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NANKID MileStone

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is building a vocabulary foundation

36 Months Milestone

Joyful chatter is gaining momentum 

Your three-year-old’s language skills develop at a rapid pace.

Word usage: Children now use many nouns (names of things), verbs (action words) and adjectives (descriptive words). They also use plurals (where they add “-s” to describe “more than one”), the correct word order and grammatical agreement in sentences. For example, “The dog is wet” and “The boys are gone”. 

Size and classification: They can identify sizes and point out which of two objects is bigger or smaller. They can also categorise objects into groups, for example, if you show them pictures of a cat, apple, jacket, ball and tree, they can say which one is an animal, food, clothing, to­y or plant.

Language comprehension: They understand long and complex sentences and they can follow commands that have two parts, for example, “Please go to your room and fetch your shoes.”

Rhymes can shape your child’s mind 

Rhymes and songs give young children a sense of mastery
The words help increase vocabulary as children learn about animals (“See you later, alligator”), 

numbers (“One, two, three, four, five…once I caught a fish alive”), the names of body parts, (“Head, shoulders, knees and toes”), directions (“Put your left foot in”) and all kinds of day-to-day elements (“Mr sun…sun…Mr golden sun.”) 

Rhymes accentuate sounds and rhythms

Rhymes are also valuable from a developmental perspective because they accentuate the sounds and rhythms that are unique to a specific language. As children discover that certain words end on the same sound they slowly but surely start to pay attention to the specific sounds within words. Being able to do this is important. It lays the foundation for developing a skill that is called “phonological awareness”. 

This skill is a prerequisite for mastering any alphabetic system. Why? Because the basic premise of an alphabetic system is that symbols are used to represent speech sounds on paper. To be able to use these symbols, a reader has to be able to identify the individual speech sounds that we use to produce words. 

Rhymes and Songs add words to a child’s “sound library”

The goal is to expose children to as many rhymes as possible so that they learn to notice all the distinct sounds within words that they will need to identify one day when they learn to read.


Play with the rhymes and songs that your child already knows

This will introduce them to the concept of rhyming. Say the rhyme, or sing the song, but leave off the rhyme words for them to insert, for example,

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you ___. (Your child says: “… are”)

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the ___. (Your child says: “sky”)


Play rhyming games

  1. Teach your child to move rhythmically from side to side to the beat of a song.

With your child on your lap, sway rhythmically from side to side as you sing the classic song, “Row, Row, Row your Boat.” When your child is a bit older, the two of you can sit facing each other, holding hands. Most children learn to sway rhythmically, without support, when they reach their sixth birthday.

These swaying side-to-side movements help to develop a child’s sense of the opposite sides of their bodies.

  1. Teach your child to respond to “stop” and “start”.

Play a game where you walk around rhythmically while saying a rhyme, but whenever you get to a rhyming word at the end of a phrase, you freeze … silently wait a few seconds … and then resume. 

Stopping and starting helps develop the ability to respond to sudden commands. It also develops a sense of ending off and starting again that children need for learning to form phrases in speech and thinking. 


Tip: Fingerplay fun 

These are special rhymes that have corresponding hand movements. Many are passed down through generations because children love them! They sharpen memory skills through imitation and repetition and teach children to visualise the meaning of words.

Here’s one for 3-year-olds:

One little baby (one finger up), rocking in a tree (rock hands side-to-side). 

Two little babies (two fingers up), splashing in the sea (hands splashing).

Three little babies (three fingers up), crawling on the floor (crawl fingers up legs). 

Four little babies (four fingers up), banging on the door (knock on head).

Five little babies (five fingers up), playing hide and seek (cover face with hands). 

Keep your eyes closed tight now, until…I say…PEEK! (uncover on "peek!")


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is developing a sense of their body

37 Months Milestone 

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Three-year-olds start to develop a sense of their body and what they can do with their body parts. They will soon start to add eyes to circles when they scribble. Lines extending out of a circle represent arms or legs. Children typically do not draw people with distinct heads and bodies before age four.

Identifying body parts: Typical three-year-olds can learn to show and name basic body parts: head, feet, hands, eyes, mouth, nose, ears, hair, tongue, tummy, arms, legs, back, shoulders, knees and fingers. Many can also show and name their thumb and forefinger.

Developing a sense of position in space: To do this, you can raise the bar by asking your child to place their hands above, below, in front, behind and beside certain body parts.

Raise a competent mover with “ABC” 

Play “ABC” games to scaffold your child – between the ages of three and five – on their way to becoming a competent mover. 

A-GAMES are aimed at developing a strong athlete
Think of a capital letter A and see a stick figure with its legs planted far apart, standing strong. 

This represents physical strength and endurance. In other words, you need to play games that aim to develop skills that you would associate with a gymnast (balancing) or a rugby player (scoring a try). Such an athlete is strong, agile and fast and has impressive co-ordination and balancing skills. 

B-GAMES help children to understand their bodies better
Young children are designed to learn, slowly but surely, from what their eyes, ears, skin and muscles tell them as they move and explore. They tune into their bodies and relate to their surroundings in four ways: 

  1. They develop a body scheme (“body awareness”) as they discover where different body parts are and what they can do. This leads to developing something called “midline crossing”, where they learn to feel comfortable with moving the right hand across the midline of the body and using it while it’s on the left side and vice versa. 
  2. They develop “spatial awareness” as they learn about position, distance and speed. They discover how much space their bodies occupy, how to use their bodies in the space that is available and how their bodies take on different shapes as they assume different positions. 
  3. Children also learn about the direction of movement by sensing the left and right sides of their own body, and then using that inner sense of direction to relate to all the other directions in which their bodies, and objects around them, can move (called “directional awareness”).
  4. They develop “temporal awareness” as they practice moving their bodies in relation to rhythm and time. This makes it possible for them to understand how sequences are put together and it prepares them for being able to follow and create patterns – a skill necessary for learning to read, write and do mathematics.


C-GAMES help children to develop movement vocabulary 
Children need to know different basic “moves” for them to learn specialised sports skills in primary school. This is the same as learning numbers in order to learn maths or the letters of the alphabet in order to read and write. 

Think of a C and turn it on its side to form a bowl. Now…think of the fundamental movement skills that pre-schoolers are introduced to: rolling, balancing, sliding, jogging, running, leaping, jumping, hopping, dodging, galloping, skipping, bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking and striking.

Imagine adding those movement skills to the bowl one by one. This represents you building your child’s movement vocabulary.


Tip: Develop your three-year-old’s sport skills  
You can provide enough skills by keeping the letters “ABC” in mind.

A-games point to games that build strength and stamina. Pulling up on monkey bars and running up and down a flight of stairs are A-games that build strength and develop balance and coordination.

B-games focus on developing body awareness. Pointing to body parts with eyes shut and doing an obstacle course develop body awareness.

C-games involve teaching fundamental movement skills. Things like teaching your child to kick or throw a ball, swing a bat, stand on one leg, or balance on a kerb as the two of you walk around the block fall into this category.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is starting to understand feelings

38 Months Milestone

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands 

Three-year-olds can name their own feelings such as happy, sad, scared, angry and excited. They can also recognise and name these feelings in other people.

They no longer view children as interesting living toys, but as friends with whom they have relationships that may or may not last. They refer to another child as “my friend” and may announce, “He’s not my friend anymore.” They also like to have and be a “best friend” to someone.

A three-year-old understands rules, however, they use their prior social experiences with the important adults and children in their lives as a frame of reference, to know which behaviours are socially acceptable or not. It is therefore important for a child to be surrounded by good role models.


Tip: Positive attention 

Show your child that you are paying attention and are interested in their thoughts and feelings. 

Regard your children as if their actions are the result of their unique ideas and emotions, rather than view what children think, say and do as predictable and child-like in an inferior way.

Be genuinely interested in what your children are thinking and feeling, for example, “I see you’re looking at the lion. Do you remember the day when we saw the big lion at the zoo?”

Interestingly, children who are treated with positive attention tend not only to be smart, but also exceptionally kind.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is learning to hold a pencil in a tripod grip


39 Months Milestone

Nip, flip, grip – I know how to hold my pencil

Children typically learn to hold a crayon in the tripod grip (like an adult) when they are three to four years old. It’s important that they learn to bring the tips of the thumb, index and middle fingers together in this way. This is a functional skill that enables them to do many other things such as fastening buttons.

Three-year-olds can turn a large key in a door and they typically thread six large beads onto a lace, before losing interest. 

If you prepare coils of playdough, your child can now practice using a pair of scissors to cut them into shorter pieces. They can also practice opening and closing the scissors by snipping into the edge of a sheet of paper. Encourage your child to hold their elbow close to their body and hold the scissors with their thumb facing up.


Tip: Pencils and Pegs 

Introduce your child to the feeling of holding a pencil with the tips of three fingers. You can play games where each player gets to place a peg in a pegboard whenever they get something right. The first player that completes a row wins. 

Doing this practices the skill of bringing the thumb, index and middle finger together. It also helps develop in-hand-manipulation skills when your child uses the fingers and palm of one hand to turn a peg to face the right way before placing it into the hole.

If you don’t have a pegboard set, use a toothpick to punch holes into a box and cut earbuds into short “pegs”.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] needs to feel safe and loved

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40 Months Milestone 

The greatest gift is to let your child know they are loved

Children are totally dependent on their parents for survival. This explains why children become anxious on a deep survival level when parents are stressed and too busy to spend time with them.

Children express their fears in various ways
Most become whiny and clingy. Some become uncharacteristically naughty and some act like babies to try and force their parents to devote more attention to them. Others withdraw and become overly picky about things. Some even show unexpected bouts of aggression.

This is when many parents ignore their children or send them into time-out.
This sounds perfectly reasonable, until one stops to consider what the child needs.

Anxious children need the exact opposite of being ignored or sent into time-out. They need attention and reassurance. Why? The reason they are acting out is that they feel unwanted. 


Touch Therapy 

Imagine a circle around every child called “the circle of resilience” which makes them resilient to stress. Now, see this circle shrink as everyday frustrations and feelings of being disconnected from parents eat away at it. 

This is a good way of explaining the impact of stress on children.
The problem is that some frustrations are inevitable: parents experience conflict, siblings grab and adults refuse to hand over cookies for dinner.

What’s more, children feel disconnected when parents are busy and emotionally distant.
When parents are not truly 100 % present, but quick to attend to other things, little ones feel as if they are a burden and that their relationship with their parents is hanging by a thread. 

When a child’s circle of resilience gets uncomfortably small, everything becomes too much.
They become whiny and clingy and easily upset by the most unlikely things. 

Parents have circles too.
Parents’ circles also erode when typical everyday frustrations eat away at them and when they feel disconnected from the people that they love. 

And so, before you know it, everyone in the family is edgy and caught up in a negative cycle. 

Fortunately, circles can be nurtured to grow bigger again.
Touch therapy can be used to enlarge our circle of resilience. 

Deep pressure touch on a child’s muscles triggers their brain to release a valuable hormone called oxytocin, which has a dual function. First, it works to counteract the negative effects of stress hormones in the body. Second, it’s a ‘bonding hormone’ that fosters trust between people.

Touch therapy is called “therapy” because it is healing and it works.
Doing touch therapy for five minutes in the morning and five minutes before bedtime typically makes a very noticeable difference. Within two to three days, children become more resilient to frustration and are less whiny and clingy.


Now that you know that it works, here’s how to do it:
Sit with your child on your lap with their back facing you. Cup the palms of your hands over their shoulders. Then squeeze …. and release. 

Repeat these “squeeze and release” movements slowly and move your hands a little farther down towards their wrists every time you do it. 

When you reach their hands, squeeze them together in front of their body. 

Repeat, but now move your hands from their hips down towards their feet.

Next, place your hands on either side of their head to cover their ears and give their head a long and loving hug. 

Do this, moving repeatedly from their arms to their legs and head for at least five minutes at specific times twice a day to get the desired impact.

One last comment
Be careful not to do touch therapy directly after an emotional outburst to ensure your child doesn’t start seeing it as a reward. 

The best times for spreading your love with touch therapy are early in the morning, when you get back from work, and/or just before bedtime.


Tip: Positive Parenting: The 5-step plan for dealing with meltdowns 

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Use a loving tone.
  3. Stand your ground. When your child doesn’t have a choice, state the facts. For example: “Honey, it’s cold out and you need to put that jacket on. Those are the facts.”
  4. “Staylisten” if they explode. “Staylistening” is when you let your child cry and get it all out. Focus on being warm and reassuring, without offering explanations or trying to fix the situation. Simply say, “This is really hard for you, hey?” 
  5. The last step is called ‘start over’. When the storm is over, hold your child and say, “I love you even on the bad days. Let’s start over, okay?” 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is getting better at counting

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41 Months Milestone 

Look who’s counting 

Three-year-olds typically count to 10 and they hand over one, two or three items when you ask for them. They also develop classification skills as they learn to group things. This is important for future mathematical development. Here’s what to expect:


  1. They can sort objects if they can use one rule at a time. In other words, they can sort blocks either by colour or shape in one session. However, if you ask them to do one directly after the other, they will most likely struggle to switch mental gears. 
  2. They can group objects based on where things can be found such as in the kitchen, garden or shop.
  3. They can use categories and say whether something is an animal, food, toy, clothing, furniture, tool, musical instrument or vehicle. This is based on prior discussions with parents or teachers about what things are used for.


How to build a solid understanding of numbers 

Grade Rs typically count to one hundred, but few truly understand the quantities that different numbers describe. Many freeze when you ask: “If Johnny has six balls and Mary has eight balls, who has more?” 

Children who don’t understand the value of numbers will naturally not be able to conjure up a mental image of two sets of objects (in this case, a set of six balls and a set of eight balls) and then compare the sets against each other to determine which one of the two is bigger or smaller. As a result, they won't be able to add and subtract with understanding.

Ultimately, every child in Grade R should be able to picture an image in the mind's eye of a number line with each of the numbers in its place, based on the value that it represents.

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Sadly, the majority of our South African children across all income groups don't reach this milestone in time. 


What can I expect from my child at every age along the way?

Toddlers discover the meaning of “one and many” during their second year of life. 

Two-year-olds usually learn to rote count to three and you can teach them to hand you either one or two toys. 

Three-year-olds can be expected to count to five and they understand the concepts of one, two and three well enough to be able to hand you that many objects if asked. 

Well-developing four-year-olds can be expected to rote count to 10 and count any number of objects from one to five. 

Most five-year-olds can count to 20 and have a real understanding of numbers up to 10. 

And finally, a six-year-old should be able to count to 100 (also in tens); count any number of objects between one and 20; and arrange the numbers from one to 10 in order to build a number line. 

Young children need to experience concepts on three levels for them to develop a clear understanding of the value of different numbers. 

1Engage your child on a physical level, using their entire body. You can, for instance, ask your 
three-year-old to move (clap, jump or twirl) one, two or three times.

2. Let your child use their hands to discover the “how-many-ness” of numbers. You can, for instance, ask your child to hand you one, two or three of something whenever the opportunity presents itself.


3. Involve the mind’s eye. You can place a heap of single construction blocks, two-block towers and three-block towers in a bag and take turns with your child to use your sense of touch to find one of each number without looking. Then arrange your towers from one to three. 

Our goal is for our children to feel as comfortable with numbers as they are with their own name by the time they enter primary school.


Tip: Understanding numbers

The following game is a simple – yet effective – way to expand a child’s understanding of numbers at three years of age.

Play a game where you put only one, two or three pieces of food (such as blocks of cheese, bread or grapes) in a bowl. Say, “If you can count it, you can eat it!” Repeat with different numbers, but only one, two or three. 

When your child counts with a forefinger and touches one piece of food for every word, you can see that they understand the numbers. You have reached an important milestone when the last number said is the one indicating how many pieces of food there are. When this happens, you can introduce four and later five pieces of food.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s vocabulary has grown

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42 months Milestone 

A child needs a forest of words

Your child’s sentences are becoming longer and more complex as their vocabulary grows from a few hundred words at age three to more than 2 000 words at age five. 

Topics for conversation: Typical 3 ½ year-olds can relate experiences from the recent past and they can tell you what they are doing at that moment. They can also describe what objects are used for.

Developing a sense of identity: They can give their name, surname, age and gender as well as the names of their parents.

Language comprehension: They understand questions that start with what, who, where and why. They can follow commands that require them to keep three things in mind. For example, “Point to the cat, the dog and the cow.” They understand words such as loud, quiet, fast, slow, light (weight), heavy, hot, cold, soft, rough. They also recognise many colours.


Tip: Teach children to question

One very effective way to stretch a three-year-old’s language and build reasoning skills is to have everyday conversations that teach them to question and think about things. 

Practically speaking, when you are about to do something that is going to bring about a certain change, don’t do it straight away. Pause, ask a “What will happen” question and then have a discussion to find an answer together. 

      • What will happen if we put the dough into the warm oven?
      • What will happen if I blow air into this balloon?
      • What will happen if I add bubble solution to the water?
      • What will happen if I hang the wet shirt on the washing line?


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s balance is getting better each day

43 months Milestone 

Life’s a great balancing act

At 43 months, children learn to balance with increasing confidence. 

Stairs: They now walk up and down a flight of stairs easily, with sure footing and one foot to a step.

Tip-toe: Almost all three-year-olds learn to walk forwards and backwards on their toes. Towards the end of the year they learn to run on their toes.

Heel-toe: If you create a line, that is 1 ½ cm wide, with chalk or masking tape on the floor, your child can now learn to balance on it in a heel-toe position for 10 seconds. 

Riding a tricycle: Being able to ride confidently and fast – without slowing down in a turn – shows that your child is developing an internal sense of balance and an awareness of the two sides of their body.


Practice makes perfect 

Unlike a child’s language and thinking skills, physical skills develop pretty much on their own during the first two years. Language and thinking is shaped by a parent’s interaction with their child right from birth. However, if parents give babies space to move around, food, love and a safe environment, they will learn to sit, pull themselves up against furniture, walk, and bend over to pick things up from the floor. Parents won’t remember doing anything specific to train or teach them. The process is programmed into their DNA.

By the child’s third birthday, most parents are so used to seeing their little one’s physical skills appearing out of nowhere, that they don’t realise that things have changed.

Three-, four-, five- and six-year-olds need their parents to help them refine their movement skills. Their physical development is no longer in automatic mode. If you look at a group of three-year-olds on the playground, you’ll notice only slight differences in the way they move, how confident they are and how much they enjoy themselves.

But look at that same group three years later, when they’re six years old. Some of them will be much stronger, fitter, more agile, better coordinated and more competent than others.

Early childhood is the optimal time to develop fundamental motor skills and body awareness. Refining motor skills takes a great deal of time and effort and are best practiced while playing. It is therefore important to provide opportunities for young children to be physically active. This gives them opportunities to develop and master their motor skills. The fundamental motor skills developed during early childhood will serve as the foundation for more advanced movements required for sports later in life.

Be proactive about refining your young child’s motor skills. Find out what a child of their age should be able to do every step of the way. If you feel they are lacking confidence when they play a certain game that should be within their ability, stop and see which skills they are expected to use for playing that particular game. Then, target that skill by playing other games that also involve using that same skill. The key to helping your child reach their full potential is to strengthen weaker skills as you identify them.

As parents, we all make sacrifices to work and earn money to provide a good life for our children, but ultimately, it’s the time we invest in them that changes their lives forever.


Tip: Body awareness 

It is important for your child to recognise where their body is in space so that they can navigate their environment. Body awareness tells us, for instance, how far to reach for something or how close to stand next to someone. 

To support your child in this area, play a game where you ask them to touch three body parts or touch one body part with another, for example, “Touch your eyes – nose – toes!” or “Touch your foot with your elbow.”

Can your child do this with their eyes closed? This is important because it requires the skill of visualising where different body parts are in the mind’s eye.

This game is also valuable for building a child’s auditory working memory – a skill that involves keeping information in mind for long enough to be able to work with it.

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is starting to understand responsibility and sharing

44 months Milestone 

Your child is starting to share

Typical three-year-olds separate more easily from parents if they believe their caregiver has an agreement with their parent(s) to take care of them and support them when they need help.

At this age, a child’s growing understanding of the concept of ownership makes it easier to share possessions, but only if they know their property will be returned and the other child is not imposing on their ownership.

They’re starting to play cooperatively with other children. However, since the pre-frontal lobes in their brains are still immature, their working memory allows them to keep only one or two things in mind at a time. This is also why they speak in short sentences. A three-year-old still struggles to inhibit impulsive behaviour. They have trouble adapting to sudden changes, such as when they’re playing pretend with other children and somebody does something unexpected. 


TipPlaygroup confidence 

If needed, you can help your three-year-old to feel happier at playgroup:

  • Ask the teacher to take care of your child and wait for their affirming response in your child’s presence.
  • Take pictures of your child with their teacher and in different areas of the school environment such as the sand pit, bathroom, swings and block corner. Your child can show these photo’s to friends and family and talk about what happens in these areas.
  • Invite a child from the class over for a playdate. This will help your child will feel confident that they will be invited to join in when the rest of the kids are playing at school. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s little hands have mastered a lot

45 Months Milestone 

Your child is learning to use those little hands 

Your child’s fine motor skills are developing. They are now able to pour water from a jug. 

They can learn to undo buttons and trace on a line with few deviations. Many children learn to fasten buckles and some even try to lace their shoes at this age.

Hand preference often emerges at this age, however, left-handed children may develop hand preference somewhat later, and this is perfectly fine. 

Another exciting milestone that children typically reach during the six months before their fourth birthday, is learning to use a pair of scissors to cut a circle, while stabilising and turning the paper with the supporting hand and staying within 1 cm of the line at least ¾ of the way.


Tip: Cutting 

To help your child remember to keep their thumb facing upwards while using a pair of scissors, you can draw a little smiley face on the thumb nail. 

Then simply say, “Smiley up and elbow down!” to help your child develop good habits as he or she practises scissor cutting skills. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] enjoys helping with chores

46 months Milestone 

Cleaning together can be fun

Three-year-olds can help around the house and it is important to give them this opportunity. It is a way of developing self-worth and responsibility in them. It also teaches them to solve problems and collaborate with people. 

What’s more, they get to refine their processing skills as they have to learn to remember the steps of what to do, stay on task, plan ahead and adapt to changing demands.

Three-year-olds can do the following chores:

  • Pick up toys and put them away under supervision
  • Feed pets
  • Dust furniture
  • Put dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • Pack books away in a bookshelf
  • Help to set and clear the table
  • Wipe down the front of appliances
  • Help to sort laundry, for example, match socks and help fold towels.


Exercise develops thinking skills in children

We’ve all heard, somewhere along the line, that exercise is good for us. Every parent would agree, in theory, that children should be encouraged to be physically active. Yet, few make it a family priority. 

Here is a study that should provide us with the necessary motivation to get moving!

A group of 171 children, aged between 7 and 11 years, who had a sedentary lifestyle and were overweight at the time, were divided into three groups. All of them were transported to sports grounds after school, five days a week, for a period of 13 weeks.

During their time at the camp, Group 1 was kept busy with paper-based games and activities that naturally didn’t involve physical exercise. Group 2 exercised for 20 minutes per day and Group 3 exercised twice as long, completing two separate 20 minute sessions every day. Activities included running games, skipping with a rope and modified soccer and basketball games. Children were rewarded when they tried to maintain an average heartbeat of 150 beats per minute.

All 171 of the children were pre-tested and re-assessed afterwards with regard to reading, maths and executive functioning skills.

Note: Executive functioning refers to a child’s ability to stay focused on a task to reach a goal. It encompasses many skills, but the three major areas involve being able to keep information in mind to work with it (working memory), not giving in to impulsive behaviour (inhibitory control) and the ability to adapt to changes in demands, for instance when the rules of a game change (flexible thinking).

After 13 weeks, researchers detected no effect on the children’s reading skills in any of the groups. However, there was a very noticeable improvement with regards to their executive functioning skills, and subsequently also in the mathematical achievement of the children in Group’s 2 and 3.

What’s even more interesting, is that the children from Group 3, who exercised twice as much, benefitted roughly twice as much, compared to those in Group 2.

The most convincing part of all this is that the researchers were able to use MRI scanners to get a glimpse into how the pre-frontal brain activity of a number of the children, who were involved in the study, changed over time.

These findings are interesting, considering that the exercise that these children did was purely physical. The activities didn’t involve special games with complicated rules designed to practice and enhance executive functioning and none of the children received extra maths tutoring.

Since this study was published in 2011, scientific evidence has been mounting that exercise is not only good for our bodies, but also for our brains.

Yet, exactly why physical activity benefits the pre-frontal lobes specifically is not yet well understood. 

What is clear, however, is that the parents of young children will be doing their children a huge favour if they encourage them to engage in physically challenging activities and different kinds of sports from early in life. 

S: Davis, C.; Tomporowski, P.; McDowell, J.; Austin, B.; Miller, P.; Yanasak, N.; et al. (2011). Exercise improves executive function and achievement and alters brain activation in overweight children: A randomized, controlled trial.Health Psychology, 30(1), 91-98.


Tip: Yoga helps with concentration 

Researchers say we have good reason to believe that focused movement and breathing exercises, like yoga, can help our children to be more focused and settled. 

When people focus their attention on executing movements in a specific way, our thinking brain (prefrontal lobes) is activated along with the cerebellum at the far back of our brains. This coordinates voluntary movements which work with the motor regions that span from side to side over the top of our heads. 

This north-south-east-west activation organises the brain in a special way. 

In line with this, researchers in schools in the USA have found that doing yoga exercises before school helps children with special needs to concentrate better and be more settled.

Lees meer: Barclay, E. 2012. Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behaviour of Kids with Autism. Date of access: 28 May. 2015.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is beginning to follow instructions

47 months Milestone 

Your child is learning every day 

Your almost four-year-old’s mind is developing every day and they can now point out which of two objects is bigger, smaller, longer or shorter.

Three-year-olds understand instructions to physically climb on and under or in and out of something. They know what is means to stand next to and behind or close to and far from something. 

These physical experiences prepare them for learning to use two blocks to follow instructions such as, “Put the red block under the blue block”.

If you take the lid of a bottle, a thick crayon, a teaspoon and a teabag and draw an outline for each item on paper, your child will now learn to match the objects with their outlines. 


Tip: Visualisation skills

Tell your child they are a bunny rabbit, hopping around. When you say, “Stop Bunny!” your child must freeze and wait to hear which new animal is going to make its appearance. Possible suggestions include: dog, mouse, lion, elephant, butterfly, slithering snake or a stork lifting its long legs through a pond. 

These interesting ways of moving develop body awareness as children explore what their different body parts can do. On a mental level, they also help children to practice their visualisation skills. What’s more, three-year-olds assume that everyone else sees and experiences what they experience. Pretending to be someone or something else prepares them for learning to “Look beyond themselves” at four years of age.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is gaining language confidence


48 months Milestone 

Out of the mouth of babes 

Your child is gaining language confidence and possibly sharing the most hilarious stories about your household to their teacher. Typical four-year-olds use sentences of five words or more. They are learning to use words to express negative emotions, such as disappointment or anger, instead of using only physical actions.

Topics for conversation: They understand and use whatwhowherewhy and when and they are excited to talk about past and future events. Most four-year-olds don’t use the past and future tense well before the age of 5 ½.

Classification: Your child can now sort pictures into categories such as animals, food, clothing, toys, plants, tools, musical instruments and vehicles.

Practice opposites: Stating the opposite of something gives children a sense of mastery. First, ask your child to complete sentences such as: “This ball is big, but this one is ___” or “The glass was full, but you drank the water and now it’s ___”. Then ask: “What is the opposite of ___?”


Tip: Have fun with working memory and vocabulary

Without your child seeing, put different objects inside a bag. Use items such as an orange, pebble, sponge, crayon and a coin. Describe one of the objects in the bag and invite your child to feel inside the bag to find it. For example: “Can you find something flat and hard?” (the coin). If your child can’t find the right object, give another clue such as, “It feels a bit cold and it is round.” 

Researchers say that adults can keep five to seven things “in mind”, whereas a small child can only keep one or two. This game helps to build their working memory and it broadens your child’s vocabulary with words and concepts that can be used for describing things. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] will enjoy playing ball games

49 months Milestone 

The more I practice, the luckier I get

Your four-year-old can practice ball skills in many exciting ways. 

Kicking: Show your child how to run towards a ball and kick it towards a target without stopping first. They can practice running and kicking a slow-moving ball. Your child will start getting good at kicking at about 4 ½ years of age.

Catching: Typical three-year-olds catch a tennis ball with their elbows bent in front of their bodies. In contrast, four-year-olds usually learn to keep their elbows nearer to their sides. They also now enjoy practicing to catch a larger ball that is bounced in their direction.

Throwing: Most four-year-olds are ready to learn how to “underhand” throw a tennis ball towards a target. They also enjoy learning how to throw it so that it hits the floor once before hitting the wall.


Having a ball

Ball play is very beneficial to a child’s development. There are two main reasons why we should play ball with our children from early on.

Firstly, ball play helps to develop important skills that impact a young child’s development in many practical ways.

Consider the following: 

  • Practicing to hit, catch, throw or kick a ball develops a sense of rhythm in your child. Interestingly, a well-developed sense of rhythm is necessary for smooth coordination as well as visualisation skills.
  • Any kind of ball play also helps to develop body awareness. As children handle balls, they discover where their different body parts are, their functions, the space they need to carry out different actions and how much pressure these actions require. This develops the foundation for practical skills such as pressing down on a pencil with the correct amount of force.
  • Learning to catch a large ball with two hands involves coordinating the left and right sides of the body. This is no easy feat as it involves the two-way communication of the brain, where the right half of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa. Without this skill – known as bilateral integration – children struggle to do practical tasks such as dressing themselves and cutting with scissors.
  • Whenever children practice throwing a ball, they develop an internal sense of timing and direction. Practicing to throw a ball strengthens a child’s neural network in their brain. Each throw improves the communication between the brain, muscles and ligaments that work together to perform this action. These messages coordinate the movement of your child’s arms and hands to aim in the intended direction and release the ball at exactly the right time. Neural networks learn from experience. 

Secondly, learning to control a ball is a necessary part of developing “movement literacy”.
Nobody needs to teach a typical child how to walk, bend over to pick something up, or climb a flight of stairs. Why? Because these skills are necessary for survival and acquiring them is built into the human DNA. 

On the other hand, many of the task-specific skills that your child is going to need to play sports are learnt. 
Skills such as jumping over hurdles, handling balls and somersaulting are learnt. They do not happen automatically. The only way to master them is to be taught, followed by lots of practice until the technique becomes second nature.

The good news is that we can prepare our children for success in any kind of sport by teaching them a set of fundamental movement skills. 
These skills are recognised worldwide as the building blocks of movement and the “alphabet of movement literacy.” They include locomotor and non-locomotor (stabilisation) skills. Encourage your child to roll, balance, slide, jog, run, leap, jump, hop, dodge, gallop and skip. 

Ball skills teach object control and can be learnt by bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking and striking balls.

There you go! Now, where’s that ball?


Tip: Alternatives to balls 

If your child does not yet enjoy playing with balls, bear in mind that smaller and heavier balls are more difficult to catch as they require better timing and faster tracking skills. 

So, to provide more opportunities for success, put the soccer and tennis balls aside for a while and play catch with balloons, beach balls, foam balls or bean bags instead.

Also, demonstrate how to throw a tennis ball like a cricket bowler (with an overarm action). Show your child how to grip the ball firmly in the dominant hand, touch it to their ear. Next, they must step forward with the foot opposite to the throwing hand while straightening their arm to cast it forward. 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] practices life skills during fantasy play

50 months Milestone 

Magical thinking creates endless possibilities

Four-year-olds believe rules should be obeyed because adults say so. They have not developed a sense of right and wrong yet. They can also learn to adapt the rules to changing circumstances, for example, “You may be loud outside, but we use our ‘inside voices’ in the house.”

Three to five-year-olds are wired to experience the world as if anything is possible and they are the main characters in a fantasy play. This explains why most are afraid of imaginary things and some have imaginary friends.

Sometimes they are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality. This is a small price to pay for being able to slip in and out of a fantasy world where they experience feelings and do imaginary things that would otherwise be totally impossible. The fantasy world gives children a place to practice and develop life skills. 


Tip: Prepare your child for social success 

The easiest way to effectively prepare a pre-schooler for social success is to explain to them how they should behave before they go somewhere such as a shop, Grandma’s house or a friend’s house. The explanation should be given in detail and repeated several times before arrival.

Pre-empt any difficulties your child might experience. For example, if your child is shy, prepare them by explaining that when Aunty Mary opens the door, they can go to her and say, “I’m happy to see you!” Explain that if they want to give her hug, they may. If they don’t want to give her a hug, they should be kind and say “Hi five!”.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s cutting skills are improving

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51 Months Milestone 

Your little one’s making the cut

Your child’s ability to use a pair of scissors is developing. With practice, they will learn to cut more accurately on a straight line (15 cm long) while staying within ½ cm of the line. Your child will get better at using the supporting hand to hold and rotate the paper, while the dominant hand opens and partly closes the scissors in a continuous movement to cut. Children at this age can typically cut a circle within 1 cm of the cutting line. 

Four-year-olds are also able to learn how to copy a cross by drawing a vertical and a horizontal line while looking at an example. They can draw a picture of a person with four body parts and by their fifth birthday, they will be drawing people with 10 or more body parts. 


Tip: Encourage repetition 

Young children are mostly focused on what they are experiencing in the moment. To encourage them to repeat an action for the sake of practicing a new skill, it is important to present these repetitive exercises as either part of a game or steps required to complete a fun project.

A tried and tested way to get children of this age to practice their cutting skills is to work together on making a paper chain. Draw lines with a ruler on an A4 size of paper. Work together to cut them into strips. Use a stapler (or glue) to make rings that connect to create a chain. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is discovering how the world works through play

52 Months Milestone 

Play is the work of childhood

At this age, children play in certain predictable ways with everything that they are allowed to play with because they are naturally driven to figure out how the world works. As they move their bodies and handle physical objects, they discover patterns and learn to understand concepts.

Children find much satisfaction in moving their own bodies and objects from one place to the next. Often, after getting everything to their destination, they end up doing nothing with it. Developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, refers to this kind of play exploration as “transporting”.

Young children also learn to turn everyday materials into their own creations. They love to explore how paint, water, sand, clay and loose blocks can be used to make something.


Tip: Treasure hunts 

One fun way to develop your four-year-old’s working memory is by setting up treasure hunts. Hide three things when your child isn’t looking and surprise them by announcing, “It’s almost bath time! But … before we can go, you need to find three things for me that we will need. Listen closely: You must find the bath plug … your hairbrush … and your duck.” Let your child repeat what you’ve said and then give them hints by telling them they are “getting warmer” when they are in the region of the treasure or “colder” when they move away from it.

When your child finds one of the hidden objects, ask them to tell you what else is still on the list.

If you don’t have much time, just hide one object. 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is starting to understand others feelings and views

53 months Milestone 

Tuning into others

Children’s thinking skills expand in special ways at age four as they develop “theory of mind”. This new insight enables human beings to understand that other people may not always share their thoughts, feelings and perspectives.

As a result, four-year-olds learn to look at other people differently as they begin to consider what other people may be thinking in various situations; what their intentions, emotions and perspectives may be. 

As children develop theory of mind, they pay closer attention to their own thoughts and begin to talk about their opinions. In other words, a four-year-old can learn how to explore their thoughts and actions from another perspective.

Encourage conversations about what your child is thinking and planning to do. Discuss how some things could possibly be done differently.


Board games 

One of the things that make games fun is that they challenge children to keep information in mind so that they can work with it.

Board games and educational games teach concentration skills. As we play these games, everyone is expected to focus their attention, wait their turn (even when they feel like doing other things) and follow a set of rules. When the rules change, they need to adapt accordingly. 

All of these things work together to strengthen neural networks in the “control centres” of the child’s developing brain. This strengthens something that developmental psychologists refer to as “executive functioning”.

Executive functioning skills are wired into the developing brain over time. 

This process starts at birth, spikes during the four- to six-year period, then continues throughout a child’s adolescent years and into early adulthood. In fact, researchers believe it only fully matures after a person’s 24th birthday.

Educational toys and board games are slow paced and interactive. As a result, they work to build the three major areas of executive functioning: working memory, inhibitory control and flexible thinking.

  1. Working memory 

An example of your child’s working memory is the ability to recite three given numbers backwards. Board games require your child to keep information active in their mind for long enough to be able to work with it. You can also ask your child to spot small differences between two images that are almost identical. You will see your child form a mental picture of the first image, then look at the second image to compare them.

Children who don’t have a well-developed working memory find it difficult to concentrate in a classroom because they cannot remember what the teacher said a few minutes ago. They also struggle to read with understanding because, by the time they reach the end of a paragraph, they have forgotten what was said at the start.

  1. Inhibitory control 

This is a child’s ability to hold back impulsive behaviours and impulses. Board games allow children to practice their inhibitory control, which is the key to being able to stay on task because it makes them: sit and listen when someone is talking; keep their hands to themselves when they feel like grabbing something desirable from someone; use their “inside voice” when appropriate; and finish a task when they no longer feel like it. 

  1. Flexible thinking

This refers to being able to shift mental gears, a useful skill for board games. People who haven’t developed flexible thinking cannot think on their feet and quickly change direction when a situation demands them to do so. They easily get stuck in doing things in a particular way and follow certain thought patterns.

In conclusion, one of the beautiful things about educational games and board games is that they are games. 

Children don’t even realise that they are developing important learning skills while having fun with the family. 


Tip: Boosting concentration through books

When we read to our children, the closeness that we share with them motivates them to pay attention. As they listen to the story and focus on the illustrations, they’re swept away on an exciting, but relatively slow journey that unfolds as the pages are turned. 

Eventually, the culmination of many story book experiences reward children for their mental engagement by strengthening the neural networks in many important areas of their developing brains.

Reading to your child will help them to: develop executive functioning skills; boost their vocabulary; enhance their visualisation skills as they learn to give life to static illustrations; think creatively; and organise thoughts and ideas. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s working memory is improving and sentences are getting longer

54 months Milestone 

My new language skills are expanding my world

Children’s language development go hand in hand with their intellectual ability. As their working memory develops and they learn to keep more information in mind for longer, their sentences become longer and more complex. 

As a result, they learn to connect ideas and start using transition words (connectors) to join phrases together. For example, “I ran home and I got there just in time” or “I ran home, but I was still late”. 

They also typically use because to indicate that something resulted as a consequence of something else, for example, “The girl was upset because her jacket got torn.” 

Another direct consequence of their growing intellectual abilities is that children become ready to engage in word play, jokes and friendly teasing as their fifth birthday approaches.


Tip: Fantasy play

One way to teach children to follow a storyline is to create little plays and invite them to be part of the production by adding sound effects. 

The easiest storyline (that children love) is where an animal meets a series of other animals, while on their way somewhere. 

Here is an example: Once there was a lonely donkey. He went for a walk. Before long, he met Duck. Duck said “I swim well and I go ___ “ (let your child say ‘quack-quack’). “Can I go with you?” asked Duck. “Of course!” said Donkey. And on they walked together. Add more animals in this way, such as cow, horse and monkey. End your story with: “They came to a big field. Everyone played together and Donkey wasn’t lonely anymore!”


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s body awareness is increasing

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55 months Milestone 

Pre-learning skills in action 

Certain physical activities build confidence and develop core strength and stability in 4 ½ years-olds.

Wheelbarrow walking: Your child can now walk forward rhythmically on extended arms with support at the hips, and later at the ankles. 

Somersaulting: Many children of this age still fall sideways as they roll over. As their fifth birthday approaches, they typically learn to tuck their chins in and roll onto their backs. Some even learn to roll over twice.

Clambering on jungle-gyms: At this age, children typically climb by pulling up with one hand, followed by bringing their other hand up to it. Encourage your child to practice looking up as they climb and as their fifth birthday approaches, demonstrate how to climb a ladder with alternating arm movements.


How body awareness boosts confidence and learning readiness 

At birth, babies have no idea that they exist in bodies, nor what their body parts can do.

Developing body awareness

Children develop a sense of their own bodies by physically interacting with their environment. As they move around, handle objects and play, their senses send information to their brains about their space. This helps them build an idea of what their bodies look like and where all their body parts are in relation to each other and the objects around them, without thinking about it.

As children move, they learn how much space their body parts occupy and how these parts work together. They also learn about rhythm, speed, distance and the amount of pressure required to perform tasks.

Sensory systems

Two sensory systems play a hugely important role in body awareness known as the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. 

The vestibular system is situated in the inner ear. It controls a person’s sense of balance and spatial orientation. It constantly sends movement information to the brain. 

The proprioceptive system consists of a network of special receptors in our muscles, tendons and joints. This forms a continuous feedback loop with the nervous system and sends information to the brain about the position of our body parts in relation to each other as well as objects in the environment.

Decreased body awareness

Children who have issues with sensory processing lack body awareness. This leads to clumsiness and low self-confidence. Children with low body awareness may, for example, put too much pressure on a pencil when they draw or write. If they struggle to use the two sides of their bodies together, they have trouble guiding a piece of paper with one hand, while cutting with a pair of scissors in the other. 

Body awareness forms a foundation

Body awareness connects a child with their environment from the very core of their physical experience (the body). As a result, it develops parallel to many other developmental skills. In fact, many of the “higher mental skills” cannot develop fully when there is something amiss with a child’s sense of their body. As an example, children have difficulty placing objects relative to other objects when they haven’t yet developed an awareness of how they can position their own bodies in relation to objects.

Before a child can learn to read and write, they need to grasp how circles and lines can be connected to create letters. This skill is called visual-motor integration.

Practically speaking, a child has to be able to physically walk in the shape of a diamond and draw a diamond with a finger in the air, before the child will be able to visualise how three loose lines can be connected to draw a triangle on paper. 

The connection between a child’s physical development and learning readiness is not obvious. Therefore physical education and play are vitally important.


Tip: How to promote body awareness and balance 

To give your child’s sense of body awareness and balance a boost, build an obstacle course that requires rolling on the floor between two points before stepping over, crawling under, running around and climbing over obstacles. 

This teaches children about the rhythm, space, direction and pressure needed to move in different ways and explore what their body can do.

A few suggestions:

  • Create a tunnel (open ended box) for them to crawl through. 
  • Suspend a broom across two chairs for your child to go under while crouching.
  • Use chalk to indicate where to do frog jumps or bunny hops on the driveway. 
  • Draw arrows on paper scraps or use a length of yarn to lay out a path to follow. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] enjoys make-believe play

56 months Milestone

Special time nurtures your child emotionally 

Magical thinking: While they are between three and five years old, children often confuse what’s real and what’s make-believe. They interact with their world as if they are characters in a story book where magical things happen all the time, animals are their friends, and stuffed toys have thoughts and feelings. 

Cause and effect: Their limited frame of reference causes them to explain things in ways that seem illogical to adults. They may believe, for instance, that plants grow because they want to be tall, leaves fall from trees because they like flying and people grow older because they have birthdays. 

Play: Children now prefer to play with people, they are creative in make-believe play and they play cooperatively with other children. They are also mentally and emotionally ready to practice negotiating solutions to conflicts.


How special time can lift your child’s spirit 

Oprah Winfrey once said that the greatest gift you can give your child every day is to let your face light up when he or she walks into the room. We nod when we hear this, because we know from personal experience that children get their security and sense of self-worth from the way their parents react to them.


With this in mind, you will enjoy learning about a successful parenting technique, called special time, that was made popular by a non-profit organisation named Hand-in-Hand-Parenting.


Twenty minutes of your time

Set aside 20 minutes to focus your complete attention on one child. Do this every day at a specific time. Name this block of time “our time” or “Johnny time” for example. Naming this special time gives you and your children a way to refer to this occasion.


Plan an activity

It is important that your child chooses what the two of you will do during this time. You can initially make a list of possible activities to get the creative juices flowing. Plan an activity that allows you to have a conversation with your child. An activity such as watching television will not allow this.


Simply play along
This is always difficult when a parent is used to setting the pace, but the whole idea behind special time is to create a time of simply enjoying entering your child’s world. 


Don’t multi-task
This is not the time to have a pot on the stove or to take your washing out of the dryer. You will not even be checking your phone or answering it. 

Arrange with Dad to take care of siblings, or do this at a time when they are sleeping or away from home. You need to be present with this one child and 100 % focused.

Don’t teach, probe, or give directions
Your comments can easily distract your child from the play experience. Don’t ask, “What is that supposed to be?” or “Why don’t you build a house?” Rather comment on what your child is doing, for example, “I’m wondering what you are going to do next.”

When the time is up, special time is over
Put stickers on a clock to indicate where the long arm should be for special time to start, and where it is going to end. Explain when special time starts and ends and be very consistent to end it on time. Should you continue beyond this point once, your child may be disappointed whenever you don’t continue in future.

To help end the fun, create a routine where special time is always followed by doing a chore together, like preparing supper or watering pot plants.

Don’t worry that you may be doing this wrong
If your child feels loved, seen and listened to, then you’ve achieved the most important aim of special time. 


Tip: Let your child lead free play 

When you join your child in free play, let them lead. Allow them to say what should happen next. When you want to contribute to the game, introduce your idea by example, instead of using words. This way, your child can be more imaginative and the flow of the game will naturally align better with their needs.

When you, the parent, should lead

Playing educational games puts you in the role of your child’s teacher. This is where you take the lead, explain the steps and support your child step by step. The biggest benefit here is that your child will develop many school readiness skills that they would not otherwise develop during free play alone. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] can learn to cut a square

57 Months Milestone 

Your child’s hands are becoming fine instruments

Your child’s ability to use a pair of scissors is developing and with some practice, they can now learn to cut out a square while staying within 1 cm of the line. Initially, it’s a challenge to change direction at each corner and children typically first cut past the corner before turning the paper and starting again on the new line. It is a milestone for them to learn to stop, use the supporting hand to turn the paper, and start on the new line without lifting the scissors.

At this age, children typically learn to fold a sheet of paper in half, with the edges meeting fairly accurately.

Since they now learn to visualise how four lines of the same length can be connected to create a square, they will start to use more squares in their art such as buildings without a roof and clothes for people. 


Tip: Spatial abilities 

It is important for young children to play with toys such as wooden blocks, construction sets, puzzles, board games and pegboard games.

Research says children develop important spatial skills and their non-verbal intelligence gets a boost as they handle the loose components, turn them and rearrange them in different ways. 

Children whose parents reported that they play with these toys more than six times a week, have better spatial abilities compared to others who played with them only three to five times a week, or not at all. 

In addition to this, another team of researchers found that these learning experiences are even more valuable when adults, at times, play along and use language with lots of words that describe spatial concepts as they play.

Reference: Jirout, J. & Newcombe, N. (2015). Building Blocks for Developing Spatial Skills Evidence From a Large, Representative U.S. Sample. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/0956797614563338


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is using free play to discover patterns and traits in the world

58 Months Milestone

Free play is like love, sunshine and broccoli all juiced together

When young children play freely, they instinctively handle physical objects and use their bodies to do things that enable them to notice patterns and discover the attributes of things, so that they can learn more about their physical world.

This explains why they never grow tired of climbing into cosy spaces such as boxes and cupboards, and why they love building enclosures and tents. Psychologists say this need to “enclose and envelope” also drives them to constantly fill containers such as cups, bowls and purses with nearby objects. 

Young children also love to place their bodies in special positions as they play, so that they can view the world from an alternative perspective. They instinctively want to get into interesting positions by hiding under furniture, hanging upside down from jungle gyms, looking at the world through a magnifying glass and climbing high.

Limit screen time 

To maximize its owner’s chances of survival and save energy, a young developing brain wires itself to only respond to the demands that are placed on it. This explains why children, who only have interactions with adults who speak Italian, won’t learn any English. Furthermore, children who only play ball with their parents or teachers will develop ball skills and not swimming skills. 

Children acquire some skills through experiences

Children need certain experiences to acquire the skills they need for school readiness, sports and in life.

  1. Children need a sense of emotional security. When children do not experience enough loving interaction with the important people in their lives, their lower (emotional) brain regions are not in the right space. The resulting stress overwhelms their brains to the point where the higher, thinking regions switch off. This is known as “amygdala hijacking”.


  1. Children need a language rich environment. Betty Hart and Todd Risley reported that parents, who frequently have conversations with children, have three-year-olds with an average vocabulary of 1116 words, compared to 525 words of children whose parents do not really talk to them much. Another study, led by Dimitri Christakis, reported that the average number of words spoken in a household drops from 941 to 171 words when a television is switched on in the background.


  1. Children need space and opportunity to experiment with physical movement. This helps them to develop a good sense of timing, direction and body awareness. This includes where their body parts are, what they can do and how much space and pressure is needed for different movements. A lack of body awareness leads to a myriad of learning difficulties that impact negatively on reading, writing and understanding mathematical concepts later on.


  1. Children need to engage with people who help wire their thinking brains. Lev Vygotsky helped us to understand that children learn skills and develop a sense of identity when adults instinctively notice what they can do and then raise the bar slightly. This encourages them to practice new skills that are within reach. Teaching a child how to peel a banana, play nicely with a friend, or play snakes and ladders all fall into this category.


  1. Children need to play freely and express innate play patterns. Jean Piaget explained that children instinctively use their bodies and hands to transport, transform, propel, rotate, enclose, order, position, connect and disconnect physical objects as they play. These “schema explorations” of “play patterns” provide them with all the puzzle pieces they need for developing intellectually.


  1. Children need opportunities to master their world in practical ways. Maria Montessori said that children approach challenges in age-specific ways, and they have a natural tendency towards order and competence that drives them to master practical challenges and understand new concepts at their own, self-motivated pace. As they use their hands, their thought world expands. That’s how they learn to focus their attention to concentrate and move from concrete thinking to abstract reasoning. 

Watching TV is a sedentary activity that limits the learning environment that children need most. Therefore, it is best to limit time in front of the television. 


Tip: The value of fairy tales

Few parents read traditional fairy tales to pre-schoolers. However, a number of psychologists believe they are wonderful tools for preparing children for life. 

They believe that fairy tales incorporate drama, excitement, sadness, fighting and fears which in turn make it possible for children to face their own fears and other negative emotions on a symbolic level, without having to experience the feelings first hand.

Interestingly, fairy tales in story books are not scary to children because they filter how they visualise what they hear and see in the illustrations with their immature frame of reference. 

Those same stories would be scary on film, as the film visualises the story for the child.

Reference: Bruno Bettelheim, “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales”, Random House, (1976).

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is developing conversation skills

59 months Milestone 

It’s time to focus on conversations 

When children are almost five years old, their parents can focus more on having conversations with them, that expand their mind. 

The goal is to gradually encourage a child to:

  • Understand a problem and come up with a possible solution. “What would you do if the house next door was on fire?”


  • Talk about cause and effect. “The car is dented. What happened?”


  • Identify the odd one out. “Think of a dog, a cat and an apple. Which one doesn’t fit in the group? Why?”


  • Discuss whether something is possible or impossible. “Can cats fly in the sky?” 


  • Predict possible outcomes of situations that children of this age could possibly experience. “The lights went out and so …” or “It was my friend’s birthday and so …”


How to develop visual memory 

We all use this skill daily, without being aware of it when we visualise and store mental images. Some of these images stay in our minds for a short while (short-term visual memory), while others are hard-wired into our minds (long-term visual memory).

Children need visual memory to read

Children need to be capable of long-term visual memory to read fluently. They build a huge frame of mental image references over time of what words look like. This makes it easy to recognise many words at first glance. However, this doesn’t happen when children battle with long-term visual memory, and reading is difficult, despite practice. 

Children need visual memory to spell

The same applies to spelling. Children need a mental image reference to use as a standard for correct spelling. No matter how obvious the spelling mistake, words just never look “funny” or different to them. 


Short-term visual memory is also important, and children who battle with this cannot hold visual images in their mind’s eye just long enough for them to be able to work with it. 

Short-term visual memory is important when following instructions such as a step-by-step construction. Children use short-term visual memory to keep visual “snap shots” as they look at the instructions, then at their construction to follow a step and back at the instructions, and so forth.

When school aged children battle with this, they feel very uncomfortable and anxious when they need to copy shapes, letters, words and numbers from a blackboard or book. They typically write excruciatingly slowly and scramble letters within words while copying. 

Many of these children get very tired from having to put so much effort into copying what they see, which is demotivating.

Game ideas:

  1. What is missing?

Cover four objects while your child is watching. Remove the cover from one object while your child isn’t looking. Then ask them what is missing? Increase the number of objects over time.

  1. What is different?

Draw a picture, let your child study it, and then erase something or add something. They then need to tell you what’s different. 

  1. Can you fix it?

Build a structure with building blocks or LEGO and use your cell phone to take a picture that your child then studies. While they aren’t looking, make some changes to the structure. Ask them what’s different. Can they fix it to look like it did before? Use the picture on your phone to check whether your child is right.

  1. Can you copy it?

Build a structure and take a picture. Take the structure apart and ask your child to use your picture as an “instruction card” for rebuilding the structure. 

Tip: Pretend play is incredibly valuable 

Pretend play, where children take on different roles to play games such as “shop” or “restaurant”, is hugely valuable. When children engage in socio-dramatic play, they get to use their imagination and express how they understand the world. They experiment with feelings that they most likely will never experience in real life, such as being trapped in a burning building or saving someone’s life. As they play, they learn to put themselves in someone else’s proverbial shoes, and they make sense of things that are very complicated to them in the real world. They also practice how to decide what to do next and to communicate their plans and vision to others. 

Source: Bergen, Doris. “Play as a medium for Learning and Development: A Handbook of Theory and Practice.” Heinemann. (1988).

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s speech is now intelligible to strangers

A person sitting at a table

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60 months Milestone 

Cheerful babble has become fluent speech

Your child’s speech is now 100 % intelligible to strangers. A typical 5-year-old is ready to reach the following milestones this year:

  1. Use the present and past continuous tense with the correct “to be” verb. “The boy is/was running” or “The boys are/were running.”
  2. Use the pronouns his, hers and theirs. “The balls are his/hers/theirs.”
  3. Use the comparative -er and the superlative -est. “Tall – taller – tallest.”
  4. Use adverbs correctly, with -ly. “He runs slowly/quickly/quietly.”
  5. Use irregular plurals. “Mice, men, children, teeth, feet.”
  6. Use irregular past tense. “Ate, broke, dug, fell, swam.”
  7. Use words that indicate time concepts. “Yesterday, tomorrow, morning, afternoon, later.”


Tip: Ask your child to explain things

Researchers Petter Kristensen and Tor Bierkedal explored why older siblings are often more intelligent than younger ones. They believe the reason is that older children find themselves in situations where they need to explain things to younger siblings. They therefore practice organising their thoughts while explaining what to do and how to do it more often than the younger child.

This is in line with Lev Vygotsky’s argument that there is a direct connection between how much a person has to say about a subject and that person’s understanding of the subject. According to them, “our thoughts come into being as we speak.” 

The take-away here is that we should ask our children to explain things to us whenever possible.

Reference: Petter Kristensen & Tor Bjerkedal, Science, Volume 316 no. 5832, p.1717, (June 2007). “Explaining the Relation Between Birth Order and Intelligence.”


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] can hop, slide, skip and gallop

61 months Milestone 

The delight of mastering the hop, slide, skip and gallop

When your five-year-old learns to hop, slide, skip and gallop rhythmically and smoothly, they not only create repeating patterns with their bodies, they also feel delighted at their achievement. The repetitive patterns wire their brain to learn to do the same with their hands, in preparation for learning to write. Mastery of large body movements always precedes mastery of small hand movements.

Hopping: Your child can practice hopping forward rhythmically on one leg. Encourage them to hop on each leg for 3 metres.

Sideways sliding: Step sideways with one foot leading. The second foot slides to meet the first. Say, “Step – slide – step – slide,” to emphasise the repetitive pattern. Repeat several times on each leg. 

Skipping: Step forward, then hop on that foot with the knee lifted. After landing, step forward with the other leg and hop on that leg. Repeat this motion alternating the legs and hopping on the leading foot each time. Say: “Step – hop – step – hop”.

Galloping: This involves repeatedly stepping forward with the dominant foot and bringing the toes of the other foot to the heel of the leading foot at every step. 


Tip: your child hop, skip, slide and gallop

You can help your child to hop, side-slide, skip or gallop smoothly and confidently by first introducing easier movement patterns. To do this, draw a series of circles (35 cm in diameter) on the floor or outside in the sand. Use the circles as follows:

1. Step into each circle with one foot leading and let the other one follow to create a “step-together-step-together” pattern.

2. Hop into a circle with both feet, then hop into the next circle with both feet. Repeat to create a “hop-hop … hop-hop” pattern.

3. Hop into a circle, jump-turn 180 ° on two feet. Hop into the next circle, jump-turn 180 ° on two feet. Repeat several times.

You can use a hoola hoop as your circles. Once your child has stepped into the hoop, they can lift it over their head, place it down and step into it again. Repeat this several times.


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] may be feeling anxious about big school

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62 months Milestone 

Be patient, some things take time

Knowing that primary school is around the corner may make a five-year-old feel anxious or excited. In fact, a five-year-old’s entire world is impacted by the fact that they now have one foot in primary school. If they are feeling anxious, you may need to be extra patient with your budding student.

Children of this age typically enjoy playing with others as they like to pretend, possibly dress up, and be part of a team. This is valuable in many ways because this type of play encourages leadership skills, problem solving skills and the ability to share ideas, plan ahead and collaborate. 

Although five-year-olds enjoy being with friends, they don’t yet identify with them like older children do and their family is still the centre of their world. 


Tip: Teach your child to love challenges

Positive praise is good for children. However, constantly telling them they are clever or talented can have its down side. Research shows that children try hard to retain these labels and may be disappointed when they feel they are not doing as well they could. This is known as a “fixed mindset” in psychology. 

You can help by developing a “growth mindset” in your child. This mindset focuses on learning. The “growth mindset” tells children that with enough motivation, effort and concentration, they can become good at just about anything.

Foster the “growth mindset” by saying things such as “You did it! I see your practice is paying off!” or “Look at that! I can tell you put a lot of work into it.”



Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] can now learn to cut a triangle

63 Months Milestone 

The golden triangle 

Your child can now learn to cut out more complex shapes, such as figures, while staying within ½ cm of the line. Children now typically learn to colour between the lines fairly accurately. Their supporting hand stabilises the paper, a tripod finger grip (thumb, forefinger and middle finger work together) and the wrist of the writing hand are supported on the table. 

Learning to draw a triangle with fairly straight lines that meet at the corners is a developmental milestone that typically emerges at this age. This is significant as it is a sign that your child has learnt to visualise a mental image of how three lines can be connected to create a triangle. Before now, they could identify triangles, but not draw them.

From a visual processing perspective, being able to draw a triangle is an indicator of being ready to learn to write.


Pump up the pattern

Being able to string beads or build a tower in a blue-red-blue-red sequence doesn’t seem to be an intellectual feat, but it’s an impressive milestone on the path to intellectual learning readiness. This is because it involves looking at information analytically – from a different perspective.

The first pattern that children can recognise and create is called ABAB

Many two-year-olds can help a parent build a multi-coloured tower by handing over a “blue block, red block, blue block, red block” on command.

Doing this teaches many other skills, but two-year olds don’t truly understand what it means to create a pattern.

Grasping the basic premise of what pattern following means

Pattern following is a milestone that is typically reached at the age of five. You will know that your child has grasped this when they spontaneously point out ABAB patterns in everyday situations. They may notice the “purple, blue, purple, blue” stripes on a shirt or the “long, short, long, short” pattern that one may see on a wooden fence.

More complicated patterns: AABAAB, ABCABC and even ABACABAC

Once children reach the ABAB pattern milestone, it is easy for them to master more complicated patterns.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Play with movement patterns. These represent your child’s first real experience of creating patterns. Have fun swaying from side to side to the rhythm of music, as well as marching “left, right, left, right” and skipping “step, hop, step, hop.”
  • Create new ABAB movement patterns. A different ABAB pattern could be “jump, clap, jump, clap.” Ensure your child has truly internalised the ABAB pattern before introducing more complicates ones. This is akin to teaching a child to walk before they can run.
  • Play with sound patterns. When your child can clap to the rhythm of music, have fun producing different sounds such as banging a spoon on a “box, pot, box, pot.”
  • Organise objects according to ABAB patterns. Use toys and everyday objects to create the ABAB pattern. You could use different coloured blocks “blue block, red block, blue block, red block” or cutlery “spoon, fork, spoon, fork.” Start the pattern using four objects, then “read” what you’ve built from left to right while placing a finger on every object. Encourage your child to complete the pattern.

Benefits of teaching this important developmental skill:

  • Pattern following prepares children to learn to read and write. Especially when they recreate patterns while following printed instructions from left to right. 
  • These activities provide important building blocks for learning to play an instrument or do mathematics. Pattern following trains their brains to use rules, to organise and work with units.
  • Pattern following also puts children on the path towards creative observation. It teaches them to pay attention to the way things relate to each other and to notice patterns where they would otherwise only see chaos.

As Steve Jobs once said: “Creativity is just connecting things.”


Tip: Copycat Colouring

This is a fun game that develops a child’s ability to process visual information. It’s easy to play when you’re waiting in a restaurant, or wherever you have a piece of paper and pens or crayons available. 

Draw two identical grids with nine squares in each, like a noughts and crosses diagram with a frame around it. Give one grid to your child and keep the other one. Then, play a game where you colour a block and your child imitates what you did on their grid, one block at a time. Take turns to be the leader. 

Add a twist by throwing a dice to see how many blocks the leader may colour before their turn is over.



Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is developing a sense of identity

64 Months Milestone 

I am special, I am ME!

At this age, children are developing a better understanding of the seasons of the year and their regularity, and that the days of the week repeat in a particular sequence. They may know the names of a few weekdays and associate special recurring events with certain days.

Five-year-olds use time-related words in their conversation, like morning, afternoon, evening, yesterday, today, tomorrow and next week.

They are able to learn about their own cultures and beliefs and those of other people and they feel a sense of belonging to a certain community and place. 

They are developing a sense of identity based on what they look like, their preferences and what they can do well, for example, “I am not a sporty person” and/or “I like eating fruit and drinking lots of water because I’m a healthy person.”


Food that’s good for me 

Some foods, such as chocolates, cheese curls, macaroni and cheese, potato chips and chocolate mousse, are not only unhealthy, they are also addictive. Their high-carb-high-fat content triggers the dopamine reward system in our brains to shout for more. After a while, they dominate our preferences. 

A well-known 2010 study, that was conducted in the USA over a period of three years, found a link between eating unhealthy ‘cafeteria-type’ food and drug addictive behaviour. The study, found that obesity goes hand-in-hand with a breakdown in the circuits of the brain that control pleasure responses.

Lead researcher from The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, Paul Kenny, explained: “Overconsumption of highly pleasurable foods triggers addiction-like neuroadaptive responses in brain reward circuits, driving the development of compulsive eating.”

According to Dr Kenny, the research supports what obese patients have been saying for years: that, like addiction to other substances, junk food bingeing is extremely difficult to stop.

This is very concerning to the parents of young children. Young brains are extra sensitive. They are wired through experience to develop a basic frame of reference for everything – from music to food to emotional reactions – that will determine how a child will be experiencing and filtering the world from hereon in.

In other words, default settings are currently developing in your child’s brain as a result of their experiences during the formative years.

If adult brains are rewired to become addicted to fast foods within weeks, just imagine for a second how regular exposure to junk food may impact on the basic architecture of your pre-schooler’s developing brain.

With junk food in the picture, it’s going to be difficult to cultivate an appreciation of the taste of tomatoes, the smell of apples and the texture of lettuce in your toddler. It’s like trying to get them to focus their attention on the sound of the wind, the complexity of wild flowers and the smell of the earth after rain while he is sitting inside a car with the doors and windows closed and watching cartoons on full blast on a portable DVD player.

Fill your fridge with healthy snacks to build a foundation for healthy food choices.

Source: Paul M Johnson & Paul J Kenny.Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats Nature Neuroscience 2010 (advance online publication)


Tip: Screening your child’s screen time

Lisa Guernsey provides some practical guidelines for parents in her book Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Educational Software-Affects Your Young Child.

You will be relieved to know that there are positive approaches to allowing screen time. She advises us to think of the three C’s to help us make screen time decisions.

The letters stand for: content, context, child. 

Ask yourself: 

  1. Is the content age-appropriate and constructive?
  2. What is the context? Has my child experienced all the other things today that are necessary for having the kind of childhood that I choose to provide as a parent?
  3. How will I be helping my child as an individual person to engage with and benefit from this screen time experience?



Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] can recite a short series of numbers and a short story

65 Months Milestone 

It is wonderful when your child retells a story

The ability to hold information in mind (working memory) helps us to stay on task and follow instructions. Typical four-year-olds can recite a series of four numbers and five year-olds can recite five numbers. Many four to six year-olds can recite a series of three numbers backwards. 

Your child will now be able to tell you what happened in a story they listened to. They can also help create a simple story by taking turns with you to say what happened next.

Children, who are almost six years old, can also explain how things are the same and different. An example of this is: “These balls are the same because they are both red, but different because one is big and one is small,” or “A toothbrush and a hairbrush are the same because …. and different because …” 


Tip: Finger game fun

Research shows that the brain region that controls our ability to sense where different fingers are positioned on our hands is so close to the brain region where the number line is visualised, that they overlap somewhat. When a group of young children were trained to quickly identify which finger the researchers touched while they weren’t looking, their maths skills improved. 

Any parent can play this game: Simply draw the outline of your child’s hands on paper and put a coin next to it. Tell your child to hold their hands out and close their eyes. Touch one finger and ask them to look down at the sketch and put the coin on the corresponding finger. Repeat.

Source: Kaufmann L. et al. “A developmental fMRI study of nonsymbolic numerical and spatial processing.” Cortex, Volume 44, p.376–385, (2008). Gracia-Bafalluy M., Noël M. P. “Does finger training increase young children’s numerical performance?” Cortex, Volume 44, p.368–375, (2008). 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] understands words that describe position and space

66 months Milestone 

The hokey pokey of maths

Your child now understands and uses a wide variety of words that indicate position and shape such as abovebelownext to/beside, on top of, near, at the bottom, behind, around, away from, between, firstlastin a line, in front, at the back, middle, in a corner, circle, square, rectangle, triangle and rhombus (diamond). 

According to early mathematics expert Douglas Clement, it is important for adults to use these words in everyday conversations. We should say things like, “Look, I cut your sandwich into triangles,” and “Let’s put a raisin in the middle of every cookie.” This is a sure way to “mathematise” your child. 

Clement says that all young children have the same implicit (understood but not stated) understanding of mathematics. However, this understanding does not become explicit (clearly stated) if a child doesn’t learn to understand and use the words that give life to it. 


We learn 20 % of what we hear, but 70 % of what we discuss

Children learn more from reading books when they are encouraged to have a conversation (dialogue) with the person who is reading the book. This is known as dialogic reading.

Nobody learns to play tennis by watching someone play. Similarly, children’s language skills develop with practice. Dialogic reading is an interactive and engaging way to read a book with a child where they get the opportunity to talk about the story, use new words and practice their language skills. Before long, your child will do most of the talking while you read. That’s when you know you’re doing it right!

Reading experts advise parents and educators to use the PEER sequence to guide them and make it easy to have a short interaction on just about every page.

P: (Prompt) Ask a question. The easiest questions to ask are ones that start with who, what, where, why and when because they have a way of encouraging a child to repeat words that you have just read. For example. “What kind of animal is this, can you remember?” or “Why was Little Red Riding Hood going into the woods?”

E: (Evaluate) React to whatever your child says in response. It usually suffices to simply say, “Yes!”

E: (Expand) Elaborate with a little more information. It works well if you simply rephrase what your child said and add a little bit of extra information if needed.

R: (Repeat) Repeat your original question. The idea is to steer your child’s attention back to what’s happening in the story at that point. Then turn the page.

Here’s an example:

Point to the illustration and ask (prompt): “Can you remember why Little Red Riding Hood was going into the woods?” Your child answers: “She’s on her way to her grandmother to take her some food. It’s in that basket.”

You respond (evaluate) by saying, “Yes!”

Then elaborate (expand): “Little Red Riding Hood is on her way to her grandmother to take her a special treat because she is desperately ill in bed. Her mommy packed it into this beautiful woven basket.” You can ask more questions as your child’s concentration span increases.

Lastly, return to the basic story (repeat): “Where is she going? She’s on her way to her grandmother. Now, let’s see what happens next.”

Researchers say that children, whose parents and caregivers read to them in this way, fare better in tests of language development compared to children who simply sit and listen. In fact, children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading. 


Tip: Be a reading and writing role model

Even though you may prefer using your phone, be a good role model and let your child see you use a pen to write words down on paper when you put your shopping list together. 

You can also, from time to time, focus your child’s attention on the printed words when you are reading a book together. Move your finger from left to right as you read and point out individual letters and words to tell your child what they mean. 

This is an effective way of introducing children to the mechanism behind reading. Specifically that letters represent speech sounds, that they are grouped to form words, which are strung together from left to right to create sentences. 



Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is just about ready to take part in school sports

67 months Milestone 

Preparing to enter the sports arena

Your child is now preparing to enter the sports arena in primary school.

Most 5½ year-olds can learn to:

  • Dance rhythmically in time to music and learn simple dance steps
  • Perform six to eight sit-ups in 30 seconds
  • Throw a ball overhand (like a cricket bowler) with shoulder rotation and weight shift
  • Throw a ball accurately at a target that is 3 m away
  • Catch a ball with two hands after bouncing it on the floor
  • Catch a ball after tossing it into the air above them
  • Kick a ball into the air so that it travels 3 m
  • Dribble and kick a moving ball and run towards a stationary ball to kick it, without first stopping
  • Jump 75 cm forward from a standstill and land on both feet

Read more about how playing hopscotch can help your child.


Magic feet, follow the beat


This game originated in Roman times, when soldiers played it as part of their training. Today, teachers and therapists love hopscotch because it develops eye-foot coordination, dynamic balance and a sense of rhythm. 


Draw the diagram below on a floor. You can use masking tape to create a permanent diagram for repeated use.

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Rules of the game:

  1. Give every player a small stone
  2. The first player throws their stone into the square marked 1. If it lands inside the square without touching the lines, they hop to the home base at the far end, landing on one foot in each square and on both feet when the squares are adjacent to each other. The square that houses the stone must be excluded.
  3. When they reach the home square, they turn around with a 180 ° jump-turn.
  4. They then hop all the way back, stop when they reach squares 2 and 3, bend over to retrieve their stone, and hop over square 1, since that square is out of bounds for now.
  5. Each player may throw the stone multiple times, first in square 1, then in square 2, and so forth, to try to conquer all the squares and finally get their stone into the home square.
  6. If the player fails to throw the stone into the correct square, or it lands on a line, they are out and it’s the next person’s turn. 
  7. Similarly, if at any stage the player drops their stone, steps on a line or puts the other foot down while hopping on one leg, that player is out and it’s the next person’s turn. 
  8. If a player returns to the game after a previous round, they resume play starting from the square that was in play at the time that they were out.

You can also use the hopscotch diagram to play these extra games:

  1. Bubbling lava. Pretend the floor is bubbling with lava and the lines are the only place of safety. Your child can follow any path to get from square 1 to the home square and back, as long as they stay on the line. Challenge your five-year-old to walk heel-to-toe.
  2. Magic number. Put a dice in the home square and ask your child to choose one of the numbers displayed on the dice. Then, when a player reaches the dice, they throw it until it falls on that number (the magic number) before they are allowed to leave the home square. It is not necessary to use the stone for this version of the game.
  3. Hop the code. Call out five numbers. Ask your child to repeat what they heard you say, as a five-year-old can repeat five numbers in order. They may then leap from block to block, coming to rest only on those numbers. Reverse the numbers to create a road back, for example, 1-3-5-8-9 going up and 9-8-5-3-1 coming back.


Tip: Jump like a star

At five years of age, children typically learn to coordinate the two sides of their bodies to do star jumps smoothly and rhythmically. This is an important milestone. If your child needs some practice, try the following:

1. Draw four ovals on the floor to indicate where your child’s feet will land during a star jump. Two of the ovals should be close together and two should be further apart. Let your child practice jumping between these two sets of ovals by expanding their legs as they land in the ovals that are further apart and jumping back into the ovals that are close together. While they practice they should say, “open-close-open-close.”

2. Draw a 1 (one) and an X on paper and display it on the wall. Let your child keep their eye on the paper as they add arm movements to mimic these shapes with their body as they jump between the ovals, while saying, “one-ex-one-ex” as they star jump. 



Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is learning to nurture self-compassion

68 months Milestone 

I am my own superhero

Help your child to nurture self-compassion. A child’s values are now largely shaped by their parents’ spoken and unspoken expectations. When social success is measured by how many invitations children get to birthday parties, they adopt that as their standard. It is therefore important to let your five-year-old know what you regard as important. 

Socially successful children typically:

  • Recognise their own and other people’s feelings and respond appropriately
  • Use materials appropriately, then put them away
  • Build friendships with selected children whom they encourage and connect with consistently
  • Recognise authority
  • Accept responsibility to lead
  • Exert personal boundaries respectfully, yet assertively
  • Resolve conflict through conversation and negotiation
  • Use good manners
  • Initiate play situations, have fun and enjoy laughing with people
  • Help others in need
  • Help with chores


Tip: Encouraging emotional intelligence

You can raise your child’s ability to understand emotions and empathise with people by talking to them about their thoughts, beliefs, feelings as well as those of characters in books.

Researchers told one group of seven-year-olds to draw pictures of stories that were read to them, while they engaged another group in conversations about what the characters might have thought, felt, believed and needed at different times.

Two months later, the children in the last group scored significantly higher in tests that measured their ability to understand other people’s emotions. They were also found to be more empathetic. This is encouraging since a person’s emotional intelligence (EQ) is largely impacted by the ability to read and manage emotions.

Source: J. Dunn et al., “Young children’s understanding of other people’s feelings and beliefs: Individual differences and their antecedents”, Child Development, Volume 62, p.1352-1366, (1991).



Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] is able to coordinate hand movements

69 Months Milestone 

Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall

Finger songs such as Two little dickie birds help children to develop fine motors skills amongst other things. With regard to fine motor skills, children typically learn to draw people with more than 10 body parts as they near their sixth birthday. 

They draw a rhombus (diamond shape) correctly, can write their first name, and typically learn to write the numbers 1 to 9. 

When they draw, their figures typically float in the air, as their spatial perception is still developing.

It is traditionally a major milestone for late five-year-olds to be practicing tying a bow and a knot so that they can learn to tie their own shoelaces. 

Your child will now also be able to coordinate their hand movements well enough to be able to thread a lace through a series of holes. You can punch a series of 10 holes into a box with a skewer stick and demonstrate how to thread a shoelace in and out from beginning to end.


Tip: Help your child to refine their finger movements

Draw little eyes and mouths on each of their fingertips and play a game where the thumb has to “kiss” each of the other four fingers, one after the other – starting from their forefinger to pinkie, and back again from their pinkie to their forefinger.

This develops “thumb opposition” and is a great way of preparing your child for handling writing tools and refining their fine-motor coordination. 

Another game, that children find quite challenging, is where you tell your child to put their hands together in a praying position and then practice parting the opposing fingers one by one. 

Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name]’s phonological skills are developing

70 Months Milestone 

The difference between pitter and patter

Five-year-olds can listen to two musical notes and say whether they were the same, or whether the second note was higher or lower than the first. They can also repeat five digits in the correct order, and they can learn to repeat sentences of six to 10 words.

Your child can now retell a simple story of five to six sentences with some detail directly after hearing it for the first time.

If you produce three everyday sounds in random order, for example cough, knock on the table and clap your hands, your child should be able to reproduce these sounds in the same order.

Produce any three sounds, similar to those above, and name one. Ask whether it was the first sound, middle sound or last sound.

Clap a simple rhythm and let your child copy the rhythm.

Learn more about developing phonological skills in your child.


Teach your child to clap the syllables of words

Learning to speak is a natural process that is wired into our DNA. In contrast, using an alphabetic system to represent spoken language is a cultural invention. Learning to read and write is not instinctive, and this is why it is difficult to learn. 

The original function of the phonological processor in the human brain is to help us differentiate words. Learning to use it for paying attention to the distinct sounds inside words is an acquired skill. 

Letters are symbols that people use to represent speech sounds. Consequently, children find it difficult to read if they cannot identify the sound blocks in words.

Pre-school children live in a world of concrete sensory experiences and learning to read, write and do mathematics requires that they transition into a world of abstract ideas and symbols. You can help your child to make the connection by saying, “We need to find the sound at the beginning of a word so that we can know which letter to write first when we need to write that word.” 

Ten ways to build phonological awareness:

  1.  Play with words that rhyme

Teach as many rhymes and songs as possible and repeat them often. Play games with rhyming words and match them. 

  1. Clap the words in a sentence

Explain the difference between a sentence and a word. When you teach your child to clap the words in a sentence, use only single-syllable words, for example, “Dogs have long tails = clap-clap-clap-clap.”

  1. Clap each syllable of a word

For example: A – man – da = clap – clap – clap

  1. Listen for the first (and later also the last) sound in a word

Make sure to say the sound that you hear and not the name of the letter, for example, “Bag starts with buh” and not “Bag starts with bee.”

  1. Break words into the first sound and the rest of the word

Example: p … ot and f … isherman

  1. Break words into sound blocks (phonemes) and ask your child to put them together

Example: “I’m going to say a word super slowly. What word do you hear? c…a…r “

  1. Ask your child to break a word into sound blocks and then count them

Point to a picture and say: “Can you say this word super slowly? How many sound blocks do you hear?” Examples: car (3), books (4), and fish (3).

  1. Ask them whether he hears a certain sound in a word.

Example: “Do you hear /sss/ in the word ‘bag’?”

  1. Ask them to change one sound in a word to create a new word. 

Example: “What is the word ‘cat’ when it starts with mmm?” (mat)

  1. Ask them to leave off one sound to create a new word.

Example: “What is the word ‘block’ without the buh?” (lock)

The goal is to reach the level where your child is able to manipulate (play with) the distinct sounds within simple words. 


Tip: The wonderful world of books

When we set aside a special time every day for reading a children’s book out loud to our children, we are sharing a glimpse into the outside world with them. We inspire them to want to learn to read as well as we can, and building their vocabulary at the same time.

Researchers say there are far more scarce words in children’s books than what a child can expect to hear in normal conversation or on television. Even though your child will soon learn to read, you will continue to be the more proficient reader for a long time. There’s a world of books out there that your child can still learn from, so keep reading to them. 

Source Hayes, D.P., “Speaking and Writing: Distinct Patterns of Word Choice”, Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 27, p 572-585, (1988). 


Event Name: [Child’s name]’s Nankid® Milestones

Event Description: [Child’s name] has grown and developed so much

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71 months Milestone 

From small beginnings come great things

Your child has grown and developed so much. Most children, who are about to turn six years old, can:

  • Sort objects into groups according to colour, shape, size or category
  • Recognise and create ABAB patterns such as “blue, red, blue, red”
  • Count to 20 and count any number of items from 1 to 10
  • Match the numerals 1 to 10 to the number of items each represents
  • Identify and draw circles, squares, rectangles and triangles
  • Use hands to demonstrate the meaning of up/down, over/under, right/left and around
  • Use fingers to represent any number from 1 to 10. They use the dominant hand to show 1 to 5, then add the other hand to count on from there to get to 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10
  • Match equal groups of objects one-to-one, for example, five teaspoons and five mugs
  • Arrange the numbers 1 to 10 in order

Children are people to be unfolded

A child’s personality is the result of brain wiring
Every child is born with a temperament based on their genetic programming and, as a result, there are biologically based differences between children that are relatively consistent. 

A child’s temperament refers to the “basic default setting” or “personal style” with which that child approaches and reacts to the world.
It determines the style in which that little brain receives information from the sensory organs and how it processes it. All of this is determined by the answers to questions like: Is the brain easily overwhelmed by high levels of sensory input? Does it seek high levels of input? How does it respond to stress? How does it react to human interaction, movement, exhaustion, novelty, and different emotions?

Hence, the fact that a baby who is naturally “easy” will grow up to become an easy-going adult, and a baby, who is easily overwhelmed by lots of sensory input and more sensitive to emotional stress, will grow into a less boisterous adult.

We’ve all experienced this and know it to be true.

However, as parents, what we really want to know is: what is the extent to which a parent can and should try to mould a child’s personality?
It helps to know that personality is built on temperament and that it is the product of the temperament PLUS the environmental influences that the developing child experiences. 

Therefore, while a child’s temperament largely determines what they prefer, what motivates, frustrates, embarrasses them and makes them feel successful, their upbringing determines how they respond to all of that and manage it. The sum-total of all these things put together equals their personality. 

Imagine a tree with roots (a child’s inborn temperament) and a trunk with branches (that child’s personality) that also bears fruit (the child’s moral character)
Although your child came into this world with a certain temperament that cannot be changed, what is going to be visible to the world one day when they are an adult, will largely be influenced by their upbringing. 

It’s easier to bend a tree while it’s young
This is why spending time with our children is an incredibly important and wise investment and it’s so important for parents to be open to learning and getting advice. 

We want to thank you for allowing us to be a part of your parenting journey for a short while

We trust that the information that we’ve been sharing with you has made a difference and that we added a special touch to your parenting in many ways.

Our time together is over now, but we know that you will continue to be an involved, informed and tree-bending parent. 

Best wishes from us.


Tip: One last tip from us, and this is a GOOD one

Children whose parents talk to them about what they know and how they learn, test higher in IQ tests. This is because it develops a mental skill known as “metacognition”. This means thinking about one’s thinking.

A few ways to encourage metacognition in your child.

  1. Ask them to tell you five things they know about something. For example, dogs, apples or stars.
  2. As them to tell you their own plan for thinking about things. This can help them make greater sense of their life experiences. For example, they could name something’s category and where it is found. If we use “cow” as an example, we could say: “An animal that lives on a farm.” If we use “car” we would say: “A vehicle found on the road”. 
  3. Ask them to record the family’s procedure for washing dishes. Talk it through, draw sketches to represent the steps and stick them on the wall above the sink. 




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