Baby milestones: Parenting tips

Tips for every parent

Did you know that up to 75% of each meal goes to build your baby's brain? Or that over 80% of your baby’s brain is formed by the age of 3?*

With every hug and every kiss, with every nutritious meal and game you play, you’re helping to build your baby’s brain.

Here are some tips to help give your child the best start in life:

 

 

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Newborn baby tips

A baby girl smiles in Fiji.
UNICEF/UN0159516/Chute
Meet 2018's first baby - a girl named Vilisi Ciri Sovocala. She was born at 1.44 am on New Year's Day in Suva, the island capital of Fiji. Every second four babies are born somewhere in the world.

Did you know?

Within a few days, babies can start smiling when people smile at them.


 

  • Provide ways for your baby to see, hear, move freely and touch you. You should see your baby’s arms and legs move in disconnected ways. Slowly your baby will learn how to control her movements.
  • Look into your baby’s eyes and smile in response to his smiles. You should see your baby react positively to your facial expressions, movements and gestures.
  • Talk to your baby in soft tones and ‘baby talk’. Both the father, mother and other caregivers should communicate with the newborn. You will notice that she can hear and will soon start memorizing and copying your words.
  • Gently change the sound of your voice. Make it slower/quicker, higher/lower, or quieter/louder. You should observe reactions from your baby’s face and body, and notice him interacting with you.
  • Place your baby on her tummy and shake a rattle or bell in front of her. Slowly lift the rattle just a little and encourage her to lift her head and shoulders to watch it move. Doing so helps your baby follow the rattle with her eyes, and practice lifting her head and shoulders.
  • Gently soothe, stroke and hold your child. You will see your baby comforted, happy to be held and cuddled.
  • Do skin to skin contact. Feeling, hearing and smelling your presence should provide your baby with a sense of calm and security.

1-6 month old baby tips

A baby is entertained by a nurse in Ukraine.
UNICEF/UN0201069/Krepkih
A nurse entertains baby Matviy, 5 months, after giving him a vaccination. Over 1.5 million children die annually from diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.

Did you know?

1-3 month old babies see things best when they are between 20-30 cm away. By 3 months, babies have a greater range of vision.


 

  • Provide ways for your child to see, hear, feel, move freely and touch you. Your baby will slowly establish trust with you.
  • Slowly move colourful things for your child to see and reach for. A simple, homemade toy, like a rattle, can attract your baby’s interest by the sounds it makes.
  • Smile and laugh with your child. You should soon see your baby smile in return.
  • Talk to your child and copy her sounds or gestures. You should see her slowly focus on your face and try to imitate you in return.
  • Help your child follow an object. When he sees it, move it slowly from side to side and up and down. You should see him try to follow the object with his eyes.
  • Encourage your child to reach for a safe object. Try something like a plastic cup. You should see her try to grab or touch it.
  • Cut out simple pictures of familiar things, people and animals. Try to get pictures showing lots of different colors, textures, scenes and faces. Talk about the pictures as your baby looks at them. You should observe how your baby listens to what you tell him and participates in his own way.
  • Play a game with your baby. Place her on her stomach and slowly walk your fingers toward her. Then quickly and gently tickle her saying: “here come my fingers, here they come, closer and closer, they got you”. To change the game, make your fingers creep slowly or quickly, or wait different amounts of time before tickling her. You should see her show delight by laughing or squealing.

6-9 month old baby tips

A child eats a watermelon in Niger.
UNICEF/UNI116104/Pirozzi
A mother helps her child eat a slice of watermelon in Niger. Up to 75% of each meal goes to build your baby’s brain.

Did you know?

At 6 months, your baby can eat anything except honey which should not be given until she is a year old.  


 

  • When asking a question, give lots of time for the answer. Count to 10 in your head. If no answer comes, then answer the question yourself. Try an easier question the next time.
  • Say your baby’s name as much as possible. She will look to see who is saying it and will try to reach out to the person.
  • Never speak or sing too loudly, as this may scare babies.
  • Smile as much as possible and provide your baby with comfort and trust.
  • Give your child clean, safe and colourful things, such as a wooden spoon or plastic bowl, to reach for and touch, or bang and drop.
  • Make simple picture books, puzzles, hand puppets and dolls to develop your baby's curiosity and help him learn new things. To make a simple puzzle, just glue a picture on a piece of cardboard or other material and cut out the sections.

 

9-12 month old baby tips

A boy plays with his mother in South Africa.
UNICEF/UN0208077/Hearfield
One-year-old Amogelang enjoys playing with his mother in South Africa. 15 minutes of play can spark thousands of brain connections in your baby’s brain.

Did you know?

To increase infants’ self-esteem and confidence, always take a positive approach to your child’s learning process. Try to say “yes”, “good”, “well done” more often, rather than “no”, “bad”, “not good”.


 

  • Play hide and seek with your infant and see if he can find the objects you hide. You can hide something under a cloth, and say: “Where did it go?”, “Can you find it?”. You should see an increase in your child’s curiosity and willingness to find out what happened to the object.
  • Tell your infant the names of things and people. She should show interest and soon will try to make relationships between words and objects or people.
  • Show your child how to say things with hands, like “bye bye”. Soon your child should try to imitate you and wave “bye-bye” on his own, making a relationship between a movement and a vocal expression.
  • Point to the eyes, nose and mouth on a doll. After showing one part on the doll, touch the same part on yourself and on your baby. Take your baby’s hand and have him touch the eyes, nose and mouth on the doll, you and himself. Slowly, the baby will be able to memorize and identify these different words and relate them to his body parts.

 

1-2 year old toddler tips

A girl smiles as she is held by her mother in Kyrgyzstan.
UNICEF/UN0151386/Voronin
One-year-old Tolgonay’s name means ‘full moon’ in Kyrgyz. After being born prematurely at 8 months, her family gave her the name hoping she would survive birth and have a ‘full life’.

Did you know?

Toddlers are especially happy when they see that they are making the adults around them happy as well.


 

  • Give your child things to put into containers and take out. She will try to take them out and put them back on her own, which is great for the development of eye-hand coordination skills.
  • Give your toddler things to stack up. He should try to stack more things on his own and make them fall down, or will stack things up until they fall down.
  • Ask your child simple questions and respond to your child’s attempts to talk. She should be willing to interact by responding and/or asking further questions.
  • Try to talk about different realities with your infant, such as nature, pictures and things from the surrounding environment. You should see your toddler move around and be willing to explore the environment.
  • Watch what your toddler does and name it: “You are filling the box.” He will be happy to show you what he learned and will gain self-esteem.
  • Play with your toddler and offer help: “Let’s do it together. Here are more stones to put into your box.”These discoveries should make her happy and more confident.
  • Use every opportunity to engage in a conversation, including when feeding or bathing, or when working near him. He should soon begin to understand what you are saying and be able to follow simple directions.
  • Turn simple questions into games: “Where is your toe?” or “Where is the bird?”. You can look at pictures and talk about what you see. She should show more and more curiosity and willingness to communicate about what she sees and hears.

2+ years old toddler tips

A young girl and a teenage girl read a book together in Belize.
UNICEF/UN033166/LeMoyne
Alishia, 3, and a teenage girl read a book together in Belize. Stories, songs and games prepare children to read and help them improve how they speak.

Did you know?

Children learn better when they are taught how to behave well instead of being scolded for behaving badly.


 

  • Ask simple questions and listen to the answers. Encourage your child to talk: “What is this?”, “Where is the window?”, “Which ball is bigger?”, “Would you like the red cup?”. You should see your child’s growing interest in interacting with you and responding to your questions.
  • Read stories to your child and ask questions about what you see in the book. You should notice your child memorizes and tries to repeat what you read.
  • Help your child learn to count by asking “how many” and counting things together. Your child will make mistakes at first, but learn from repeating things many times.
  • Offer your child circles and other shapes cut from coloured paper to compare and sort. She should be happy to try sorting things and will learn how to match and make relationships between different objects, colours and shapes.

 


* Sources: Steen, The Evolving Brain: The Known and The Unknown, 2007; Dekaban, Annals of Neurology, 1978.

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