Born Learning

Did you know that 85% of brain development happens before the age of 5? Research consistently shows that the first few years of life are critical to a child's development.

United Way’s Born Learning initiative helps parents, caregivers, and our community supports positive early childhood development. Born Learning provides easy research-based ways to turn everyday moments into fun learning opportunities for young children. Quality early learning results in reduced crime, less teen pregnancy, more high school graduates, and more individual success in work and life. United Way’s Born Learning initiative helps parents, caregivers, and our community supports positive early childhood development. Born Learning provides easy research-based ways to turn everyday moments into fun learning opportunities for young children. Quality early learning results in reduced crime, less teen pregnancy, more high school graduates, and more individual success in work and life.

Welcome to a whole new world!

No parent is ever really ready for the changes that come with having a new baby. It's a wonderful time, but it's also a challenging time, full of new worries, new feelings, and new experiences. Just remember, ask for help when you need it, and don't expect everything to be perfect. 

Your Child's Health: 

Well Visits: 

Before leaving the hospital, your baby should have a complete physical exam. Unless there are health problems, your baby should have their first well visit sometime during their first month, and another one at eight weeks. If you are concerned about your child's health in-between visits, call their doctor. Typical immunizations at this age will include Hepatitis B. 


Your infant's sleep will be disorganized during their first six weeks because they don't yet know the difference between night & day. At six weeks, their total sleep maybe about 16 hours per day, including a stretch of four to six hours per night. You can help soothe your newborn to sleep by: 

  • Swaddling them securely in a blanket or cloth
  • Letting them suck on a pacifier, bottle, hand, or wrist
  • Rocking or swinging your baby gently
  • Giving them a soft massage

Safe Sleep & SIDS: 

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was formerly known as crib death. To reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep during naptime and at nighttime, and remind other caregivers to do the same
  • Keep toys and other small objects out of your baby's crib to prevent choking 
  • Make sure the mattress and bedding are firm & flat  & fit perfectly into the crib without gaps between the crib walls 
  • Do not place your infant to sleep on soft surfaces such as waterbeds, sofas, soft mattresses, pillows, comforters, or sheepskins. Also, keep toys and stuffed animals out of the crib. They can smother your baby 
  • Dress your baby in as many layers of clothing as you would wear and keep the temperature in your baby's room comfortable for an adult
  • Do not smoke around your baby


Breast milk is the ideal food for infants, however, formula is just as acceptable and nutritious for your baby. If you want to breastfeed and need support, talk with your doctor. 

According to the AAP, breastfed babies generally eat more frequently than bottle-fed infants. Some breastfed newborns will need to nurse every two hours, others every three. Formula-fed infants will need to eat every three to four hours. Remember to burp them after each feeding. 

Cleaning & Bathing: 

Sponge Baths: 

Your infant's umbilical stump will fall off 10-20 days after birth, leaving a small wound that will take a few days to heal. Until then, wipe your baby's body with a clean, warm, wet washcloth instead of using a bathtub. Be sure to regularly wipe their face and hands and carefully clean their genitals. 

Tub Baths:  

After the umbilical stump heals, you can give your baby a traditional water bath in the kitchen sink or a plastic baby tub. To bathe a newborn: 

  • Fill the tub with two to three inches of warm water (double-check the water temperature before placing your baby in the tub) 
  • Gradually slip the baby into the tub using your hand to support their head and neck
  • When using the sink, seat your baby on a washcloth and hold them under the arm to prevent slipping
  • Pour cups of bath water over them instead of water directly from the spout
  • Wash them with a gentle hair and body soap
  • Wrap your baby in a towel and pat them dry


Help your baby grow! Spend lots of time holding, cuddling, playing, and reading with your child.

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

At your baby's 2-month visit, your doctor will give vaccinations that will keep your child healthy and strong. Schedule your next visit for when your baby is 4 months old. 

Let your doctor know if your baby:

  • Does not notice his hands.
  • Does not smile at the sound of your voice.
  • Does not follow objects with his eyes.
  • Does not respond to loud noises.

Call 1-877-KIDS-NOW to see if your baby can get free or low-cost health care.


Begin to put your baby to sleep between 6pm and 10pm. Turn off the lights and keep the area quiet. Your baby should sleep for 4 to 6 hours each night. He is still too young to have a daytime nap schedule. 

Safety Tip: Always put your baby to sleep on his BACK to reduce SIDS.


There are many ways to soothe a crying or fussing baby:

  • Let her such on a  pacifier, bottle, hand, or wrist.
  • Gently rock or swing your baby, or take her for a drive or walk.
  • Wrap her tightly in a blanket.
  • Create a "white noise". Run a fan or vacuum cleaner near your baby.

Remember to stay calm. Your baby will sense when you are stressed. 


At this age, your baby only needs breast milk or formula. Your baby will generally eat 4 to 5 ounces per feeding, or 20 to 25 ounces per day.

Nurturing your child

Early Care

Take Care of yourself. Call your doctor if you feel sad, anxious, or restless.

Create regular routines for your baby. Make routines during everyday activities, such as singing the same song as you change his diaper.  

Respond to your baby. Pick up your baby whenever he cries. You cannot spoil an infant.

Safety Tip: Never shake or spank your baby. Shaking will cause brain damage.

Early Learning

Your baby will learn and grow as you read, talk, sing, and play with her. 

  • Read with your baby. Use cloth or board books with pictures of babies or common objects.
  • Play together. Make silly faces. Tickle her. Move objects slowly in front of your baby and watch as she follows them with her eyes. 
  • Sing songs again and again. Play fun music at play time or relaxing lullabies at bedtime. 
  • Talk with your baby throughout the day. Let her answer with her coos, squeals, and gurgles.

Your Child's Safety

In the Crib

  • Do not put blankets, pillows, or stuffed animals in a crib. If they cover your baby's face, he could stop breathing. 
  • Keep your baby's room at a comfortable temperature. Don't make it too warm or too cold. 

In the Car

By law, your baby must ride in a secure, rear facing car seat. She must ride in the back seat of your car.


Watch your baby coo, wiggle, kick, roll over, and try to sit up all by yourself. 

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

At the 4-month visit, your doctor will give vaccinations that will keep your child healthy. Remember to schedule your next visit for when your baby is 6 months old. 

Let you doctor know if your baby:

  • Does not respond to loud noises.
  • Does not reach for or hold toys.
  • Does not coo or try to copy your sounds.
  • Has trouble following objects with her eyes. 


At this age, your baby only needs breast milk or formula. But you can start giving cereals, such as rice or oatmeal, at around 4 to 6 months. Here are tips for starting with solid foods:

  • Mix simple solids (like rice cereal) with breast milk or formula. 
  • Start with 1 feeding of solids a day. Add another when your baby can eat 2 to 3 tablespoons at a feeding. 
  • When your baby is used to eating cereal, move on to smooth, single ingredient foods (like smooth carrots or applesauce, or "stage 1" jars of baby food).
  • Wait for 2 to 3 days before starting a new food to make sure your baby is not allergic. Call your doctor if you think your child has had a reaction. 


Your baby should sleep about 15 hours per day and may take 2 or 3 daytime naps. He may be getting up 2 times each night to eat. To help your baby sleep:

  • Put him to bed between 6pm and 8pm every night. 
  • Start a bedtime routine. Give him a bath, sing a song, read a book, hug or rock him, and then put him to sleep.

Sleep Safety

  • Always put your baby to sleep on his back (do not worry if he rolls over on his own).
  • Put the mattress at its lowest level, if your baby can sit up. 
  • Don't put stuffed animals, pillows, or blankets in the crib with your baby.
  • Keep your baby's room at a comfortable temperature. Do not make it too warm or too cold.

Nurturing Your Child


Discipline is never right for babies at this age. Always check on your baby when she cries. You can't spoil your baby.

Safety Tip: Never shake or hit your baby. Shaking can cause brain damage.

Early Learning

Help your baby learn by reading, talking, and playing.

  • Play with your baby. Use toys your baby can chew on, such as rattles and teething rings.
  • Place your baby on his tummy for several minutes, a few times a day to help build his strength.
  • Give him cloth or board books to play with. Read to him every day. 
  • Talk and sing to him all the time. Look at him and listen for him to coo or squeal back at you.

Your Child's Safety

Around the House

  • Never leave your baby on a bed, couch, or chair. She could roll off and get hurt
  • Do not drink or carry hot liquids when you are holding your child or are near children.
  • Always check the water temperature in the bath. Never leave your baby alone near water.

In the Car

By law, your baby must ride in a secure, rear-facing care seat. He must ride in the back seat of your car.




By now, your child might be rolling, reaching, and laughing his way through the day.

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

Your baby should visit the doctor at 6 months. Your doctor will give vaccinations that will keep your child healthy and strong.

Let your doctor know if your baby:

  • Seems very stiff or floppy, or cannot sit with help.
  • Does not laugh or squeal.
  • Does not actively reach for objects.
  • Does not roll over from front to back

Schedule your next visit. Your baby will need to come back at 9 or 12 months.

Dental Health

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a first dental visit within six months of a baby's first tooth, or by age 1.


At this age, your baby still needs 2 or 3 naps a day. Put your baby to sleep at night between 6pm and 8pm. She may get up for a night feeding, especially if she's breast fed.

To help your baby sleep, create a regular bedtime routine. Give her a bath, sing a song, read a book, or give her a hug and say goodnight. 


Your baby should drink up to 24 ounces of breast milk or formula per day. You may have started to give your baby cereals over the pas few months. Once your baby gets used to eating baby cereal, move on to smooth, single-ingredient foods. 

  • Start with fruits and vegetables. Talk to your doctor about starting meats and other foods. 
  • Introduce 1 type of food at a time. 
  • Serve it for at least 2 to 3 days to make sure your child is not allergic. Call your doctor if you think your child has a reaction.

Nurturing Your Child


At this age, babies do not understand discipline. Instead, as they explore, focus on safety. You can:

  • Distract or move your baby from unsafe objects or activities. 
  • Childproof your home. Keep all dangerous objects out of reach of your child.
  • Never shake, spank, or hit your child.


Learn about your child's interests by watching and playing with him. You can:

  • Let him play on his tummy. This will strengthen his neck, back, and arms.
  • Give your child musical instruments or objects to play with. A pot and a spoon make a great drum.
  • Move your play time outside when you can. You can go for walks, look for birds or airplanes, or just sit with your child on a blanket on the grass. 


You are your child's first teacher. To encourage her language skills you can:

  • Read and tell stories together every day.
  • Hold and hug your baby when you talk and read with her. 
  • Ask your child a question, and wait for her to answer with her babble or smile. 
  • Provide books that are made of cardboard or cloth to make page turning (and chewing) easier. 

Your Child's Safety

Around the House

  • Cover electrical outlets. Tie up cords hanging from blinds.
  • Put safety latches on cabinets, drawers, and toilets.
  • Keep her away from toys or items with small parts. These can cause choking. 
  • Keep cleaning supplies, medicines, and sharp objects out of reach.
  • Call poison control right away if you think your child has swallowed poison: 1-800-222-1222

Safety Tip: By law, your baby must ride in a secure, rear-facing car seat. He must ride in the back of your car. 

As your child begins to walk, run, and climb, she needs freedom to explore and clear limits to keep safe.

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

Make sure your child has a 1-year check-up. Your doctor will give vaccinations and ask you questions about your child's development.

Let your doctor know if your baby:

  • Does not crawl.
  • Drags one side of his body after crawling for over 1 month.
  • Cannot stand while supported.
  • Says no single words.
  • Does not point to objects or pictures when asked.
  • Does not use gestures such as waving or shaking the head.

Schedule your next visit. You will probably need to come back at 15 or 18 months.


At this time, some children start giving up their morning nap and take just 1 afternoon nap each day.


By 12 months, your baby is ready to stop drinking formula. Now, he should drink up to 16 to 24 ounces of whole milk a day. Also, put milk or water in a cup instead of a bottle.

At 12 months, your child might not eat a lot at each meal. Give her 5 or 6 small healthy meals a day instead of 3 larger ones. Cut foods into small pieces to avoid the risk of choking.

Do not give your child:

  • Raw vegetables
  • Hot dogs
  • Popcorn
  • Candy
  • Nuts
  • Whole grapes

Nurturing Your Child


Read, sing, and talk to your baby all the time.

  • Ask questions as you look at pictures and read stories.
  • Provide board books on topics of interest to your child, like animals or babies.
  • Teach new songs and use hand movements, such as The Itsy Bitsy Spider.


For safety, now is the time to set a few limits. Make simple and clear rules and use the same rules over and over again. You can also try to:

  • Distract your child from unsafe objects or activities.
  • Save "no" for safety issues. If your child hears "no" too often, she will start to tune it out.
  • Give a stern or firm look for little things and move to a safer activity.

Tip: No matter how angry you are, never spank or hit your child.


Use play to teach your child to imagine, invent, and solve problems.

  • Plan time for her to play with friends as well as alone. 
  • Play inside using different objects and toys, like stacking boxes or cups, and play outside when possible. 

Your Child's Safety

Around the House

  • Use safety latches on drawers, cabinets, and toilets.
  • Keep hot liquids out of reach.
  • Never leave your alone near water, open windows, or fireplaces.
  • Cover sharp edges and electrical outlets and put gates on stairs.
  • Call poison control immediately if you think your child has eaten or drunk something poisonous: 1-800-222-1222.

In the Car

All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat's manufacturer. Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for his convertible care seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight and height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.  

Your child is becoming his own person. Watch him as he starts to walk, run, and climb with ease.

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

Your Child will get vaccinations at 18 months and will have a well visit again at 24 months.

Let your doctor know if your baby:

  • Cannot walk on his own.
  • Walks only on his toes.
  • Does not speak at least 15 words.
  • Does not know how to use common objects like a brush, telephone, fork, or spoon.


By 18 months, your child should:

  • Eat most foods cut up into small pieces.
  • Be drinking from a cup rather than a bottle.


Your child should sleep about 14 hours a day. She may now take only one nap a day, usually from about 1pm to 3pm. She should go to bed between 6pm and 8pm.

Nurturing your Child


Your child is starting to understand rules and consequences. So, it is time to teach your child the right way to behave. 

  • Praise good behavior. If you point out the good things your child does, he will want to do more of them. 
  • Ignore small things.
  • Never spank. If you angry, count to 10 before reacting.
  • Limit your use of the word "no".
  • Be consistent with your rules.


Your child is excited about being independent. But he will not go too far from you. To help your child move away from you:

  • Say goodbye when you leave. If you do not say goodbye, he will fear that you may slip out at any time.
  • Make sure your child is busy with an activity when you are about to leave.


Help your toddler learn. Talk and read with her throughout the day.

  • Add to what your child says. If she says "kitty", you can say, "Yes, the kitty is little and soft".
  • Ask questions about "where", "what", and "when". It doesn't matter if your child can't speak yet. 
  • Sing lots of songs and rhymes, such as Rock-A-Bye Baby, at bedtime. 
  • Help your child scribble, draw, or pretend to write. 


Your child now likes to pretend play and doing things for himself. You can help him play along.

  • Practice naming objects. Place three familiar objects in front of your child and say, "Please give me the..."
  • Set up play dates. It it time to learn to play with other children. But do not expect your child to share well. 

Your Child's Safety

Around the House

Always put your child's safety first.

  • Block off dangerous rooms and objects. Put gates on stairs. Put latches on cabinets, toilets, and drawers. Cover sharp edges. 
  • Keep hot liquids out of reach.
  • Call poison control right away if you think your child has swallowed poison: 1-800-222-1222.

In the Car

All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat's manufacturer. Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for his convertible car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. 


By 36 months, your child will probably be able to say about 900 words and use short sentences. 

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

By 2, your child should have received most of his vaccinations. Use this visit to catch up on any missed shots. Your doctor may do a blood test. 

Let your doctor know if your child:

  • Does not follow easy directions.
  • Does not copy actions or words. 
  • Walks only on toes.
  • Does not use 2-word sentences. 


Children this age may be fussy eaters and lose interest in food. Give her healthy choices, if possible. If she doesn't want it today, try it again next week. Avoid junk food. 


It may be time to leave the crib and move to a bed. 

  • Make the change exciting. Talk about the big bed. Talk about what might go in it, like a favorite stuffed animal.
  • Keep the same bedtime and routines. Teach your child to stay in bed after he's been kissed goodnight. Your child may get out of bed. Quietly take him back until he learns to stay there.

Toilet Training

Your child may begin to show signs that she is ready to potty train. Does she:

  • Pull her pants up and down?
  • Show interest in the potty?
  • Dislike wearing a dirty diaper?
  • Have long dry periods?

Starting the process

  • Buy a potty seat or attachment for the toilet. Let your child practice sitting on it.
  • Teach her to sit and wipe. 
  • Encourage your child. Be patient.
  • Take it slowly. Learning may take time.

Remember: Accidents happen; do not punish your child for them.

Nurturing Your Child


The Testing Twos

Your child will test his independence. He may have temper tantrums and use the word "no" a lot.

Tips for Surviving Tantrums

  • Try to stay calm, instead of getting angry.
  • Do not spank. Instead, give consequences that relate to the bad behavior. For example, take your child out of the store if he acts up. 
  • Stay in control. Do not allow your child to be the boss. Don't buy him treats just to stop the tantrum. 
  • Avoid situations that may cause problems. Does your child have a fit when he is hungry. Remember to carry healthy snacks with you.

Early Learning

Read, write, and create with your child every day. 

  • Read together every day. Point to words and ask questions when you read.
  • Give her paper and a crayon to color, draw, or pretend to write. 
  • Help her use her imagination. Use blocks as flying cars or zoo animals.
  • Limit TV and computer time. You are a better teacher than any TV or computer program. 

Your Child's Safety

In the Car

Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for his convertible car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. 

Your "little baby" is off to preschool. Her world will get so much bigger. She'll need you to guide her.

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

Take your child to the doctor for check-ups and blood pressure readings when he turns 3 and again when he turns 4. Ask your doctor about shots that your child may need before starting school. And catch up on any missed vaccinations. 

Let your doctor know if your child cannot:

  • Jump in place.
  • Scribble holding a crayon between his thumb and fingers. 
  • Use sentences with more than 3 words. 
  • Socially connect with other children.

Dental Health

Let your child brush her teeth. Then help her to make sure her teeth get cleaned. She should:

  • Brush teeth twice a day (especially at night).
  • Use a child-size tooth brush with a pea size bit of fluoride toothpaste. Visit the dentist every 6 months. 


At this age, offer your child the same foods, at the same time, as you eat. 

Choking is still a hazard, so avoid things like candy and cherries with pits. 

Be careful with:

  • Grapes (cut them in half).
  • Hot dogs (slice in half the short and long way).
  • Raw vegetables like carrots and celery. 
  • Spoonfuls of peanut butter, especially crunchy.


Goodbye Nap time. Between 3 and 4 years, children often give up their afternoon naps. On days when your child doesn't nap, be prepared for some fussiness. You may have to put him to bed earlier that night. 

Hello Bedtime Battles. Your child may begin to fight going to bed. To help:

  • Try to stick to the bedtime routine and set limits such as how many books you will read each night.
  • Give your child choices. Let him pick out his pajamas and books to read. 
  • Help him feel safe. Use night lights, security blankets, or stuffed animals. 

Toilet Training

At this age, some toddlers are toilet trained. Some are not. Either way, help her have success:

  • Dress her in clothes that are easy for her to pull up and down.
  • Use the potty right before bed. And make sure she can get to the potty at night. 

Remember: Accidents happen. Don't get angry or make a big deal about them.

Nurturing Your Child


  • Show How to Share. Give your child a toy in return for one of his toys. And let him see you share with others.
  • Choose Toys to Share. Before a friend comes over to play, put away toys that your child does not want to share.
  • Practice. Play indoor and outdoor games where you take turns, like board games or hide-and-seek.

Media Time

Limit media watching (TV, computer, video games, etc.) 1 hour per day is more than enough.

Your Child's Safety

In the Car

  • Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for his convertible car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Then use a belt-positioning booster.
  • Visit for more information.

At the end of this year, your child will finish preschool and prepare for kindergarten. Get ready for him to learn new things. 

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

Take your child to the doctor for a check-up when she turns 4. Ask your doctor about shots that your child may need before starting school. And catch up on any missed vaccinations. 

Let you doctor know if your child:

  • Is very afraid, shy, or aggressive. 
  • Does not want to play with other children. 
  • Is unhappy or sad a lot of the time. 
  • Has trouble eating, sleeping, or using the toilet. 


Your child probably sleeps between 10 to 12 hours per night and does not nap.

Nighttime troubles may be:

  • Bad dreams. If your child has a bad dream, comfort him until he is able to go back to sleep.
  • Night terrors. If your child suddenly sits up in bed and cries, screams, or kicks, do not wake him. Stay with him until the terror ends and he is calm. 
  • Bed-wetting. Reward your child for dry nights. Do not punish for wet nights. Tell your doctor if the problem lasts.


Encourage good eating habits:

  • Offer 3 healthy meals each day, plus 2 small snacks.
  • Talk about how eating the right foods (fruits, vegetables, low-fat meats, and whole grains) helps the body grow.
  • Let you child help plan and prepare meals with you.
  • Be a good example. Eat foods that are good for you.

Nurturing Your Child


Here are some ways to help your child behave:

  • Try not to say "no" all the time. Use positive words. Say, "Let's jump off the pillows instead of the bed."
  • Give choices. Let your child choose between 2 or 3 things. "Would you like to do a puzzle or read a book?"
  • Make rules clear. Set up rules that are easy to understand and use them again and again. For example, tell your child that he can play outside when he cleans up his toys. Know your child's limits and try not to push him too far. For example, if he is too tired, don't bring him shopping. 
  • If your child falls apart, stay calm instead of getting angry. Gently take him away from the situation.

Toilet Training

Talk to your doctor if you have general concerns about toilet training, or if your child:

  • Stays dry at night for a while, but then begins to wet at night again and must go back to wearing training pants. 
  • Is 5 and still consistently wets the bed.
  • Is completely toilet trained for at least 6 months but suddenly begins to have many accidents during the day and night.

Your Child's Safety

Around the House

  • Never leave your child alone near water, even if he can swim.
  • Put cleaning supplies, medicines, and vitamins out of your child's reach.

Street Safety

  • Be sure your child wears a bike helmet while riding a scooter or bicycle.
  • Teach your child to look and listen for cars before he crosses the street or a parking lot.

In the car

All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age


5 is a big year! It brings the start of kindergarten, new friends, new skills, and independence. 

Your Child's Health

The Well Visit

Take your child to the doctor for a check-up when he turns 5. Ask your doctor about shots that your child will need before school starts. And catch up on any missed vaccinations. Your doctor may also test your child's hearing and sight.


The start of school means that your child will eat at least 1 meal per day outside of your home. To get her ready:

  • Talk about and model good eating habits. Explain that it is OK to eat a treat, but only after eating healthy foods.
  • Make sure that she knows about any food allergies that she has, and that she knows to tell others about them.


Fighting going to or staying asleep? Try this:

  • What is the reason? Does your child need attention? Is he scared of something? Talk with him to understand the problem. Then make changes such as changing the bedtime or turning on a night-light.
  • Add choices into him bedtime routine. For example, let him pick the book to read. 
  • Keep the same bedtime rules each night. Don't give in to his requests or demands. 

Nurturing Your Child


Handling Back Talk, Lies, and Acting Out

Ideas to help you guide you child's new independence:

  • Respect you child and praise good behavior.
  • Pick your battles. Try to let the little things go.
  • Avoid situations that might cause your child to act out, such as taking her shopping when she is tired.

Talking Back or Tantrums

These can be a sign of anger, frustration, or fear. Here's what to do:

  • Stay cool. Speak quietly and calmly. Do not yell. 
  • Offer support. Tell him you see that something is bothering him. But also tell him that he cannot act that way. 
  • Have rules. Teach him that when he yells, you will ignore him or walk away. Tell him that is he speaks nicely, you will listen.

Preparing for Kindergarten

Going to kindergarten is a big deal. Before he goes, help him understand what to expect:

  • Talk about what he will be doing during the day, how many kids will be in his class, what his teacher's name is.
  • Take your child through his new routine. Drive or walk to school and back. Walk through the school. Show him his classroom and the bathroom. 
  • Be supportive. Listen to your child's concerns. Answer questions. Read books about starting school. And be patient if he has a rough start. 
  • Keep it calm at home. Stick to your regular routines. Be sure he is eating and sleeping well. 

Your Child's Safety


Teach your child to be careful around strangers. Tell her that she should always walk away from a stranger who:

  • Asks her for help or to take her picture. 
  • Tells her that there is a family emergency
  • Calls her by name even though she doesn't know him.

In the Car

All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.


Understanding Your Child's Feelings

Do you know the first step in helping a child learn? It is for you to understand how a child is feeling or what a child needs. Yes, it can be hard to know what young children are communicating. But when a caregiver understands a child and responds in a supportive way, the child learns to trust the caregiver and feel safe. Then, he can learn and feel good about himself. 

Kids give lots of cues to tell you how they feel. Learn to read them. You will do a better job of taking care of their needs and interests. 

Common signs and signals that young children use to tell you about their feelings are:

Crying and Fussy Babies.

What it means: These signs can mean, "I'm hungry, wet, tired, bored, hurt, need a change of scenery or a hug."

Response: Ask yourself, "Is it time to eat? Sleep? Change activities? Does something hurt? If your child doesn't seem hungry, tired, feverish, or wet, try to calm her with things like singing, walking, rocking or holding her close. 

Crying and turning away head.

What it means: Babies and older children use this to say, "I'm tired of this activity. It's too much."

Response: Take your child away from the situation or stop what you are doing. Rest or move on to something else. 

Wide eyes, happy sounds, smiles, hand claps, pointing, bouncing or jumping.

What it means: Children of all ages do things like this. They mean, "I'm interested. This looks fun. Let's keep doing it."

Response: Let your child lead. Does your child seem excited by a toy? Join in the play and help her explore.

Crying, screaming, or throwing self on ground.

What it means: "I'm too upset, tired, or wired to keep it together. I can't handle what's going on. I don't have words to tell you." The child does not mean to act out on purpose. 

Response: Stay calm. Make sure your child is safe. Take him away from the situation if you can. Help older children calm down and express their feelings with words. Say things like, "I can see you are angry and upset."

Note: These responses are only suggestions. As long as you treat your child with love and attention, you can answer by doing what works best for you and your child. 

Here are some things to remember when learning to understand your child's feelings:

Stop, look, listen, and think.

The best way to catch on to what your child is telling you is to pay attention. Use your eyes, ears, and instincts. Think about what is happening at a given time. Also think about changes to your routines each day, like missing a nap or taking a trip.

Be Patient.

Trying to understand why your child is upset can be hard. You may not always get it right. But don't stop trying! You will get better with practice and your child will appreciate your efforts. 


Meal Ideas for Young Children

Teaching an infant to eat...helping him get the nutrients he needs to grow and develop...are basic duties of parenting but ones on which parents often need guidance. To reduce confusion in your kitchen, hang the following serving suggestions on your refrigerator and refer to them as often as needed.

4 to 6 Months

Although breast milk or formula remains the main source of nutrition and calories for the first 4 to 6 months, this is the age to start introducing an infant solid foods. If you feel your baby is ready to try "real" food - she is interested in watching you eat, she seems unsatisfied  by just a bottle - it is time to add smooth single foods to her diet. Although you should consult your child's pediatrician before starting solids, general first steps include:

1) Rice Cereal. Mix plain infant rice cereal with breast milk or formula. A baby won't digest much until he gets the hang of swallowing from a spoon, so just serve one meal a day until his ability and intake improve. 

2) Pureed fruits and vegetables. As a baby gets better at eating, introduce new single-ingredient foods. Good starters include pureed apples, sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, or bananas. Stay away from foods like nuts, uncooked carrots, popcorn, or grapes that are difficult to chew. 

3) One time a day. Introduce solids once a day and add a second feeding when your baby is eating two to three tablespoons of solids at a sitting.

4) One food at a time. To make sure a baby is not allergic to a specific food, introduce one new food at a time and wait several days before you try another new food.

6 to 8 Months

Although breast milk or formula is still the mainstay of your infant's diet, you can begin exposing him to a greater variety of flavors and thicker textures:

1) Combine foods of different flavors. Good mixes include rice and pureed fruit; pureed fruits and vegetables, like apples and sweet potatoes, with pureed chicken or turkey; mashed avocado and bananas.

2) New food suggestions. Whole grain - wheat breads and cereals, like Cheerios. Dairy products - yogurt and mild cheese. New fruits - mangoes and peaches (small enough to ensure no choking). Meats - chicken or lean ground beef (pureed or chopped). 

3) Don't force a baby to eat. If a baby refuses a new food, continue to offer the food to her at future meals. Give her a chance to get used to the new taste but do not force her to eat it. 

4) Multiple meals. By now, meals should occur at least two if not three times a day. 

8 to 18 Months

As a baby's motor skills develop, he will begin to be able to pick up food from his high chair tray and by 12 months, he should be weaned from the bottle and drinking from a cup. This opens up a whole new world of foods:

1) Bite-size pieces. Make sure that foods are big enough to pick up yet small enough to swallow. 

2) Soft and gummable. Although a baby may have some teeth, at this age, she is probably still mashing foods with her gums rather than chewing. 

3) Hard foods for teething. Your baby will probably enjoy teething biscuits or a piece of a frozen bagel to soothe swollen gums. 

4) Good finger foods include soft cheeses, soft noodles combined with butter or tomato sauce or cheese, waffles covered with pureed fruit, soft breaded chicken nuggets, and steamed vegetables like carrots and green beans.

18 to 24 Months

At this age, toddlers should be eating most table foods and sitting down for meals with the rest of the family. Serving suggestions for this age include:

1) Manageable pieces. Serve sandwiches, pizza, and hamburgers in miniature sizes. 

2) Quick preparation. Toddlers are generally short on patience, so try to offer foods that are healthy yet easy to make: peanut butter and jelly, scrambled eggs and cheese, vegetable sticks and dips like cream cheese or avocado and spinach dip; cheese and crackers or homemade popsicles made from fruit puree. 

3) Creative presentation. Make eating interesting. Cut sandwiches into fun shapes; decorate patterns and faces on pizza bagels; serve toast and crackers with vegetables and cheese or fresh fruit arranged by color.

4) Multiple small meals a day.

5) Avoid foods that would cause choking, such as whole grapes, popcorn, or uncooked carrots. 

24 Months and older

By now, a child should be self-feeding most table foods, although most of the suggestions for 18 to 24 months still apply:

1) More creative serving. Use multicolored pasta for pasta dishes. The different colors also tend to offer more nutrients as well as color. Add fresh fruit to Jell-O cubes molded into different shapes. 

2) Introduce a child to cooking. Have a child help you prepare meals. Put him in charge of mixing ingredients, spreading butter, topping a pizza, etc. This type of involvement may increase his interest in food as well as make him feel good about himself.

3) Offer healthy mini-meals to refuel. Because toddlers are so active, they need quick fixes of nutrition in between the main three meals. Healthy ideas include apples slices with honey, rice cakes with cheese, bananas blended with yogurt and frozen in paper cups; kiwi, strawberries and cream cheese, and a whole wheat bagel or noodles with cottage cheese. 








Fun and Games with Songs

Singing together is learning together. Songs help your child connect words with their meanings. So, fill your house with songs and music.  Here are some of the rhymes and songs that children love best. Learn the words, learn the emotions, and sing along with your child. 

This Little Piggy               

This little piggy went to the market. (touch and wiggle thumb/toe)

This little piggy stayed home. (touch and wiggle index finger/toe)

This little piggy had roast beef (touch and wiggle middle finder/toe)

This little piggy had none. (touch and wiggle ring finger/toe)

And this little piggy cried, "Wee, wee, wee" all the way home (touch and wiggle pinky/toe)

The Isty, Bitsy Spider

The isty, bitsy spider went up the water spout.

(Put finger to opposite thumb and pretend to crawl up. Wiggle fingers from top of  "spout" down to lap) 

Down came the rain and washed the spider out.

 (Move hands/arms across lap; ie, motion of safe in a baseball game)

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.

 (Move hands in large circles to show sun coming out)

And, the itsy, bitsy spider went up the spout again. 

(Show spider again going up)

If You're Happy and You Know It

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. 

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. 

If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. 

If your happy and you know it, clap your hands.

Suggestions for other verses:

Stomp your feet; pat your legs, wiggle your ears.


I'm a little teapot, short and stout  (Bend knees, put hand on hip with elbow out)

Here is my handle, here is my spout. (The other hand should go out to be a spout)

When I get all steamed up, hear me shout,

"Tip me over and pour me out." (Pretend to tip over)

The Wheels on the Bus

The wheels on the bus go round and round (Bend your arms and make them go around like wheels)

Round and round, round and round. 

The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town.

The people on the bus go up and down, (Sit up and down)

Up and down, up and down. 

The people on the bus go up and down, all through the town.

Other Verses:

The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish. (Use your hands as wipers back and forth)

The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep. (Pretend to beep a horn)

The money on the bus goes clink, clink, clink. (Pretend to put money in)

The driver on the bus says, "Move on back." (Hand motion your thumb over your shoulder to move on back)

Make Reading Fun

Children take their first steps towards language well before they talk.  Your talking, singing and story telling and your child's playful experiences with books are the building blocks for communicating, reading, and writing. Here are some simple ways you and your child can enjoy books together.

With Infants:

  • Help them touch books and turn the pages. Are there things to touch on the pages? Talk about what you see.
  • Bring books everywhere. Keep small books in your car, purse and stroller and pull them out on the bus., while waiting at a doctor's office or when standing in a line.
  • Read and play with books everyday. Make it a fun and special time. Read the same story before naps or bedtime. You don't have to finish the story. Stop when your baby loses interest. 
  • Point to interesting pictures as you read. Describe them. Explain what you see. Play peek-a-boo with the pictures by covering and uncovering them with your hand.

What kind of books are best?

  • Picture books with simple objects or faces
  • Board or cloth books with pages that turn easily and won't tear
  • Books with soft, rough, or bumpy textures to touch and feel

With Toddlers and Preschoolers:

  • Ask your child to point to pictures or to name things on the pages. Make it into a game. Describe something in the picture and see if your child can find it.
  • Have him tell the story. Let him tell his own version or leave out words to well knows stories so he can fill them in.
  • Share new words. Use the pictures in your child's books to help explain a new word. Ask a question to make sure she understands.
  • Talk about the story. Ask questions about what happened before, what is happening now and what might happen on the next page. "What hat did he choose? What is he doing with the hat? Where will he put it next?" Pause frequently to let your child talk.

What kinds of books are best?

  • Books on topics your child is interested in, like animals, dinosaurs or ballerinas
  • Nursery rhymes or simple stories about everyday activities
  • Stories with only one or two sentences per page and lots of pictures


What roles might my parents play in my child's life?

There are many different roles your parents might play.  

An effective grandparent might be altruistic, nurturing and put the needs of family members ahead of their own. They may be full of vitality, bring a sense of wonder to their grandchild's life, be warm, be easy to talk to, or be patient and careful listeners. If they value a close family, they will make themselves available and be a support to their children and grandchildren. 

Parents and grandparents should talk about the role the grandparents will play. And, while it is important for the grandparents to respect the parent's wishes, parents need to allow the grandparents to create their own identity. The two most important gifts they can give are love and time. How they do it is their decision.

Life's Gifts

Of the most important ethics or values that grandparents would like to pass on to their grandchildren:

42% said morals and integrity

21% said success or ambition

20% mentioned religion

14% said consideration

10% said to be reasonable

Family History Projects for You and Your Grandchildren

The following projects are perfect starting points for  passing on your history and having fun with your grandchildren. In fact, the AARP suggests getting the grandchildren to help "so they can learn and start to connect the past and present."

Picture Perfect

Help grandchildren identify with the family history by gathering and preserving photos and old records. Ask relatives for originals they have that you can copy. Learn who is in the picture and any interesting stories about them. Arrange all your collected memorabilia in a scrapbook. Write down the details of the picture and how it connects to other information you have about your family such as diaries, letters, and interviews.

Home Truths

Take the children to visit homes and towns where previous generations have lived. A home is evidence of your history, as well as an expression of the people who lived in it. It also reveals trends in architecture and construction. Fixtures and landscaping are tied up with taste and technologies. Also, a home might offer clues about births, jobs, and the local economy.

Talk about it

Pass on stories of your family's past by emphasizing funny adventures highlighting similarities to or differences from your child's experience. Gather these stories by interviewing your relatives and writing down their answers or recording them on tape. Conduct the interviews with care, and you'll end up with a coherent oral history rather than random reminiscences. The tapes also will preserve something fragile and precious - your narrator's voices, how they express themselves, and a sense of who they are.

Road Trip

Take your family on a vacation to places that are significant in your family history. This will bring those places to life for the children. 


Keep a journal. Write what you think and feel, see, read, and hear about; weddings, jobs, scandals, news, politics, parades, etc. Relax. Start small. Keep it fun. Years from now, you will have a document that will fascinate your descendants.

Family Video

1. Describe where your family lived. What did you like best about it. How did it look? What color was your room? With whom did you share it?

2. Discuss ethnic heritage and customs. Talk about religion - discuss what traditions and practices are most important to you.

3. Describe historical events during your lifetime - wars, past presidents, etc.

4. Where did you go to school? Take a trip to the building, if possible. Talk about best friends and teachers, favorite classes, sports played, and other activities and highlights of these years.

5. Did you go to college, serve in the military, or go to technical school? What did you study? What were the highlights of those years?

6. Share pictures from your childhood. Describe or visit old houses and neighborhoods. Talk about neighbors and places you used to visit. 

7. What kinds of friends have you had in your life? Discuss what qualities made these people special. Arrange to meet them, if possible.

8. Tell the tale of your relationship with your spouse. Where did you meet? When did you get married? Where? What was the wedding like? Why do you love your partner?

9. Talk about work - the jobs you've had over the years. Talk about the challenges you have faced, the rewards you've received. If possible, visit a place of current or past employment. 

10. Pass on life lessons. Share hopes, philosophies, disappointments, and advice. 



Dads today are more involved in their children's development than ever before. From the changing table to the side of the bathtub to the grocery store, dads are playing an active role. 

Dads can...

Get a child dressed - Be in charge of helping a child get ready for the day. Create a unique routine, one that's different from mom's routine. 

Read up - Whether the father of an infant, a toddler, or a preschooler, make an effort to learn about a child's age and stage of development. Read up on how to change a diaper, how to prepare a nursery, how to handle a tantrum, and what toys to use to help a child learn and grow. Read also about the role a dad can play. 

Read to their children - Carve out a time slot for father time, be it every day or every Saturday, when a child knows he can sit down with his dad and listen to stories. Dads can take special field trips to the library or bookstores to let a child look at book selections to get a good understanding of what the child likes to read. 

Make a weekend morning a dad's morning - Declare Saturday or Sunday mornings father time. Learn the morning routine well enough to get a child out of bed, dressed, and fed without the help of mom, and go somewhere fun. Or go out to breakfast, just with dad. This is the time both a child and mother will look forward to.

Get comfortable in the grocery store - Make a concerted effort to learn the food and supplies that kids need and offer to go to the store and get them. Take a list along and ask the children to help find the things throughout the store.

Help tackle sleep issues - Whether dealing with an infant who's yet to sleep through the night or a toddler who's having nightmares, take turns with mom getting out of bed when issues arise in the middle of the night. It's tiring but also a great opportunity to comfort and connect with a child.

Spend time at home especially when caring for a newborn - The first few weeks and months of a baby's life are the most crucial for family bonding and making connections with caregivers. Accumulate vacation time before the baby is born to use after her birth, investigate the possibility of taking paternity leave and try to arrange to work from home several days a week if possible.

Get involved with the child's caregivers - Talk to the babysitter, nanny, or child care teachers. Dads who get to know the people who care for their child learn more about their child - his behavior, moods, activities, etc. - on a daily basis. From simple questions - How much did my baby eat? How long did he nap? What did he play with? - dads can keep connected. 

Additional Tips for Toddlers

Dads can...

Take a child to school - Taking a child to school, whether on foot or by car, is a great way to spend high-quality time together on a steady basis. It gives dads a chance to talk to the child and the school teacher as well.

Serve breakfast - Scrambled eggs, French toast, chocolate chip pancakes...come up with a few favorite foods and make it part of dad's special menu. A child can help dad prepare it.

Take a toddler to work - Nothing makes a toddler feel special as much as having his own time with his dad at work. Choose a quiet time to show your child around and make him feel important.

How important is the parent-child relationship?

Building a healthy relationship through sensitive and responsive care - with an emotional investment - allows your child to feel safe and secure, provides him with a solid base for exploration and allows him to communicate his feelings.

Venturing Out

  • MOBILIZING - Characterized by their new ability to walk on their own, toddlers are consumed with exploring. 
  • LEARNING TO SEPARATE - A toddler's new ability to walk, however, is challenged by his dependence on his parents and the feeling of safety he gets from keeping them close. Balancing the need to become independent and returning to the safety of home base is a challenge both for toddlers and for their parents. 
  • OVERFLOWING WITH NEWNESS - A toddler can be overwhelmed by all the developments associated with his new discoveries and developing sense of self. And, his new awareness of language and feelings can lead to new fears - mistaking parents' disapproval, for example, with a loss of love.
  • DISCOVERING HIS BODY - A toddler's new repertoire also includes learning about gender controlling bodily functions.

How Does attachment progress?

In the first three years of life, experts believe that there are clearly defined shifts in the way that children understand themselves and create relationships with people and their environment. Each shift coincides with a leap in physical and emotional development. Experts point to a variety of interactions that form the basis of early relationships; they include feeding, playing, talking and bedtime routines. Through the progression of attachment shown here, you and your child will form a trusting relationship, and your child will be allowed to move from dependence to self-assertion, confidence and the ability to function independently in her world.

Birth to 2 Months

Your Child is...

  • Concentrating on adapting to her new environment -she learns to regulate her eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Communicating through crying yawning and postures - your child teaches her parents how to care for her. 

You Are...

  • Learning to understand your baby's signals and to respond appropriately.
  • Feeding your child when she is hungry, burping her when she has gas, comforting her when she is fussing, changing her when she it wet, keeping her safe and secure.

What's happening with the parent-child relationship?

  • By two months, your child can engage and disengage you with her cries and glances. 
  • Your baby has developed her first relationship.
  • She let you know her needs and you respond to them.

2 Months to 6 Months

Your child is...

  • More alert - he smiles, makes eye contact and deliberate sounds.
  • Showing excitement and can avert his glaze when the excitement is too high.
  • Using verbal and non-verbal cues to signal his needs.

You are...

  • Responding to your child's needs, playing games and interacting.
  • Becoming more attuned to his emotional signals and coping behaviors.
  • Differentiating between cries and knowing if your child is hungry or in pain. 

What's happening with the parent-child relationship?

  • You and your child are falling in love - through a process where he often initiates interactions and you try to understand his signals and needs.
  • There are times when you will not "read" your child correctly. This is OK. Your baby is beginning to develop coping strategies. 

6 Months to 12-15 Months

Your child is...

  • Sitting up and crawling-she can move away from and towards you.
  • Developing object permanence - she can find a hidden toy and knows that you exist even when she cant see you.
  • Showing growing attachment to her primary caregiver with displeasure when she leaves, and relief and pleasure when she returns. 

You are...

  • Providing a safe and loving environment that she can explore.
  • Comforting her when she is stressed. 

What's happening with the parent-child relationship?

  •  A meaningful relationship has formed between you and your child. Your child knows what to expect from you based on prior experiences. She also begins to become aware of her own behaviors and abilities.
  • Your child often looks to her primary caregiver, usually her mother, for a sense of safety and security. She uses this person as a secure base, a trusted figure who provides comfort and love. 
  • Armed with trust and the confidence of a secure base, your child can explore her world and risk the bumps she encounters along the way. 

12-15 Months to 36 Months

Your child is...

Learning to walk. He is curious and actively explores his world. Capable of symbolic thought or pretend play. 

You are...

Emotionally available to your child. Setting limits and allowing your child to explore his world, his autonomy and his emotions.

What's happening with the parent-child relationship?

  • Although excited by his exploration and autonomy, your toddler will also become overwhelmed and scared and will need to rely on you for comfort - he will often move away, but then will come back to the safety of being with you.
  • Tantrums and power struggles may ensue as your toddler learns to use his own will.
  • As you set limits and demonstrate that you will continue to love and care for you child, he will learn self-control and understand that he can "fall apart" and still survive and be loved.


Action Items: Tips for easing separation anxiety

  1. Say Goodbye. Waving bye-bye to your toddler is something you should not avoid doing. At first, this may maker her cry, but, if you just disappear, and she thinks you might leave her at any time, she will cry and cling to you constantly. 
  2. Prepare your child. Talk to your child about what is going to happen to help him think ahead. You may think that he does not grasp what you are saying, but he understands much more than he can actually say. 
  3. Be optimistic. Do not let your apprehensions show when you are leaving your child. Show optimism by saying, "I think you are going to have a wonderful time playing with the other children today!"
  4. Provide a comfort object. At first, when the anxiety is the strongest, you may want to allow your child to keep an object that will make her feel close to you. Examples: a stuffed animal or a pillow from her bed. 
  5. Help label his emotions. Even though is will be some time before your child starts to understand his emotions, you can label what he is feeling. When you are walking out the door and your screams for you not to leave, explain that what he is feeling is "missing you" you. Also, add that you have the same feeling, and you understand. 
  6. Take things slowly. when you are getting ready to go back to work after being with your child at home, it is a good idea to have a transition time with the new caregiver, your child and yourself. This gives everyone an opportunity to get acquainted and become comfortable with the new situation. 
  7. Arrange same-time departures. To make saying goodbye easier, try having your child exit first. When you drop her off at the nursery, have the caregiver take her outside to play. Be sure to wave bye-bye to her as she is leaving you. 
  8. Employ favorite pastimes. You might also like to have you child care provider involve your child in favorite pastime. He may get upset when she sees you are leaving; however, it will be much easier for him to get re-involved in something he is already working on. 
  9. Help her learn to deal with separation. Eventually your child will learn how to cope and understand that she must be separated from you sometimes. This may take some time, but she must learn this important developmental task. She will use it for the rest of her life. 


What are the stages of sleep?

While sleeping, both adults and children pass through 4 stages and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) - in repeating cycles throughout the night. 

Sleep is a dynamic activity... 

The five stages of sleep progress in a cycle from stage 1 to REM sleep, then the cycle starts over. 

Stage 1 is known as the lightest stage of sleep. The body starts slowing down and it's easy to drift in and out of actual sleep. It's also the easiest to come out of when awakened.

Stage 2 Brain waves continue to slow down.

Stage 3 Both slow brain waves (delta waves) and faster, smaller ones appear during this stage. 

Stage 4 Mostly made of slow brain waves (delta waves). The entire body is deeply relaxed. This is the hardest stage from which to wake.

  • Growth hormones are released during deep sleep. Cells also increase production and protein breakdown decreases during these two stages.
  • REM sleep is known for irregular and rapid breathing, constant eye movement and temporary paralysis of muscles. There is an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. 
  • REM sleep lasts longest at night. During naps, REM lasts longer during morning naps than those in the afternoon. 
  • REM sleep may play an important role in brain development. Therefore, the more REM sleep your child gets, the better. As your baby grows and her brain develops, gradually less time is spent in REM sleep, with most of it occurring at night and during the morning nap.

The brain is always active.

Since the 1950s, we've learned that our brains are very active during sleep. Neurotransmitters, or nerve-signaling chemicals in our brains, control whether we are asleep or awake. Neurons, which connect the brain to the spinal cord, produce other neurotransmitters which keep some parts of the brain active during sleep and while awake. 

What are dreams?

Infant REM sleep was first studied in 1953. However, scientists still do not fully understand the need for and purpose of dreams. Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are a part of a human's unconscious desires. 

Dreaming occurs during REM sleep where signals start at the pons and travel to the thalamus, and from there to cerebral cortex, the area of the brain where learning, organizing and thinking take place. 

The pons also sends signals to shut off neurons in the spinal cord. This shuts off the limb muscles, and stalls movement desires. 

REM sleep stimulates the cerebral cortex, which helps the brain develop learning ability. Scientists believe that's why infants spend 50% of their time in REM sleep.

ACTION ITEMS: The ABC's of catching ZZZZZZs

What's the best way to help your child develop good sleep habits? There are many expert views about what role parents should play when it comes to helping their children develop good sleep habits. Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you like an approach that:

  1. Is lenient about responding to your baby when he cries during the night and emphasizes consistent bedtime routines and positive sleep associations, check out Dr. Jodi Mindell's book, Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep.
  2. Advocates sticking firmly to routine and letting your child cry at bedtime for extended intervals of time before you provide her with comfort, read Dr. Richard Ferber's book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems.
  3. Focuses on training your baby to go to sleep and comfort himself on his own by keeping nighttime feedings short, waking him if his daycare naps last more than a few hours and using your voice or a gentle pat to comfort him when he cries, try the American Academy of Pediatrics' book, Guide to Your Child's Sleep.
  4. Promotes the family bed and other ways of being there for your child to provide a comforting, relaxing sleep environment, look at Dr. William Sears' book, Nighttime Parenting
  5. Emphasize the prevention of sleep problems and teaches healthy sleep habits by synchronizing soothing techniques with your child's natural rhythms, read Dr. Marc Weissbluth's book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

AND REMEMBER, whichever approach you choose, be consistent.

  • Recent studies suggest that behavioral problems in children 2-3 years of age may occur if they sleep less than 11 hours at night. Children this age should sleep up to 13 hours at night. 
  • Lack of sleep can cause behavioral problems such as acting out, behaving aggressively and hyperactivity. Conversely, children's behavioral problems have been said to contribute to a lack of sleep in children. 
  • Different children need various amounts of sleep. If a child does not look well rested, he probably needs more sleep. 
  • Waking up at night, a problem that occurs in 33% of children 2-4 years old, can also cause behavioral problems. 
  • Researchers believe that regular amounts of sleep deprivation may have long-term effects on brain function. 
  • Studies on rats show that sleep is necessary for survival, demonstrating that life expectancy decreases with sleep deprivation. 





You can help your child learn and be happier just by following these five simple guidelines.

Understand and respond to your baby's needs.

You can't "spoil" an infant, so go to her when she fusses or cries. By responding to your baby's cues, you teach her that you care about her needs and that she can trust you. Ignoring a baby's needs can do harm by causing stress levels to rise. You may not always understand your baby's cues, but be patient. This is a learning process for both you and your baby. If she likes what you are doing, you know you are getting it right. 

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child. 

Becoming a parent can be overwhelming and exhausting. Unless you take care of yourself, you will have a hard time taking good care of your child. For this reason, it is important to have support from friends, family or community organizations. Do not be afraid to ask for help caring for your child. 

Talk, sing, and read to your child.

Let your child hear your voice as much as possible. The young brain is especially interested in sound. You can form a deep emotional connection between you and your child by simply sharing the sound of your voice. Sounds are also important to your child because are the building blocks of speech and language. 

Create a predictable world for your child. 

Providing routines and expected responses fives your child a sense that the world is a trustworthy place. It also teaches him that he can depend on you. If your child understands this, he will spend less energy fussing over his needs and more time learning. Routines can include basic activities  like feeding and bathing. 

Provide a warm and loving environment. 

Helping your child feel safe and secure is the key to encouraging growth and development. A child who feels loved will have an easier time learning about the world around her. Therefore, make sure you interact with your child, providing love and affection.


For many, meals are a time when the whole family comes together. Learn how your mealtime discussions can help the development of your child, and ways that meals foster learning.


Studies show that meals are one of the most important times to be together as a family. 

Catherine Snow and her colleagues at Harvard University conducted research on literacy development by taping what happens at family meals. They found that the families who interacted with each other at meal times were more likely to have children with better literacy skills in the school-age years. Family mealtime interaction took place when caregivers extended children's interests, which helped children use language to analyze, sequence, and predict while helping children appreciate the joy of language.

Watch and listen

Do your children listen to what you and others say? Do they have opportunities to talk, listen, and take turns? Do they look forward to telling you about their day? What sounds and words do they try to say? What are they trying to communicate?


With your baby

  • Give your baby ordinary kitchen objects, such as plastic cups or wooden spoons, to play with while you are fixing a meal. 
  • Name the foods you are eating and talk about foods your baby loves to eat. 

With you toddler

  • Let your young child help make the meal - let him or her tear the lettuce for a salad, stir the spaghetti sauce or put napkins on the table.
  • Ask your toddler to name to foods you are preparing or to fix a pretend meal for his or her toy animal or doll while you fix dinner for your family. 

For your preschooler

  • Ask your child to tell you a story about his or her day to or tell him or her a story about yours during mealtime.
  • Create family traditions at meal times, such as a song that you always sing or a game like "I Spy" that you always play.


Errands can equal education. Your everyday outing or errand - even if it's just to the market - can be a chance to connect with your child and to encourage his or her early learning.


Going to the market is obviously a chore, especially at the end of a busy day. But markets also offer many opportunities for learning that can make the time there less trying.

Watch and listen

Make sure that your child is not too hungry when you go to the market. Either take a snack or let your child pick and acceptable snack to eat. Then you and your child can focus on other things. Notice what your child is interested in to help make marketing a fun learning time together.

"There are so many ways that parents and caregivers can encourage language in young children and it's not through flash cards. It's through conversation, it's through questioning. The important thing is to invest words with meaning and once you do...those words live on forever."

-Kathryn A Hirsh-Pasek, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Director, Infant Language Laboratory, Temple University


For your baby

  • The market is like a collage in motion - there is so much going on. Talk about the things you see as you shop.

For your baby

  • Talk to your child in advance about a special thing that she or he can buy at the market. Then look for it, like a treasure hunt. This helps your child learn to be a good observer. 
  • Ask your toddler about the shapes and colors he or she sees. Or, ask your toddler to name things that are up high or down low.
  • Give your toddler a cracker or piece of apple. Then point out the crackers and/or apples in the store. 

For you preschooler

  • Take the adventure of looking for items you are going to purchase a step further. Cut out a picture of an item you are going to purchase and have your child match the picture with the real item on the store's shelf.
  • If there is conflict over what you are buying, set rules. For example: we will buy an item, but sugar can't be one of the first four ingredients. Or it can't have too many preservatives in the food. Have your child look at labels with you to see if this is something you can buy. All of these games can build pre-reading and thinking skills. 


Help your child wind down at the end of the day, and discover ways to make bedtime less stressful and more calming for all involved. 


Bedtime is time to wind down. Creating a schedule that your child comes to expect makes the transition from an active day to a quiet time easier. 

Many parents create "a special time" to be together at bedtime. Sometimes they read or tell stories. Other times, they let the child select what she or he wants to do. 

Watch and listen

What helps your child get ready for bed in the most peaceful way, and what stirs up your child? Emphasize the calming activities and turn them into family traditions. 


For you baby

  • Create a consistent bedtime schedule that your child can count on. 
  • Think of bedtime as a quiet time to be together rather than a scary time of separation. Your attitude will help build a more positive attitude in your child. 

For your toddler

  • Create traditions: First we take a bath and brush our teeth, then we read a story, put on the nightlight, give a kiss and go to sleep. With practice, a consistent schedule will help children learn to go to sleep by themselves. 

For your preschooler

  • Your preschooler can take a more active role in planning bedtime traditions and use special time for listening to stories, making up stories about his or her stuffed animals, or for talking about the day. 


  • Be curious about your own learning and about how your child learns. Parents and caregivers who are truly engaged and excited about learning are more likely to have children who do the same.

Have Fun! Children and adults learn best when they are connected to others, when they're learning about something they want or need to know, and when they're having fun. So don't make learning in everyday moments a chore, or something to strike off of your to-do list to give your child the best early start. Instead, make it something that you enjoy. The gift of joy in lifelong learning is a very important gift you can give your children. 


Riding public transit exposes your child to different people and new things. Use this time to heighten your child's sense of adventure. 


Traveling on public transportation, especially if its crowed, can feel overwhelming to a young child, but it can also be an adventure. Encourage your child focus on travel as an adventure. 

Watch and listen

How does your child react to the bus or subway? Help put words to your child's feelings, which will help your child feel known and understood. Notice how your child reacts to other people, sounds, sights, escalators, doors opening and closing or other things you see, feel and hear. 

"Stress happens when there is a challenge that matters to you and you don't have the resources to manage it, with a secure relationship you have your resources ."

Megan R. Gunnar, PhD, Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota


For your baby

Follow your baby's gaze while you travel and say aloud what you think he or she may be focusing on: "See the baby across from us" or "It is very noisy on the bus."

For your toddler

Imagine what your child is feeling and try to see the experience through his or her eyes. Is she or he feeling overwhelmed or excited? Let your child help you by putting the fare in the fare box, asking the driver for a transfer or signaling the driver to stop. This helps develop a sense of confidence and mastery.

For your preschooler

  • Talk with your child about the last time you went on the bus or subway or what interests him or her about where you are going and what you will do when you get there. This will give your child a greater sense of control over his or her experiences and will help build memory and planning skills.
  • Make up special games on a bus or subway, such as counting the stops until you arrive. This helps children understand where they are going, and creates special fun routines or traditions that are always remembered, making the world feel predictable and safe. 

Taking your child on a walk is not only good exercise, but also allows him or her to experience nature and learn about the outdoors.


Taking a walk is a wonderful physical activity for you and your child, plus it can also be special time together. Focus on the present moment and being with your child, not on all of the things you have to do when you get back.

Watch and listen

Look at the walk through your child's eyes. How might a bug or a big crack in the sidewalk look to your child? What sounds do cars or birds make? Is the sun shining? Is it cloudy, warm or cold?

"Young children, like little scientists, have a hypothesis to begin with, but then they go out and make predictions and even do mini-experiments...and the experiments cause the children to change their minds - their hypothesis."

Andrew N. Meltzoff, Phd, Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair, Professor of Psychology, Co-Director, Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington


For your baby

  • Name things that your baby looks at or is interested in - from street and business signs, to animals, flowers, bugs, cars, trucks, people or other sights.
  • Take time to let your baby watch things until his or her interest shifts. Notice how intently your baby studies things. 

For your toddler

  • If your toddler likes to run and jump and practice moving around, make games of doing this.
  • Help your child learn to be safe by stopping at corners and driveways and showing him or her how to look both ways for cars.

For you preschooler

  • Ask questions about what you see on your walk that seems to interest your child. These questions can include the past, present, and future. For example, if you and your preschooler see a dog, ask if he or she remembers seeing that dog before, what the dog is doing, or what they think the dog might do if the dog were bigger or smaller, or faster or slower.
  • Make up rhymes or sing marches as you walk. Try walking and singing or chanting fast, then slow.