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Watching your child grow is an amazing experience and our friends at Ladybird have been part of this exciting journey for over 70 years. Just like Mother & Baby, Ladybird knows there are times when parents need a friendly source of advice from someone you can trust so they’ve put together their very best tips to give you a little guidance on some key childhood milestones. Ladybird have also asked some mums to share their real-life experiences and have put together some reading recommendations for each age and stage to help you make the most of them.
Very first book: 0-18monthsThe first 18 months of your baby’s life are a wonderful, sometimes chaotic, learning curve for you and your baby. You are on a rollercoaster ride of discovery and the changes your baby will go through are simply amazing. Newborns are trying to make sense of the fuzzy, blurry new world their developing eyesight can see. Familiar voices are comforting, so talking about what you are doing or reading a book to them is fantastic, even for the youngest baby. You’ll soon find your baby loves to explore the textures, flaps and mirrors in baby books. Baby books can be great forms of entertainment as well as a handy distraction in times of need! And let’s face it, there are days when you feel you are on a childcare treadmill so finding something new to talk about and explore is great.
Over the course of 18 miraculous months your tiny little newborn will become a boisterous toddler, full of curiosity and bags of energy. Have fun!
Click here for reading recommendations, real-life mums’ stories, videos and more.
Walking & talking: 18 months - 3 yearsBy 18 months your baby will have become a toddler and you may find your days are spent almost entirely on your feet as he explores his surroundings.
Rare moments of calm are perfect for cuddling up with a book and reading together is a great way to expand his vocabulary. He’ll soon be able to name colours, animals, vehicles, household objects and lots more. Finding time to talk about the story and pictures will give him a great sense of pride in his new abilities. Your little explorer will begin to show real preferences for certain things so you may find that your child’s bookshelves are suddenly groaning with books on diggers, farms or fairies.
Finally, books with simple songs and actions will open up a whole new noisy world of play opportunities for your toddler! And you thought the first 18 months were exhausting...
Language development: 18 months - 3 years As her language develops it’s an incredibly exciting time for both you and your child. Her world becomes more accessible and her ability to understand it becomes easier simply because she can now ask questions about it thanks to her rapidly expanding vocabulary. Yes, you may find your days are now filled with constant cries of ‘Why?’ and some frankly bizarre questions that will have you in stitches, but how wonderful to be able to chat to each other! Talking about your plans for the day, reading books and reciting rhymes together all help to build vocabulary and conversational skills.
Rhyme plays a major part in speech development as it helps children understand the pattern and rhythm of speech – how it works and fits together. And of course, children love repetition! As they become familiar with a rhyme you’ll find they are itching to show you that they know what the next rhyming word will be.
New challenges: 18 months - 4 yearsFrom 18 months to 4 years children are soaking up a wealth of experience from everyday life and just love imitating what is around them. They are becoming more independent, not particularly happy to share their possessions, keen to dress themselves and ready to take on new challenges, such as potty training.
Children are usually ready to begin potty training around the age of 24-30 months but every child is different. It is very important to begin potty training only when children are ready so take your lead from your child, not from other parents. Watch out for the signs of your toddler showing an interest in what people are doing in the loo, and being able to show you when they need a wee or a poo. Whilst potty training can be an exciting (and funny) experience for children, parents can be a little anxious about it. Remember, most toddlers find it hilarious to talk about bottoms, poo and wee. Try using direct language to explain what's going on and answer their questions in as much detail as possible to satisfy their curiosity. What seems everyday to you is a new and fascinating experience for your toddler.Click here for reading recommendations, real-life mums’ stories, videos and potty training tips.
Friendship and play: 3-5 yearsFrom about 3 years old the world of imaginative play and all its glorious possibilities opens up to your child. At this age children often move from playing alongside each other to actually playing together and developing friendships thanks to creative play. They’ll have great fun acting out (and adapting) familiar fairy tales, pretending to cook, dressing up and role playing.
You can help by getting down on the floor and taking an active part in their games. Learning to involve another person in their imaginative worlds is key to forming friendships so even if you feel a bit silly being the troll, it really is worthwhile. You can also read books together that will spark their imagination through exciting, funny stories or expand their knowledge of fairy tales, different jobs and their favourite things.
Click here for reading recommendations, real-life mums’ stories, videos and more.For fun games to play and free activity sheets to print click here.
Starting school: 3-6 yearsFrom three years children are beginning to understand more and more about what they are learning and experiencing in the world around them. They are becoming increasingly independent, love to be told stories and can identify with characters. They might be having new experiences, perhaps a sibling arriving or starting nursery. Reading reassuring stories with your child can help support them through these big childhood moments, particularly useful when starting school, perhaps one of the biggest days of your child’s life.
Almost every child is a bit nervous about starting school, it‘s a big step for them as well as you! Talk about school in a positive way, reassuring him that it is an exciting place with lots of things to do and friends to make. Try to visit the school before the big day, so it feels familiar and less daunting. Have some uniform trying-on sessions and pack his new school bag together so he knows where things are. There are lots of useful books and apps which are ideal for showing children what to expect on their big day. Have a look at Ladybird’s Topsy and Tim Start School book and app.
Helpful hint'Sharing “happy” stories about starting school with your child will help to reassure them, giving them an idea about what they can expect from the school day and help alleviate their anxiety, for example they can learn the importance of school rules, making friends and finding their way around. Reading every day with your child continues to be really important so keep reading lots of different books together, point out words they might recognize, encourage your child to join in with repetitive phrases and talk about the story and the pictures.' Jenny Guest, Primary School Teacher
Learning to read: 5-7 yearsFrom 5 years onwards children have a rapidly growing vocabulary and are starting to read and write. They have a greater awareness of the world around them and they love to be told stories which capture their imagination, or make them giggle! When they start school, children begin learning to read very quickly through phonics teaching and reading schemes. Understanding the way children are taught to read can feel quite daunting. Synthetic phonics is the method now used in most UK schools and there are lots of phonics books and apps that can be used at home to support your child’s phonics learning.
Phonics involves making the connection between the 44 sounds (phonemes) of spoken English with letters or groups of letters (graphemes). Children are taught that these sounds can be blended to read words. Learning these phonics skills helps children to read fluently, spell accurately and write creatively. Once these have been mastered, encourage your child to read simple readers with stories that will spark their imagination, such as Ladybird’s Read it yourself Level One.
Helpful hint'Sharing books and reading aloud will help to foster a love of reading and it is beneficial to read as much as possible with your child. Create a list of favourite authors so you can search for similar authors or new books with similar themes. Levelled books are great for developing early phonics skills and your child’s teacher will be able to explain their levelling system with you, but it is important to read these alongside other books as this will enable children to experience a variety of language.' Jenny Guest, Primary School Teacher.
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Reading milestones from 0 - 7 years from Ladybird
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