The Early Childhood Ireland website has some great information and resources for families like these ideas for supporting literacy and numeracy skills at home
Around the age of eight months, a securely attached infant starts to get upset when their attachment figure (mum, dad or whoever is the primary carer) is out of sight. This response is called separation anxiety. Separation anxiety at this time in life is normal. Also important is what the infant does when the attachment figure returns. A securely attached infant is happy and can accept comforting from the attachment figure. In other words, the securely attached infant has a strong enough bond that they feel upset when the attachment figure leaves, but also has enough trust in their attachment figure that they can relax and be comforted when the attachment figure returns. Securely attached children can be comforted to some extent by other people, but they generally prefer the comfort of their primary attachment figure.
Trust = Emotional Regulation
The process of getting upset and then being comforted by contact with the primary attachment figure is how infants learn to calm themselves and regulate (manage) their own emotions. Emotional regulation is the term for this ability. It allows us to understand and accept our own emotions, use healthy ways to handle them, and keep functioning even under stress. Most aspects of good mental and emotional health later in life depend on this ability of emotional regulation.
What does secure attachment look like in toddlers?
As your child enters the second year of life she becomes more physically and emotionally independent. Parts of the brain involved in speech come on-line during the second year and most children have begun to talk and deal with toilet training by the end of the third year. This is a busy and challenging time for children and their parents.
Exploring (getting into everything!) and testing your patience by saying “no” are some of the ways a toddler tries out his new skills and develops an independent sense of self. Toddlers have a strong desire to do things “by myself!” At the same time, they still need to feel close to their attachment figure. This creates internal stress and can lead to strong emotional outbursts. This may be why people sometimes call this stage the ‘terrible twos’.
A securely attached toddler will generally be able to explore their environment with excitement and curiosity, but will also want frequent contact with their attachment figure. The attachment bond that created trust in the first year now becomes the secure base a toddler can rely on while exploring the outside world and their inside feelings and wishes.
Think about how children this age play on their own, want to feed themselves, and so on, but still bring every toy to you to look at and want you to hold them when they are tired, hurt, or upset. They also want you to share their joy and excitement about the world around them!
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
Some parents choose to give their child a dummy, some choose not to. However, if you give your child a dummy, it is very easy for this to become a habit, even by the time the child has reached 12 months old.
- A dummy can be used to comfort a baby that is hard to settle (please note that if the baby is breastfed, this should only be done when breastfeeding is established).
- Dummy sucking may cause dental problems, mouth infections and ear infections.
- Dummies make it difficult for your child to talk.
- Do not let the dummy stay in your child’s mouth for long periods of time.
- Do not secure the dummy in your child’s mouth – this could lead to choking.
- Never clip the dummy onto your child’s clothes.
- Do not dip the dummy in sweet, sugary foods or drinks – this may lead to tooth decay.
- Never let your child talk with a dummy in his mouth.
- Overuse of a dummy can have an effect on your child’s speech sound production and may lead to speech problems.
- Use a dummy only for sleep times.
Useful tips for stopping dummy use
- Prepare the child for stopping the dummy – talk about getting rid of it.
- Choose a good time to give up the dummy, e.g. over a weekend and when you and your partner are not at work. Be prepared for sleepless nights.
- Never give the dummy back to the child once you have said it has gone.
- Your child could give their dummy away in return for a small present.
If you have any concerns, please contact your health visitor or a speech and language therapist.
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
When it comes to speech, language and communication what should we expect at different stages of our children’s development?
6 Months – Children will:
- Respond to different tones of voice and emotion
- Babble a variety of sounds – ‘a-goo’ ‘oooh’
- Mouths toys, shakes objects, plays with hands and feet.
- Localises sounds with eyes at ear level.
12 Months – Children will:
- Respond to own name, ‘no’ and ‘bye bye’
- Understand simple instructions
- Babbles loudly – first words emerge
- Understanding of object permanence.
18 months – Children will:
- Select familiar objects and point to basis body parts on request.
- Obeys simple instructions.
- Obeys simple instructions
- Use between 6 – 20 recognisable words
- Demands objects through pointing and vocalisation.
- Imitates everyday activities.
- Plays contently on their own but likes to be in close proximity to a familiar adult.
2 years – Children will:
- Follows instructions with 2 key tasks
- Uses 2 word phases
- Uses 50 recognisable words and understands many more
- Constantly asking names of objects and people
- Parallel play
- Make believe play
3 Years – Children will:
- Understand much of a complex sentence but not all
- Uses 500+ words
- Begins to understand plurals and the use of personal pronouns (you do it).
- Using 4-6 words sentences
- Overgeneralisation of grammatical rules (mouses, sheeps)
- Asks many questions wih ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘why’?
- Joins in active make – believe play with other children
4-5 years – Children will:
- Have expressive language of over 2,000 words
- Have receptive language of approximately 5,000 words
- Begin to understand prepositions – i.e. in front of, behind.
- Understands more difficult concepts i.e. same/different.
- Can understand two adjective modifers (e.g. “I saw a big white cat”)
- Begin to use words to symbolise thoughts and feelings.
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
What behaviour should we expect from our little ones at the different ages and stages of their development? Each child is a little individual but here are some general guidelines that may help you to promote positive behaviour as your child grows.
|Age||Normal behaviour||What parents can do|
Under 1 year of age
| Cries to make needs known.
·Gets into everything.
·Learns by touch, taste, smell, sight and sound.
|·Let your baby learn to self-soothe. Comforting your baby when he is sick, hurt or upset―rather than ignoring or brushing off the feeling―will help him learn how to do this.
·Say no when your baby does something you don’t want him to, like biting you.
Don’t use techniques such as time-out or consequences.
1 to 2 years
|·Is starting to test limits as she explores her independence.
·May be fearful when separating from you.
Will learn to say no.
·Curious and wants to explore.
·Too young to remember rules.
|Create a safe environment that your child can explore.
Give your child attention when she is being good
·Use redirection, with a brief explanation (“No—hot.”).
2 to 3 years
|·Is becoming more independent.
·Becomes frustrated when you set limits, and will show it.
·Becomes very possessive, doesn’t understand the concept of “mine” versus “someone else’s.”
·Is easily distracted.
|·Some frustration is good because it helps your child start to learn how to problem-solve. But, remember, there are situations your child won’t be able to handle.
·Give choices when you can – “Which coat, blue or red?”.
Explain briefly why the behaviour is unacceptable.
3 to 5 years
|·Should be able to better accept limits, but won’t always make good decisions.
·Tries to please and wants to feel important.
·Can follow simple instructions.
·Can make choices.
·Asks a lot of questions.
Tries to tell other children what to do.
·May tell on others.
| Needs clear and consistent rules.
Set an example through your own actions.
Small and appropriate consequences also work.
·Approval and praise will encourage your child to do good things.
·Long lectures do not work.
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
Children learn to talk and communicate through interactions with other people. That’s the way it has always been and that’s the way it will continue to be, despite any new technology that comes our way. The first years of life are crucial for your child’s language development. It is when their brain is the most receptive to learning new language and is building communication pathways that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
Once that window closes, it is much more difficult for someone to learn and develop language skills. That’s why it’s harder for you to learn a foreign language as an adult and those rare children who were raised by wolves in the woods have a hard time learning to communicate efficiently.
Every minute that your child spends in front of a screen is one fewer minute that he could spend learning from your interactions with him or practising his interactions with you. Screen time takes away from time that could (and should) be spent on person-to-person interactions.
Limiting Screen Time
Screen time refers to any time that a child spends with a screen in front of his face. That includes a television, cinema screen, smart phone, tablet, computer, hand-held video game device, DVD player in the car, or anything else with a screen and moving pictures. It doesn’t matter if your child is watching an educational video or playing a game, screen time is screen time.
What is the harm?
Researchers are beginning to publish more and more studies about the detrimental effects of screen time on language development.
A study by Chonchaiya and Pruksananonda found that children who began watching TV before 12 months and who watched more than 2 hours of TV per day were six times more likely to have language delays! While Duch et. al. also found that children who watched more than 2 hours of TV per day had increased odds of low communication scores.
There are more studies out there that continue to show that watching TV early often increases your child’s chances of having a speech delay. That could mean late talking and/or problems with language in school later in life.
Increased screen time has also been linked to attention problems, short-term memory problems, and reading problems. All of which can play into your child’s ability to learn language as well.
What if a child already has a language or speech delay?
There is no way to tell if too much screen time caused a child’s speech delay or language problems. Most likely, it was a combination of factors, so there’s no use blaming yourself or feeling guilty. However, continued overuse of screen time could be making your child’s language delay worse or keeping it from getting better.
How much is too much??
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages TV and other media use by children younger than 2 years and encourages interactive play. A child isn’t going to suddenly stop talking if he sees a few minutes of television so don’t worry if an emergency situation pops up and you allow your little one in front of a screen for a few minutes. But don’t make a habit out of it.
After 2 years of age parents are advised not to go above 2 hours per day but try to keep it much less than that.
Parents can try cutting out screen time with their child entirely, if possible, for 30 days. See if you notice any changes in his communication. After that, you can reintroduce short amounts of screen time to see if there are any adverse effects.
When you do reintroduce it, you may find that your child’s attention suffers or that she talks less when allowed more screen time. Then, you may want to consider continuing to have no screen time. If your child seems to do ok with short amounts of screen time, it’s probably fine to let them be. But, don’t get too carried away. Keep screen time to a minimum.
What can I do with my child instead of screen time?
Try some of these alternatives to screen time that are way better for your child’s development and will help you build a better relationship with your child as well. Keep in mind it’s important for you to put away your screens when you interact with your child as well.
- Talk with your child. If your child is only giving you one-word responses, try asking more specific questions (like “who did you eat lunch with”) instead of open-ended questions (like “how was your day?”).
- Sing songs
- Read a book
- Play with your child’s favourite toy
- Colour a picture
- Make a craft project
- Play outside
- Go for a walk
- Take your child to a park
- Go for a car ride and talk about what you see
- Go to the library and look for books on a topic that interests your child
- Play a board game
- Teach your child a new skill
- Teach or practice a sport in the back yard
- Ride bikes
- Go somewhere with an indoor play-place
- Call up some friends and have a play date
- Cook something in the kitchen together
- Plant seeds or plants in a garden
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
Every family needs routines. They help to organise life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. Routines let children know what’s important to their family. Highly meaningful routines are sometimes called rituals. These can help strengthen their shared beliefs and values, and build a sense of belonging and cohesion in families.
One of a family’s greatest challenges is to establish comfortable, effective routines, which should achieve a happy compromise between the disorder, and confusion that can occur without them and the rigidity and boredom that can come with too much structure and regimentation, where children are given no choice and little flexibility.
Routines are important because:
- They give structure to the day
- The set the body clock, making a difference between day and night
- Routines encourage healthy habits such as regular mealtimes and regular sleeping patterns
- Children feel safe and secure when they have a routine as they get to know what will happen each day
- Routines help a parent to feel they are doing a good job and being organised reduces stress
- Routines can strengthen the parent/child relationship when time is spent together each day at playtime and story-time
- As children get used to following a routine themselves, the parent needs to give fewer instructions.
Parent should review the routines in their household to ensure that these routines accomplish what the parent wants.
Why routines are good for children
- An organised and predictable home environment helps children and young people feel safe and secure.
- They can be a way of teaching younger children healthy habits, like brushing their teeth, getting some exercise, or washing their hands after using the toilet.
- Routines built around fun or spending time together strengthen relationships between parents and children. Reading a story together before bed or going for a special snack after an event can become a special time for you and your children to share.
- Daily routines help set our body clocks. For example, bedtime routines help children’s bodies ‘know’ when it’s time to sleep. This can be particularly helpful when children reach adolescence and their body clocks start to change.
- If your child needs to take medicine regularly, a routine for this will help make both of you less likely to forget.
- Having an important job to do in the family routine helps older children and teenagers develop a sense of responsibility.
- Routines help develop basic work skills and time management.
- Routines can help promote a feeling of safety in stressful situations or during difficult stages of development, such as puberty.
- When children reach adolescence, the familiarity of regular home routines can help them feel looked after. Predictable family routines can be a welcome relief from the changes they’re experiencing.
- Routines for children with disabilities can be a big help. They can be even more important for children who find it hard to understand or cope with change.
Why routines are good for parents
- When things are hectic, routines can help you feel more organised, which lowers stress.
- A routine will help you complete your daily tasks efficiently.
- As children get better at following a routine by themselves, you can give fewer instructions.
- Routines free you from having to constantly resolve disputes and make decisions. If a book is read every night before sleep, no-one needs to look to do other activities
Older children might grow out of, or challenge some routines. Being flexible and adapting routines as your child gets older can help with this issue.
Routines can help establish trust and build resilience
Settling into a routine not only makes things easier for a parent it also is teaching a baby about trust and building a resilient child. Throughout each day a sequence of events is repeated. Baby wakes and cries. Parent comes and baby is fed. After milk comes bath; after bath, quiet time; then nappy is changed and it is time for sleep.
With repetition, a pattern is formed in a child’s mind: there are things a baby can expect, things he knows will happen next. As events are repeated, a child understands they will happen again. When a baby can trust that what has happened in the past will happen again, he also becomes able to wait.
Routine is the beginning of other kinds of trust too; trust in people that they can be relied upon to do for him what needs to be done, and trust in himself, that he can express what it is he needs from other people. A routine that suits both a baby’s needs and a parent’s needs promotes trust.
Here are some suggestions for gently settling an infant into a good daytime—night time routine:
- Make sure that your baby receives enough food during the day
This may mean a parent spending a little more time with each daytime feed. When a child has finished feeding, let him rest for a while and then try feeding him again but do not force him. If a baby is getting enough food for his age and weight (which can be checked with the Public Health Nurse/Health Visitor), then if he wakes during the night there are probably other causes.
- Keep baby in the same room as other members of the family in the evening.
If a baby is left in a cot in his bedroom during the day, it is not surprising that he will sleep all day with little to stimulate his interest. If he is in the same room as other members of the family he will enjoy listening to the sounds of voices and will explore the world around him. By the time night comes he will be ready for a good long rest.
Making a Routine Happen
The day starts with everyone getting up and getting dressed. Dressing a baby is a parent’s job but a toddler will be able to do some of the simpler dressing tasks herself, such as putting on a hat or socks. Children learn to be independent and self-sufficient by doing things for themselves. This is a gradual process and a child needs a parents help to learn. As time goes on, a toddler may be able to do more and more and parents should be alert to opportunities to help this process along. It may take longer, but it will be time well spent.
Play is how young children learn and it is important that playtime is part of a child’s daily routine. Playtime should be fun for both parent and child, and is a good time to talk with a young child. As a child progresses from solitary play to co-operative play, these types of activities have an important role in a child’s development.
Mealtimes teach a child how to develop a healthy lifestyle and have numerous social benefits like language development. It also gives the family a time to check in with one another.
- Make mealtimes a pleasant time for the whole family to enjoy being together
- Children should be provided with well-balanced, nutritious meals
- For young children breakfast is an important meal, they need a good breakfast to give them energy for the day’s activities.
- Children enjoy feeling they are helping. A child should be encouraged to ‘help’ set the table from a young age, for example, 2 year olds can set spoons on the table. This is an opportunity to work on language skills and following directions, i.e., “Put the spoons beside the plates”
- The amount of time a child is expected to sit at the table can be gradually increased over a period of time.
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
How you react as a parent is normally connected to how your child is behaving. If you are aware of how you are feeling it will help you to be more aware of what is causing your child’s behaviour.
- Be Consistent – Both parents need to agree on acceptable behaviour otherwise your child will get mixed messages. Don’t make threats you won’t carry out as your child will just learn to ignore you. The most difficult time for parents to be consistent is when they are tired or in a hurry. It is important for parents to be aware of their own energy and mood when it comes to managing their child’s behaviour.
- Be Clear: Make sure that your child is paying attention when you are telling them something. Once you have the child’s attention you have to be specific about what you want them to do. “Watch what you are doing” is not clear enough. “I want you to keep your car on the floor and not on the table” is easier for a child to follow.
- Be Positive: Positive requests like “Walk to the table” are better than negative ones “Don’t run to the table”.
- Reward Positive Behaviour: A child has a basic need for attention & inappropriate behaviour is often a child’s way of getting the attention they need. By acknowledging and rewarding good behaviour the child gets what they need. Rewards like a kiss or a hug or saying “well done” should be given right away so that the child links the behaviour to the attention they are receiving.
©Lifestart Foundation 2018
Research finds that parents are asking for support with how to communicate with younger children about relationships, sexuality and growing up
The HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme (SHCPP) has launched a new resource for parents, ’Talking to Your Young Child about Relationships, Sexuality and Growing Up’.
Launched by Minister Catherine Byrne, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health, she welcomed the development of the parent’s resource and acknowledged the importance of the initiative, “I’m delighted to launch this resource. It will enable parents to have guided conversations at home and to build a foundation for positive sexual health and wellbeing”.
Speaking about the suite of materials, Helen Deely, Programme Lead said, “We are keenly aware that parents are the primary educators of their children and have a crucial role to play in supporting their child’s development. This resource has been developed in response to research with parents of young children, which finds that they want additional support to help them to have more open conversations with their children about relationships, sexuality and growing up from a young age. This resource will support parents to talk to their younger children about relationships and sexuality in a gradual, age-appropriate way.”
The HSE SHCPP has also released the research report that informed the development of this resource ‘Supporting Parents Communicating with Children Aged 4–9 Years about Relationships, Sexuality and Growing Up’.
Dr Catherine Conlon, Assistant Professor in Social Policy at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College, Dublin who led the research said, “The research finds that while different parents approach communicating with their younger children about relationships, sexuality and growing up in different ways, parents generally considered it to be a difficult or tricky topic and one that did not come easy to them, mostly due to the culture that prevailed as they themselves had grown up”.
She continues “Parents overwhelmingly want to be able to have open and honest conversations with their own children. However they report lacking confidence in doing this. They want to have the skills to be an effective and reassuring source of information for their children, but many feel unprepared to do this and requested support in this area.”
The resource ‘Talking to Your Young Child about Relationships, Sexuality and Growing Up’ is available to order from www.healthpromotion.ie. It consists of two booklets; a parents’ guide, ‘Talking to Your Young Child about Relationships, Sexuality and Growing up’ and a story booklet, ‘Tom’s Power Flower, a gentle explanation of how babies are made’.
The research report ‘Supporting Parents Communicating with Children Aged 4–9 Years about Relationships, Sexuality and Growing Up’ and associated research summary are also available to order from healthpromotion.ie and for download from sexualwellbeing.ie.
§ A list of helpful resources and training courses is available at sexualwellbeing.ie
§ A key recommendation in the National Sexual Health Strategy 2015 – 2020 is the need to develop and promote accessible and appropriate information, resources and supports for parents to enable them to communicate effectively about relationships and sexuality.