Early Years Support (0-5 Years)

A baby's brain develops the fastest from birth to five years of age. This is why early positive experiences are important for babies to help promote healthy brain development and positive physical and mental health.

Learn how you can support your new baby during these essential, early years below.

Father holding baby after swim

What We Know About the Early Years

  • You can't spoil a baby in their first year
  • A child’s wellbeing is linked to brain development and learning. Good nutrition, health and exercise is critical.
  • Parents and carers have the most influence on a child's development in the early years.
  • Children with strong, positive bonds to their caregivers have been found to learn and cope better with stressful situations. The best learning happens in nurturing relationships.
  • Children are born ready to learn, their brain develops through use
  • All babies' brains at birth are similar. It is their experiences that effect how they develop - socially, emotionally and intellectually.
  • Children only learn when they feel safe and their basic needs are met. This sense of safety comes comes from a nurturing, predictable, responsive and calm environment.
  • Children learn from watching and copying - be a good role model and avoid exposing your baby to antisocial people, action or events
  • Children learn through being engaged and doing - the best toy for a baby is a caring adult who pays attention to cues and engages with them using words, songs, touch and smiles.
  • Play helps children develop skills they need for life. Play helps them use and build knowledge through trying and working out problems, imagining and pretending, talking and negotiating with others, and reasoning and explaining.
  • Children learn language by listening to it and using it
  • Developing a child’s self-control is critical for learning, responsibility and relationships

How You Can Support Your Child During the Early Years

Read our skills, tips and activities for helping nurture your child's development at different ages.

0-3 months: Communication starts from birth

It's never too early to start communicating with your baby:

  • When your baby cries, respond in a sensitive and nurturing way, this helps baby learn to feel safe
  • Talk to your baby during bathtime, changing and feeding  
  • Use different happy voice tones to interest baby
  • Listen to your baby – can you work out what their sounds mean?
  • Copy your baby’s sounds and expressions
  • Make eye contact with your baby
  • Sing songs – your baby loves your voice!
  • Cuddle and hold your baby close – baby needs this to feel secure
  • Use a higher pitch or expressive voice often called a ‘sing song’ voice
  • Show bright colourful mobiles and toys
4+ months: Language begins with sounds

Spending time with your newborn:

  • Make sounds, facial expressions and gestures for baby to copy eg blow raspberries, smile, wave, clap hands
  • Talk to your baby about everyday activities, things and objects to encourage their curiosity
  • Respond to your baby’s sounds, it is their first attempt at language
  • Sing songs, tell nursery rhymes – your baby loves your voice!
  • Maintain a positive emotional relationship with your baby, look into their eyes, reflect their smiles, share cuddles, play in the bath water
  • Play on the floor with your baby
  • Show baby bright colourful pictures
  • Join your local library!
8+ months: Talking begins with sounds and gestures

Spending time with your eight month old:

  • Name lots of things around you and repeat them through the day
  • When baby makes a sound like a word, say the word
  • Talk about the things your baby shows you or looks at
  • Talk about everyday activities, things and objects
  • Play games like ‘peek a boo’
  • Tell nursery rhymes with actions, e.g. ‘incy wincy spider’
  • Point to and name body parts – ‘where are your eyes?’
  • Give baby small durable books with colours and textures
  • Point to and talk about pictures in books over and over again
  • Join your local library and playgroup!
12+ months: Conversation begins with first words

Spending time with your 12 month old:

  • Name the things around you
  • Use action words to describe what you are doing or see eg washing, playing, reading
  • Play games like ‘Peek a boo’, dance to music
  • Read books together
  • Play together with blocks, stacking toys, dolls
  • Repeat lots of songs and nursery rhymes
  • Point to pictures together and talk about them
  • Name pictures of animals and ask what sound each makes
  • Visit your local library and playgroup!
18+ months: Communication through language and play

Build conversation by taking turns:

  • Add to their words – "Yes it is a big balloon"
  • Use action words to describe things you do and see
  • Describe things – i.e. small, hot or wet
  • Talk about things – i.e. happy, sad or cross
  • Ask questions – "What is that?"
  • Show books – i.e animals, food and other children
  • Give books with pictures and some words
  • Read books over and over again
  • Go to your local City of Melville Library Rhyme Time or Storytime
  • Be a good role model, as children learn from watching and copying you
  • Avoid exposing children to anti-social actions and events
2+ years: Communication through language and play

Spending time with your two year old:

  • Repeat what your child says and add a few words
  • Reward any sentences – even if they aren't perfect!
  • Make time to play with your child! Play helps children develop the skills they will use in life, as they build knowledge, try to solve problems and learn to share
  • Encourage pretend play – be an elephant or a lion at the zoo!
  • Count things - fingers, toes, blocks, steps
  • Show books with pictures and some words – your child loves pictures of animals, food and other children
  • Encourage your child to read books over and over again, and visit your local City of Melville Rhyme Time or Story Time
  • Include your child in day to day experiences such as helping in the house or shopping at the supermarket – be enthusiastic to make things fun!
  • Encourage imaginative play with household items such as boxes, clean sand, pots and pans
  • Be a good role model, as children learn from watching and copying you
  • Avoid exposing children to anti-social actions and events
3 years: Learning grows with questions: what, where, who, why?

Spending time with your three year old:

  • Talk about feelings, name them and include children in concern and care for others
  • Provide experiences to help express feelings like drawing, painting, music, playing with sand
  • Read alphabet and counting books. Point to letters, especially the ones in your child’s name
  • Encourage drawing and colouring – make things with boxes, playdough and blocks
  • Go to your local playgroup – make opportunities for children to form relationships with other children and adults
  • Play dress ups and ‘lets pretend’ games
  • Retell the same stories, especially at bedtime
  • Encourage your child to retell stories and talk about places they have visited or things they have done
  • Talk about pictures and read stories about feelings
3.5+ years: Communication through language and play

Spending time with your 3.5 year old:

  • Read alphabet and counting books and ask "how many?" and "what colour?"
  • Re-tell the same stories, especially at bedtime, and ask "what happens next?"
  • Talk about pictures and read stories about feelings - name them and include children in concern and care for others
  • Provide experiences – drawing, painting, music, playing with sand - to help express feelings
  • Point to letters – especially the ones in your child's name
  • Encourage your child to re-tell their favourite stories to you
  • Let your child talk about the places they have visited or the things they have done. Ask "who was there?" "how did you feel?"
4-5 years: Reading begins with good language skills

Spending time with your four to five year old:

  • Discuss things your child has done – “What did you do at kindy today?”
  • Ask when, why, who questions - give them time to ask and answer questions!
  • Sort and match colours and shapes
  • Play memory games – “What’s missing?”
  • Visit the library often – ask about books for 4 year olds
  • Let your child choose books to read
  • Encourage your child to act out stories – put on a play, use dolls and toys
  • Ask “What happens next in the story?”
  • Play ‘Find the letters’ game – especially letters in their name
  • Write letters of the alphabet

More Parenting Tips

  • Be physically active and safeguard children from physical and emotional harm
  • Provide lots of opportunities to practice physical skills – visit playgrounds, parks, walk rather than take transport
  • Encourage children to help you with physical tasks like getting dressed, sweeping floors, leaves, hanging out clothes
  • Join a playgroup - make opportunities for children to form relationships with other children and adults
  • Check out the workshops and resources available from early years’ service providers.

Agency Support for Parents

The below agencies can provide information and support to parents and carers of young children:

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