Building Attachments


Having a 0-2-year-old infant or a toddler in the family can be all-consuming. They depend on their caregivers for almost everything, and they are changing almost daily. Caregivers need to continually adjust and learn from kids as they discover new things about themselves, their family, and the world around them. In these early years, mothers, fathers, and other parenting adults can set patterns for deep attachment, trust, and a strong relationship through the ways they interact with their child, how they respond to their child’s behavior, and how they introduce their infant and toddler to the world around them.


Intellectual Milestones



What Milestones You Can Expect How You Can Respond
  • Infants and toddlers learn by exploring with their hands and mouth. They bang, throw, drop, shake, and put items in their mouths.
  • Talking begins with babbling, which leads to gradually learning to say and respond to simple words and phrases.
  • By age 2, a child typically will have a vocabulary of 50 words. As they learn to speak, they’ll use two- and three word sentences, like “More juice,” “Me want cookie,” and “Up, up.”
  • Give kids access to safe, everyday objects that they can play with and, over time, learn to use. This can include spoons, plastic cups, combs, and age appropriate toys.
  • Regularly read aloud with your child. Encourage them to interact with picture books.
  • “Think out loud” when you’re with your baby or toddler (using appropriate language!). They absorb words when they hear them.


Emotional Milestones



What Milestones You Can Expect How You Can Respond
  • Children smile and giggle when they want more of something. They turn their head, shut their eyes, or cry when they want less of something.
  • Crying is the primary means of communication when infants’ and toddlers’ needs are not being met. It is not a sign of misbehavior or manipulation.
  • Young children learn to manage their emotions through the ways parenting adults and others respond to them positively, are dependable, and show that enjoy being together
  • Be as consistent as possible in how you respond to your child’s needs in positive ways. They will learn they can trust and depend on you to meet their needs.
  • Help children calm down by meeting their needs (food, sleep, changing a diaper), removing them from a stressful situation, or comforting them.
  • If you’re experiencing depression, major stress, or other issues that interfere with being present with your child, seek help from a professional. Ask others to be there for you and your child too.

Physical Milestones



What Milestones You Can Expect How You Can Respond
  • Children will first learn to hold their head up. Little by little, they will learn to roll and to sit (usually by six months).
  • Usually by 24 months, children learn to creep, then crawl, pull themselves up, walk while holding onto furniture, stand, and then walk two or three steps without help.
  • At 24 months, children can begin to run, kick a ball, and walk up and down stairs (while holding onto someone’s hand).
  • Young children may catch a lot of viruses or infections that go around. As they do, they build up their body’s ability to fight off infections in the future.
  • Provide a safe environment where infants and toddlers can explore and build their motor skills.
  • Follow health care providers’ recommendations on regular check-ups, immunizations, and nutrition.
  • Provide toys and other safe objects that challenge children to develop their muscles and motor skills. Focus on the toys or objects they’re interested in, even if they aren’t the latest fads

Social Milestones



What Milestones You Can Expect How You Can Respond
  • Young children learn to use smiles, cries, and other expressions to build connections with parents and others, guiding them to what the child wants or needs. Positive responses reinforce growth.
  • Young children imitate facial expressions, and even develop a smile by three months.
  • Infants and toddlers respond to changes in other people’s behaviors, facial expressions, and emotions. They learn to interact as others respond appropriately to what they do.
  • Toddlers will play in parallel—near another child, but not with that child.
  • Turn off electronics so you can really enjoy giggles, eye contact, and cooing, laughing together, echoing their sounds, and talking to them about what’s happening.
  • Find ways to regularly give your child your undivided attention. (That can be hard when you’re so busy taking care of everything.)
  • Introduce your child to other people, but don’t overwhelm them by expecting them to be passed around and admired (unless they like it). Respond to their cues so they learn that relationships can be enjoyable and safe, not overwhelming.

Spiritual Milestones



What Milestones You Can Expect How You Can Respond
  • Infants and toddlers express wonder, joy, and sadness about what they see and experience. They live in the moment. These can plant the seeds for nurturing their spirituality.
  • Through their attachments to parenting adults and others, infants learn that they can trust the world around them. This lays the foundation for being open to goodness, sacredness, and the divine (if that’s part of the family’s culture).
  • Respond positively to their wonder about the world. Let them help you rediscover your own wonder about things you may not have noticed in a while.
  • Introduce them to music, rituals, sights, stories, sounds, and objects that are important to your family’s spiritual practices or religious traditions.
  • Participate as a family in rituals and practices that engage the five senses.

* Search Institute describes spiritual development as “a constant, ongoing, and dynamic interplay between one’s inward journey and one’s outward journey.” It occurs both within and outside of religious traditions, beliefs, and practices. See our international, multi-faith, and multicultural research in this area of human development.

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