Parents have one chance to get it right: what to do in the first 1,000 days

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The first 1,000 days have a profound effect on our child’s development. As parents, we all have a chance to get it right – one of the most important jobs in life, but one for which we have such little training.

Whatever their age there are some common principles for good parenting. These include showing our child affection and love; being aware of their interests and responding to them; and giving praise for trying to learn new skills.

UNICEF’s Early Moments Matter team put together these top tips on how to support your child’s development covering six stages from newborn to two years+.

Newborn, birth up to one week

  • Play: Provide ways for your baby to see, hear, move arms and legs freely, and touch you. Gently soothe, stroke and hold your child. Skin to skin contact is good.
  • Communicate: Look into your baby’s eyes and talk to your baby. When you are breastfeeding is an especially good time. Even a newborn baby sees your face and hears your voice.

One week up to six months

  • Play: Provide ways for your child to see, hear, feel, move freely, and touch you. Slowly move colourful things for your child to see and reach for. Sample toys: shaker rattle, big ring on a string.
  • Communicate: Smile and laugh with your child. Talk to your child. Get a conversation going by copying your child’s sounds or gestures.

Six months up to nine months

  • Play: Give your child clean, safe household things to handle, bang, and drop. Sample toys: containers with lids, metal pot and spoon.
  • Communicate: Respond to your child’s sounds and interests. Call the child’s name, and see your child respond.

Nine months up to twelve months

  • Play: Hide a child’s favourite toy under a cloth or box. See if the child can find it. Play peek-a-boo.
  • Communicate: Tell your child the names of things and people. Show your child how to say things with hands, like “bye bye”. Sample toy: doll with face.

Twelve months up to two years

  • Play: Give your child things to stack up, and to put into containers and take out. Sample toys: nesting and stacking objects, container and clothes clips.
  • Communicate: Ask your child simple questions. Respond to your child’s attempts to talk. Show and talk about nature, pictures and things.

Two years and older

  • Play: Help your child count, name and compare things. Make simple toys for your child. Sample toys: objects of different colours and shapes to sort, stick or chalk board, puzzle.
  • Communicate: Encourage your child to talk and answer your child’s questions. Teach your child stories, songs and games. Talk about pictures or books. Sample toy: book with pictures.

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