Playing means growing up, in every aspect.

Playing means growing up, in every aspect.
Playing means growing up, in every aspect.
A guide to the psychological, sensory and motor development of children.
Prouduced by the Osservatorio Chicco
For children playing is a serious matter. Practically from birth children use
play to explore their environment, to express themselves, to communicate,
to exercise body and mind.
In over 50 years of activity, Chicco has always been very attentive to the
needs of children, and has learnt exactly what they need in every phase
of their growth.
In this guide the Osservatorio Chicco deals with the complex theme of
the role of play in the psychological, sensory and motor development of
children and offers the parents information and practical advice, how to
foster their children’s development, help them become independent and
satisfy their curiosity for the outside world, serenely and joyfully.
The role of the Paediatrician in the
psychophysical development of children.
By Dr. Giuseppe Mele, National Chairman of the Italian
Association of Paediatricians.
The Experts’ opinions
• The Psychologist’s point of view:
From birth to 3 months
Seeing, hearing,
The meaning of play from the point of view
of children.
By Dr. Emanuela Iacchia
• The Paediatrician’s point of view:
All the steps in a child’s development.
By Dr. Maria Rosaria Filograna
From 4 to 8 months
From 9 to 12 months
Cuddling, holding,
Grabbing and letting
go, squeezing and
From 12 to 18 months
From 24 months
speaking, moving.
Imitating, creating,
Dr. Maria Rosaria Filograna
Family Paediatrician
Dr. Emanuela Iacchia /Psychologist Psychotherapist
Professor at the Università degli Studi Milano – Bicocca
Teaching Member of the Italian Society of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
And all the mums and dads who have given their precious contribution to the realisation ofthis guide, sharing with
us their enthusiasm, worries, suggestions and the wonderful emotion of being parents.
Dr. Giuseppe Mele
National Chairman of the Italian Association of Paediatricians
or a child everything is a “game”: becoming aware of oneself, of the world, of reality. For a
child this “magic” word means all its world, from the first sensory and motor experiences, to the
discovery of one’s identity and of the world. In other words, playing means… growing up.
Hence my interest, as a paediatrician and as National Chairman of the Italian Association of
Paediatricians, to participate, in cooperation with Chicco, in the realisation of a “Guide to Play”,
a book that will lead parents and adults in general to the discovery of the different steps in
a child’s development during the first two years of life. This short period of time is of critical
importance, because it is in this time that a child’s sensory-motor development is completed.
The Author of this guide, with the collaboration of a well-known psychologist of child development
age, is an experienced family paediatrician. The choice has fallen on this professional figure for a
precise reason.
A paediatrician is a baby’s tutor from birth. Her mission requires, among other things, that she
takes care of a child’s psycho-physical integrity and wellbeing. For this reason, she becomes the
parents’ reference person when it comes to the child’s wellbeing. It is the Paediatrician whom
parents consult to know what is best for their baby and how to behave to help it become an
emotionally stable, self-assured human being.
The aim of this guide, subdivided by age groups from 0 to 2 years, is to help parents understand
the function, quality and importance of play and how the choice of suitable toys can be useful
for baby’s correct sensory-motor development.
Each game or toy has a peculiar feature that specifically addresses a child’s desire to be amused,
while, at the same time, fostering its mental and physical development. From the very first
moments of life a child requires great attention; you, as parents, and we, as paediatricians,
should be aware of baby’s needs, so that its dream world… comes true.
Dr. Giuseppe Mele
National Chairman FIMP
Italian Association of Paediatrician
The Psychologist’s point of view:
The meaning of play from the point of view of children.
odern psychology and pedagogy have questioned the idea of play purely as a pastime
to which children devote their time, because they cannot engage in more “serious activities”.
On the contrary, they have shown that play is “child’s work”, a way to get to know oneself and
the world. A child engages in play with all its energy and resources, and play leaves a lasting mark
on its personality; through play a child acquires many new skills and consolidates those it has
already acquired.
In fact, the main characteristic of play is that it is pleasurable, i.e. it provides instant gratification,
which makes it attractive to children.
With its characteristics of freedom, coexisting opposites, incoherence, and pleasure, play is a
concentrate of the most secret emotional contents of the infantile soul; it symbolically fulfils
a child’s wishes, expresses its inclinations, and contradictions, and for this reason deserves our
It is not easy to offer a single definition and interpretation of play, because the expressions of
play vary with every step in a child’s development.
For example, in the first months movement and sensory perceptions represent in themselves
a form of play. At first it is the mother who is the object of baby’s discoveries and amusement.
Then, as baby grows, it becomes aware of the difference between itself and mother. It is around
this time that a baby starts playing with its own body, moving arms and legs, opening its eyes,
sucking its thumb and bringing every object to its mouth. The fulfilment baby experiences in
these activities, makes it happy and proud of its achievements.
Babies of this age are also attracted by all objects that allow new forms of exploration: toys that
are easy to grab, amusing, colourful and emit sounds, greatly stimulate baby’s development.
From six months of age, the aim of play is to make baby more aware and in control of its own
sensory-motor behavioural patterns, a skill that, later on, will allow baby to imitate adult
activities. Baby’s interest in the surrounding world increases, together with its desire to have
fun, to explore and to learn: toys, that previously were the means through which baby became
The experts’ opinions
The role of the Paediatrician in the
psycho-physical development of children.
acquainted with the world, now become indispensable tools for its development. Grabbing and
letting go, shaking and laying things down, hiding and seeking, are all physical activities that,
with an object to handle, immediately transform themselves into play.
While playing, baby experiences alternate emotions: happiness is followed by disappointment,
which is followed again by happiness. Playing is a way to create obstacles and try to overcome
them. It is a way to learn, while amusing oneself.
A child that plays, is a child that is growing up and feels at ease with itself. If a child
is interested in its surroundings, it plays. Very often a child asks its mother and
father to play with it, and parents should respond eagerly to this request.
Playing with a child and observe it at play is a great
way to get to know it, not only its skills, but also its
deepest emotions. It is also a way for adults to
rediscover the forgotten pleasures of childhood
and the capacity of amusing oneself.
Dr. Emanuela Iacchia
Psychologist Psychotherapist
Professor at the Università degli
Studi Milano – Bicocca
The Paediatrician’s point of view:
all the steps in a child’s development.
e are used to thinking that birth marks the beginning of life.
However, this is only partly true, because our present knowledge of foetal development
and prenatal psychology, confirms the presence of a prenatal psycho-physical and sensory
During the nine months of pregnancy also the mother-child “dialogue” begins, a special, intimate
exchange, full of messages and two-way communication, that becomes extremely important
after birth, when baby fully depends on its mother for the fulfilment of its needs, for its safety
and wellbeing. However, after birth, a child slowly learns also to relate to the outside world, from
which it receives the necessary stimuli for its psychological, sensory and motor development.
A child’s development occurs by successive steps, each characterised by specific requirements:
it is important that the parents become acquainted with these phases to be able to help baby
in its growth. When speaking of child development, one should be aware that it includes both
its physical development, in terms of motor and sensory skills (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and
smelling) and its mental development (development of baby’s psyche and mental skills).
In general, we speak of psycho-sensory-motor development because a child’s capacity
to move and use all its senses, is directly related to the correct functioning, not only of
its body, but also of its mind. Several factors may positively or negatively influence this
development: genetic, biological, hereditary, but also environmental, familiar and social
factors. In particular, speaking of play, offering a child a toy that is unsuitable for its age
and, therefore, for its acquired skills, instead of providing the child with a stimulus for
its growth, becomes a motive of defeat and frustration. In this guide we will tackle the
psycho-sensory-motor development of children by age groups, without forgetting that the
attention and care a child receives from its parents, with glances, smiles and cuddles, helps
it develop harmoniously and more self-confidently.
Dr. Maria Rosaria Filograna
The experts’ opinions
The experts’ opinions
The Psychologist’s point of view:
The meaning of play from the point of view of children
Family paediatrician
eeing, earing, ouching.
The first stimuli that develop baby’s senses.
From birth to 3 months
In the first month of life a newborn baby’s
main activities are sleeping, eating and
crying. But even so early in life, play is
crucial for baby’s harmonious development.
Newborn babies store as information all the
stimuli that originate new sensations. This
information helps baby become aware of
itself and, later on, of its surroundings.
In the first month of life a baby’s motor
activity mainly consists of instinctive
reflexes such as sucking, grasping, and
kicking. At this time also baby’s sensory
development begins. In the first 4 weeks of
life newborn babies see everything in black
and white; they can see objects, though
somewhat blurred, at a distance of 20-30
cm. Besides, they are attracted by moving
objects and shapes with contrasting colours.
Newborn babies can hear and pay special
attention to all new noises, even turning
towards their source, although their hearing
and sight coordination is still poor, and will
develop completely later on. Slow moving
cot mobiles with the accompaniment of
rhythmic, melodious sounds stimulate
the development of visual and auditory
skills and improve the development of
the coordination between these two
The first means newborn babies use to
communicate is crying, at this stage crying
is the way in which babies express all their
basic needs (thirst, hunger, tiredness, feeling
hot, cold etc.). Age crying should never be
considered as a tantrum, but only as a way
of expression or a request.You will soon
learn to interpret your baby’s crying.
The first emotional month has already passed, and probably the paediatrician has
already checked if the baby has regularly grown in weight and height, and that its head
circumference is within normal.
Besides, he verifies baby’s psychosensory-motor development, emotional and psychophysical development in general, arranging tests to value its reaction to sudden noises and
to tactile stimuli.
Try yourself, play with baby…
Taste, smell and touch are already present
at birth, though not completely developed.
Newborn babies may react with aversion
to strong smells and rough surfaces, whilst
finding the contact with soft garments or
bedding particularly soothing and conducive
to sleep, because they remind it of the
“protective” environment of the womb.
• If you lightly touch baby’s cheek, it will immediately turn its head trying to suck.
• Offer baby an object or your finger, it will grasp and hold it tightly in its hand (grasping reflex).
• Put a toy next to its nose and it will shut its eyes.
• Offer baby a toy that emits a sudden sound, and you will see baby startle.
• Place baby on its belly and it will turn its head sideways. (However, remember never to place
baby on its belly for sleep!!).
From birth to 3 months
From birth to 3 months
Baby exhibits coordinate, rhythmic motor
activity. Its most visible and “exciting”
progress is its capacity of lifting its head and
holding it high. Make this experiment: place
baby on its belly on the floor and show it
a colourful toy, it will try to lift its head to
look at it, thus exercising the neck and back
muscles. At this age the next steps in baby’s
sensory development are represented by
its capacity to distinguish bright colours
and to follow with its eyes everything that
enters its field of vision. Baby becomes
more and more interested in new sounds
and understands the difference between the
sound of voices and other sounds. It greatly
prefers voices, especially those of family
At this stage baby is always looking for
new stimuli, both visual and auditory. Cot
mobiles, music boxes, and cot activity
centres are ideal toys to help it perfect eye
and head movement and to improve sight
and hearing coordination.
On the communication front, we see
the budding of “social relations” between
parents and child, which becomes more and
more adroit at communicating with glances.
This first attempt at communication is
usually followed by the emission of sounds
(usually one or two vowels) that represent
baby’s first step towards the development of
Baby’s movements become more and more
coordinated and controlled.
The grasping reflex is gradually replaced by
baby’s voluntary capacity to grasp what is in
front of it, in order to move it aside or take
it to its mouth. Stimulate your baby’s new
skills, offering it light, easy-to-grasp objects,
such as soft rattles. Baby’s achievements
continue also in the field of sensory
development: now it can follow with its
eyes also objects that are several metres
away and has now established a clear
relationship between sight and hearing.
Now that baby can coordinate sight and
hearing, it is important to change often
the position of its preferred toys in the cot.
Communication is in full bloom, too. Baby
returns your smiles, stays awake longer and
starts emitting the typical baby sounds (i.e.
a repetition of syllables, or lalling).
Baby finds this new “activity” fascinating and
will spend a long time listening to itself and
will be even happier if your try to imitate its
sounds, while looking it in the eyes.
At the third month.
At the end of third month, the paediatrician checks baby’s weight (in this period it puts on a lot
of weight), its height and head circumference. From the motor point of view, the paediatrician
carefully evaluates baby’s control over some of its muscles (for example the neck muscles), that
allow baby to interact with its surroundings. This is also the right time to establish whether
baby’s hearing and sight are developing correctly and if its communication skills are within
normal. Besides he will check with you whether baby has regular sleeping and waking cycles.
Try yourself, play with baby…
• Lay down on your back and place baby on your stomach, lying on its belly: baby will lift its head to meet
your eyes (neck and back muscle tone and coordination).
• Offer baby light objects: now your baby can hold and shake them. Its grasping reflex is no
longer strong. Baby is now developing its capacity to “voluntarily relax”, as well as its eyehand coordination.
• Stimulate baby in its vocalising, looking into its eyes, while repeating the sounds it makes. This
exercise fosters the lalling process that is the first important step towards speaking.
• Let baby hear a continuous sound, moving its source from one side to the other: baby should
turn its head first in one direction and then in the other, following the sound. In this way you can verify
whether baby hears properly from both ears.
From birth to 3 months
Did you know that…
... if you have been listening repeatedly to a certain music during pregnancy, whenever
baby hears the same music, he recognises it and feels comforted?
Sleep is essential for babies in order to
recover from the exertions of the day and
because it fosters their neuropsychological
development. For these reasons baby’s
sleep should never be interrupted, even if
it is meal time.
If baby cries, stay with it, soothe it with
caresses and endearments, but leave it in
its cot.
Around this age a baby may begin to
feel “separation anxiety”. In this case it
may be useful to give it a suitable toy or
a soft object (transitional object) that
may soothe it and help it overcome its
separation anxiety Always make sure that
Sleep time.
the puppets and toys you leave in baby’s
cot are conforming to the safety standards
in force.
Cuddles do not spoil babies, they offer the
affective reassurance they absolutely need.
The more loved a baby feels, the sooner it
feels safe and the more peaceful is its sleep.
A bedtime story is an excellent habit:
story telling is good both for the baby
and for the parents, because it improves
communication, contact and the building of
a loving relationship. If the stories are
carefully chosen, baby will soon identify with
them, finding in the stories useful stimuli for
its own life.
... the room where baby sleeps needs not be particularly silent? During pregnancy baby
was used to the softened sounds from outside, to the inner grumbling in your tummy and
to your heart beat.
... sometimes putting in baby’s cot some garment belonging to you has the power to comfort
and pacify, because it retains your smell, which baby can recognise?
... your newborn can recognise your voice, for having heard it during pregnancy,
distinguishing it from other voices? After yours, daddy’s voice and the voices of its
siblings are those baby likes best.
… your baby appreciates sweet tastes because they remind it of the taste of the amniotic
f luid and of your milk?
… baby likes company and is happy to “participate” in all family activities?
From birth to 3 months
From birth to 3 months
he psychologist
... repetitive and rhythmic sounds, simulating the heart beat that baby has heard
throughout pregnancy, have a soothing and sleep-inducing effect?
olding, aressing.
From 4 to 8 months
Baby now looks exactly the way mommy
and daddy have always imagined it before its
birth: it is beautiful, chubby, with a smooth
skin, while those mysterious red spots that
were a consequence of delivery, now appear
much more seldom. At this age babies begin
to use their legs, moving them back and forth,
to change position; they use their hands to
grab and “hit” objects: in a word, they begin
to develop and hone their motor skills. A
brightly coloured activity mat with visual and
sound-making accessories is a comfortable
environment on which baby can roll safely and
test its newly acquired skills. Offer your baby
only toys that are suitable for its skills, that are
lightweight and easy to grasp. Do not worry, if
it tries to “bang” them with its hands or against
a surface: baby is only testing and honing its
newly acquired motor skills.
Now baby’s attention span is longer: it can
focus on an object and inspect it over and over
with its mouth. Rattles and puppets of different
shapes and materials are specially indicated,
because they help baby develop its tactile and
sensory skills. Baby is becoming very sociable
and, in order to communicate, imitates you
and everyone around. When baby is sitting in
its high-chair, it may start throwing all its toys
to the ground, not in anger, or to provoke you,
but to interact and play with you. Baby smiles
to signal that it recognises and appreciates the
presence of persons or objects that make it
happy and cries if it sees people or things that
it finds annoying. However, this is not a good
reason to keep it isolated. Sooner or later it has
to get used also to the “unknown”, to bearded
or moustachioed men, to people wearing hats,
glasses etc..
Baby now recognises its parents and uses
different sounds to signal different things: it
has a special way of crying, when it is hungry, it
laughs in merriment and shouts, when it wants
to play. It can also tell mommy from daddy.
At this age the male figure usually represents
a bridge to the outer world. For this reason it
is very important that fathers play with their
children even at this early stage. They need
not do anything particular, it is enough that
they stay with their baby, communicating
with small sounds, that baby will readily try
to imitate. In this period your story telling
or singing, in high or low tones, loud or
whispering, as well as talking toys, help baby
develop its communication skills. Besides, you
will be amused by baby’s continuous banter
with which it tries to imitate the sounds it has
just heard.
Now baby can perfectly coordinate the
movements of its hands with its eyesight,
which means that it can touch, what it is
looking at. But of course it cannot distinguish
between what it can touch and what is
dangerous: no use to reprimand it, baby simply
does not understand what you are talking
about and only feels “frustrated” because
you prevent it from exploring and using its
newly conquered motor skills. Just rearrange
your home to suit a five months old baby,
remembering that your baby can now move
forward and backward, propelling itself not
only with legs and feet, but also with its hands
and arms.
Also its five senses have become much
sharper: now baby can see both near (at 20-30
cm distance) and far objects. It also observes
with curiosity its own reflection in a mirror. It
has found out that there are many different
sounds and that it can emit different sounds
itself. It is recommended to stimulate baby in
this period, in which it is particularly perceptive,
with toys that emit sounds or music, preferably
lively music of a rhythmic kind.
Once again baby’s hands become an important
communication tool which it uses to explore
other people’s faces, hair and hands. Now
the time you spend together with your baby
should be more than ever an opportunity to
“converse”: which does not mean that you
have to sit down and speak for a long time,
it is enough that you speak to baby now and
again while cooking or going about your house
chores. Even a simple “hi”, followed by baby’s
name is enough.
From 4 to 8 months
A world of emotions to foster baby’s affective development.
At six months a baby usually can move about
crawling or employing some other personal
technique to explore its environment. At this
age babies sometimes may look very funny,
going backward, when they mean in fact
to move forward; however, in no time they
learn to coordinate their movements. Baby
now can grasp things with both hands and
has learnt to rotate its wrists and coordinate
the movement of the thumb with the other
fingers, thus succeeding in holding even
small objects. Remember that not all babies
are equally active: some concentrate their
efforts on perfecting their movements, in
order to reach the objects that attract them;
others focus on
speaking; others still devote all their energy
to the observation of their surroundings.
At any rate, all children love to look at
things, to observe their toys upside down, to
change perspective. Let your baby follow its
inclination and do not worry: the times and
ways of learning are strictly personal.
Baby makes progresses also at a sensory
level: now it can observe and keep its
attention focused on all movements that
attract its interest; when mother goes to
another room, disappearing from its field
of vision, it keeps staring in the direction
she has taken, because it knows that she
will reappear: baby is developing its visual
memory. If you partially hide its preferred
toys (rattles, building blocks, balls etc.),
it enjoys itself, making them reappear
It starts communicating also with simple
gestures: it opens its arms to welcome you,
closes and spreads its fingers to say “ciao”. It
is very active and does not like to stay still,
because testing its new skills makes it happy.
Now baby can pronounce many different
sounds and particularly likes repeating
syllables as in “ma-ma-ma and da-da-da”:
the lallation phase has begun. Encourage
your baby to repeat these sounds, repeating
them yourself: this “support” mechanism
will gradually lead to speaking. Also talking
toys may help baby become familiar with
the sound of the simplest words.
In addition to the usual parameters of physical development (weight, height, head
circumference), the doctor pays special attention to baby’s motor skills: can it sit, if
supported? Can it sit unsupported, if slightly bent forward? Can it roll over? Does it grab
things and examine them attentively, also with its mouth? Can it pass things from one
hand to the other? At this age children should start learning what is called “the sensory
and motor knowledge of objects”. When babies are six months old, also weaning begins:
follow your doctor’s instructions on how to pass from a milk-only to a more varied diet,
and in what sequence the new solid foods should be introduced into baby’s diet.a
Try yourself, play with baby…
• Shake a “rattle” in front of baby’s
face and baby will smile at you: it is learning that its parents
are not an appendix of itself, but different persons with whom it can interact and whom it
can love.
• Place a few toys within baby’s reach: it will grab them and turn its wrist in order to observe
them, then it will pass them from one hand to the other and will also “explore” them with
its mouth.
• Use toys and objects with reflecting surfaces: your baby now can recognise its own image and
the images of its toys.
• Place baby on a colourful mat with many tactile and auditory accessories: it will start rolling
about to explore the whole surface of the mat.
• Funny, smiling faces, easy to “hit” with the hands, further develop baby’s capacity to control
its movements, that become less and less random.
• Show baby talking or musical toys: it will soon recognise them as part of its world and will
start talking to them in its funny way.
FroM 4 to 8 months
From 4 to 8 months
From 4 to 8 months
Now baby can grab and hold even small
objects. Its eye muscles have become more
efficient and have a better perception of depth,
allowing better hand-eye coordination. Try
giving baby some moving toys: little balls, toy
cars and rolling objects awaken its interest.
Baby is very happy whenever it can intercept
and stop them, or make them deviate from
their route, a big incentive to go on playing.
Baby’s visual field has widened and baby
can now embrace in a glance a larger
environment and many different objects. It is
busy observing one object after the other and
is interested in knowing everything.
It hears, recognises and is attracted by new
sounds, like that of crumpled paper and,
in particular, it perceives the presence of
a familiar musical toy, even if it is partially
covered. However, it does not know yet that
objects continue to exist, when they are not
visible, or when they are one inside the other,
or one on top of the other. It is also time for
baby’s first teeth: teething is a natural thing,
and in some children it arrives unobserved,
whereas in others it is marked by pain and
irritation. Some children become more
susceptible, nervous and loose their appetite.
Baby realises that its mouth feels different
and tries to soothe its pain, by biting on
something. Give it something to bite. The
most suitable toys are rattles with soft and
hard parts.
Now baby is ready to connect to other
children, also older ones, whom it observes
with great interest. With children of the same
age, it tries to communicate by imitating
them. At this age its capacity to remember
images and sounds improves greatly. This
means that the image of the people it loves is
impressed so strongly in its memory, that it
can accept the idea of becoming separated
from them for a few minutes. A toy that
disappears and then reappears, an image that
is there for a moment and then disappears,
are all tricks to let it experience brief periods
of separation. A game of “peek-a-boo” is an
ideal way of amusing babies of this age and
are appreciated in all their versions: with
mommy or daddy covering his or her face
and then uncover it while exclaiming “peekaboo, I see you” , or with people hiding behind
a door or behind curtains.
Baby discovers that it can handle more
than one thing at a time with both hands.
However, it has not decided yet, whether it
prefers to use the right or the left hand.
Baby is now aware of the movements of its
body and can remain seated without using
its hands for balance. It may start getting on
its feet by grabbing the bars of its cot, but will
almost always cry until someone helps it sit
or lay down again. It is interested in all kinds
of changes and its face lights up when it sees
that, by pressing a button, a light is switched
on, or a word or song is heard. It learns to
drop an object into a container (little balls
into a jar, keys in a box etc.) and finds it very
amusing, provided it makes some kind of
noise. It can hold puppets and plush animals
and, if you show it, it will learn how to make
them “dance”. Baby now understands the
meaning of “inside and outside” and “above
and below”.
It starts seeing and perceiving the spatial
orientation of things and understands that
an object may be just laid on top of another,
even though they seem to be a single thing.
It begins to understand that an object
may be subdivided into several parts and
that things may have a “front and a back”.
Its comprehension of reality has greatly
improved, as has the use of its senses. For
example, it tries to see where an object it
has dropped from its highchair has fallen.
Just a month ago, it would have left
it on the ground without bothering to look.
Give baby objects with different “spatial
dimensions”: flat objects; round objects
without corners; building blocks; items that
can be disassembled in several parts, or
that contain other things. Baby will spend
a lot of time exploring them and trying to
understand the differences.
Baby now recognises its name and turns
if called, even if it is playing, to see who is
calling its name.
It begins to use different gestures to
communicate: for example pointing a
finger at something in the room, which it
finds interesting. Now you can start calling
its toys by their names:
rattle, ball, top, building
block. In so doing you
further enrich with
sounds its vocabulary
that, in this phase, is
developing rapidly.
From 4 to 8 months
Did you know that…
… at three months of age baby is ready to leave its protective cradle
for a roomier cot?
From 4 to 8 months
Towards the end of the first year of life,
babies tend to single out a special object of
love. It may be a teddy bear, a doll, a piece of
cloth, or something belonging to its parents.
It is a thing from which it seldom tolerates
to be separated, and to which it clings at
crucial moments of the day, for example
when it is upset, or at bed time or whenever
it is separated from its parents.
Most mothers know these rituals and
sometimes worry, because they think
that such a strong attachment should
be discouraged. Actually there is nothing
strange in this behaviour, which is very
Infantile psychology studies have shown
that this attachment to an object is very
important for a child’s psychic and relational
development. This “friendly object”,
which, in the specialists’ jargon, is called
“Linus’s security bl
anket”, a beloved pl
animal, baby’s bestfriend…
a “transitional object”, represents the link
between baby’s inner world and the outside
world with which it must become familiar
and which it must face.
When baby must leave its parents, to make
up for their absence and overcome the
separation anxiety, baby turns to an object
that becomes its parents’ substitute. Baby
keeps it next to its face, talks to it, cuddles
it as if it were a living thing, but sometimes
soils or mistreats it. In any case, nobody is
allowed to take it away from it and it becomes
anxious if it misplaces it, or if someone tries
to take it. The child will know when the time
has come to abandon its friendly object.
Studies have shown that children who have
had a transitional object are more capable of
establishing relationships with things
and persons without indulging in morbid
forms of attachment.
… at four months the colour of hair and eyes becomes more def inite, making
it easier to decide, whether baby looks more like mommy or daddy.
... at about f ive months of age baby has almost doubled its weight at birth
and from now on its rate of growth becomes slower.
… at f ive months baby starts crawling on its belly. Due to some initial and natural
coordination problems it moves forward, and sometimes,
contrary to its intention, backward.
… it is important to start talking to baby from early on, in order to present it with a
rich and varied world of sounds every day, several times a day.
… after the sixth month of age, even babies which have always slept regular hours,
may want to continue their explorations also at night, keeping the whole family awake.
… when baby is about eight months old, it can already enjoy leaf ing through
illustrated books or magazines with you, listening to your stories.
From 4 to 8 months
he psychologist
etting go, queezing and
From 9 to 12 months
The way towards full motor development.
Between the ninth and the twelfth month,
more than in any other period of life, every
child develops at its own pace. For this reason
it is difficult to say at which age – between
nine and twelve months - a given stage
of development is or should be reached.
Remember this circumstance and do not
worry if your child starts crawling later than
other children, or if it does not crawl at all,
but skips this phase to pass immediately
to the upright posture; if it makes itself
understood before or after children its age;
or if it does not perfectly conform to the
development stages hereinafter described:
your child is unique.
Baby’s motor skills are evolving rapidly, its
ability to crawl is now very good and it can
overcome obstacles or move on different
surfaces. Its muscles are becoming stronger
and its coordination skills better; however,
its daytime motor activities may interfere
with its sleep: this means that your baby
may wake up and immediately try to crawl
or stand up. Since it can now roam from one
room to another, you should leave in every
room many objects suitable for its age,
that can engage both its mind and body:
some should be light and others somewhat
heavier, some should be easy to carry, others
more difficult to move.
Many different stimuli will foster baby’s
balanced development. At this age usually
children develop a strong attachment to one
beloved object (such as the famous “Linus’s
security blanket”) that baby never leaves.
Baby may also suddenly fear objects it has
always seen, but on which it feels it has no
control. For example it might be afraid of
the vacuum cleaner, when it is switched on,
even though it had previously never shown
any reaction to it. If your baby behaves like
this, try to reassure it, for example holding
it in your arms, while you are using the
vacuum cleaner, showing that it is you who
control the appliance and not vice versa. As
regards its auditory skills, now baby not only
recognises certain sounds, but can tell one
from the other and also associate them to
particular events of the day. For example,
it knows that the sound of daddy’s electric
shaver, means that daddy has got up, the
banging of the main door may mean that an
older sibling has come back from school, etc..
It recognises the different characteristics of
objects. Its way of exploring them now suits
their different characteristics, thus
it examines, shakes or brings them to its
mouth, but not indiscriminately; it knows
that the rattle must be shaken, the cup can
be brought to the mouth and so on.
At this age the best toys are those which are
multifunctional and offer many different
activities, manual, musical or otherwise,
such as musical tables or animal-shaped
toys that, according to what button is
pressed, play a music, light up or even walk.
Baby can now communicate much better,
because it immediately understands the
meaning of simple sentences or questions,
such as: where’s daddy? Which toy do you
like best? Can you pass me the spoon,
please? Obviously it will answer mainly with
signs. Another thing baby has learnt by now
is that communication exists even if the
people it is communicating with, disappear
or hide for a short time.
For this reason it is enthusiastic about toy
phones and in general about all toys that
imitate the world of adults, because they
can be used to communicate with adults
and to imitate them.
It loves playing at hide and seek, being
sought and found. If you hide baby’s hands
under a cloth, it will be immensely amused
to see its hands reappear as if by magic.
From the point of view of motor skills baby
may be a great crawler or it may already
be moving its first steps. However, children
who learn to walk early, are not necessarily
more intelligent than the others, every child
starts walking when it feels ready.
At this age it is possible to observe a new
coordination between shoulder, arm, wrist
and fingers.
In order to exercise this newly acquired skill,
it may be useful to offer baby toys that can
be lifted, opened or fitted one into the other
(for example stackable boxes and building
From t 9 to 12 months
rabbing, and
of different shapes to be fitted into their
corresponding holes.
Extroverted and friendly: these are the main
qualities that help babies of this age to
Baby knows the different parts of its own and
of other people’s bodies and it can indicate
them by pointing its finger at them. It can do
the same on its doll or teddy.
From 9 to 12 months
they seem to be smaller, actually retain
their size. It can spot with precision the
source of a sound and begins to understand
the different hues of expression of a voice
(happy, nervous, calm etc.). If until now he
would empty or upturn containers in order
to reach their contents, now it can lift a lid
to get what it wants. Useful toys that foster
this ability are all those that feature objects
Baby now distinguishes the materials it likes
to touch and those which it finds annoying
(for example it does not want to take
off its shoes and walk barefoot on sand).
Its sensitivity for tactile experiences
is growing. Remove its shoes as often
as possible, to make it feel the different
sensations produced by walking barefoot on
different surfaces: a soft rug, a rough floor, a
cold floor etc..
Reading picture books is probably its
preferred communication activity. It
communicates a lot through imitation. It
begins to understand the meaning of “no”. It
gradually looses its fear of being separated
from its mother and now understands the
meaning of friendship (for example it may
welcome people it likes, by offering them
one of its toys).
Interactive books may be useful: these are
picture books that also feature voices and
sounds, or different materials to touch
(cotton, plush etc.).
Let it help you with your “house chores”
such as dusting, tidying up a drawer, or with
your outdoor activities, such as shopping. A
good parent-child relationship is also based
on these things. Washing a cup together,
or sweeping the floor or dusting a bedside
table, are all occasions for speaking
to your child, to enrich its vocabulary and
to make it feel useful. All games featuring
a brief separation help baby overcome
its separation anxiety, especially from its
Whatever its mode of locomotion, either
walking or crawling, your child has definitely
learnt to move confidently about the
house, climbing up and down all kinds of
obstacles and towing everything it can. Only
in climbing down it appears sometimes to
hesitate, because it has now a perception of
heights and of the risks they pose.
Toys that bounce back and make sounds
when hitting a surface are now its favourites.
Baby also loves chairs or any kind of
structures which it can ride or climb up and
finally use to sit down. It also likes manual
activities and to experiment with sounds:
they all make it feel “grown up”.
It likes to experiment with sounds which it
can create, for example by hitting a pan, a
glass or its own high-chair with a spoon.
Its experiments with sound include also the
From 9 to 12 months
blocks Other useful toys are those that help
and support baby in its first steps.
A further development of its sensory skills
may be observed: baby is learning that the
objects which it sees from afar, although
In playing it communicates by
“challenging” the grown-ups. Take two
cups and, in front of baby, hide a small toy,
for example a toy car, under one of the
two cups. Show baby this trick a few times,
always asking: “Where’s the car?”; in the
end baby will lift itself the cup under which
you have hidden the car.
At the twelveth month.
Your baby’s one year old! In this important moment of its life body weight, height and head
circumference are still basic parameters for the evaluation of baby’s growth. In addition, the
paediatrician investigates baby’s relationship with the outside world and, in particular, with its
parents. At this age, its development in this respect is “explosive”. Baby begins to move its first
steps; can imitate persons and actions; should be able to follow the first simple commands, and
to say words that make sense.
Try yourself, play with baby…
• Sing a song and clap your hands, baby should now be able to imitate your singing in its own way and
clap its hands.
• Call baby by name, at this age it should know the meaning of this sound and turn towards
you in response.
• Give it objects that it can grasp between thumb and index finger (the so-called “pincer grasp”,
a sign of good fine motricity).
• Peek-a-boo, I see you: a game to test whether baby now understands that objects may disappear but
also reappear. Now baby has processed the idea of separation and knows that it can be temporary”.
From 9 to 12 months
From 9 to 12 months
use of its own voice. Also baby’s tactile
and visual experiments have become
more complex and now involve the use of
different tools to group objects together
(like putting together the blocs of a box,
make a necklace, etc.).
Children this age can spend almost half an
hour piling up rings on a stick and taking
them off, or playing with puzzles.
Toys that emit sounds, melodies, lights and
colours when “hit” by baby are still very
useful to foster its skills. It is important to
offer baby toys that can be easily assembled
and disassembled.
At one year of age children usually can say
three or four words that make sense. They
know the names of the various members
of the family: when someone says a name,
baby turns towards the person who has
been called. It can now follow simple
commands, and has already learnt to play
tricks. For example, believe it or not, a one
year old baby may go and fetch a different
object from the one requested, just to
make fun of you. It understands very well
the meaning of “no”, a conquer for baby,
another test for its parents.
he psychologist
Did you know that…
Today’s fathers are different: the old stereotype
of the father nervously pacing outside the
delivery room, enveloped in a cloud of cigarette
smoke is no longer a reality.
The father now is right at the side of the mother
in the delivery room, giving her his support and
thus immediately taking responsibility of and
care for the baby.
However, whereas for women pregnancy is a
waiting and preparation time, during which
motherly feelings spontaneously evolve thanks
to the biological ties between mother and
child, the affection of a father for his child has
a more rational nature and requires more time
to develop. The father and child relationship
develops throughout the years and is fostered
by closeness to the child.
For a man the arrival of a child, from the
moment he learns of the conception, is a time
of processing and transformation. It is a time of
reckoning, of reconsidering one’s expectations,
uncertainties and doubts: envy, a sense of
uselessness and emargination are normal
feelings that disappear as soon as the man takes
on his father role. The baby mirrors itself in its
Father’s role.
mother, who acts literally as its mirror. For a
newborn baby its mother is the world. Gradually
and naturally this world, that initially includes
only the mother, opens up to embrace a wider
reality and it is the father’s role to accompany
his child at the discovery of the world.
The father plays an important role in encouraging
his child to make new experiences. A father is
happy when he can play his role and feels that
he has a lot of things to show and teach his baby.
As time passes and the child grows, the two
parental roles become more precisely defined.
After the first year the father becomes more
and more the child’s reference figure and baby
asks more often the father than the mother to
play, tell a story, or explain something it wants
to know. Although nowadays male and female
roles are almost completely superimposable,
after the second year of age, children perceive
a separation between exclusively “male” and
exclusively “female” activities. In this sense a
child discovers and develops its sexuality on the
role models provided by its parents.
… if a baby receives always the same reply when calling, it will grow more
self-conf ident and with greater trust in other people?
... when it is in its mother’s arms, a baby pulls its mother’s hair and not its own,
to understand that it and mother are two distinct people.
… a child learns to say “no” before “yes”, without knowing its meaning, only because
baby f inds horizontal movements of the head easier to make, because it has made them
from the f irst month in order to follow with its eyes the things around it.
… children should not be forced to use the right hand if, in playing, they prefer to use
the left hand to grasp objects; this might lead to learning diff iculties later on.
From 9 to 12 months
From 9 to 12 months
Baby’s f irst steps at the discovery of the world.
From 12 to 18 months
aby tries to grasp many objects at the
same time … In fact until one year of
age, children take things one in each
hand and, if they receive a third object, they
just drop one of the two they are holding,
to get the third. After one year of age, on
the other hand, children try to understand
how they can grab and hold also a third
object: they take one in their mouth, or put
it under one arm, or, if the objects are small
enough, they hold two in one hand.
Your child has developed the motor skills
that enable it to hold several objects at the
same time and to stack them with greater
and greater precision, without making
them fall.
After 15 months of age, once it has learnt
to walk, your child does nothing else all
day long, a real terror! It is attracted by
toys which it can move from one room to
another, pulling or pushing them, making
them slide on the floor. This is the time
to give your child trains, toy cars, trucks
or simple plush animals that it can “tow”,
wherever it goes. Baby continues to be
fascinated by toys with different shapes
that it can arrange and stack, thus honing its
newly acquired motor skills. If until a while
ago it loved to tear the pages of books, now
it has learnt that, in order to look at a book,
it must turn its pages, possibly one at a
time. At this age children love to observe
the pictures of books, especially if they
represent animals or situations or objects
they are familiar with. Your child will be
happy to look at a book on its own or to
listen to one of its parents describing the
pictures, while leafing through the book
A person’s passion for reading may start
at this early age: a child connects the idea
of reading to a pleasant moment in its life,
and this memory will make it a passionate
reader also later in life.
From 15 months of age baby starts seeing
and recognising itself and perceiving itself
as an individual, unique entity in the world.
It first becomes aware of itself, recognising
itself in the mirror or in a picture. It loves all
games that help it think and reflect, pushing
away those it does not find interesting,
or which bothers it: it is becoming more
selective towards the stimuli it is presented
From one year of age children are particularly
attracted by other children, which they
observe with great attention, becoming
upset if they cry. However, it is still early to
establish a relationship among peers.
Your child continues to communicate by
imitating the behaviour of adults and tries to
do the same with language, which begins to
be more articulated.
From 12 to 18 months children begin to
use a few words, but are still incapable of
building real sentences. However, they can
understand many components of the adult
language. In this phase children perfect their
capacity to respond to initially simple and
then more and more complex requests.
At this age toys that speak various languages
may be very useful, given a child’s skill in
imitating sounds and voices, and, therefore,
also foreign languages and sounds. Its desire
for independence becomes stronger and “no”
becomes its preferred word and concept. It
likes to play with toys that imitate the things
adults use: portable phones, computers, but
also, brooms, strollers, dusters etc...
From 12 to 18 months
nderstanding, peaking,
From 12 to 18 months
At the eighteenth month.
At this age its social life depends both on its capacity to establish relationships with other children,
and on its capacity to become more and more independent. Children become independent from the
point of view of movement, when they can walk correctly; as far as language is concerned, they reach
independence when they start making sounds that at least their family members can understand,
although with some difficulty. Children show their independence, which is still far from complete,
when they carry out some simple daily chores such as putting on some simple clothing items or
washing (including brushing their teeth).
Try yourself, play with baby…
• Let baby climb the stairs alone; you can stimulate it to do so, by playing a game of : “catch you…”.
• Ask baby to dress or put the shoes on one of its puppets, or brush its teeth: this training will
help your child learn to get dressed by itself.
• Allow baby to drink from its cup or eat from its plate using a cutlery set designed for children,
it will make things much easier.
• Speak to baby using adult words and sounds, its language will improve.
• If you take your child to play with other children often enough, it will learn to socialize.
aby is making great progresses on
the front of motor development. It
climbs everywhere and is no longer
afraid of heights. It climbs out of its bed,
dances, makes pirouettes and runs in a
funny way.
Its desire to explore everything, leads it to
escape its parents whenever it can. After
18 months of age, children develop the
capacity of imagining the effects of their
actions and therefore love all games in
which they can be protagonists: direct a toy
car, throw a ball, or interact with objects
that may follow their orders.
They appreciate more and more the
possibility of listening to and looking at
other children. They also begin to imitate
other children, instead of family members.
Their perception of themselves as separate,
unique entities, becomes more and more
precise. Make this experiment: put a child
this age in front of a mirror. Then take
away the mirror and draw a red nose at the
exact height of the child’s nose. Put again
the child in front of the mirror: it will try
to wipe away the red nose, which it knows,
does not belong to its face.
At this time children begin to explore their
navel and genitals and to eat autonomously.
At this age, children can remove the
obstacles that prevent them from playing
freely or stop their ball. They can find
hidden objects and know that they have
been moved by someone, since they
cannot move by themselves. Also at this
age children choose toys that play the
melodies they like best, like guitars, pianos
or any other musical instrument that makes
sounds they like.
On account of children’s strong desire of
independence, communication should be
totally clear and, sometimes, resolute, in
order to prevent misunderstandings or
dangerous situations.
On the other hand, the desire of children
to be independent should be fostered in a
controlled way. As parents, it is important
that you show interest in what your child
can do and achieve at its age, encouraging
it and praising its efforts. For your child it is
important to hear an adult praise the tower
it has built, or its having put away its toys
after playing, or its having said its own name
correctly, because such encouragements
help it to persevere with its efforts, to
improve. In a word: to grow up.
From 18 to 24 months
Talking toys, possibly bilingual and
interactive, are ideal in this phase, because
they allow children to show their new great
willingness to communicate
At the twenty-fourth month.
In this moment it is important the evaluation of the child’s increasing independence, which
should be much greater than observed at the eighteenth month health check. Now your child
should be able to go up a staircase alone, or in a more or less autonomous way; it should be able
to take off at least one clothing item; it should indicate, if requested, the various parts of its
own body. Finally another important examination is the evaluation of its teeth and of the whole
masticatory apparatus. This aims to spot tooth decay, if present, but also to verify whether the
teeth and masticatory bones (upper and lower jaw), are developing in the correct position.
• Let it interact with other children, even though it may cost it a scratch or a bite.
• Use every possible moment to stimulate, while playing, baby’s motor and language skills.
• Keep on playing together and have fun with your child, even though it now plays also
with children its age.
• When you play together, you should accept that it imitates all your attitudes.
• Teach it new names of body parts, also indicating them on its plush animals or puppets. It will repeat
them after you and learn them little by little.
From 18 to 24 months
From 18 to 24 months
Try yourself, play with baby…
Did you know that…
… there are tricks to enhance baby’s language skills daily: just take every possible
opportunity to talk with your baby.
From 18 to 24 months
There is a phase in the development of
children in which they seem to do the
opposite of what they are asked to do, just
for the fun of it. It is the period of the “noes”,
a critical phase that can be sometimes very
trying for parents and which coincides with
the time in which parents start imposing
small rules on their child and set limits
to its behaviour. In this period children
may seem capricious and obstinate, which
causes parents to feel frustrated and think
they could not bring up their child properly.
However this behaviour means neither
rebellion nor tantrums.
The time of children’s Noes, falling at
about two years of age, is related to the
development of baby’s motor and verbal
autonomy. The child does not want to be
helped or guided in its choices, because it
is testing its own capacity of self-assertion.
It needs to discover the world explore its
surroundings and test its own skills.
In this important phase children build their
self-confidence and lovability. However,
there is the risk that the parents do not fully
understand the importance of this phase and
the child’s need to express its opposition. It
is no use to block all baby’s “noes”, but it is
important to ask it to follow certain agreed
rules, leaving it the possibility of expressing
its opposition.
… a child which is often called by name, learns it more quickly.
… children love rhymes and songs. Singing makes them feel happy.
… during childhood, fears are frequent, and can be overcome with the loving care of the
parents and their capacity to reassure their children
… it is important that the parents agree on their behaviour with their children, clashing
educational approaches would only make baby confused..
… parents’ attitudes may not be absolutely identical. Mommy and daddy are two distinct
persons and recent studies have shown that they should maintain their differences
and use them to the child’s benef it.
From 18 to 24 months
he psychologist
mitating, reating, ocializing.
after 24 Months
s far as motor skills are concerned,
after 2 years of age children can
run very well and go up and down the
stairs one step at a time. They can jump,
detaching both feet from the ground at
the same time, and open doors. At this
age children can play with toy cars and
motor bikes that run on circuits or that
are operated by simple remote control
At 3 years of age children can go down
the stairs with alternate steps and can
make long jumps with both their feet
drawn up together. Besides, they have
sufficient coordination to make a tricycle
move forward. They can move objects in
the desired direction either pushing them
directly or by remote control.
Suitable toys for this stage of development
are all toys on wheels, provided no sense of
balance is required to drive them. Therefore,
the ideal items are tricycles, three- or
four-wheel motorbikes and trucks, or doll
strollers and prams that children can push
At this age children develop a vivid
imagination and can use symbols to
intepret, look at and listen to the world.
Initially this ability derives from an
imitation of adult behaviour, however, as
children grow up, they develop their own
interpreting and imagining skills. After
two years of age children are capable of
representative activities, substituting
mental images, or graphic or verbal
symbols, for their concrete counterparts.
Around 3 years of age children speak of
themselves in the first person (“I”) and
know fairly well their own bodies. Besides,
they have good daytime control of their
physiological needs (urine and faeces).
It is the time of “let’s pretend” games…
Later on children play games in which they
invent characters or situations, that are
often very far from the real world.
After two years of age children can build
sentences made of at least three words
and a verb that make real sense. They
also begin to use adjectives and adverbs,
although they still need the “linguistic
support” of adults, who can help them
concretely by talking and communicating
with them in a normal adult way, i.e.
without indulging in baby talk.
Communication with parents and the
imitation of their attitudes may influence
the children’s choice of toys considered
distinctly masculine or feminine. However,
in general terms, the toys a child likes
best, are those that give free rein to its
imagination and creative spirit, without
any gender differences. In the first years
both girls and boys indistinctly play with
“masculine” and “feminine” toys: there are
boys who like to play with pots and pans
and dolls and girls who love football and
toy cars. Many parents feel embarrassed
and worried…
but they really should not! An individual’s
sexual identity and orientation usually
stabilize in the course of adolescence.
What makes girls love dolls and boys
football usually is the imitation of their
parents’ behaviour.
after 24 Months
The main stages of self-assertion
after 24 Months
Grandparents are reference figures in
the life of a child and, if we consider that
nowadays in almost all families both parents
work, grandparents also play an important
educational role. However, new mothers and
fathers should feel that their educational
capacity and competence are acknowledged
and respected.
A clear distinction between roles and
observance of their limits should exist so that
parents can be parents and grandparents can be
grandparents. It is very important that parents
and grandparents discuss the upbringing
of a child, so that they can adopt the same
approach, without upsetting the child and
making it confused. Of course a child shows a
preference for doting grandparents that spoil it
in every way, allowing what parents prohibit.
From an educational point of view however
this is not the right approach! For this reason
parents and grandparents should agree on a
few rules that should be respected, and remain
The role of grandparents.
more flexible on other matters.
A child must understand that its parents have
a precise goal, its upbringing, and grandparents
should not underestimate this important
function, they should not play down the rules
set by parents, because otherwise, sooner
or later, the child will do the same, and will
consider its parents as having no authority at
all, and will stop listening to them.
Parents must be a reference point for their
children. Grandparents who correct or criticize
their children in front of their grandchildren or
try to eradicate from their grandchildren their
parents’ teachings, damage their grandchildren
because they take away from them a stable
and safe reference point.
Therefore the important thing is that everyone
knows its own place and role, and plays it with
serenity and joy, without rivalries. Parents
play an educational role, grandparents a more
relaxed role made of cuddles and games.
Did you know that…
… the imitation process is based on affection? A child imitates the persons it admires.
… infantile thought is different from adult thought in some respects: for example the
difference between oneself and the world is less clear for children, who project their
thoughts and feelings on the outside world. This way of thinking is called egocentric.
… at all ages going for a stroll should not be an obligation, but a pleasure for children
and adults alike. Take your child for a stroll in peaceful, green places.
Enjoy the pleasure of being with your child!
… car travel with small children is less bothersome than with a 4 year old who must be
entertained with songs or stories. Portable DVD readers or other ways to transfer to the
car the comforts of the home, can be of great help.
after 24 Months
he psychologist
Eyesight and hearing development.
At birth: Baby distinguishes light from darkness and has a black and white, rather blurred, vision
of things, perceiving distinctly only the contrasts of clarity; Its eyesight is still weak, about five tenths;
Baby can see the contours of things only in the 20 cm range.
At 1 month: Now baby not only sees, but starts looking (fixation reflex) and its eyesight reaches
as far as 80cm; It concentrates on the contours of things and starts perceiving differences in colour;
It is fascinated by moving objects and objects that make sounds.
more information
At 2 -3 months: Baby follows moving images by turning its head and can converge its eyes to
look at objects near its face; Besides, it looks around to try and understand where it is; It recognises
the human face, looks its mother in the eyes, responds with smiles, grimaces and movements of the
lips; It starts distinguishing the basic colours: red, yellow, green and blue, and perceives differences
in luminosity.
At 4 -5 months: Baby’s eyes start “working together” to determine the distance of objects;
It can focus images a few metres away; It clearly distinguishes some colours: red, blue and green.
At 6 months: It moves its eyes from one object to another and is attracted by small things; It
begins to understand that objects have a front and back side (turning an object in its hands a great
number of times).
of linking together different sensory data and remembering them: if it looks at an object while
touching, smelling and tasting it, it will later recognise the same object only by looking at it.
At 1 year:
Baby’s eyesight is like an adult’s, only the coordination between eyesight and the
capacity to move may come later (even at 15 months).
At 2 years of age: Baby has full control of its eye muscles; It can focus its eyes on objects
no matter how far, and on the details of its preferred images; It distinguishes all colours and shapes.
At birth: A newborn baby has a remarkable auditory capacity. For example it turns its head to follow
a sound, although it cannot yet fix its stare on its source; It begins to distinguish a human voice from
other sounds; The sound it likes best is its mother’s voice; It is annoyed by too loud or acute sounds,
while it is attracted to persistent and repetitive sounds; A sudden, loud noise makes it startle and can
trigger the so-called Moro or startle reflex (a typical infantile reflex consisting of the spreading out of
the arms and of the fingers).
2 -3 months: Baby establishes a clear relation between seeing and hearing; It pays attention to all
sounds, but cannot yet hear properly the low and deep tones, for example of the male voice; It starts
making the typical baby sounds.
5 -6 months: Baby turns its head towards the source of a sound; It repeats the same sounds over
and over, with an adult’s help or by itself; At 6 months, baby’s hearing has developed completely: now
it turns its head and eyes towards the source of sound; Hearing plays a basic role in the development
of communication through spoken language.
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At 10 months: Baby’s eye coordination is now complete and it perceives depth; It is capable
The development of relational skills.
From birth to 1 month: Baby has no actual relationship with the outside world, however
it begins to get used to living out of mother’s womb; It sleeps and, when it is awake, satisfies its
physiological needs without understanding that its needs are satisfied by someone other than
itself; It starts sending signals to the world, but only in connection with stimuli that originate in
its body (for example it cries, if it is not feeling well or if it is hungry).
At 1 -2 months:
Smiling and crying are now elicited by external stimuli, which baby
perceives as part of its world, but not as a separate entity from itself; It smiles spontaneously in
response to familiar sounds or faces, although its smile is not necessarily a voluntary reaction to
these stimuli.
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At 3 months: Its smiles now are real smiles, that signify its pleasure at recognising a face, a voice,
a smell that makes it feel good; It wants to be held as much as possible. This does not mean that it is
spoiled, it just wants to participate in family life, to connect with its parents and with its surroundings.
At 4 months: Now baby stays awake much longer. Its preferred occupation is the exploration
of its environment in search of stimuli; It begins to learn to cry on purpose to attract attention.
At 5 -6 months: Baby begins to move more actively and its chances to establish relations
with the surrounding objects and persons increase accordingly; It also tries to communicate with
a funny mixture of smiles, faces and incomprehensible sounds.
At 7 -9 months:
It understands that it can be a protagonist in the interaction with
persons and objects (it can make people stay, send them away, play with them etc.); It also
understands the meaning of prohibitions, i.e. that he is not to touch certain things or move to
“dangerous” places in the house.
At 10 -12 months: Its interaction capacity has grown, it hides or takes things, so that,
together, you can go look for them; It imitates your moves again, and again, and again, in
an attempt to approach the world of adults; It learns to offer you an object to attract your
attention, almost as a sign of welcome; In its relationship with others it begins to develop a sense
of humour.
After 1 year of age: Baby understands the meaning of simple “commands” that help
it establish a relationship with adults; At about 15 months of age you may start introducing
some discipline in your relationship with your child: from now on baby can understand rules and
prohibitions; As its speaking skills improve, its relationships with persons become more and more
similar to a relationship between adults.
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Baby’s relationship with “others”.
Fine motricity.
At birth: baby keeps its hand balled in a fist and, most of the time, the thumb is covered by
the other four fingers.
At 1 month: it grabs anything and holds it tightly in its hand for a few seconds (it is the so-
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called grasping reflex that usually disappears completely only at around one year of age).
At 3 months: At 3 months: it clasps and unclasps its hands, playing with its fingers.
At 6 months: baby uses its whole hand and grabs things with its palm
At 9 months: It manipulates objects and passes them from one hand to the other; It touches
Motor development.
A necessary premise:
You cannot teach a child to walk. Each child conquers its balance gradually and one day
discovers that it no longer needs to use the couch or a chair or a toy for support, to walk its first
steps. Early crawlers or walkers are not more intelligent than other children and, similarly, late
walkers – older than one year of age - are neither lazier, nor less intelligent than their peers.
Children who have never crawled, do not experience greater difficulties in learning to walk, than
children who have.
Main steps.
At 7 months: Some children may have already acquired good motor skills; they use their
arms and legs to crawl, moving more frequently backward than forward; First attempts at
kneeling or crawling on all fours.
At 8 -10 months: Children learn to crawl; Once they master crawling, children enjoy
crawling as fast as possible.
At 13 -14 months average (from the ninth to the eighteenth month):
things with the tip of its index finger; It grasps things between thumb and index finger; It pushes
objects away by exerting a pressure on their surface.
Children learn to walk autonomously (i.e. unsupported).
At 1 year of age: It grasps small objects between thumb and index finger; It voluntarily
typical of mature perambulation, makes its appearance.
drops its toys.
At 15 months: It has perfected the pincher grasp; It can hold a pencil and doodle.
At 18 months: It can hold small things, grasping them delicately; It shows a great preference
for one hand, which it tends to use more than the other.
At 2 years of age: It can unwrap a candy; It spontaneously doodles, drawing circles.
After 2 years of age: Lower limb movement is regular and the swinging of the arms,
A few tips to help baby learn to walk.
Let baby be free to move as much as possible. Sit on the floor and use your body to support baby
in its first attempts to stand up. Forget woollen socks: they would make baby slip on the floor as
on an ice rink. If baby appears to be falling, support it by placing your hands on its hips; when you
feel its body relax, it means that it has found its balance and is ready to resume walking.
Towards eleven months of age, let baby experience its motor independence with toys it can ride
or push, very useful to conquer the upright position and take its first steps.
more information
The development of fine and gross motricity.
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We have already seen that the development of the infantile personality is directly related to a child’s
discovery that the world is populated with many people. By the time a child is one year of age, after
learning to distinguish its own relatives from strangers, it learns a first series of socially meaningful
behaviours that range from waving hello, to blowing kisses and answering with a smile to pleasant
external stimuli.
A peculiar aspect of the social development of children regards their behaviour towards their peers:
children begin to show interest in the crying and presence of other children very early on in life however
it is only around 18 months of age that they begin to have real relationships with other children of
the same age.
Initially they pay much more attention to the toys of other children than to the children themselves
and usually do their best to “steal” the toys from other children. However, at about two years of age,
the situation changes radically and children become much more cooperative.
When children of this age get together, they tend to observe one another and do the same things, but
most of the time is still devoted to individual play, with only occasional interaction and exchange. At
this age if a child plays with another, most of the time, what it actually wants is to play with the other
child’s toys. Parents should encourage their children to be generous and share their toys with other
The process of group socialization is gradual and takes place between 2 and 6 years of age, reaching
its peak at about 5. In a group children can express both their skills and affectivity, compare themselves
to others, and take on a social role, or play a new role every time. The presence of other children in
a child’s life is very important, because it allows a comparison and the affirmation of its personal
characteristics. A group of peers has also a disciplinary function, because, in order to be accepted by
the other children, a child must learn to behave itself and conform to certain rules. As usual, parents
play an important role. They should create opportunities for meeting with other children, for example
taking their children to a playground, especially if they notice that their child is timid and inclined to
isolation: in the encounter with other children, a shy child is stimulated to expand its relational skills.
The interaction with other children impacts not only on a child’s behaviour, but also on its language:
from a simple means of expression, it becomes an instrument of communication and socialization.
Among pre-schoolers making friends is easy, since they tend to cooperate rather than compete and
fight. The factors that make infantile friendships easy, depend on age, interests and willingness to
socialize. Of course, very often these friendships are labile and last the time of a game: a child may
show great sympathy for another child, and a few minutes later decide to share its toy with somebody
else, who has just joined the group.
In their educational role, parents should consider all these factors and not be upset at the wide range
of emotions their children may display. Such emotions may easily change from genuine sympathy
one moment, to fierce anger the following moment, all in the space of a single game. Playing together
children have fun, but, at the same time, they learn to cooperate, compete, quarrel and make peace.
The opportunity of establishing relationships and making friends during infancy is very important, since
it influences the personality of the future teenager.
If, at about three years of age, a child has a chance to attend preschool, it will benefit from this
experience both at an intellectual and emotional/social level. Fostering a healthy relationship with
children of the same age is useful for the process of gradual separation from the mother figure and for
a child’s independence. This process should begin at an early age so that children can serenely begin
the great adventure of life.
More information
The development of relationships with other children
The development of language.
At birth: The development of language in children greatly depends on the stimuli coming from their
environment: children that are poorly stimulated, do less vocalising and speak later.
In the first year of life:
From an indistinct baby banter, children pass to the imitation of complex sounds and begin to
understand the meanings of the words they hear from their parents; Everything has a name, and this
allows baby to identify things.
By the 21 month: inflections, tones and rhythm improve, but baby’s talk remains nevertheless
incomprehensible, except, maybe, only for its parents.
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At 21 months: children begin to associate two words.
At 24 months: children begin to formulate their first three-word sentences that include the verb.
Then, language will go on improving and evolving throughout the person’s life, acquiring greater
and greater “perfection”. In all phases of language learning, it is important to follow a few rules:
1) be gradual: do not shower baby with words and make frequent pauses in order to stimulate its
interest and attention, fostering memorisation. Children greatly appreciate talking toys, whose words
and sentences are interrupted by pleasant melodies or songs;
2) pronounce each single word separately from the others, so that baby can “understand” it clearly;
3) use a repetitive language, that makes word memorization easier.
4) do not exaggerate in demanding verbal replies, baby should learn to speak while playing and
having fun;
5) No swearing in the house, children immediately learm these expressions and repeat them with
great facility.
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