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Early Years – What can I do to support my child?


Being a parent can be a worrying time and it’s ok to have concerns. We have put together some information about what you can do at home to support your child with some areas of their development.

General information

The NHS has developed a Birth to Five Development Timeline and Foundation Years has produced a ‘What to Expect, When’ guide which both offer more information about expected child development. Please be aware, however, that every child develops differently.

Sleeping

Online resources:

You can try…

Doing the same relaxing things in the same order and at the same time each night helps promote good sleep:

  • A warm (not hot) bath will help your child relax and get ready for sleep.
  • Keeping lights dim encourages your child’s body to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin.
  • Once they’re in bed, encourage your child to read quietly or listen to some relaxing music, or read a story together.
  • You could also suggest your child tries this relaxing breathing exercise before bed.

Who to talk to?

If you’ve tried these tips but your child keeps having problems getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, you may feel you want more support. You can speak to your GP or health visitor to begin with. They may refer you to a child psychologist or another expert.

Toileting

Children are able to control their bladder and bowels when they’re physically ready and when they want to be dry and clean. Every child is different, so don’t compare your child with others.

Online resources:

You can try…

  • Change your child in the toilet so that they get used to the toilet room as a place where wee and poo happens.
  • Put stickers or favourite toys in the toilet room so your child feels happy to be in there.
  • Accept that this will take a long time and praise every positive step towards the goal of independent toileting.
  • Create a routine and stick to it.

Who to talk to…

If you’ve tried these tips but your child keeps having problems toileting, you may feel you want more support. You can speak to your GP or health visitor to begin with. They may refer you to a child psychologist or another expert.

Talking

Online resources:

You can try…

  • Singing – you don’t have to sing well, but the music and rhythm of your voice can help develop a child’s speech.
  • Games – things like ‘point to the…’ or ‘Simon says’ can help develop children’s listening skills.
  • Repetition – a child may need to hear a word in context hundreds of times to be able to learn and remember it.
  • Face to face interactions – limit TV or screen time and talk to and play with your child.

Who to talk to…

After trying these tips and using the progress checker, if you feel your child has problems with their speech and language and you want more support, you can speak to your GP or health visitor. They may refer you to a speech and language therapist or another expert.

Walking

Every child develops differently and walking may come later to your child. When babies start to walk they can be unsteady on their feet but can move very quickly. They will also trip and fall often. If your child is not walking by 18 months talk to your health visitor or GP.

Online resources:

  • Babycentre.co.uk has produces a page on Developmental Milestones: Walking. This page gives an overview of what to expect when and ideas to encourage your child to walk.

You can try…

  • Make sure your baby has the freedom to develop their muscles by kicking, wriggling and rolling.
  • Bounce and balance with your baby so they can learn about their body and improve their awareness.
  • Help your baby to try walking by holding their hands or arms and allowing them to try bearing weight on their legs.
  • Keep the floor clear so they have space to try out walking and allow them to use furniture to ‘cruise’ around the room with support.

Who to talk to…

If you’re worried about your child’s walking or movement, talk to your health visitor or GP. Some special educational needs or disabilities, like Down’s Syndrome or Global Development Delay, can mean that milestones come later. Your GP may refer you to a paediatrician for a more detailed assessment,  a physiotherapist where there are problems with your child’s muscles or an occupational therapist where your child needs extra support to learn how to walk.

Interaction

Online resources:

You can try…

  • Use specific praise, like “fantastic sharing” so they know what they have done well.
  • Ensure your child has the opportunity to play with and interact with others.
  • Model play and interaction by doing it yourself, so your child can learn from your behaviour.

Who to talk to…

See your GP or health visitor if you’re concerned about your child’s development. It can also be helpful to discuss your concerns with your child’s nursery or school.

If you still have further worries or concerns:

If you still have concerns about any of these areas, look at the targeted support or specialist support available in Devon.

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