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Developmental Stages

Children in care can be of any age from newborn to 17 years old, and many will have experienced trauma that has affected their development. This could mean that their development and behaviour is not at the stage that could be expected of a child their age.  A ten year old, for example, might be clingy and dependent and act more like a younger child. Also, children grow and develop at their own pace, and a child’s cultural and social environment can affect how they grow, learn and communicate their needs and feelings. An Aboriginal child, for example, might be used to communicating more in non-verbal ways (such as hand gestures or facial expressions) than through using verbal language.

The NT Families Website has tip sheets and information (see below) that can help you to understand what might be happening for babies, children and young people at different stages of their development. However the best way you can support a child's development is to understand and start from 'where the child is at'. This means that you may need to look at information relating to an age group younger than a child in your care, so that you can best understand and support their needs.


How families can support children

These tip sheets have general information about families and how they can provide a nurturing environment that can support the physical and emotional development and wellbeing of children.

Babies 0 -18 months

These tip sheets talk about babies – how they grow and develop, learn to talk, and their sleep patterns. It also describes what we now know from research, which is how important it is to care for babies and to provide experiences that help to prepare a strong foundation for their future.

  • About Babies
  • Living with Babies
  • Right from the Start
  • Milestones (Children 0-4 years)
  • Sleep : Children 0-6 years
  • Why Stories are Important
  • Ages and Stages : Birth to 4months
  • Ages and Stages : 4 to 8 months
  • Ages and Stages : 8 to 12 months
  • Ages and Stages : Your 9 month old
  • Ages and Stages : 12 to 18 months
  • Discipline 0-12 years

'Tune in to Little Ones' Healthy Development booklet - this booklet outlines what children under 2 years old can be doing as they grow and learn, and includes ways families and carers can encourage and support their development.

Toddlers 18 months – 3 years

Between the ages of one and three years a toddler's world is growing rapidly – it is a time of many changes for them. The most important learning for children in these years is that they are separate, independent people. Many of the troubles that some families experience with two year olds stem from the child’s struggle with learning to become independent. 

These tip sheets talk about things such as feeding, learning to talk, sleep, tantrums, toilet training and development.

  • Milestones (Children 0-4 years)
  • Ages and Stages : 18 to 24 months
  • Ages and Stages : 2 to 3 years
  • Living with Toddlers
  • Feeding Toddlers
  • Toilet Training
  • Bedwetting
  • Tantrums
  • Children Biting
  • Discipline 0-12 years
  • Learning to Talk
  • Sleep : Children 0-6 Years

'Tune in to Little Ones': Key Messages about Children poster - This poster has key messages that come from research into the growth of the brain and its importance to the development and wellbeing of children. The messages remind us of the benefit of including babies and children in everyday life - where they are loved, played and talked with; where they are safe and well fed; and where they can explore and interact with others.

The Kids Matter website has information on the mental health needs of babies, infants and preschool aged children that can help you to understand and support children in your care who may be experiencing difficulties.

 Children 3 – 12 years

Children’s horizons grow rapidly as they start to discover they have a place in the wider world. They develop in many different ways.

These tip sheets have information about some of the things you and a child in your care might experience, for example: starting school, sibling rivalry and being home alone.

  • Ages and Stages : 3-4 years
  • Discipline 0-12 years
  • Toilet Training
  • Runaways
  • Bedwetting
  • Tantrums
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Children Biting
  • Home Alone
  • Sleep : Children 0-6 years
  • Stuttering
  • Safety for Children
  • Starting School
  • Developmental Delays

Teens and Young people 12+

Adolescence can be a challenging time for young people and the people who care for them. Teenagers are going through rapid physical and emotional changes, and families and teenagers both need to make changes in their relationship to adjust to this new stage.

Teenagers go backwards and forwards between wanting freedom and yet still needing the security of the family. They may want to experiment with new things such as drugs, sex or parties. Families might worry about these things as well as other matters, such as if the young person in their care is eating well enough. 

These tip sheets talk more about these issues.

  • Teenagers and Food
  • Discipline - Teens
  • Teenage Parties
  • Teenagers, Drugs and Alcohol
  • Runaways
  • Sibling Rivalry
  • Home Alone
  • Teenage Parents
  • Peer Pressure
  • Cyber Safety
  • Children Working
  • Talking Sex with Teens
  • Smoking
  • Eating Disorders
  • Teenage Depression
  • If My Child is Gay or Lesbian

The Raising Children Network and Kids Matter websites have more information about how you can nurture, understand and support the development and wellbeing of babies, children and young people.

Contact the child's Caseworker if you have any concerns about the development of a child in your care.