Teenagers and school

The teenage years are an exciting time when children are becoming more independent and starting to make their own decisions.  

It is a time when they are developing the courage to leave what is familiar, certain and safe, to take risks, to increase social engagement with their peers and to explore and question, not merely accepting the status quo. However, they still need you to be available when they want to talk. Make time to connect with them 

School challenges

This can also can be a challenging time when issues can arise at school. School problems are common and it is important to recognise and respond to what your teen may be experiencing. 

Issues may include
  • Bullying 
  • Stress 
  • Self-esteem issues 
  • Peer and parental pressure 
  • Conflict with teachers 
  • Dealing with emotions  

Changes in your teen’s behaviour

If there are problems at school, you may notice your teen’s behaviour change. They may begin to show some of the following behaviours or even start refusing to attend school: 

  • Lack of engagement 
  • Truancy 
  • Low school achievement 
  • Becoming withdrawn  
  • Behavioural problems 
How to respond
  • Talk to your teen regularly about school.  
  • Stay calm and be supportive.  
  • Notice how your teen talks about school, if they refuse to talk or appear upset there may be a problem. 
  • If there is a problem address it quickly to stop it from getting worse. 
  • Consider speaking to student services or other school support staff including counsellors, chaplains and Aboriginal Islander Education Officers (AIEOs) as they are there to help if your teenager needs extra support. 

Building a relationship with the school

Having a good connection with your teen’s school is important and one of the best ways to support your teenager’s education.   

As secondary schools are larger than most primary schools, it can be difficult as there are different teachers for different subjects.

However, it is possible for you to build connections with the school in a number of ways, including: 

  • attending parent-teacher interviews; 
  • attending school events such as concerts and sports day;
  • attending parent association meetings; 
  • keeping up to date with school activities and events;  
  • reading school newsletters; and 
  • visiting the school website.  

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Teens school, education and work  

Dr Dan Siegel – The essence of adolescence 

Sharing books with babies

Sharing books together is the single most important thing that you can do to help your child learn to read. As you share books with your baby, they are listening to your voice and learning new words. They are also enjoying a cosy cuddle with you and learning that reading is fun.   

You and your baby are at the very beginning of your reading journey together. As you share books, your baby is watching and learning early reading skills like how to hold a book and turn the pages.

Remember it is never too early to start sharing books with your baby!  

How to share books with your baby

Sharing books is a great way to play together. Sit or lie so that you can see both your baby’s face and the book. This helps you talk about what they are focusing on.  

Try to choose a time when your baby is alert and interested. Don’t worry if you don’t finish the book. It’s okay if you only share a book for a few minutes at a time. As they get older your baby will want to reach out and hold the book themselves. This is all part of the learning process. Help them hold the book and turn the pages. Don’t worry about reading all the words, just talk about what you can see.  

Your baby will love exploring books by putting them in their mouth. Let your baby hold, feel and explore books in this way. This will make sharing books a fun experience for your baby. When they are having fun they are engaged and learning.  

It’s a great idea to make sharing books a part of your everyday routine. Pack books in your nappy bag, in the car and in the bottom of the pram. This means that whenever your child is looking for some fun, there is an opportunity to share a well-loved book. Did you know that you can even get water-proof books that you can share in the bath?  

Top books for babies 

Your baby will enjoy short books with simple pictures or photographs. They will enjoy stories about babies and real-life objects as well as books that have great rhythm and rhyme. It is also a great idea to choose ‘board’ books. These are made out of thick cardboard and are very durable. Your little one can hold the book and turn the pages without any fear of destruction!  

Choose books that: 

  • are about babies; 
  • have simple pictures or photographs; 
  • are durable – thick cardboard, cloth or plastic; and 
  • have interactive elements like textures, flaps, pop-ups and mirrors.  
Five great books for babies
  1. Baby Faces (DK Publishing) 
  2. Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown & Clement Hurd) 
  3. Hello Baby (Mem Fox & Steve Jenkins) 
  4. Peepo (Janet and Allen Ahlberg) 
  5. Kissed by the Moon (Alison Lester)  

Explore more fantastic books to share with your baby  

Top ten tips for sharing books with your baby

  1. Choose a time when your baby is happy and alert. 
  2. Find a quiet place to share books together. Turn off your phone, the TV and the radio so there are no distractions. 
  3. Let your child reach out and touch the book. 
  4. Help your older baby hold the book and turn the pages. 
  5. Sit so you can see your child’s face and the book. 
  6. Talk about what you can see. 
  7. Read the same books over and over. 
  8. Visit the library and enjoy story time with your baby. 
  9. Take books with you everywhere you go. 
  10. Remember it’s never too early to start sharing books with your baby!  

Want to know more?

Zero to Three – How to introduce toddlers and babies to books 

The Raising Children Network – Reading with babies from birth 

The little big book club – Books for babies 

Guiding toddler behaviour

As your toddler is learning life skills, they need to explore and interact with their environment, both mentally and physically. This can result in frequent testing of boundaries.  

At the same time, this boundary testing coincides with a short concentration span and limited language to express needs and emotions. Your toddler may become frustrated and there can be lots of emotional outbursts. In short, they simply ‘act out’ emotionally.  

Common toddler behaviours

While toddlers are learning, they often display these common behaviours: 

  • Tantrums 
  • Bed time resistance 
  • Biting  
  • Kicking 
  • Swearing  
  • Power struggles (with parents, siblings or other children) 

Guiding behaviour

Toddlers learn how to behave with other people by watching those around them. Through observation, they learn how to get on with others and how to treat other people.

Showing and teaching appropriate caring and loving behaviours is one of the most important things you can do to help your toddler to fit in with others. This means teaching children to:  

  • calm themselves down;  
  • share and get on with others; 
  • take turns and wait; and
  • work out problems alone and with others. 

Needing to be more independent is a normal part of development for toddlers. Encourage your toddler to explore and to do things for themselves, while being the ‘safe place’ for them to return to or check in with. 

Tantrums

Tantrums or ‘meltdowns’ are very common in children aged 18 months to three years. They are a normal part of growing up!

Tantrums are usually a lot fewer by four years of age, as children get better at handling big feelings and using words to say what they want and need. 

How can you help?

When it comes to tantrums, prevention is best! A tantrum is your toddler’s way of expressing and coping with a feeling that is too big for them to control on their own. While stressful for you, tantrums can actually be quite scary for your toddler. 

  • Think about when or where your toddler has tantrums. Is it usually when they are tired, hungry, scared, unwell or just frustrated? You can’t always avoid these situations but you can offer extra support when you can see your toddler needs it.  
  • When toddlers get overwhelmed, stressed or unable to cope in a situation, for whatever reason, their brains are flooded with a stress hormone called cortisol. At that moment, toddlers need someone to help them calm down and feel more in control again.  
  • Naming your child’s feelings, staying calm and being there to offer support will help your child feel safe when their feelings get too big for them. 
  • Be consistent. If you sometimes ‘give in’ when your child has a tantrum because they want something you have said ‘no’ to, or they don’t want to do something you have asked, it is more likely your child will behave that way again to try to get the same thing next time.   

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Toddler behaviour: common concerns and Encouraging good behaviour: 15 tips 

The Raising Children Network – The toddler behaviour toolkit 

Zero to Three – Challenging behaviours 

Screen time

Screens are all around us. From phones to the TV, tablets to computers, modern children are exposed to screens from a very young age.

Although children are often entertained by programs they see on these devices, screen time for very young children does not help them learn. 

Babies

Babies are wired from birth to seek out their caregivers face. It is your face that your baby will respond to and learn the most from – emotions, self-regulation and their place in the world.

Research shows that children under two years of age do not get any benefit from screen time, even from programs that are made for kids. The brains of children under two years of age have not developed enough to interpret abstract images they see on screen.

Babies learn best through real-life interactions with you and other people in their environment. 

Toddlers

Research is now showing that the more screen time a child experiences, the more likely they are to have a delay in language development. Children over two years of age can learn from watching the TV and interactive technology; however, the greatest benefits happen when the screen time is shared with an adult.  

The amount of screen time your toddler watches with you should be very limited. The content should be high-quality and appropriate for their age. 

Sit with your child if they are looking at a video or playing a game on a device. Talk about what they are doing and what they can see. Relate their learning to experiences they have had in real-life. For example, if your child is watching dogs running around on the TV, talk about your own dog or a dog you have seen at the park recently. Talk about the sound a dog makes, what they look and feel like and how they act. 

Older children

It is important that screen time for older children is also limited. This gives them time for other types of play which will allow them to use their imagination and be creative. It also gives them time to be active and play outside. 

Children can often be frightened or confused by what they see on TV, so they will benefit most if you watch with them. Always make sure that your child is watching programs that are made for children and appropriate for their age. 

How much screen time should my child have?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following: 

  • No screen time for children under two years of age (except for video-chatting with people they know well). 
  • Screen time should always be shared with an adult. 
  • Children two to five years of age should watch a maximum of one hour per day. Screen time should be high-quality children’s programming and shared with an adult. 
  • Children over five years of age should have strict limits on the amount of screen time they watch. Content should always be age appropriate. 

Other ways to play and learn 

If you are stuck for ways to keep your child busy and away from the screen then check out the following articles for better ways to help your child learn: 

Key points to remember

  • Children under two years of age do not learn from screen time. 
  • Children should only watch small amounts of quality children’s programs. 
  • Always watch with your child and share the experience. 
  • Always make sure that what your child is viewing is appropriate for their age. 
  • Balance screen time with green time (outdoor play). 

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Screen time 

The Hanen Centre – Creating safe(r) screen time for your child 

Talkable – Screen time and language development 

Sleep and brain development 6 to 12 months

By six to 12 months of age, you will have noticed that your baby is more alert and able to stay awake longer between sleeps during the day.

Your baby will start to sleep for longer periods of time and can go longer periods between feeds. In other words, their circadian rhythm (the natural signals that tell us when to eat and sleep) is now well established. 

Sleep cycles and REM sleep

 

The importance of play

Playing with your baby helps them learn. And guess what? Their favourite thing to play with is you!   

Play gives your baby the opportunity to use their senses to explore their world in a safe and fun way. Through play your baby’s brain and body develop and learn new skills.

Your baby is learning through ordinary moments with you throughout the day. These are opportunities to help your baby learn about themselves and the world in which they live.

Check out our baby play ideas and find out more about how your baby learns through their senses.  

How do babies play?

Babies play in many ways. Making eye contact, smiling, touching different objects, feeling textures and making exciting sounds all count as play. As your baby starts using their hands and they become more mobile, they will begin to explore the world around them more independently.   

Remember that play time is a great opportunity for your baby to experience a variety of positions and to move freely within a safe play space. This can include lying on their tummy or sitting on a play mat.

As your baby gets older they will want to move. They will enjoy crawling under chairs and will begin to pull themselves up to stand at low tables or the couch. Check out Ngala’s tips for creating a safe play space for your baby.

How do I play with my baby?

Playing with your baby is all about spending time face to face and talking together. When your baby is engaged and having fun, they are learning. As you talk about what they are doing, they are learning what words mean, which lays the foundation for their first spoken words.  

You don’t need expensive toys to help your baby learn about the world, just look around your house for safe objects for your baby to explore. This could be a scarf to play peek-a-boo or a well-sealed home-made shaker made from a bottle filled with rice.

As your baby becomes more mobile, they will love exploring items in the kitchen like plastic containers and safe utensils (spatula or wooden spoon). Discover other homemade toys ideas that you can enjoy with your baby.  

Sharing books with your baby is another great way to play. Check out our article all about the best way to share books with your baby. Remember, your baby learns through repetition, so they will enjoy the same objects, toys, books and activities over and over again.  

Fun with food

As your baby begins to eat solid foods, this is a great time for fun and exploration. Mealtimes are all about letting your baby explore through touch, taste and smell in a relaxed and fun way. Remember, initially they will only get a little bit in their mouth, but the important thing is that they’re having fun! 

Great ideas for fun with food are: 

  • Yoghurt finger painting 
  • Stewed fruit and steamed vegie finger foods 
  • Allowing your baby to suck food from their own fingers 
  • Putting food in a fresh food feeder 
  • Offering foods with a variety of flavours and textures

Crawling and exploring

Once your baby starts to move they won’t want to stop! Playtime for older babies is all about being active and learning to sit, roll, crawl and discover the world around them.

Giving your baby the freedom to move helps them develop their physical skills, learn how to use their hands together to manipulate objects, and explore a variety of textures in a safe way.

Here are some great ways you can encourage your child to move and explore: 

  • Put your baby’s favourite toys slightly out of reach to encourage them to move 
  • Use large cardboard boxes to make tunnels for your crawling baby 
  • Pile cushions on top of one another to make a simple obstacle course 
  • Hide interesting objects such as scarves, shakers and textured balls inside tissue boxes 
  • Let your baby explore their reflection in the mirror

Remember that play time is all about getting down on the floor with your baby and having fun together!  

Want to know more? 

The Raising Children Network – Babies play and learning 

Talkable – Play with your baby today 

Nutrition and brain development 6 to 12 months

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the introduction of solids for your baby between five and seven months of age.

At this age your baby is interested in their surroundings and what people around them are doing. They may look at food going to your mouth and may drool or grab for it. These are signs of being ready for solid food.  

Your baby’s brain is constantly evaluating the information it receives through the senses. This is a great opportunity to expose your baby to new foods, even ones you don’t like! 

Exploring and experiencing food

Food does not just provide sensation through taste and smell. Babies need to touch, squash, poke and smear the food to get a better idea of what to expect from this new stuff before it gets to their mouth.

Try not to worry about the mess. Babies experiment with pieces of food as they manipulate items from their hands to their mouth. Examples of this could be gripping a piece of bread, squeezing a banana, and grasping a grain of rice between finger and thumb.

All of these experiences teach babies about texture, hardness, slipperiness, softness, stickiness, and dryness. 

Breast and formula milk

Even though solid food is an exciting new experience, brain and body growth is still dependent on breast or formula milk.

Breast milk contains a relatively large proportion of cholesterol and saturated fat. This is fantastic ‘brain food’. Connections made between brain cells, and indeed all cell membranes of the body, depend on cholesterol to ‘insulate’ the nerve fibres so they send messages efficiently. The relatively high amount of fat in breast milk reflects the importance of brain growth in the human baby compared to other mammals. 

What you can do to help

  • Let your baby explore their food, as well as you feeding them. 
  • Look out for foods that are rich in iron after the first few weeks of introducing solids, especially if your baby was premature. 
  • Continue to breastfeed for as long as possible to reap the benefit of the brain building properties of breast milk (WHO recommends breast feeding until about two years of age). 
  • Offer breast or formula feed first then solids. This starts to change at around seven to eight months of age. 
  • Avoid giving your baby ‘low fat’ foods, as all natural fats are great for brain growth. 
  • Monitor your baby’s environment for toxic hazards. Wash all fruit and vegetable skins or remove peel. Avoid toxic cleaning agents, sprays or even air fresheners and stay away from fumes like heavy traffic, smokes, garden sprays. These chemicals can affect your baby more than a fully grown adult. 
  • Watch out for what your baby licks, eats or sucks. Some paint can still contain lead and many plastic baby items contain BPA (Bisphenol A). This is a type of chemical which can disrupt hormones. Buy toys made of natural substances and use chinaware over plastic bowls, spoons and cups. 

Want to know more?

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Baby development 

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Moving on to solids 

Raising Children Network – Babies development 

Language and brain development 6 to 12 months

All babies are born with the desire to communicate. By three months of age your baby is babbling, cooing and generally engaged with what is going on around them. By constantly chit chatting with baby, you are helping to develop their brain and expanding their understanding of language.  

How babies learn language

Babies need to hear language spoken by real people. The caring and engaging tone of your voice will soothe and reassure them.

It is important to spend time talking to your baby without the noise of the television or radio on in the background. They need to be able to hear clearly the words you are saying to them.  

It is never too early to start reading to your baby. Babies may begin to explore books by looking, touching and mouthing. Mem Fox,  Australian children’s author, has a great website that reinforces the importance of reading to children. 

Language and brain development

Repeated exposure to words helps brains to build neural connections. These connections will enable a baby to learn words.

The sequence of language development follows brain development. Receptive language (listening to and understanding meaning) develops before expressive language (producing speech). This is because the area of the brain relating to receptive speech develops first. 

What you can do to help 

  • Play games with your baby e.g. peek-a-boo. This will help your baby to learn about give and take. This is an important skill for engaging in conversation and learning language. 
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes.
  • Enjoy picture books together. 
  • Leave books where your baby can reach them and allow your baby to explore books in any way they like, even if it is for only a few seconds. 
  • Talk about everyday things, hold conversations with your baby and follow their lead. Responding to your baby’s sounds is also important, since these are your baby’s first attempts at using language. Your response motivates them to keep trying. 
  • Introduce new words. It is important for children to be continually exposed to lots of different words in lots of different contexts. This helps them learn the meaning and function of words in their world. 

Want to know more? 

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Baby development 

Raising Children Network – Language development 3 – 12mth

Sharing books with preschoolers

The importance of sharing books 

Sharing books together is the single most important thing that you will do to help your child learn to read. As you share books with your preschooler, they are learning early reading skills like how to hold a book and turn the pages, what words, letters and sounds are and how to listen for rhyme.  

Books are also a fantastic way to talk about the emotions of others. You can explore these emotions with your child when they are feeling safe and are not experiencing the intense emotion themselves.  

How to share books with your preschooler 

Try to make sharing books a part of your everyday routine. Often reading before bedtime is a great way to relax your child and get them ready for sleep. Sit or lie together somewhere cosy and let your child open the book and turn the pages. Take time to talk about the pictures. Explore how the characters in the book are feeling and what may have caused them to feel this way. You can also relate your child’s real life experiences to those that are happening in the book (for example “remember when you lost your teddy at the park? That made you feel sad too.”).   

Your preschooler will enjoy hearing the same books over and over again as they learn to anticipate what will happen next. And it’s okay if they just want to look at the pictures with you rather than listen to the story. In fact, there are some great books for preschoolers that don’t have any words at all! The important thing is that your child is enjoying sharing books with you and that you are talking together.   

Top books for preschoolers 

Your preschooler will now be enjoying longer books. They will enjoy stories with characters that do things just like them (for example starting school, going to the zoo, going to Grandma’s house).  

Choose books that: 

  • Have characters a similar age to your child 
  • Engage your child through a shared interest or captivating illustrations 
  • Explore emotions, solve problems or encourage your child’s imagination 
  • Have great rhythm and rhyme  

Five great books for preschoolers 

  1. Harriet you’ll drive me wild (Mem Fox & Marla Frazee) 
  1. Imagine (Alison Lester) 
  1. The Magic Hat (Mem Fox & Tricia Tusa) 
  1. The Everywhere Bear (Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb) 
  1. Who Sank the Boat? (Pamela Allen)  

Explore more fantastic books to share with your preschooler. For even more book sharing ideas head down to your local library and have a chat with your friendly librarian. 

Top ten tips for sharing books with preschoolers 

  • Let your child choose the book. 
  • Let your child hold the book and turn the pages. 
  • Talk about the emotions that the characters experience. 
  • Talk about the pictures together and focus on what your child is interested in. 
  • Ask your child “what do you think might happen next?” and “why do you think…”. Give your child plenty of time to answer you. 
  • Start to talk about words and sometimes point to the words as you read them. 
  • If you are reading a rhyming book together, talk about words that sound the same. For example “Bee and me, they sound a bit the same. They rhyme”. 
  • Talk about letters and the sounds they make. Point out the initial letter in your child’s name. Talk about the sound it makes. 
  • Make your own books with your child. Draw your own pictures together or take photographs. 
  • Try re-telling favourite stories and acting them out together.  

Want to know more? 

The Hanen Centre – Sharing Books with Preschoolers 

The Raising Children Network – Reading with Preschoolers  

The little big book club – Books for Preschoolers 

Top ten play ideas for babies

Your baby loves to play and spend time with you. The best thing about play time is that babies learn through their senses, so try to choose toys and activities that engage them in different ways.

The best playthings… 

  • are interesting to look at 
  • make noises, move or vibrate when your baby touches them 
  • have interesting textures  
  • are safe for them to put in their mouth to taste and explore 
  • have interesting and different smells 

Remember that your baby is learning to explore their world by putting most objects in their mouth. So don’t worry if toys get a little wet and soggy, you can always wipe them down after your baby has finished exploring. Most toys are suitable for cleaning, just check the instructions. 

Always make sure toys are safe for your baby before they start to play – this avoids them getting upset if halfway through playtime the object has to be removed.  

Top ten types of baby toys and games

We’ve created a list of ten types of toys or games that your baby will love. They will help them to develop their coordination, feed their curious nature and teach them about the world around them. 

Noise-making and texture toys

Baby toys that make noises and have different textures are great for your baby to explore. They will learn to use their hands together to grip and squeeze. They will also enjoy putting these toys in their mouth to explore by chewing.

Mirrors

Your baby will love looking at themselves (and you) in the mirror. Choose a child-safe mirror that they can safely handle. This is also a great toy to use when your child is having tummy time.

Peek-a-boo

Babies love playing peek-a-boo with soft scarves, tea-towels and other pieces of material. Initially you may like to start playing this game with a see-through scarf so that you don’t disappear from sight!

Household items

There are so many items from around the house that your baby will like to hold and explore. Initially they will like to play with plastic spoons and containers. As they become more mobile and start to use their hands they may like to bang the pots and pans with a wooden spoon. Utensils such as a potato masher, whisk and pastry brush make great toys to explore too.

Boxes

Head down to your local green grocer or hardware store and pick up some free cardboard boxes. Your baby will love to learn how to open and shut the boxes and will be delighted as you hide other objects inside.  An empty tissue box also makes a great toy as your baby can put items inside and then shake the box. Eventually they will learn how to put items in and out themselves.

Balls

Balls are a great toy for babies as they can be used in many ways. They help your baby learn to use their hands and eyes together, helping coordination. Your young baby will enjoy holding, rolling, touching and hitting soft balls that make noises. As your baby grows they will enjoy playing with bigger balls with different textures (such as spikey, furry or smooth balls). Play turn-taking games with your baby like rolling the ball to each other. You could also build a tower out of blocks and roll a ball to knock it over.

Cause and effect toys

There are many toys that encourage your baby to learn about cause and effect. This means that your baby does something and it has an effect on the toy. Some great examples include pop-up toys or toys that open or play music when your baby hits them.

Sensory play

Your baby learns through exploring with all their senses. Babies love to play with objects that feel, taste and smell interesting. Younger babies will enjoy sensory play with you. For example, splashing in the water at bath time. When your baby is able to sit in their highchair put yogurt on the tray for them to touch and explore. Older babies will love crawling through the sandpit and feeling the sand on their toes, feet and legs.

Books

Books are a fantastic ‘toy’ to share with your baby. Thick board books are the best for this age as they are very durable. Let your baby explore books by holding and turning the pages. Try not to worry if your baby puts books in their mouth. This is how they learn about the world around them. Take books with you everywhere and always have them available to your baby at playtime. Head to your local library to find these great books for babies.

Musical instruments

Babies love music and the only thing better than listening to it, is making it. Toy drums, xylophones, shakers and bells are all great instruments for your baby to play with. You can also make your own instruments such as a bottle with rice in it or a pot and a wooden spoon.

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Babies play and learning 

Zero to Three – Play