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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

Q & A on Play

I'm home with my 3-month-old all day everyday. I try to stimulate her with toys and books, but she’s not that interested in them. Is something wrong? - This is not unusual at all. During the first 3 months, babies are using most of their energy to adapt to the outside world. There may be periods when she enjoys looking at her toys (show her bright ones she can easily see) or listening to your voice as you read stories. Read More

My 4-month-old has all these toys my parents and other relatives have given her but she doesn’t seem interested in playing with them. When will she be? - Though children’s interests and skills vary, your daughter should have some curiosity about toys now, as long as they’re age-appropriate. Most 4-month-olds are able to reach out and explore toys with their hands, and are beginning to grasp and shake or bang them. Read More

Our 4-month-old loves to be tossed up and down, but my mother says this is dangerous. Is she right? - Your mother's concern likely stems from the highly-publicized and very serious problem called "shaken baby syndrome." Read More

Sometimes my baby now seems more interested in his toys than me! Is this something to worry about? - Your baby’s interest in exploring objects is a major developmental milestone. By 7 months of age, babies are now capable of more focused attention on objects than ever before. Read More

My 9-month-old and I are in a Mommy and Me Music Class, but he’s scared to participate. By the end of class, though, he’s getting into it a little bit. Should I keep attending? - Stick with it. You’re making important progress. While some children naturally go-with-the-flow and jump right into new situations, others are slower to warm up. They tend to be more comfortable in one-on-one experiences and can feel easily overwhelmed in a group. Read More

Why is my child so interested in touching and mouthing toys? - For your baby, that’s just about the most fun she can have! By 9 months, babies really enjoy and are getting quite good at exploring objects with their eyes, hands, and mouths. These explorations are guided by their curiosity about: What is this? What does it feel like in my hands and in my mouth? What does something that looks like this feel like?” Read More

Why is "drop the spoon" such a fun game for babies? - Through exploration, babies are learning about the objects in their world. They are very curious about questions like, What can I make this thing do? Can I make it do that again? So…they bang, drop, toss, and squeeze. What babies learn through this experimentation is that the same action can lead to different consequences. Read More

My baby just loves to splash in the tub. What’s going on, why is this so funny for her? - Experiences like splashing in the tub give your baby a chance to test and explore. When she is splashing, she is also learning: What happens when I splash? What happens when I splash in a different way? Read More

I’m a stay at home mom and my husband works 60 hours a week. At night when he comes home to play with our 11-month-old, she rejects him. What can we do? - This situation is actually fairly common. It can happen when one parent is the primary caregiver, or the one doing most of the diapering, feeding, bathing, and comforting. Children tend to stick close to the parent whom they know best. Read More

I took my 14-month-old to a new playgroup last week. All the other children were running around and exploring happily. My son clung to me for dear life. I want to keep attending the group. What do I do? - Children approach, take in, and react to the world around them in different ways. We call this their temperament. One aspect of temperament has to do with how a child approaches and reacts to new situations. Read More

My 15-month-old never stops moving. He won't sit for longer than a minute or two to play with a toy or read a book. Can a child this young have ADHD? - It certainly sounds like you have a very busy, active toddler. And in this day and age, when many parents are hearing so much and are concerned about ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder—I can understand why you might wonder about your own child. Read More

How can you help 19-month-olds share during a playgroup? - Just the other day I had a similar experience—not with toddlers, but with my own 12- and 10-year-olds! What this tells you is that learning to share is a process that can start now but that takes a long time to master. Read More

My 23-month-old son spends a lot of time playing with my 4-year-old son and his friends. But sometimes my 4-year-old wants time by himself. Should I “force” them to play together, or not? - Congratulations! Given the fact that sibling rivalry is one of the biggest challenges parents face, especially in the early years, you have obviously done something very right if you have boys 2 years apart who want to play together! And your 4-year-old is willing to include his younger brother in play with his friends? Read More

My 2-year-old daughter's preschool teacher tells me that she actively participates during the planned activities but often seems unhappy during free playtime. What should I do? - For many children, preschool poses some social challenges. There are separations from parents, negotiations over toys, conflicts to resolve, teachers and other children to get along with—it's a lot to manage. Read More

What should I do when my 2 1/2-year-old won’t share her toys with our 8-month-old? - Sibling rivalry usually heats up once the younger child is crawling and getting into the older one’s stuff. I think about my own son’s shocked (and furious) face the first time his 6-month-old sister reached out and swatted his carefully-constructed block tower. Read More

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My 2-year-old daughter's preschool teacher tells me that she actively participates during the planned activities but often seems unhappy during free playtime. What should I do?
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My 23-month-old son spends a lot of time playing with my 4-year-old son and his friends. But sometimes my 4-year-old wants time by himself. Should I “force” them to play together, or not?
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