Noticing your child’s signals about next developmental steps

A friend and I were talking the other day and she mentioned that one of her biggest challenges with providing activities for her children is knowing where they’re at developmentally. I can relate. Figuring out which activities will be engaging and challenging without being frustrating for kids can be a confusing undertaking. So here are some of the questions I ask myself as I’m preparing Montessori activities for my daughter to do at home.

1)     What topic or skill is she most interested in right now?

2)    What action or activity does she seem to enjoy most and like to repeat?

3)    Which items on the shelf are being ignored? (they are probably too easy)

4)   Which items on the shelf are most popular?

5)    When does she get frustrated? (probably too difficult)

These questions help me identify possible new activities, create extensions for activities that are too easy, and remove activities that are too challenging. They also help me identify any sensitive periods of development my child might be in currently.

My daughter is in several sensitive periods right now. She is absorbing language, practicing her verbal skills and memorizing books, asking for multiple repetitions. She is very interested in putting things in and taking things out of boxes, baskets and the like with repetition. And she enjoys using wind instruments like whistles and recorders.

So I often ask myself “How can I provide opportunities for her to further develop her interests and skills?”  And inevitably when I ask myself the question, answers arise. Obviously we’re reading books like crazy, I mean right now she is read at least a dozen books every single day and often she wants each book read multiple times in a sitting.

And then I’m also sensitive to opportunities to hone her skills when we’re out an about. The other day we went to a market near our home where they provide working child-sized grocery carts. We had a handful of items on our list so I asked my daughter to find the items on the list (I helped her locate them) and she delighted in putting four cans of chicken noodle soup into the cart all by her self. We continued through the store searching for what we needed.

When we had everything on our list she was happy to push the cart up to the check out line and talk with the mom and baby in line behind us while we waited for our turn. Then she preceded to hand the checkout guy every item in the cart one by one. All the adults were very impressed but Julia just seemed satisfied with her work and with the social interactions she was having. She wasn’t looking for praise (and honestly she didn’t get much more than a “Thanks honey!”). Instead, she was simply continuing to develop her skills, pushing herself to do more and better than she had ever done before. It was really fun to watch!

So what is your child most interested in right now? How can he further develop an emerging skill? And which activities can you think up that will help foster his love of learning?

Here’s a sampling of activities for Julia right now (she’s 17 months old).

1)     Coloring with large whole hand grasping crayons

2)    Spooning beans from one dish to another

3)    Books, books, and more books

4)   Putting blocks, books, and other toys away

5)    Bean or water bin

If you need some suggestions for your child’s age/developmental stage, leave a comment!

And have a fantastic week, Shelly


My daughter is 17 months as well, and your suggestions seem right up my alley. I do have a hard time reading books to her though. She doesn't like to sit still and listen, she wants to turn the pages herself, even if I'm not done reading the page. Once she's flipped through all the pages, she gets bored and wants a new book, or just wants to move on to play with another toy. Am I doing something wrong or do I just need to be more patient?


These days, the best activity for my daugther (3,5 yo and 18 months), playing with water, toothbrush, little cup, etc. One is standing on the toilet bowl, and one on storage box, each on its side of the sink. I let a little bit of water from the faucet and they can play for a while. Sometimes, the little one gets wet or pour some water on the floor, but it's not a big deal, when you see how much fun they have!


I would love to know what we could be or should be doing at 6 months. We try marching colored beads, making pairs of like colors, but it may be a little advanced for her. She likes banging things that make noise, and chewing on paper, as well as tearing it. What kinds of fun new things can we try?

AwakeShelly moderator

 @tfranklin1210 Oh, I usually stop and address the issue directly saying something like, "I really want to read this book and I'm not finished with that page yet. I'll let you turn the page when I'm ready" and then hold the book closed (works with board books) only releasing one page at a time. If it's too hard for her or she gets frustrated then hold the book out of her reach, ask her to sit with her hands in her lap or behind her or give her something else to hold while you're reading.


I'd also recommend sticking to either short rhyming board books (I highly recommend Sandra Boynton books) or nonfiction books with pictures she can just flip through and talk about until her attention span for books expands a bit more.


I really enjoy reading, so often I read aloud even if my daughter's not "paying attention" and I'm pretty sure some of it still gets in ;)


Don't forget that you can also reinforce pre-reading skills by singing songs, reciting poems, telling stories about life experiences and doing hand or body motions.

AwakeShelly moderator

Hey @SamiFournier I'd recommend LOTS of reading to her and playing games like peek-a-boo, pat a cake, and singing songs. Banging things sounds very age appropriate. You could see if she can direct her banging on a toy drum or create some other opportunity for purposeful banging. Depending on her interest you might want to try offering her a spoon filled with food so she can begin to feed herself (assuming you're introducing solids now or soon). Julia also really enjoyed lying on her back and kicking a rattle or ball at around 6 months old.