well. However, the following day she wouldn’t sit on the toilet at all and freaked out and screamed when it was suggested. She is not bold or anything; just visibly upset. She relaxes only when she’s back in a nappy.

She’ll sit on the toilet in creche no problem and pee occasionally but she still may have one or two accidents a day there, usually just after she goes. In creche she thinks it’s exciting going to the toilet with her friends, and at home she keeps saying “I just don’t want to” even with the offer of reward charts, treats, and so on.

At home it’s all accidents and it has taken five days to get her to even sit on the potty, and that’s only if I’m on the toilet as well. What should I do? I’ve no idea how to reassure her about using the toilet.

While some parents have the experience of toilet training being plain sailing over a short period, for most it is characterised by fits and starts and setbacks. It varies greatly the age at which a child is developmentally ready to learn to use the toilet.

While the expectation might be for a child to be fully toilet trained before their third birthday, in my clinical experience many children are simply not ready until much later to fully master all the skills necessary. Many parents report that their children have learned to use the toilet at a younger age, but these children are not fully toilet trained and have regular accidents and setbacks.

It is easy to become frustrated with toilet-training setbacks and even get into a battle with a child over using the toilet. This can become counter-productive and make the child more resistant or even more fearful about going.

For this reason, toilet training requires a very patient, positive and child-centred approach. In most cases, my advice to parents is to closely observe and tune into where their children are at in learning to use the toilet so they can encourage progress at the child’s pace.

Understanding the stages of toilet training
To successfully use the toilet to do a pee, a child must:
1) be able to consciously do a pee while sitting on the toilet or potty,
2) be aware of when their bladder is full and notice the signals that they need to go, and
3) be able to hold on for a short period as they wait to go to the toilet .
It strikes me that your daughter is able to do step 1 but as yet has not learnt to do step 2 or step 3. This is the reason why she can sit on the toilet and is able to go 50 percent of the time, yet she is still prone to accidents.

To help her, you want her to master step 2 in order to develop an awareness of her bladder becoming full and sensing her urge to go. There are some lovely child-centred books that help children develop this awareness such as Time to Pee by Mo Willems or On your potty by Virginia Miller. The latter tells the story of a little bear having lots of accidents before he finally notices the urge to go and runs to the potty in time (while an encouraging Daddy bear supports him).

Practically, to help your daughter learn, she needs to be comfortable telling you when she pees or is about to pee, without any pressure. For example, you might set up relaxed periods of time at home, when she is in her underwear or wearing training pants.

When a pee comes, you might gently comment “Oh, a pee has come, did you notice?” Or if you spot her wriggling or making movements that might signify a pee is coming, you might gently comment “Is there a pee coming? Shall we run like little bear to the toilet?” The key is to be very relaxed and reassuring.

If she does not go, you simply say “maybe next time” and if she does go, you praise and reward her for being such a big girl.

Motivating your daughter
It is worth reflecting on what made your daughter freak out or get upset when asked to use the toilet. Is it because she feels pressured about going or is there something in particular that she is afraid of? If she currently needs the nappy to feel comfortable, you can let her start by sitting on the toilet with the nappy and take it off gradually.

In most situations, the key is to reduce the pressure on her and simply say, “You let me know when you are ready.” 

It is also worth reflecting on what might motivate your daughter to participate in toilet training. It is interesting that she is motivated by the peer group in creche and by going when you are also going to the toilet with her. You can build on this by setting up a morning routine when she and Mummy go to the toilet together.

Make it a fun relaxed time by maybe reading on the toilet together or even playing music, and so on. Think what would make the experience of being in the toilet fun and relaxing.

I often recommend that parents keep special bubbles in the toilet and you can blow one or two together when she sits down. Bubbles can distract a child from their worries, helping them relax, and the motion of blowing can even help them let go and pee in the toilet.

John Sharry, Irish Times Newspaper, December 2016. John writes in the Irish Times Health+ every Tuesday.
For information on John’s courses for parents visit

For tips on toilet training for night time see

Your baby’s developmental milestones

  1. Overview

In the first 5 years, your child’s brain develops more than at any other time in their life.

Your child’s early experiences create millions of new connections in their brain. This period of development lays down the foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout their life.

All children develop at different rates. Some will be slower than others (developmentally delayed) but then catch up over time. Others may have an underlying problem that causes the delay.

Developmental checks

Your public health nurse (PHN) will carry out developmental checks on your child at different stages. These checks are sometimes called examinations.

These are to find out if your child is growing properly. It is also to see if they are able to do things that children of the same age are able to do.

Make sure you bring your child to their developmental checks. It can help identify any health or developmental problems. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to improve issues your child may have.

Developmental checks happen when your child is:

  • 3 months
  • 9 to 11 months
  • 18 to 24 months
  • 3 years

Keep reading to see what happens at each stage. Your PHN or community medical doctor will contact you to arrange a time for each of these appointments. Let them know if your contact details change. The checks usually take place in your local health centre.

  1. Your child’s developmental checks – 3 months

Your baby’s first developmental check takes place when they are 3 months old.

The public health nurse (PHN) or community medical doctor will carry out the following checks:


Your baby will get a physical examination. This means the PHN or community medical doctor will check your baby’s:

  • respiration (breathing)
  • skin
  • fontanelles (the soft spot on your baby’s head)
  • mouth
  • palate (the roof of the mouth)
  • neck
  • eyes
  • ears
  • abdomen (the belly area and the space between the chest and pelvis)
  • genitalia
  • spine
  • limbs (arms and legs)

If your baby is a boy, the nurse will check their testicles (testes) to make sure they have moved down into the scrotum (this is called testicular descent).


The PHN or community medical doctor will check how alert your baby is, if they smile and other facial interactions. They will also ask you about your baby’s alertness.

Posture and large movements

This is to check how your baby holds their body (posture) and how they make large movements.

Large movements (also called ‘gross motor skills’) are the movement and coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts.

The nurse will check if your baby lifts their head when lying face down and if they use their forearms (the part of the arm between the elbow and wrist) for support.

They will place your baby in a sitting position and look to see if their head hangs forward or backward. They will also see if your baby holds their head erect for several seconds and if their legs can take their weight.

The nurse will check how your baby uses their hands. The nurse will be looking to see if:

  • their hands loosely open
  • they are beginning to clasp and unclasp objects
  • they respond to finger play
  • they watch hands – both their own and the nurse’s

The nurse will check to see if your baby can follow a moving object with their eyes. They will also check how the pupils in their eyes react to light.

They will also check to see if your baby has a lazy eye (also called ‘amblyopia’). This is where one of the eyes is not developing properly and the brain starts to ignore input from the weaker eye.

Fine movements

Fine movements (also called ‘fine motor skills’) are the use of smaller muscles like the muscles in the hands and fingers.

The nurse will see if your baby will hold a rattle for a few seconds when placed in their hands.

Hearing and speech

The nurse will check if your baby:

  • is startled when they hear loud sounds
  • goes quiet or smiles when spoken to
  • seems to recognise your voice and goes more quiet if crying
  • increases or decreases their sucking behaviour in response to sound
  • makes pleasure sounds like cooing
  • cries differently for different needs
  • smiles when they see you
  1. Your child’s developmental checks – 9 to 11 months

Your baby will be checked by the public health nurse (PHN) as follows:

Physical development

Your baby will get a physical examination. The PHN will check:

  • respiration (breathing)
  • skin
  • fontanelles (the soft spot on your baby’s head)
  • mouth
  • palate (the roof of the mouth)
  • neck
  • eyes
  • ears
  • abdomen (the belly area and the space between the chest and pelvis)
  • genitalia
  • spine
  • limbs (arms and legs)

If your baby is a boy, the nurse will check their testicles (testes) to make sure they have moved down into the scrotum (this is called testicular descent).

Posture and large movements

Posture is how your baby holds their body.

Large movements (also called ‘gross motor skills’) are the movement and coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts. Examples include sitting and crawling.

Your baby will be checked to see if they can:

  • sit with support (for example, on your lap)
  • sit without support
  • try to crawl
  • roll both ways
  • support their weight on their legs

The nurse will check if your baby can see well. They will shine a light in their eyes to see how the pupils respond.

Your baby’s eyes will be watched to see how they track moving objects.

The nurse will also check to see if your baby’s eyes are looking in the same direction.

Fine movements

Fine movements (also called ‘fine motor skills’) are the use of smaller muscles like the muscles in hands, fingers and wrists.

The nurse will check to see if your baby:

  • pokes at objects with their index finger
  • eats finger foods
  • uses their hands to rake objects
  • transfers from one hand to the other

The nurse will check if your baby:

  • enjoys games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
  • turns and looks in the direction of sounds
  • listens when spoken to
  • recognises words for common items like cup, shoe or book
  • begins to respond to requests like “come here” or “want more?”
Speech development

The nurse will check if your baby:

  • babbles
  • has both long and short groups of sounds such as “tat upup bibibibi”
  • uses speech or non-crying sounds to get and keep attention
  • uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
  • copies or imitates different speech sounds
  • has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although the sounds may not be clear
Social, emotional, play and behaviour

The nurse will check to see if your baby can:

  • play games like peek-a-boo
  • copy or imitate clap hands
  • point with their index finger
  • respond to people’s expressions
  • take interest in their own reflection in a mirror
  1. Your child’s developmental checks – 18 to 24 months

Your child will be checked as follows:

Physical development

The public health nurse will check their:

  • respiration (breathing)
  • skin
  • mouth
  • palate (roof of the mouth)
  • neck
  • eyes
  • ear
  • spine
  • limbs (arms and legs)

If your child is a boy, the nurse will check their testicles (testes) to make sure they have moved down into the scrotum (this is called testicular descent).

Posture and large movements

Posture is how your child holds their body.

Large movements (also called ‘gross motor skills’) are the movement and coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts. Examples include sitting, crawling and walking.

Your child will be checked to see if they can:

  • walk alone
  • walk up steps with one hand held
  • carry toys while walking
  • kick a ball
  • begin to run
  • climb up and down from furniture without help

The nurse will check to see if your child’s eyes look in the same direction.

Fine movements

Fine movements (also called ‘fine motor skills’) are the use of smaller muscles like the muscles in hands, fingers and wrists.

The nurse will check if your child can:

  • pick up small objects
  • catch sight of and name small toys
  • turn over a container to spill out the contents
  • build blocks
  • begin to sort out shapes by size and colour
  • feed themselves with a spoon
  • drink from a cup
Hearing and speech

The nurse will ask if your child passed the universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) test shortly after birth.

The nurse will check your child’s hearing by checking if they can:

  • point to a few body parts when asked
  • follow simple commands or instructions (“roll the ball”, “kiss the baby”)
  • understand simple questions (“where’s your shoe?”)
  • listen to simple stories, songs and rhymes
  • point to pictures in a book when they are named

Your child’s speech will be checked. The nurse will check if your child:

  • says more words every month
  • uses some 1 or 2-word questions (“where’s Kitty?”, “go bye-bye?”, “what’s that?”)
  • puts 2 words together (“no water”, “mommy book”)
Social, emotional, play and behaviour

The nurse will check if your child:

  • shows more independence
  • gets separation anxiety (extreme anxiety about being separated from parent or other care giver)
  • shows affection to familiar people
  • plays alone and does messy and pretend play
  • copies or imitates other people
  • more excited about the company of other children
  • begins to show defiant behaviour
  • shows emotion (laughing, frustration, anger)
  • says “no” and shakes their head
  1. Your child’s developmental checks – 3¼ to 3½ years

This check will happen between 3-and-a-quarter and 3-and-a-half years of age.

Posture and large movements

Posture is how your child holds their body.

Large movements (also called ‘gross motor skills’) are the movement and coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts. Examples include sitting, crawling and walking.

The public health nurse will check or ask if your child:

  • jumps
  • climbs well
  • pedals a tricycle
  • turns around corners
  • walks forward, backwards and sideways
  • balances on 1 foot
  • sits with legs in front

If your child is a boy, the nurse will check their testicles (testes) to make sure they have moved down into the scrotum (this is called testicular descent).


The nurse will ask you about your child’s eyesight (vision).

They will check to see if your child’s eyes look in the same direction.

Fine movements

Fine movements (also called ‘fine motor skills’) are the use of smaller muscles like the muscles in hands, fingers and wrists.

The nurse will check if your child can:

  • pick up pins and threads
  • hold a pencil
  • copy a circle
Hearing and speech

The nurse will ask if your child passed the universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) test shortly after birth.

They will ask if your child can hear:

  • you when you call from another room
  • television, radio and other devices at the same loudness level as other family members

The nurse will ask about your child’s speech.

They will check if your child can:

  • answer simple questions like “who?”, “what?”, “where?” and “why?”
  • talk about activities at play school or a friend’s home
  • usually be understood by people outside of the family
  • uses a lot of sentences that have 2 or more words – for example “mammy get in car” or “daddy eating dinner”
  • usually talk easily without repeating syllables or words

You will also be asked about your child’s interaction skills, for example if they can:

  • name familiar things
  • say their own first name, age and gender
  • use words like “I”, “me”, “we”, “you”
  • use some plural words like “cars”, “dogs”
  • understand words like “in”, “on” and “under”

The cognitive check looks at learning, thinking and problem-solving.

The nurse will ask if your child:

  • does puzzles with 3 to 4 pieces
  • turns one page at a time when looking at a book
  • builds a tower with 6 or more blocks
  • can work toys with buttons, levers and moving parts
  • screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handles
Social, emotional, play and behaviour

The nurse will ask if your child:

  • uses imaginative play
  • takes turns
  • copies adults and friends [and siblings?]
  • shows affection to friends without being prompted or asked to do so
  • separates easily from their parents but may get upset with any major changes in their routine
  • holds eye contact
  • understands commands or instructions
  • is toilet trained

For more information on your child’s everyday care and development plus how to keep them safe, active and healthy check out the HSE website

You will also be able to use their ‘chat feature’ to talk to an expert.