Below is a summary of children’s developmental stages set against suggestions as to how to support a child at each stage.



Four common causes of “terrible twos tantrums”;


·         Hunger

·         Being interrupted in the middle of an important cycle of work (if you were just on the point of mastering buttoning your jacket for the first time and some giant swooped down and bundled you out of the house, how would you feel?)

·         Being made to feel useless (imagine you have just learned how to put on your shoes and are looking proudly down at them, only to have a grown-up cluck in disapproval, take them off and put them on the other way round! A few months of backwards t-shirts and mismatching clothes is more than worth it for the look of joy on your child’s face that says “I did it by myself!”) Indeed one of our most important parental roles in this society is to protect our children from the well-meaning but destructive attempts by other adults to “help” and “correct” our children.

·         Tiredness; young children (and indeed adults!) benefit greatly from a sleep in the middle of the day. Children experience a “dip” in attention generally sometime between 1pm and 5 pm; if they are taken to the place in which they normally sleep at this time and have no other distractions, they will have a sleep and then wake up with renewed vigour and interest. Such a strategy avoids the “six o’clock blues” where children are very unhappy because they are just exhausted. (and incidentally also means you get family time together in the evenings).


Singing to your child is one of the most positive things you can do for them in the early years .Singing seasonal songs to your child not only makes them feel happy and secure, it also helps them enter into the Church’s year and provides a good base for later catechesis. Taize chants are very successful in creating a secure and calming environment for both parents and children in the early years . Remember, you do not have to be Pavarotti to sing; your child recognises your voice as one of the most beautiful things in his or her world. We have used many of those song listed below with our Parish group for the under 5s at St Laurence’s here in Cambridge for some years now. For some suggestions for songs click on one of these links;


·         songs and prayers for building up confidence

·         songs about God the Father, creation and for Advent and Christmas

·         songs about Jesus and his ministry

·         songs about the Holy Spirit and the Saints


 For further information on developmental stages and needs from birth to three years, see one of the following books;


*The continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff

*”The well-balanced child” by Sally Goddard Blythe


“Why love matters” by Sue Gerhardt

“What you should know about your child “ by Maria Montessori

“from Birth to five years” by Mary D. Sheridan (NFER publishing company)

“What you should know about your child” by Maria Montessori

“Boost your child’s immune system” by Lucy Burney (includes full guide to first foods)

“What should I feed my baby?” by Susannah Oliver


Some of the practical resources listed here were suggested by “Montessori from the Start”. If you would like to read why I am glad I did not read this particular book when a first time parent, please click here;




Children’s practical needs;


Developmental stage;

eg Fine motor control; hand to eye coordination/

personal care, gross motor control, language


How an adult can help

 “Never give to the mind more than you give to the hand” MM



Resources needed.

0 to 1 month




* immediately after birth, the child roots for the breast. He needs to breast-feed in order to obtain the Essential Fatty acids necessary for brain development, to feel and smell his mother, skin to skin and to develop the muscles of the lips and tongue and the pharynx and the larynx used eventually in speech. Formula milk does not offer him these advantages

*from birth, the child uses interactions as a basis for developing the part of the brain (the orbito-frontal cortex) responsible for regulating emotions; this part of the brain “can inhibit rage reactions, switch off fear.. this ability to hold back and defer immediate impulses the basis for our will power and self control, as well as our capacity for empathy” (WLMs p37)


*even at this early stage, the child looks for interactions with others which develop a sense of security, but above all, he expects to be in physical contact with his mother;

*there is a lack of intentional grasp; hand and arm sweep as one; the child is working to lose the initial grasp reflexes (Palmar and Plantar reflexes) by attempting to grasp; the familiar kneading motion that all small suckling mammals make at the breast is vital here (TWBC p56)

* The child cannot yet regulate his own body temperature and will tend to be too cold or to overheat if on his own.(Fardig 1980 radiant heated cribs could not maintain the ..temperature of new borns” Medical anthropology 1986 (3IAB p84)

*he has a tendency to stop breathing and lacks the ability to start breathing on his own.

The ability to regulate one’s breathing and temperature does not develop until at least the age of one.

* by breast-feeding the child and allowing him to grasp at you.

*“Being lovingly held is the greatest spur to development” (Why love matters” Sue Gerhardt p40

*Keeping the baby close to you; “Where it is safe and warm, muscles can relax and breathing deepen, as tensions are dispersed.. the baby’s heart rate synchronises with the parent’s heart rate; if she is relaxed and in a coherent state, so will the baby be”).


* keeping in physical contact with your baby at night as well as during the day. In addition to being vital to good emotional and intellectual development, such a strategy is also highly protective against cot death, as if the child does stop breathing, it is the mother’s breathing rate and heart rate which will stimulate him to start breathing again. Also, comprehensive research shows that

“Sleeping with his mother, the baby remains at his ideal temperature” (3 In A Bed p87); in a cot, he can easily become too hot or too cold.

*sing to your child and rock them in your arms; Taize chants are ideal for this.


a space next to you in bed where he can sleep whilst keeping in touch with you.


a mirror by the bed to look at if she is lying on her stomach


a sling to carry the baby in eg Kari-me



Avoid; cots, buggies and wherever possible strapping children into car seats except for short essential journeys.



1 to 3 months


*the orbito-frontal cortex continues to develop and the child needs reliable, positive and affectionate interaction from the same one –to –one caregiver.


*The child sweeps objects towards himself with a movement of the whole arm and hand, but without yet a specific purpose .


*works to lose the Babinkski reflex (where the toes automatically extend) by developing the connections between the motor areas of the brain and the parts of the body that they control)


* by two months the baby is capable of babbling




*by keeping your baby close to you night and day


*by providing opportunities to grasp and hold; nature has designed the system well; a child at this stage who is breast-fed will have the chance to play with his mother’s hair and whatever she is wearing around her neck.


*sing to your child and rock them in your arms


* talk to your child “the amount and quality of the infants babbling correlates with the amount of attention that parents give to him. If parents respond by listening and imitating, the baby babbles more. Dialogue then is clearly essential from the beginning”


* avoid dummies which reduce the desire to breast-feed and therefore the chance for nutrition as well as the chance to develop the palate. Dummies also reduce the child’s ability to babble and therefore hinder his development of speech



As above and also;

a series of (out of reach) mobiles, changed say, every two weeks;*flat black and white geometric shapes

*reflected light from a glass sphere

*three octahedrons of coloured metallic paper, each in a primary colour

*five Styrofoam balls  covered with embroidery thread in gradations of the same colour and hung in ascending order from darkest to lightest

*stylized paper figures of light metallic coloured paper that move in the air

*finally, one of styalized wooden figures painted in pastel colours

* A couple of bright non-toxic pendants on sturdy pieces of chord will be a great help at this stage.


Avoid; mobiles that need winding up; these make the child a passive consumer of entertainment rather than help them be the active learner they want to be.

3 to 6 months; or from the time the child tries to grasp

* he is working to lose the Spinal Galant Reflex (where touching the skin on either side at the base of the spine causes flexation of the hip on the side stimulated) by freely moving his legs.


*he is fascinated by objects and tries to explore them in an attempt to develop hand eye coordination


* he is fascinated by language


* The neural speed of his brain remains at half that of an adult brain until the child is 12

* by presenting him with the same objects again in rotation; “at three months, the infant may simply hold an object. At four to five months, he may begin to manipulate the same item. Holding and manipulating give the baby two very different experiences, each building upon and reinforcing previous.. skill devt”; repetition is key to the learning process at all ages. Rotation not substitution..”

* by ensuring that he does not spend his time strapped down in a car seat or buggy, but is free to move around.

* talk to your child, speaking slowly, name the objects you are using

*sing to your child and rock them in your arms


*a play arch within arms reach consisting of “a wooden ring about three inches in diameter. The baby works to grasp it and in one triumphant movement, brings it to her mouth” p45

a sphere with a suction cup base, attaching it to a firm base, so that the child can reach for it, pull it, bat it.

* a cloth ball

*when she is down she should spend some time on her stomach to help develop her arm and leg muscles

*avoid back ground noise eg radio TV

6 to 9 months

*he begins hand to hand transfer, realising that both hands are getting information; he does not yet use his wrist much and he uses a pincer grip , but a flat pincer grip;

*to achieve a full pincer grasp, the child needs repetition and practice,.p53; help by offering such opportunities.

* offer squishy food that your child can pick up herself; a good one to start with is banana

see which includes recipes and superfood of the day. Consider Baby led weaning.


*sing to your child, talk to them and rock them in your arms

(“vestibular stimulation” or rocking and rough and tumble play are essential for the development of good motor skills .”TWBC p19)

* talk to your child, and invite a response

*rattles which are light, well shaped for grasping, and other simple objects preferably made of natural materials and of differing sizes and weights that she can grasp and explore;

small collections of household objects kept in open baskets;(eg pine cones, large nut shell, a bell, a brush,a large stone p58 TS) change these baskets over every couple of weeks to provide variety; talk to your child about what is in the basket;

*clothing that allows the child to move freely, trousers not skirts

around 7 months many babies can push themselves up to a sitting position, but she still needs a pillow for support and the space to sit herself up rather than being sat up

*avoid back ground noise eg radio TV


9 to 12 months


his fingers now are really useful and there is a finger thumb position capable of precise movements. It takes many months of receiving general knowledge of the environment through the five senses before the baby is ready for the precise and detailed information delivered by the fully developed hand


* by now the child generally clearly understands what people are saying to him)


*by being a guardian of an environment that is both safe and also stimulating. As soon as they are crawling, children need a home environment that is ;*ordered (where each thing has a set place)


* safe; ie sockets are covered, wires taped etc

*by safeguarding the child’s freedom to explore the home environment.

A “play pen” is a straight jacket for the child’s developing mind and sense of self.

* by preserving the child’s right to explore on her own terms and not try to walk for her or to carry her when she does not need it

* by creating a peaceful environment, without distractions; a home free of noise and endless entertainment. A TV screen for example, mesmerises and paralyses a child.

Sing to your child; talk to them as you go about your day together, involve them and invite a response

* by ensuring that the environment he finds at Mass supports his development; (see “Children at Mass”)



Bring out the same objects, in addition;

*box with balls to push through four holes (using the fingers not a hammer)

*a box with a hole on top for putting a ball through to a tray below (

*a box with a slope and a hole for the ball to roll into a drawer

* a wicker basket with a rattle, ball and wooden ring; he will enjoy putting them and taking them out

* a wooden egg in an egg cup

*a wooden cube in a box


*clothing that protects her knees whilst giving her complete freedom to move; so the fewer decorations, buttons etc the better.

She also needs

*a low bed with no sides so the child can get on and off it herself (some families move to sleeping on a big mattress on the floor)

*balls of rubber and wood, a cylinder with a bell

some children stand around 9 months; when she wants to do this we can provide her with a couch a handrail etc for her to pull up on.

*avoid back ground noise eg radio TV

12 to 15 months

*The child has realised, given the right support that she can move herself and develops great self confidence if supported to do so.

*He is developing very fine motor control.

* may show an interest in personal care such as face washing, using a potty at any time from around now.

* can often use several words


*By providing chances to do very fine, intricate actions with their hands.

Sadly, at this age in our culture, children are systematically deprived of small objects on the grounds that they will choke on them, whereas “In Japan.babies of fourteen months.. are encouraged to put wooden spindles the width of toothpicks into [tiny].. holes.

*By Providing children with such chances and the supervision needed to make such essential exploration safe.

* talk to them as you go about your day together, involve them and invite a response


* Asking “what new items might my child benefit from at Mass?


Try providing;

*“ a box with a slit in the top and things to post through the slit.

* a walker wagon

* at this stage recheck your home from the perspective of a child now just toddling.

* a small wooden stairway with wooden rails

* a daily walk with a parent at her own pace

*shoes with flexible soles and slipper socks for indoors (or bare feet)

*offering your hand when in a hazardous environment eg a car park

**pebbles, pieces of grass, shells, buttons, perfume bottles and lids

*drawers to open and shut, to empty and to refill

*taking clothes off and putting them on

*filling and emptying receptacles using sand or water

* buttons to press and a variety of everyday objects to manipulate e.g. buttons, buckles, straps etc

* a wet flannel in a plastic bag; I’ve discovered it’s a great way of relaxing and letting your child do what they need to i. e. touch everything when out, safe in the knowledge that you can clean their hands after the event J This may sound obvious, but it took me several months of saying “Don’t touch that , its dirty!” to realise that this was all that was needed.

15 to 18 months

“The stage of maximum effort” At age 15 months, the child is ready and eager to copy activities.

“me too!” /“Can I help?”

He can stand, his brain is ready, his hands are ready; he has an inner urge to help out with the life of the home

He looks for “the challenge of engagement”


*the left parietal lobe in the cerebral cortex is developing rapidly storing words. Sometime between now and 2 years, the child’s vocabulary will reach the level of 50 words and then “explode” with a sudden dramatic and daily rise in the number of words he knows

*From this age children begin to appreciate that they have a choice about whether or not they do something; this can sometimes scare them especially if they feel pulled between what you want them to do and what they want to do.




*by welcoming a child’s interest;

*by showing the child how to do simple tasks

*by breaking tasks into manageable sections, be careful when presenting;

a)       to think it through in advance, breaking the task into manageable stages

b)      to do exactly what you want the child to imitate

c)       to give the child a turn and observe

d)      do not interrupt remembering that the attraction for the child is the process not the product

e)       identify “points of interest”

*by noticing when they need special reassurance and offering a hug.

For this new kind of play, the child needs practical life materials;

such as those needed for preparing food, cooking, baking, gardening, arranging flowers, cleaning, dusting, sweeping, mopping.


these materials need to be; real, child-sized, restricted to the task in hand and set out on a tray in the order they are required from right to left, top to bottom


provide the chance to;

  • carry heavier objects
  • * climb up and down stairs repeatedly
  • walk along kerbs and walls for balance

be involved in helping in tasks around the home


* a wet flannel for cleaning hands


18 months til 2 years




A child of this age really wants to help and can get very frustrated that they cannot do it at once; they can be helped if they are always reminded “First I’ll have a go, then it will be your turn”.


* he needs the chance to engage in “cycles of activity” seemingly useless repetitive behaviours which practice particular skills and provide a “depth of engagement”, improving concentration eg climbing in and out of the arm chair


providing opportunities to carry big or heavy things such as a jug of water, a loaf of bread, an umbrella,

to organise things such as folding napkins, dusting,

putting things into the bin

Avoid toys which do not afford the child the opportunity to “conquer the environment” manipulation for its own sake at this age is no longer enough.; help the child to accept that he must watch how to do preparatory exercises before he can take a turn 

* Identify a task which you think the child is both interested in and which he is likely to master

and demonstrate the cycle of activity, to him before letting him have a go.

If he gets silly or starts to use the objects set out for imaginative play ( eg pretends a knife is a sword), just distract him, take the tray away and pride him with something less structured to do eg blocks, lego.

If he completes the whole cycle of activity successfully Don’t make too big a fuss, just smile at him. It’s important that he realises that what he has done is not exceptional.

*take the child for walks and let him go at his own pace



by providing positive verbal feedback. “The quality of the feedback matters. If caregivers are well attuned to the child they will be able to acknowledge the child’s current emotional state and to symbolise it in words. This allows the child to build up an emotional vocabulary that can identify feelings “ This is crucial for the development of a positive sense of self and of confidence (WLMs p52)

to do this, you will need;

*a child-sized table and chair, preferably wooden

* a large plain tray for presentations (pictures are distracting)

* simple child-sized implements such as glasses, a knife (which must genuinely cut!), a dustpan and brush, set of small glasses and a small jug, drying towels, cloths, two Tupperware tubs for washing up, (avoid high tech versions which do not show how they work ie better   a hand grinder than an electric one)

* pieces of clothing with large buttons, bows for tying and zips that s./he can practise doing up and undoing

*a child accessible cupboard or stand alone trolley to keep them in

(This is not only practical but makes him realise his work is special and important)

* a hook at child height in the hall where he can hang his coat

* stacking cubes ( all cubes should be the same colour; the only difference between them should be size)

  • to set aside time and have patience J

*At Mass, children of this age often love small, delicate wooden icons that open to reveal pictures of Our Lord or of the Holy Family; they are particularly attracted to pictures of Mary and baby Jesus.


* a wet flannel for cleaning hands


2 til 2 ½ yrs

the child needs to see the results of his efforts being actually used ie the potatoes he scrubbed baked for dinner this evening, the fruit used as snack for the family.

by continuing to model tasks for the child that he clearly wants to master, to give him the space, time and materials to practise new skills

by continuing to observe, allow the child to complete cycles of activity and to give positive feedback at a time and in a way that will not interrupt the child.

* He needs to be shown how to (and to be trusted to) pour his own drinks , scrape his own plate into the relevant bin, stack dishes in the dishwasher and wash dishes, to prepare his own sandwiches with a spreader, to prepare his own fruit (eg a banana) and also vegetables with a peeler;

* clapping, dancing singing and humming with your child

* playing music to him or her, especially classical ( studies have shown that classical music is better liked by children and a better aid to brain development see TWBC p 69 & 89)

* telling them stories; from about now until around at least 6 years old, you are likely to hear the continual refrain “tell me a story”; it’s a great teaching moment to present such narratives as the Joyful Mysteries and the Gospel and other Bible narratives relevant to the week and Church season.

* further simple child-sized implements with slightly greater challenges such as a sharper knife, vegetable peeler,

sets of small cutlery, a small jug (about 18 to 20 cms high is a good size), baking implements such as a child-sized mixing bowl, wooden board, wooden spoons, biscuit cutters.

*objects such as buttons to sort into groups according to size, shape or colour (one difference at a time so you could use identical yellow buttons of different sizes or buttons all the same size but different colours; more than one difference at a time is confusing)

* stacking cubes (again all cubes should be the same colour; the only difference between them should be size)

* wooden puzzles with cut out shapes, each piece with its own knob

*geometric shape stacker (eg a series of squares and triangles and circles, all the same colour but different sizes which can be stacked to form pyramids

* scooping dried butter beans in a bowl with a ladle


* pieces of clothing with large buttons, bows for tying and zips that s./he can practise doing up and undoing


*6 to 8 pieces of differently textured wood or sandpaper or fabric, two of each kind, to match by feeling them alone (try this with your eyes closed)

*musical instruments that s/he can use such as maracas, drums etc

*At Mass, try offering a “holding cross” and showing how to pray with it

* a wet flannel for cleaning hands


2 1/2 til 3 years

*the child needs to see the results of his efforts being actually used ie the potatoes he scrubbed baked for dinner this evening, the fruit used as snack for the family.

* by making sure that the results of the child’s labour are used and he sees them used and appreciated.

** clapping, dancing singing and humming with your child

* playing music to him or her, especially classical ( studies have shown that classical music is better liked by children and a better aid to brain development see TWBC p 69 & 89)

* keep telling stories eg the Glorious Mysteries; children of this age are likely to be fascinated by the Ascension and Pentecost.; other useful resources are the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Godly Play;

* further simple child-sized needed for his current interests

*more objects to sort

*stacking cubes

*further items to scoop and pour

*musical instruments that s/he can use such as xylophone etc

* matching bells

* The silence game; get into the habit of having a signal (eg bell rung) upon which you both become perfectly silent, seeing who can remain perfectly still and what they can hear, until you call his or her name.

*at Mass, a wooden rosary and pictures of the different mysteries;

*puzzles with different Bible themes

* a wet flannel for cleaning hands