Child Development SC Series – Self Help Milestones From Birth To Three
One of the most exciting developmental processes our children go through is one we might not even notice right away, especially when our babies are less than a year old. Even at as young as two months, our babies are learning how to be independent in the world. Within his/her first year, learning to hold the handles of a sippy cup or to fall asleep on their own are important developmental steps that you can celebrate with your child to help them gain confidence in their own abilities. This article will help you understand self help milestones to watch for from birth to age three. If your baby isn’t doing one or more of the things listed below, don’t worry or pressure them to start steps they aren’t ready for. All babies develop differently. If you’re worried about any developmental steps that might be late, talk to your pediatrician, who might suggest an Early Intervention program like ours for your child.
Independence in the First Year
As parents and caregivers, we all know the immense relief of a baby falling asleep on their own. After weeks of little sleep, at two months old our babies will begin to soothe themselves, crying for shorter periods of time. You’ll notice that you understand why your baby is crying better than you did before—your baby is learning to differentiate their cries. At four months old, your baby’s crying will tell you that they’re hungry, tired, in pain, or just plain bored. Your baby will begin to open their mouth when they see food, keeping food in their mouth and swallowing. When they’re full, they’ll turn their head away to let you know they don’t want any more. But most exciting, your baby will fall asleep in their own bed, all by themselves.
By six months old, when your baby wakes up too early from a nap or in the middle of the night, they’ll self-soothe back to sleep. Your baby will get their first tooth, and with it, they’ll start putting their hands in their mouth. They might begin to use the handles of the sippy cup to get a drink on their own. Playing with your child will help them strengthen their newly discovered hands—encourage your child to hold and shake simple toys while changing their diapers. By nine months your baby will put anything they can find in their mouths. As anxiety-inducing as this can be, it is a good thing, because now they’re learning how to feed themselves, picking up small bits of food with their thumb and forefinger. They’re also developing important muscles that will help them with more complex tasks in the future.
At twelve months your child will reach their hands and legs out to help you put on their clothes. You might also find that your toddler opens cabinet doors, enjoys playing with caregivers, eats some solid foods with their fingers, and even uses a spoon (with a lot of mess, of course). Eighteen months will find your toddler eagerly undressing on their own, trying to put on their shoes, and looking to help you.
Self Help Chores at Two Years
At twenty-four months your toddler will look forward to helping you with simple chores, becoming independent and eager to show you what they can do. They’ll also ask for food when they’re hungry and might even show interest in learning how to use their potty.
By twenty-seven months you should try potty-training seriously. Two-year molars will grow in, and with these new teeth new independence will follow—your toddler will begin to dress themselves. Encourage this independence by giving them small tasks, like putting their own clothes in their hamper, brushing their own hair, or cleaning up their own spills. At thirty months, you might add more complex tasks to your child’s self help chores, like brushing their own teeth with supervision, washing and drying their hands after getting dirty, or pulling up their own pants and putting on their socks.
Independence and New Responsibilities at Three Years
Thirty-three months is when you’ll really start to notice how independent your child has become. They might sneak into the cabinet for snacks, try to button and zip up their coat, or play happily by themselves for up to an hour. Try giving them even bigger chores that make them feel involved in family routines, like putting them in charge of setting the table before dinner. They’ll even use the napkins they set on the table to wipe their mouths and hands while eating, just like you do. At three years all the button fastening, table setting, and wiping up spills will become normal and more effortless, as your child continues to play independently, choosing outfits, putting on their own shoes, and holding small responsibilities in the family that will feel large and important to them. Support your child through these transitions, challenging them appropriately to try new tasks while celebrating their achievements.
Relational Early Intervention at Bright Start
At Bright Start, we focus on building the important connections between caregiver and child, helping you navigate and support your child through their exciting, though sometimes challenging, early self help development. If you find that your child struggles with the coordination of one or more of the tasks discussed above, you might qualify for Early Intervention. The Early Interventionists at Bright Start will help you develop patient, consistent routines that prepare your child for big transitions like daycare or kindergarten, reducing the need for special education programs in the future. Talk to your child’s doctor or call the BabyNet office to see if your child qualifies for our services.