Building Developmental Skills by Age
There are countless ways you can help your child build developmental skills, depending on their age group. Some approaches involve exercises you can practice while others are more play-based. You may be surprised to learn how age-appropriate play can affect so many different types of skill development: language, literacy, problem solving, emotional, social, cognitive and even behavioral. Spend some time working on these skills with your child, and you’ll both reap the benefits for years to come.
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 0-2 months
- Practice placing your child supported in different positions, on back, on belly, on side, and sitting up
- Give your child plenty of time on their back on a flat, firm surface for playtime
- Support your child on tummy with props, such as a Boppy pillow or rolled towel, or blanket
- Use faces and black and white or contrast toys to get your child’s attention and play
- Play peek-a-boo with your child
- Place a baby safe mirror in your child’s playpen or on their play mat so that they can look at themselves
- Hold a toy or a rattle above your child’s head so that they can reach for it.
- Respond and smile when your child makes a sound
- Use “parentese” to talk to your child
- Sing and read to your child often
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 3-4 months
- Practice placing your child supported in different positions, on back, on belly, on side, and sitting up
- Give your child plenty of time on back and belly on a flat, firm surface for playtime
- Support your child in side lying with Boppy, rolled towel or your arm/leg behind their back to keep them in side lying to play, encourage and assist to roll in and out of this position to play on side
- Use toys that are small and easy to hold such as a rattle or rings to dangle overhead to bat and grasp to play
- Play “This Little Piggy” and “Round and Round the Garden” and other activities with your child while getting dressed.
- Put toys near your child so they can reach for them with their hands or kick them with their feet.
- Put a small rattle in your child’s hand and help them hold it and shake it.
- Respond to and mimic sounds your child makes
- Play repetitive and predictive games with your child, such as peek a boo
- Continue to use “parentese” and talk to your child about their toys, pictures, and things in the house
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 5-6 months
- Practice placing your child supported in different positions, on back, on belly, on side, sitting up and standing
- Give your child plenty of time on belly and back on flat, firm surface for play time, assist to roll into these positions to get in and out of tummy time
- In sitting, work toward lowering support by sliding hands down trunk to hips, can also use Boppy to support around hips as child progresses sitting independence
- Continue to use toys that are small and easy to grasp (rattle, rings, o-ball) and can introduce toys with buttons, lights and spinning
- When your child drops a toy on the floor, pick it up and give it back, this “game” is teaching cause and effect.
- Hold your child up or support with pillows when sitting on the floor. Let your child look around and reach for toys while they keep their balance.
- Provide your child with teethers and toys that are safe to put in their mouth.
- Imitate your child’s sounds and expand those sounds into words: i.e. is they say “bah”, you say “bottle”
- When your child looks at something point to it and name it, talk about and describe it
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 7-9 months
- Practice placing your child supported in different positions, on back, on belly, side sitting, sitting up and standing
- Give your child plenty of time on belly on flat, firm surface for play time for progressing rolling, pivoting, and crawling for mobility skills
- Assist child when getting to and from sitting to push up from sidelying or lower to side, can also practice leaning child in sitting to each side either on lap or bal for child to strengthen opposite muscles by righting self back up to seated
- Can start to encourage child to stand leaning and holding onto furniture
- Teach cause-and-effect by rolling a ball back and forth, pushing toy cars and trucks, and putting blocks in and out of a container.
- Provide your child with small edible things like cheerios or puffs to practice picking up small objects.
- Encourage your child to transfer an item from one hand to the other by handing them an object in the hand they are already holding onto something.
- Name and talk about objects and people when your child points at them
- Continue to repeat sounds and words your child makes
- Practice reciprocal play and turn taking
- Continue to read and talk to your baby often
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 10-12 months
- Practice placing toys on furniture and on floor to encourage pulling to stand and lowering to floor, side stepping along furniture and even climbing onto furniture
- In standing and walking, work toward decreasing support from two hands to one hand, overhead to hand held below shoulder height, and unsupported independent steps
- Give your child crayons and paper, and let your child draw freely. Show your child how to draw lines up and down and across the page.
- Play with blocks, shape sorters, large knob puzzles and other toys that encourage your child to use their hands.
- Sing songs with actions, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Five Little Ducks” and “Wheels on the Bus.” Help your child do the actions with you.
- Talk to your child about actions and what you are doing throughout the day (Mommy is rolling the ball)
- Read to your child and let your child turn the pages of the book; point to people and objects in the book and talk about them
- Expand on and describe your child’s first word utterances: i.e. they say “ball,” you say “Yes, that is a small, blue ball”
- Sing songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Hey Diddle, Diddle” to learn new words
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 13-18 months
- Progress walking balance skills
- Placing toys on the floor on path to reach down to grab while walking
- Practice uneven surfaces including yards/grass, sand/beach, on pillows and cushions, up and down ledges/curbs/stairs
- Throwing a ball in standing
- Reaching for items held/placed overhead
- Hide things under blankets and encourage your child to find them
- Encourage your child to drink from a cup and use a spoon, no matter how messy
- Blow bubbles and let your child pop them
- Continue to repeat your child’s spoken words
- Continue to read and talk about the pictures in the books using clear, simple words
- Ask questions to increase your child’s comprehension
- Build pretend play skills with toys that encourage development; such as dolls
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 19 months-2 years
- Progress walking practice walking forward and backward, pulling and carrying objects
- Balance on one foot with kicking a ball or walking up stairs holding the rail
- Jumping practice on kid’s trampoline and squatting and jumping down from curb, small stool, or single step with hands held
- Encourage your child to play with blocks. Take turns building towers and knocking them down.
- Ask your child to help you open doors and drawers and turn pages in a book or magazine.
- Allow your child extra time to put on and take off pullover shirt and to take off shoes.
- If your child says a word incorrect, do not correct; rather say the work correctly “ This is a duck”
- Create communication opportunities for your child to say words instead of pointing
- If your child has difficulty saying a word, say the first sound of the word to help
- Play with puzzles with different shape and color pieces or with familiar objects, animals, etc to name
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 2-3 years
- Balance with one foot practice to hold 2-3 seconds and navigate stairs without the rail
- Jumping forward using lines on ground with tape or chalk, increase height to clear with hula hoop or broom handle, then small boxes like tissue boxes
- Throwing and catching with playground size ball and decrease size of ball as skill is mastered
- Give your child an “activity box” with paper, crayons, and coloring books, color and draw lines and shapes with your child
- Provided puzzles with 3-4 pieces for your child
- Allow your child extra time to dress in the morning
- Start using 2-3 step directions with your child
- Continue to read to your child each day and encourage them to point to objects you name
- Encourage playing with peers and siblings, at home, at the playground/park, or on playdates
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 3-4 years
- Balance on narrow surfaces, balance beam, curbs
- Coordination exercises for bilateral coordination activity including hopscotch, galloping, or practice yoga poses
- Throwing at target for hand eye coordination including velcro paddle ball, throwing into basketball hoop, laundry basket, or bucket, drawing a target on wall or floor or suspend a hula hoop
- Draw with your child, encourage them to draw a person including as many body parts as they can think of
- Do simple craft projects with your child and help them use kid size scissors to snip paper.
- Teach your child to write their name and other uppercase letters.
- Continue to encourage communication with words, peer play, turn taking, and sharing
- Model good grammar around your child “I want you to wash your hands”
- As you read, ask your child to tell you what happened in the story
- Continue to name common toys, items, and colors
Developmental Skill Building for Ages 4-5 years
- Coordination and balance for hopping patterns, skipping, and jumping jacks
- Jumping timing to jump rope, start with slowly moving rope side to side or jumping side to side/front and back over a small obstacle
- Catching a small ball tossed or bounced, dribble a basketball, balloon volleyball
- Keep a handy box of crayons, paper, paint, child scissors, and paste, encourage your child to draw and make art projects with different supplies
- Play with toys that encourage your child to put things together
- Encourage your child to use the toilet and wash hands on their own
- Help your child learn to “read” by looking at the pictures and having them tell the story
- Also, try having your child tell you what they think will happen next in the story
- Teach the concept of time to your child about morning, afternoon, evening, today, tomorrow, yesterday, and all the days of the week
- Continue to encourage peer play with playdates, a trip to playground/park to work on turn-taking, choosing activities/games to play, and problem solving skills for this age group