Toddler son gives father kiss

Birth to 2 Years

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Welcome to the world of parenting! Your little one will undergo many changes in just a few years. Your child’s development will follow a pattern. As babies grow, they can do more—recognize people, hold things, sit up, crawl, stand and eventually walk. As they become a toddler, they will have constant energy and strong feelings. They will also start to question everything around them. Learning about your child at this age will help you to understand their development. Read more about what your child’s going through in this stage of development.

To help your child understand and cope with feelings you can:

  • describe to them what you think they’re feeling and show that you understand how they feel
  • distract them with an interesting toy, game or song
  • re-direct their attention by changing the activity or move it to a more suitable place




  • Grows quickly (remember that every child grows and develops at their own pace).


  • Learns about love and trust through touching and holding.
  • Becomes very responsive to physical touch. Picks up non-verbal/verbal messages that help them understand their sexuality.
  • Explores their own body parts.
  • Becomes more aware of their bodily functions (toileting) and messages from parents and others about these functions.
  • Becomes more interested in people’s bodies, especially others in their family.
  • From birth, penises will have erections and vaginas will lubricate.


  • Begins to want and need to be independent, so will start to resist limits.
  • Has a favourite toy or blanket for comfort and security.
  • Has mood swings and tantrums.

Cognitive (Learning & Thinking)

  • Needs a sense of trust and to feel secure in relationships with people who are important to them (e.g., parents, siblings, extended family members).
  • Are often curious and explore through touch.
  • Focuses on themselves as they realize they’re a separate person from you.
  • Needs to learn who they are before they can understand others.


  • Develops a fear of strange objects, events and being separated from caregivers.
  • Likes to watch and be with other kids but doesn’t play well with other kids (co-operative play) yet.
  • Not yet able to share.
  • Copies what others do.
  • Starts to show concern for others.

To learn more about healthy growth and development, visit Healthy Parents, Healthy Children.

Click the link to learn more about children with Differing Abilities.

A baby who feels safe and loved learns to trust. When they feel trust, they can give and receive love and affection when they’re older.


What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn

In these early years, your child will need your help understanding their emotions and their bodies. Here are a few ways to do this.

  • Teach your child that their body is private.
  • Use the correct names for body parts including genitals and reproductive organs: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina and clitoris. Knowing the correct names for body parts promotes positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. It also helps to protect your child as you can be specific and clear when you talk to them about when touch is inappropriate. They will also have the words to tell you or a trusted adult if they feel something happened.
  • Make sure your child gets to play with other children their own age often. Your child might not get along with others right away—they’ll learn this with time, practice and with help from you and others. Being able to play with other children will help them form healthy relationships as they grow older.
  • Help your child understand how gender can be expressed differently. A person’s gender identity may be the same or different from the sex they were assigned at birth. At this age, it may simply be a matter of using the word ‘sometimes’ (e.g., sometimes boys have penises or girls have long hair.)

To learn more, see Tips for Talking about Sexual Health.

Helpful Tools


Parent Guide (birth - 12 year olds)

This resource will help you prepare for the ongoing conversations you'll have with your child about sexual health. Whether you've had conversations in the past or not, it's never too late to start!


Sexuality Wheel

Explore the dimensions of human sexuality.


Parents' FAQs

See sample questions and answers to help you start conversations about sexual health with your child.


Tips for Discussing Sexual Health

Here are some tips for starting or having conversations about sexual health at any age.

Parent Guide birth to 12

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