Every child develops at their own rate. Knowing how your child grows and develops helps you learn what to expect.
Sign up to receive a checklist of skills your baby or child should have as well as activities you can do with your child to help their skills develop. You will receive this checklist for babies and children under age six by email.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development, talk to your doctor or visit a free Check It Out! Drop-in.
At 18 months of age, your child should have an Enhanced 18-Month Well Baby Visit with your doctor, where they check a list of skills and discuss your child’s development.
Getting your child ready for school starts early. Read Learning to Play and Playing to Learn: Getting Ready for School to find out more.
Every child develops at their own pace, but there are key stages of development. It is important to be aware of how your child is growing and developing to know how to best support your child.
Understand what is normal for your child
- Your child’s brain is 1/3 of its size at birth and continues to grow in response to what is going on around them. This means that your child is ready to learn at birth and is always growing and developing.
- Your child notices what is going on around them through their 5 senses. What they see, hear, smell, taste and touch helps them to make sense of their world.
- Interacting with your child in a positive way will help your child’s brain to develop.
Look at your child and their surroundings
- Notice how your child explores the world around them using their 5 senses. For example, watch:
- where they are looking
- how they respond to different sounds
- what they are touching
- Be aware of how your child is growing and developing by using the Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS) at www.ndds.ca/ontario
- the NDDS is a checklist of expected skills for children 0 to 6 years of age
- after reading the checklist practice any new skills with your child
- if after practice your child is not developing one of the skills, follow-up with your health care provider
Respond sensitively to your child
- You are the most important person in your child’s life.
- Stimulate your child’s senses during play to help them grow and develop. For example:
- read, talk and sing to your child
- let your child explore picture books, colourful toys, and different scenery
- provide opportunities for tummy time
- cuddle with your child and provide different textures for touch
- Include learning in your everyday activities. For example:
- count steps as you are walking
- talk about colours and shapes of toys
- point out letters or read signs
Grow as a parent
- Learning about you child’s growth and development will help you to support your child grow and develop to the best of their ability.
- Taking time for yourself will help you cope as a parent.
- Community programs such as the Ontario Early Years Centres, Parenting and Family Literacy Centres and the library provide parent and child activities that you and your child can do together.
- Check It Out’s are free drop-ins for children 0 to 6 years of age that give parents an opportunity to ask professionals about their child’s development. Check It Out’s are held at various locations and times across the City. For more information call Health Connections at 905-546-3550.
- Child Development Information Arabic (PDF, 621 KB)
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- Child Development Information French (PDF, 417 KB)
Your child is ready to learn at birth
- Reading with your child will help them learn to hear and use sounds. This helps them learn to speak and read.
- Reading with your child helps them have the skills needed for success in school.
- Make reading a part of your everyday activities. For example, read a book at bedtime, street signs when out for a walk or labels at the grocery store.
- Read, talk and sing to your child every day
Reading ideas for your child
- Use board books with brightly coloured pictures.
- Use small books that your baby can hold.
- Point to and name pictures for your baby.
- Use word books with simple rhymes. Choose books about children, families, friends, food or animals.
- Pause when reading favourite books, and let your child complete sentences.
- Ask questions like “What’s that?” or “Where is the . . . ?”
- Use books about everyday activities, for example, going to school or making friends.
- Ask open-ended questions, and give your child the chance to answer. For example, ask “What do you think will happen next?”
Based on the Canadian Paediatric Society Position Statement, Read, speak, sing: Promoting literacy in the physician’s office, January 30, 2017.
Screen time includes time spent in front of televisions, computers, smart phones, tablets, video games, movies, and social media.
Screen time during COVID-19
- You might notice that your child has more screen time during COVID-19. This is common because of virtual learning, physical distancing and other public health measures.
- Screen time that involves learning and other virtual programming for children should be supported during COVID-19.
- Screen time that helps to connect your child virtually with important people in their lives should be encouraged. Keeping virtual social connections during COVID-19 can help with your family’s mental health. For more information on how to support your child’s mental health during COVID-19 see www.hamilton.ca/cymentalhealth
- Balance the extra screen time your child is having with other activities where your child can move their body. Make time for physical activity, including outdoor play time, while following current public health guidelines.
How much screen time can my child have each day?
- Use the screen time recommendations below to help guide how much screen time your child has each day.
- During COVID-19 your family might need more screen time than usual. You know your family’s needs the best.
The screen time recommendations below were created before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend:
Less than 2 years: 0 hours per day
2 to 4 years: Less than 1 hour per day
5 to 11 years: No more than 2 hours per day, less screen time is better
General tips for screen time
- Be a good example for your child. Role model healthy screen time habits.
- Start good media habits when children are young to help them develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.
How can I make screen time a better learning experience?
- Make sure content is right for your child’s age.
- Choose content that your child can relate to.
- Sit together and talk about what you are watching, ask questions, label, and describe what you are seeing.
- Get moving by acting out what your child is seeing.
How can I decrease my family’s screen time?
- Set limits on the amount of screen time that your child has each day.
- Keep screen media out of your child’s bedroom and limit screen time to areas where it can be monitored.
- Turn off devices when they are not being used.
- Encourage active play instead of screen time.
- Choose activities that fit your child’s age. Refer to www.lookseechecklist.com to find out what your child can do.
- Decrease screen time slowly, by 1 half hour per week, until recommended amounts are met.
For more information about screen time, see the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines at www.csep.ca/guidelines
Most children will be ready to start toilet learning between 2 and 4 years of age. Every child is different. Wait for your child to be ready. Using a potty or a toilet for your child is a personal choice. The term toilet is used in this fact sheet to refer to both potty and toilet.
Tummy time is when you place your baby on their stomach in a safe place on the floor, when they are awake, being watched by a caregiver. Tummy time helps with:
- handeye coordination and reaching skills
- head and neck control
- upper body strength
- reducing flat areas on the head
- learning to roll, sit, and crawl
Ways to help your baby enjoy tummy time
- Start out with short amounts of tummy time spread throughout the day.
- Increase the amount of tummy time as your baby grows.
- Gently roll your baby from their back to their tummy.
- A firm flat surface is easier for a baby to control their upper body.
- Give your baby something fun to look at when they are on their tummy like a favourite toy or get down on the ground so they can see your face.
- If your baby is not enjoying tummy time, try again at a later time.
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