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Child Development – Maggie Redshaw

My baby doesn’t seem to like tummy time but my health visitor told me it is important for his development. My friends’ babies seem to like it – what am I doing wrong and what can I do to make him enjoy it more?

You’re not doing anything wrong; it’s true that some babies just aren’t that fond of lying on their tummy. However, it is important to encourage it. Lying on the tummy with a toy you have placed just within reach will encourage whole body movements and reaching and grasping activities and it will help to develop these physical skills. To pique your little boy’s interest, try using a colourful toy that he has not seen before to attract his attention, as well as ones you know he already loves.

My little girl is nearly 1 but isn’t walking yet. Is this normal and how can I encourage her to try and do it on her own?

As with so many things, children start to walk at varying ages, and this – along with when children start talking – is one of the most common questions I get asked. Children generally start taking their first steps anywhere between 10 and 18 months, though they may be cruising round holding on to the furniture before that. As you can see, the variation between children is significant. Babies normally begin to sit without support from 6 to 8 months and try to crawl from around 6 to 9 months, and both stages lead to those first steps. If you are concerned about your little one’s progress talk to your doctor or health visitor.

My daughter is 3 months old and does not seem very alert or responsive to my voice. My son is now 4 but when he was her age he was much more responsive, should I be worried?

Babies are individuals and I always encourage parents not to compare their children to others. I would expect her to be able to recognise sounds including your voice, but it may be that she is easily distracted by what she is looking at, or that her older brother is being quite noisy. Having a quiet time to talk to her face to face and letting her take her turn in the ‘conversation’ may encourage her to respond. If you are concerned about your little one’s hearing or any other aspect of her progress talk to your doctor or health visitor.

My husband works a lot and doesn’t feel that he bonds with the baby as much as I do, what can I do to help him feel involved and connected with our baby?

This is a common question as generally after the birth of a baby, one parent, typically the dad, returns to work before their partner. Having skin to skin contact with your baby early on is great for dads as their contact before birth has been limited. Bonding is something that takes place over time in building the first relationships – it doesn’t happen automatically. Newborns can recognise dad’s voice, having been exposed to it during pregnancy; they quickly learn dad’s smell in their first few days of life and they respond to faces, touch and being talked to. Gentle physical contact and positive social interaction, whether in the bath or on the floor, even with a young baby can be great for both.

When should I start potty training? Friends of ours have a little girl who was fully trained by 18 months but my son is nearly 2 years old and we haven’t started yet, should we get cracking?

Potty training can be done at any age between 18 and 30 months, so there’s no need to rush or to compare your son to others. As children get older they generally want to potty train themselves as they will want to feel clean and dry. By the age of three, it’s estimated that 9 out of 10 children are dry most days, so there’s little need to worry about your son not being dry yet. Think about leaving a potty where he can see it, and talk to him about what it’s for. As soon as you see that your son knows when he’s going to pee, encourage him to use his potty. It may take a while for him to succeed so persevere, and praise him when he does so.

I had always thought toddler tantrums were a myth, but my 2 and a half year old has recently started throwing tantrums when we are out such as at the supermarket. Why has this only just started and how can I deal with this?

Oh the terrible twos! When children get to this age they have developed and grown in so many ways, but still cannot do so many things or express themselves well. Tantrums are usually a result of frustration. The best thing to do in such a situation is to ensure that your child is safe, and then let them calm down on their own. Tantrums usually stop by the age of four, but in the meantime try and understand why the tantrum is happening. It you think this about to occur, find something to distract and divert your child’s attention. Finding something positive that they can do or help with often works.

My daughter has been potty trained for the past year or so, and is fine most of the time apart from at night. Does it normally take a lot longer for them to be dry through the night than in the day?

Even when children are potty trained during the day, it can sometimes take a lot longer for them to gain the control in order to be dry through the night. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 5 six year olds still wet the bed. Try limiting the amount of liquids your daughter drinks in the evening and make sure she goes to the toilet just before she goes to sleep. The most important thing is to continue to encourage your daughter.

I’ve always been very tidy and take pride in having a clean and organised house. I get very stressed when my twin boys play and make a mess but my husband tells me it’s good for them to do this sometimes. Am I right that they don’t have to make a mess to have fun?

It’s important for children’s development to be able to play with each other and on their own. And, while cleaning up isn’t much fun, don’t be tempted to discourage your little one from making a mess. Play helps to develop children’s social and physical skills, as well as stimulating problem solving, so is very important for them as they grow and learn. Why not try having a certain area where the kids are free to play however they want to (within reason!) and encourage them to be messy with paints or other toys on a plastic sheet or outside in the garden, limiting mess but still giving them the opportunity to experiment.

Why do babies love to drop things on the floor over and over again?

Children first learn about gravity usually when sitting at a highchair or table and dropping their toys, accidentally at first, but then intentionally as they experiment. Then they may watch your face to see how you react. Although it may seem silly and even frustrating at times to you it is important to pick their toys up and join in the game, helping them to continue experimenting and learning.

I’m really worried about my child starting nursery as she is very quiet and I don’t think she will mix with the other children very easily. Is there anything I can do to prepare her for this big change?

Firstly, remember you’re not alone: plenty of parents worry about their little ones starting this next stage of their young lives. Nursery is a great opportunity for children to develop outside of the family home, while surrounded by children their own age. Most nurseries are happy to have a gradual arrangement when children first start. If your daughter hasn’t had much contact with other children before starting it might be an idea to go to a parent and toddler group, so she can get used to playing with others while you are still there to reassure her.

My daughter is just over 18 months and only has a few words and only says one word at a time. Is there anything we should be doing to encourage her to speak more?

Try not to worry. As I always say to worried parents there is no definite age for children to start doing anything, all we have are average ages. By 18 months children can generally start to form two word combinations such as ‘Mummy look’ or ‘Daddy gone’. However, while your daughter may not be producing word combinations yet, I am sure she understands a great deal of what you are saying to her. To help encourage your daughter’s speech to develop, make sure you are chatting to her as much as possible, playing games and reading simple story books with her joining in and turning the pages. All of this will help her understanding and her talking.