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Growing and learning with babies

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Learning does not just belong to school or formal lessons. Children learn very quickly in the earliest years and in many ways. They do not need to be "taught" to learn, (in fact too much "teaching" too early may put them off). They are learning from everything they do.


Parents of young children want their children to get the best start they can in learning so they will do well at school and have successful lives. Often parents of babies wonder what they can do to help their children.  

This information may help parents and families by giving some ideas about things children enjoy, and by suggesting activities which you may enjoy sharing with your children. This is only a starting point. You know your child best, so use your own ideas about what your child can do and enjoys.

The Raising Children Network website has a lot of very good information about child development, communicating and play too.

How children learn

Children are natural learners. They learn best when they are happy and when they have interesting things to do and safe places to do them.

The first and most important learning experiences happen in the family. Children learn from what they see, hear and do in the family and the wider community.

Parents and family members are in the best position to know what their children can do and what they enjoy. Children learn from:

  • watching
  • listening
  • asking
  • trying new things
  • and, very importantly, practising the skills they have learned.

Children do best where they feel loved and safe. Parents and families will be doing the best that they can for their child's learning by spending time with them and encouraging them to try new things.

Follow your children's lead when it comes to play. Do what interests them, when they are interested. Don't push them to do things when they don't want to. Play is most valuable to children when it is led by the child. If children are sick or tired or unhappy or not interested they may not be able to play and learn well.

Around home

While you are carrying out your everyday tasks at home let your children help you do things that they can manage and talk about what you are doing together. Don't expect young children to always want to do these things, there are many times when children enjoy making up their own games.

Food Preparation
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Babies learn through looking and touching.

  • Allow babies to play with their food - ripe bananas, mashed vegetables, cooked rice, etc with their hands (put some newspaper on the floor).
  • Let your baby practise holding a cup with a little water as he gets old enough.
  • Give your baby a plastic spoon to hold while you feed him with a different spoon.

This will be messy, but it is great learning!

Washing and Cleaning
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  • Let your baby sit or lie nearby to watch you.
  • Talk to your baby or sing little rhymes about what you are doing.
  • Let your baby smell the soap or cleaner if it is not too strong.
  • Let your baby sit in the shade while you hang out washing and watch it flapping in the wind.

Playing outside

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Let your baby:

  • Spend time outside enjoying the sun and wind (make sure she is in the shade and not outside in the middle of the day on hot or sunny days).
  • Watch the trees moving in the wind.
  • Go for walks in the pusher around your local block or to a park or on the farm.
  • Look at the birds, trees, water, other people - tell her the names of the things she is looking at.
  • Listen to the sounds - copy the sounds for her.
  • Crawl around on the lawn.

Playing with water

Always supervise your child when playing with or near water.

In the bath
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  • Trickle water over baby in the bath.
  • Have some bath toys to float in the bath for older babies.
  • Give babies time to splash and kick.

Developing imagination

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  • Read to your baby and show her pictures in books.
  • Listen to music together.
  • Name things for your baby such as her feet and toes and tell her what you are doing as you wash, change her etc.
  • Play gentle touching, rocking and holding games.
  • Watch mobiles moving in the wind - simple mobiles can be made by cutting out colourful shapes or pictures and tying them with different lengths of wool to a coat hanger. You could also use cotton reels, plastic spoons, small toys - anything that you can tie onto a hanger.
  • Listen to wind chimes.

Going places

In the car
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  • Give your baby a rattle or musical toy to play with.
  • Hang a mobile above the baby capsule/car seat.
  • Sing while you drive.


South Australia

For more information and ideas about playing with your child in South Australia, you could contact your local:

Your  local kindergarten or your childcare centre will usually have information about other resources in your area such as toy library, playgroup, kindergym. Even if your child is not going to kindergarten yet, the staff will be happy to help you with ideas about resources in your area. Your local council or library will also have good ideas about local resource, groups etc.


Learner, Claire & Dombro, Amy (2000) "Learning and growing together", Washington, Zero to Three - A very useful guide for parents to social and emotional development in the first three years, with a special section on responding to children with different temperaments.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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