Growth and Development

The first five years of life have a major impact on a lifetime of brain development, growth, learning, health, and behaviour. One of the most important ways for parents to support their child is by showing them love and responding to their needs.

Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and up to two years and beyond supports your child's growth and development. For breastfeeding support and information, please visit the Breastfeeding page.
Car Seats and Child Safety
For more information on car seats and other ways to keep your child safe in the home, visit the Child Safety page.
Concerned about Your Child's Development?
If you have questions or concerns about your child's development at any age, speak to your health care provider or call Public Health to speak with a nurse. Don't wait and see if they will 'catch-up' to other children their age.

There are community supports available for any concerns that you may have about the development of your child. The earlier your child receives support, the more likely they are to reach their full potential.

For information on your child's dental health, please visit the Dental Health page.
Emotional and Social Development
For information on how you can support your child's emotional and social development, please visit the Positive Parenting page.
For information on immunization schedules for your child, please visit Vaccine Schedule page.
Introducing Solid Foods and Healthy Eating

For information on introducing solid foods to your baby at six months please visit the Feeding Your Baby Solids page.

For information on how you can support healthy eating habits for your child (six months and beyond), please visit the Healthy Eating and Children page.

Is your Child 18 Months Old?
When your child turns 18 months old, book an appointment with a health care provider (e.g. doctor, nurse practitioner) to check your child's development and get their 18 month immunizations.

At 18 months old your child should be able to:

  • Identify pictures in a book ("show me the dog")
  • Use gestures (waving, pushing, reaching up)
  • Show affection towards people, pets, toys (hug, kiss)
  • Say 20 or more words (in any language)

Before you see your health care provider, complete the full 18 month developmental checklist (NDDS). You can complete it online or call Public Health to have the checklist mailed to you and/or to complete it over the phone with a public health nurse.

Physical Activity and Physical Literacy
For information on physical activity and physical literacy, please visit the Physical Activity and Children page.
Read, Sing, Play, Everyday

It is never too early to read, sing and play with your child. Doing this every day helps your child be more successful when they start school and later in life.

  • Talk with your child during the day about what you see and do
  • Sing songs and rhymes to help your baby learn about sounds and words
  • Encourage your child to draw and make letters and shapes
  • Take time to play with your child
  • Read with your child every day

Visit your local library and get your child a free library card:

As a parent, you play an important role in the development of your baby's brain. You are your baby's most important connection to the world.

You interact daily with your baby. These interactions have a life-long effect on your baby's ability to reach full potential.

For more ideas, visit the Early Literacy Alliance of Waterloo Region

For information about your child's sleep habits, please visit the Infant Sleep page. 
Soothing Your Crying Baby

Crying is normal for babies. It is your baby's way of telling you something is wrong. When you recognize and respond to the early signs that your baby needs you, it can help reduce the amount of time your baby cries.

Attend the free Sleep and Your New Baby session to learn what your baby's early signs of being upset look like and how you can respond to them.

What to do when your baby cries?

There are many reasons your baby could be crying. Try feeding them, changing their diaper, or cuddling with your baby, especially skin-to-skin, first. If that doesn't work, try some of the following:

  • Hold your baby in a different way
  • Burp your baby
  • Gently rock your baby
  • Go for a walk with your baby
  • Sing and talk to your baby
  • Play with your baby
  • Go to a quiet room and turn down the lights

Every baby is different and some cry more than others. Babies cry an average of two to two and a half hours a day. Babies cry more around two months of age and this gradually decreases by four or five months of age.

If you need support, call Public Health at 519-575-4400 to talk to a nurse about other ways you can help calm your baby. If you are feeling frustrated or angry by your baby's crying, it is okay to put the baby down in a safe place (like their crib) and ask someone to help you.

Never shake a baby!

Supporting your Child's Growth and Development
Use the First Five Years Matter checklist to support your child's development and help them reach milestones as they grow.

The Looksee Checklist is an easy-to-use checklist that can be used to track your child's development. Call Region of Waterloo at 519-575-4400 if you have any questions or register online for your checklist.

For what to expect about your child's development, refer to Caring For Kids.

Nutri-eSTEP is a tool that helps you find out what is going well and what to work on with your child's eating habits. Take the eating habits survey to find out if your child is a healthy eater.

Temper Tantrums
As your child gets older they learn to express their emotions through temper tantrums. For more information on how to support your child during one, please visit the Positive Parenting page.
Tummy Time for Your Baby
Start 'tummy time' with your baby from birth. Place your baby on his or her stomach when they are awake and alert. 

Tummy time builds the muscles that help your baby:

  • Lift their heads
  • Move their arms and legs
  • Learn how to roll
  • Get ready to crawl and explore
  • Prevent flat head

For newborns to three months:

  • Place your baby's chest on a rolled towel for a few minutes while they are awake to play
  • Place toys on both sides of your baby's head so your baby can see them

When your baby can lift their head:

  • Use mirrors and toys around your baby to encourage reaching
  • Play peek-a-boo, hold up a blanket between you and encourage your baby to pull down the blanket

Little by little, increase the amount of tummy time you spend with your baby. When your baby starts to fuss, pick them up. It's recommended that your baby have at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day.  

Preventing Flat Head

When placed on their back, babies usually turn their head to the same side and the skull can flatten. A little bit of flattening goes away on its own. More serious flattening may last, but will not affect a baby's brain.

To help prevent a flat head:

  • Switch your baby's head position from one end of the crib to the other end
  • Limit the time your baby's head lies against a flat surface
  • Play daily with your baby during tummy time

Additional Resources and Supports

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