Navigating Your Child’s Early Development

If there’s one thing that’s true among all children, and something that certainly surprised me, it’s how quickly a child grows up!

This is particularly true in their early months and years, where it feels like milestone after milestone just whizzes by.

One minute you are giving them their first-ever bath, filling up their memory box, and planning their first birthday party.

And before long you are dealing with a spoilt or ungrateful teenager or being peppered with uncomfortable adult questions!

While this can be incredibly exciting and a source of great pride for parents, it can make it hard for parents to keep up and know what to expect next when it comes to your baby’s physical, emotional and intellectual development.

Ever since I started studying Psychology and Child Psychology in university almost 20 years ago, I’ve been fascinated by how children develop, and I’ve been adding to my knowledge on this amazing subject ever since.

Here are some of the most important areas that you’ll benefit from knowing about while you are on your parenting journey.

Physical & Emotional

Introduction To Developmental Leaps

A baby development leap is when a child experiences a sudden leap in brain development.

Babies experience 10 unique leaps (or growth spurts) in the first 20 months of their lives, and each stage represents a specific change and the learning of new skills (more on these later).

baby smiling

While each of the 10 are unique, they all have two phases: The Fussy Phase and The Skills Phase.

The Fussy stage results from your baby experiencing a lot of sensory changes at once, and as a result, they will probably ask for mom or dad more often than usual.

Common signs and symptoms of the fussy stage include the 3 Cs: Crying, Crankiness, and Clinginess.

The Skills stage is fairly self-explanatory – once your child is over the initial shock of any changes, they will start to explore and may begin doing new things and learning new skills like babbling, being more observant, exploring the new possibilities in their bodies and acquiring new skills like learning to count.

Tips & Advice During Development Leaps

Whether it’s leap 1 or leap 10, development leaps can be hard for parents and babies alike.

Some helpful tips and advice on what to do during development leaps, and how to survive leap 1 all the way to 10 include:

  • Reassure your child by giving them plenty of attention and cuddles to help them feel safe.
  • Remember that a development leap is not permanent, and it’s all part of your child’s incredible development, the learning of new skills and growing up.
  • Don’t neglect your needs or be afraid to enlist some help from close family members.
  • Consider letting your child sleep with a pacifier as the sucking action may soothe them, and playing white noise as it might be comforting.
  • Breastfeeding your baby to sleep might help them feel safer and more comfortable.
  • Consider staying at home more often during a leap, because your home environment is familiar and safe to your baby.
  • Be prepared for your child’s feeding and sleeping routines to change – for example, fighting sleep more often or feeding at unusual times.

Stress & Negative Emotions

There are no prizes for guessing who babies are most emotionally attuned to.

So when a parent or caregiver experiences and shows negative energy or bad energy, there’s a strong chance these emotions will be sensed and picked up by the child.

From around the age of 4 months, babies become more aware of their surroundings, and studies show that babies can indeed pick up on the energy that is being projected from others and can therefore sense when someone is stressed, angry, depressed, or in a bad mood.

baby with worried look on their face

You might be surprised to also learn that babies can experience stress, and it is often caused by a wide range of factors, including frustration, physical pain, negative home environment, separation anxiety and a change in other important areas such as starting daycare.

While babies cannot verbally tell you how they are feeling, they can communicate their stress in other ways, and some of the most common signs of a stressed child include:

Some common signs of stress in a baby include:

Signs of A Stressed Baby

  • Reduced eye contact and looking away.
  • Loud and excessive crying (more crying than usual).
  • A change in their sleep habit, especially sleeping less than before.
  • A change in their eating habit, which can be either overeating or a lack of appetite.
  • Inexpressive, blank looks on their face.

Signs of A Stressed Toddler

  • Crying or having more tantrums than usual.
  • Having nightmares or other fears at bedtime.
  • Vomiting, constipation, or an increase in bowel movement.
  • Trying to avoid certain people or situations.
  • Being more clingy.
  • Anger or sadness.
  • Needing more reassurance from mom or dad on seemingly trivial things.


If you are wondering why your toddler is so clingy you’re not alone, because this is a normal part of childhood development.

5 reasons why your child might be clingy or whiny include:

  1. Separation Anxiety
  2. Toddler Regression
  3. Significant Life Changes
  4. Fear Of The Unknown
  5. Feeling Unwell Or Being In Pain

The good news is that as with any developmental phase, what your child is going through is just temporary and should pass soon.

Five tips for dealing with a clingy toddler with separation anxiety include:

  1. Distractions
  2. Reassurance
  3. Practicing Leaving Them Alone
  4. Keeping Hello’s & Goodbye’s Low Key
  5. Refraining From Blaming Them


Affection typically means different things depending on the age of your baby.

Looking happy to see you when you enter the room or when you catch your baby’s eye is something that might happen when your little one is around 2 months old – and trust me, when it does first happen it’s magical!

More obvious signs, such as kissing, cuddling, and bigger smiles, often occur between the ages of 6-12 months.

young child hugging their father

As with many areas related to development, keep in mind that children develop at slightly different rates, so you definitely shouldn’t be concerned if your one-year-old still isn’t showing you much affection, as this can be perfectly normal.


If you are planning on sending your child to daycare, you might be wondering what the best and worst ages to start are.

We have done a lot of research in this area and found that it’s commonly believed that the best age to start daycare is when your child is between 12 to 18 months of age.

children playing at daycare

However, this is just a guide, and as every child is different and all family situations differ, there is no single best to put your baby in daycare, nursery, preschool or Kindergarten.

Signs that your baby is ready for daycare or preschool include:

  • Your child can stand and walk by themselves.
  • You feel they can play and interact with other children without constant supervision.
  • They can play independently (even for just short periods).
  • They are curious about the world around them and like learning and discovering new things.

Just as there is no best age, there is also no single worst age to start daycare either.

12 months is not necessarily better than 18, 24 or 36 months of age, because it’s much better to send your child to daycare when they are ready, which may be several months or even a year or more earlier or later compared to other babies.

The wrong age or worst age to send your child to daycare, nursery, kindergarten or preschool therefore varies from child to child, so parents should focus on the signs of readiness and finding a high-quality daycare, rather than worrying about your child’s exact age.

Toddler Witching Hour

Traditionally the witching hour refers to when a newborn baby goes through a period of fussiness, usually peaking at 6 weeks and fizzling out at around the 3 month mark.

If we assume that a witching hour refers to a period where a child is fussier than usual, extra sensitive, and acting irrationally in the late afternoon or evening, then yes, it’s fair to say that a toddler can definitely have one.

Three common causes of the toddler witching hour are:

  1. Overtiredness. You don’t need me to tell you that in many ways toddlers are so much more grown compared to what they were like only a year ago. But remember they are still small and developing, and the days can be extremely long at this age of their life (especially if they’ve dropped their nap).
  2. Overstimulation. Things like too much noise, new people, watching cartoons or Disney movies, and other things that lead to a sensory overload can all result in your child becoming easily overwhelmed.
  3. Hunger. If your toddler is hungry in the afternoon, particularly after a full day’s school or nursery, then it may cause their blood sugar to drop. This can lead to crankiness, fussiness and other less-than-optimal behavior characteristics.

Tantrums, meltdowns, and the dreaded witching hour are some of the hardest parts or parenting, but thankfully there are some things you can do to make the witching hour less severe, or better yet, to eliminate it completely.

Here are 9 tips on how to survive the witching hour:

  1. Leave The House
  2. Pick Your Battles
  3. Plan Ahead
  4. Try An Early Bath
  5. Give Them A Snack
  6. Seek Out Distractions
  7. Watch Your Energy
  8. Review Their Schedule
  9. Remember It’s Just A Phase

Potty Training

If you are starting to wonder whether your child is fully ready for potty training then you’re not alone, because it’s hard to really know if your little one is fully ready until you give it a try.

Having said that, there are definitely some signs that parents should look out for that might indicate it’s too early to start the process.

Toddler Sitting On A Potty

Here are 6 signs that your child is NOT ready for potty training:

  1. Your child shows no interest in using the potty.
  2. Your child refuses to sit on the potty.
  3. Your child can’t tell you when they need the toilet, and they can’t hold their bladder.
  4. Your child is unable to stay dry for long enough periods (ideally 2 hours at a time).
  5. Your child cannot undress themselves.
  6. There have been major significant changes at home, such as moving home, you’re expecting or have recently had a baby, or there’s been a death in the family, or some other family crisis.

When it comes to trying to figure out if your child is indeed ready to begin toilet training, it can be helpful to take a quiz on the subject.

That’s why we have put together a fantastic little quiz with 18 questions to help you figure out exactly where your child is on the toilet-training readiness spectrum, and more specifically if they are ready to start now or if it’s best to hold off for a while.

Just remember that potty training is a process that involves both the body and the mind.

So your child needs to (1) be aware of their bladder and bowel signals, (2) needs to learn how to use the toilet, and (3) needs to be willing to the toilet if they want to master this skill.


Whether it’s the notoriously difficult newborn stage, the terrible twos or something later, motherhood can be equally as challenging as it is rewarding,

And the job doesn’t stop just because your child is grown up, especially if you have an adult child year old still living at home.

You only need to look at our list of overwhelmed mom quotes and every mom needs a break quotes like this to prove the point: “Ever had a job where you had no experience, no training and lives were at stake? That’s called being a mom.”

Inspirational, encouraging and strong mom quotes like “it takes someone really brave to be a mother, someone strong to raise a child, and someone special to love someone more than herself” can be a great way to help you stay strong and get through some of the more challenging periods of being a mom.

Mom and Dad Cuddling Toddler

Birthday Parties

Whether or not you decide to throw a party for your baby or toddler is totally up to you.

There are dozens of reasons why you might not want to organize a traditional party to celebrate your child’s second birthday, including the cost and stress that comes with throwing a party (both for you and also your child), and the fact they won’t remember it when they’re older.

Society sometimes makes us believe the only way to celebrate a child’s birthday is by throwing a big party with party games, cake, goodie bags, lots of other kids, an entertainer…you get the picture.

But this simply isn’t the case!

Happy Parents Holding Smiling Baby

The truth is that moms and dads should never feel obligated to throw a birthday party for a young child, and you shouldn’t feel as though hosting a party is something you absolutely must do.

Some parents prefer to throw a large party and invite friends, family and other kids from daycare, with the total numbers quickly racking up into the 20s or 30s.

Others prefer a smaller, more intimate celebration with just their immediate family.

And there are others still who would rather keep things even more low-key, and celebrate without a “party”.

Out of the three scenarios above, there is no “right” or “wrong” decision or way to celebrate, because the ultimate decision should always come down to what you and your family want.

Some of the ways to celebrate your baby’s first or second birthday without a party include:

  1. A family day out
  2. Buying or baking an awesome cake
  3. Putting up awesome party decorations around your house
  4. Visiting a toy store
  5. Going out for breakfast
  6. Having a playdate
  7. Going swimming
  8. Going painting
  9. Taking a staycation
  10. Going on a vacation


An estimated 1 in 10 women between the ages of 15 and 44 have trouble conceiving, and the numbers are the same for men, with 10% of all males who are attempting to conceive in the USA suffer from infertility.

Fertility treatment can sometimes help, but for some couples this procedure is unsuccessful, meaning some women simply can’t have a baby, which is heart-breaking.

One of the biggest pros of adoption is that it can be a godsend to those who cannot get pregnant, and enables them to raise a family despite their condition.

Many people wrongly assume that you must be married in order to adopt, but this is simply wrong – single men and women can adopt a child, and between 2017 to 2019, singles made up 28% of all parents adopting from U.S. foster care.

However, whether your application is as a single person or as a couple, you should note that adoption in general has a fundamental “problem” of supply and demand, or to put it another way, there are more people looking to home a child than there are available children.

It is estimated that at any one time, there are around 1 million families looking to adopt, which far exceeds the 110,000 children who are waiting to be adopted in the United States.

Lastly, keep in mind that parents do not get paid to adopt a child, and do not receive monthly payments to help offset the cost of raising their adopted son or daughter.

The confusion often comes down to foster children vs adopted children, because as a foster child is the ward of the state, they are technically under the care of the government, and it is therefore the government who is financially responsible for them until they become an adult.

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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