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Early Learning Tools/Resources:  For Families, Caregivers and Early Learning Educators

Many parents and caregivers, as well as teachers and early learning providers, are eager for information and resources on how to connect with babies and toddlers, manage young children's behavior, and help children develop relationships, regulate their behavior and emotions, and talk about their feelings. When the adults in children's lives have appropriate expectations of children's development at different ages, they have greater success—and much less frustration—with young children.  Click the arrow button above to learn more.

Developmental Achievements

Social & Emotional Development

How are children learning about feelings and relationships?

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye-bye” are called developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (like crawling, walking, or jumping).

In the first year, babies learn to focus their vision, reach out, explore, and learn about the things that are around them. Cognitive, or brain development means the learning process of memory, language, thinking, and reasoning. Learning language is more than making sounds (“babble”), or saying “ma-ma” and “da-da”. Listening, understanding, and knowing the names of people and things are all a part of language development. During this stage, babies also are developing bonds of love and trust with their parents and others as part of social and emotional development. The way parents cuddle, hold, and play with their baby will set the basis for how they will interact with them and others.

  • Learning about who you are as a person begins at birth. Babies are born with many abilities—to see, hear, eat, and vocalize (cry and make sounds)—but everything is new to them.

  • Babies typically come into the world ready to relate to people, to make eye contact and, soon, to smile.

  • They are very interested in the people around them and they learn about themselves through interacting with their people (those who care for them). For example, a child cries because something inside of her doesn’t feel right. When her parent gives her milk, she feels better. Soon she learns that the feeling inside means she is “hungry,” and that it will go away when milk comes.

  • Your child is also learning about how her people feel about her. When her people smile, talk, listen, respond to her cries and nurture her, she learns that she is lovable and important.

What is he learning about other people and relationships?

  • Your child is also learning about the people he lives with. He recognizes his familiar people and will smile at them and look at them longer than he does with strangers.

  • He will choose to be with familiar people and will seek them out in new or uncertain situations.

  • He carefully watches the expressions of his people for messages—are they smiling? are they tense? are they sad?—and he uses these cues to help understand his world. If his parent is holding him and a new person walks up to say “hi,” he will often look at his parent’s face to check his response before interacting with the new person.

  • He is beginning to predict how certain interactions with people might go. When he gives you a big grin, he waits expectantly for you to smile back. When he reaches up to you, he now anticipates that you will pick him up.

  • He doesn’t yet know that other people have feelings that are different from his own, but he is beginning to express his feelings more clearly and is very interested in watching other people’s expressions.

Language Development

How are children learning language?

  • In the first year babies learn so much about language and communication, even though they may only speak a few words on their first birthday. They are born interested and motivated to learn language and listen to all the words and other sounds in their environment, especially from the people they love.

  • They learn language naturally from you and the other people around them through the ways we talk to them from the minute they are born and in every interaction.

  • Even young babies and their family members have “conversations,” where the baby coos or babbles and waits and the adult talks back to the child. Starting with these conversations, infants begin to learn how conversations go, enjoy the experience of being “listened to,” and eagerly take in the words their families are saying to them.

  • Many families find that using some simple baby signs and gestures (i.e., “more,” “water,” “milk,” “all done”) offer their children a chance to communicate before they can say words.

  • Many of the things that you already do with your child help him or her learn to speak. Family members naturally talk about what is happening right now with children. This helps children to associate words with the things and experiences they are having.

Bilingual Language Development

How do children in bilingual or non-English-speaking families learn language?

  • Young children are very skilled at learning language and have the ability to learn two or more languages even before they begin school.

  • Families who speak a language other than English at home can use their home language as their primary language with children. Learning their home language helps children feel connected to their family and culture. They can learn English at the same time if the family is bilingual or they can learn English when they begin childcare or school.

  • Families support language learning by talking, reading and singing to their children in their home language. In this way children learn many language skills that will help them when they begin learning English.

  • Check with your local library for books in your home language.

  • Children who have this opportunity to become bilingual at an early age will benefit from the use of both languages throughout their lives.

Receptive Language

What is my child understanding?

“Receptive language” refers to all the words that children hear and understand, even before they can speak the words themselves. Children understand more words than they can speak.

  • Listening to what you say to them helps them learn words. When you say something and wait, they begin to understand how communication works.

  • Children listen to words that are spoken directly to them as well as to conversations that are happening around them.

  • They also pay attention to the tone of language and at this age begin to understand the meaning of tone as well as words. For instance, they can notice when your tone is excited, loving, frustrated, or scared and will eventually learn how to use tone in their own conversations.

Expressive Language

Communication: Talking and reading “Expressive language” includes all the sounds and words that a child makes.

  • Infants use crying, sounds, and gestures to communicate their feelings, needs and ideas.

  • Gestures include things like waving for “bye-bye,” both arms up for “pick me up,” and shaking head from side to side to resist eating a certain food.

  • Children practice many different sounds for a long time before they actually make words. They often string sounds together, like “ba-ba-ba” or “da-da-da,” and enjoy when people repeat those sounds back to them.

  • At first they just practice different sounds, enjoying how the sounds feel in their mouth, but in a few months, their sounds will start to have meaning. For example, “m-m-m-m-m” will be used more when asking for mama.

  • When they start saying words, sometimes they just say a part of the word, like the beginning or the end of it, or they might make sounds that sound like the rhythm of the word.

  • Even when children don’t say it right when they first start talking, they keep practicing until their words sound like yours.

  • Infants take turns in conversation with family members. When the other person stops talking, the infant will babble back.

  • Babies are interested in books. They enjoy spending time with you looking at and reading a book. They watch you when you read and follow the pictures with their eyes.

  • Babies pick books up as soon as they can and try to open them, chew on them or turn the pages. They soon begin to smile and point and show preference for certain books.

               Tips to support your child’s language development and interest in reading:

Tell your child what you are going to do.

  • “I’m going to pick you up.”

  • “Here is your shirt. Let’s put it over your head.”

  • “Here is a bite of carrots for you to eat.”

When your child shows interest in something, offer words to describe what they are interested in. Your child is more interested in words that describe their interests.

  • “Did you just hear the dog bark?”

  • “You are touching the cat. He is so soft and furry.”

  • “You are waving to daddy. Are you saying ‘bye-bye’?”

  • “You are reaching for my water. Are you thirsty?”

Talk about what your child is doing. This is like “show and tell.” At the same time your child is experiencing something, they are learning words to talk about it.

  • “You just crawled all the way to the door!”

  • “When you touched that ball, it rolled away.”

  • “You picked up that bean and put it in your mouth.”

Talk about what you are doing. This is like “show and tell.” At the same time your child is seeing something, they are learning words to talk about it.

  • “I’m looking for my shoes.”

  • “I’m getting your peas and bib ready so you can eat.”

  • “I’m checking to see if you need a diaper change.”

Use many descriptive words. This is a way that your child builds vocabulary.

  • “Your favorite blanket is green and blue and fuzzy all over.”

  • “Here are your pinto beans. I mashed them so they would be soft for you.”

Talk about the near future. This gives children a chance to make a mental picture about what is going to happen before it happens.

  • “Soon it will be time for your bottle.”

  • “I’m getting the water ready so you can have a bath.”

  • “After we finish changing your diaper, we can read a book.”

Talk about the recent past. This offers children a chance to develop a mental picture—a memory of what has happened.

  • “We were singing and clapping in the car today.”

  • “You ate so many pears for lunch today.”

  • “We said good-bye to mama. She went to work.”

Provide your baby with books.

  • Having books within your baby’s reach lets them choose to look at them whenever they are interested.

  • Using small board books with young babies allows them to participate in turning the pages more easily.

Read books to your baby. This is your baby’s first experience “reading” and the beginning step to him understanding that books hold stories, words, and information for him.

  • Even before your baby can sit up, you can lie down next to him and hold the book up so you can both see it.

  • Read slowly so that your baby will have a chance to listen to your words and examine the pictures.

  • This early experience with books can start a lifetime love of reading for our children.

You can make simple books for your baby using photos of people and things she loves. These books help her see that books can represent things that she knows about.

  • You can glue photos on paper, write words for your story, and staple, tie or tape the pages together.

  • Stories don’t have to be long. They can just be a few pages. “Julia likes to eat. She eats with her fingers and with the spoon. She likes to eat rice, bananas and chicken.”

Talk about pictures and books with your child. Learning that pictures represent things is the first step to learning that letters can also represent things.

  • “I see stars in the sky. Do you see the stars?”

  • “I see lots of fish. What do you see?” (When your child points, you can name what they noticed.)

  • “Here is a photo of your abuelita and your tia.”

Interactive Positive Parenting

Following are some things you, as a parent, can do to help your baby during this time:
  • Talk to your baby. She will find your voice calming.

  • Answer when your baby makes sounds by repeating the sounds and adding words. This will help him learn to use language.

  • Read to your baby. This will help her develop and understand language and sounds.

  • Sing to your baby and play music. This will help your baby develop a love for music and will help his brain development.

  • Praise your baby and give her lots of loving attention.

  • Spend time cuddling and holding your baby. This will help him feel cared for and secure.

  • Play with your baby when she’s alert and relaxed. Watch your baby closely for signs of being tired or fussy so that she can take a break from playing.

  • Distract your baby with toys and move him to safe areas when he starts moving and touching things that he shouldn’t touch.

  • Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Parenting can be hard work! It is easier to enjoy your new baby and be a positive, loving parent when you are feeling good yourself.






Child Safety First

When a baby becomes part of your family, it is time to make sure that your home is a safe place. Look around your home for things that could be dangerous to your baby. As a parent, it is your job to ensure that you create a safe home for your baby. It also is important that you take the necessary steps to make sure that you are mentally and emotionally ready for your new baby. Here are a few tips to keep your baby safe:

  • Do not shake your baby―ever! Babies have very weak neck muscles that are not yet able to support their heads. If you shake your baby, you can damage his brain or even cause his death.

  • Protect your baby and family from secondhand smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke in your home.

  • Prevent your baby from choking by cutting her food into small bites. Also, don’t let her play with small toys and other things that might be easy for her to swallow.

  • Don’t allow your baby to play with anything that might cover her face.

  • Never carry hot liquids or foods near your baby or while holding him.

  • Vaccines (shots) are important to protect your child’s health and safety. Because children can get serious diseases, it is important that your child get the right shots at the right time. Talk with your child’s doctor to make sure that your child is up-to-date on her vaccinations.


Healthy Bodies

  • Breast milk meets all your baby’s needs for about the first 6 months of life. Between 6 and 12 months of age, your baby will learn about new tastes and textures with healthy solid food, but breast milk should still be an important source of nutrition.

  • Feed your baby slowly and patiently, encourage your baby to try new tastes but without force, and watch closely to see if he’s still hungry.

  • Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby, but it can be challenging. If you need help, you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800-994-9662 or get help on-line at: 


       Consul­tant in your community.

  • Keep your baby active. She might not be able to run and play like the “big kids” just yet, but there’s lots she can do to keep her little arms and legs moving throughout the day. Getting down on the floor to move helps your baby become strong, learn, and explore.

  • Try not to keep your baby in swings, strollers, bouncer seats, and exercise saucers for too long.

  • Limit screen time to a minimum. For children younger than 2 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that it’s best if babies do not watch any screen media.

  • Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: For infants 4-12 months, 12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)  Newborn babies will sleep about 16 hours a day at first although each baby requires a different amount of sleep. Parents/caregivers will soon learn what is “normal” for a particular child. Babies don’t know the difference between night and day and will sometimes get them mixed up, sleeping more during the day and less at night. Babies in the first year still sleep a lot. They need at least two naps a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each lasting from one to three hours. 

       Toddlers between ages two and three may sleep 9 to 13 hours a day. Many toddlers will take one long nap around         lunchtime. Or, they may take two shorter naps.



Content Source: 

The CDC are partners that support children & family wellness. Their researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses, economists, communicators, educators, technologists, epidemiologists and many other professionals all contribute their expertise to improving public health and is a major component of the Department of Health and Human Services and is recognized as the nation’s premiere health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency.

The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) strives to advance the health and well-being of our nation’s population, including our most vulnerable populations. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Take your completed Child Development Tracker form, created by age, with you and talk with your child’s doctor at every well-child visit about the milestones your child has reached. 
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