The resources on this page will assist carers to understand child development and how to support children in their care as they grow and develop.

Developmental stages

As children age, they develop various skills. These include moving and co-ordination, thinking and imagining, being in relationships and dealing with feelings. Child development doesn’t happen in a straight line and there are differences between individual children but there are certain groups of skills that most children are able to do by a particular time. These are known as ‘milestones’ and include things like making their first smile, taking their first steps, speaking in sentences etc. Being aware of milestones can help you understand the development of the child and/or young person in your care.

Parenting SA have released an Easy Guide for parents and carers of children 0 to 4 years to explain important developmental milestones and how to recognise when an infant’s behaviour may be ‘out of step’ with the usual developmental trajectory.

Emerging Minds leads the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, and produces resources to advance the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Australian infants, children, adolescents and their families. The following resources will help carers to understand child development and how to support the child in their care through different life stages:

Supporting development

There are many things that carers can do to support the development of children and young people. The following resources will give you some helpful information on how to approach this. You might also like to look at the DCP Trauma-informed and responsive care resources:

Emerging Minds release podcasts of conversations with experts on a variety of topics related to children’s social and emotional wellbeing. Carers may be interested in the following episodes:

The Raising Children Network is an Australian Government funded website that provides evidence-based tips and tools for everyday parenting from pregnancy to teens. The following webpages contain short video resources about parenting at different stages of a child’s development:

Understanding developmental delays: 0 to 5 years

What is a developmental delay?

Developmental delay means that a child or young person has not gained the skills that are expected by a certain age. Delays can happen with speech and language, thinking and learning, movement and balance, and social/emotional ability. A ‘global’ developmental delay means significant gaps in three or more of these areas. Some developmental delays will be visible from very early on but others might not be noticeable until children reach school age or beyond.

There are lots of reasons why a child might experience developmental delay including:

  • Genetic factors
  • Disability
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Neglect
  • Brain injury
  • Exposure to toxic substances (like drugs and alcohol or lead poisoning)
  • Serious infections

Children and young people under Guardianship are more likely to experience developmental delays and these are more likely to be identified later in life.

Early intervention is key so that children and young people with developmental delays can access the right treatments to grow their skills and thrive.

Every child is different and will reach some milestones earlier than others. For example, one child might learn how to talk really early but walk later than most children their age whereas another might do it the other way around.
Some variation is normal but you know your child better than anybody else. If you are seeing things in their development which worry you, check them against the list provided here and, if you think there may be a delay, let your child’s caseworker know so that they can organise an assessment.

It is important to work with the case worker and the health professional providing assessment of the child’s development around the supports and services the child requires. This may include therapy or supports within the home, childcare or education setting.
Some children with developmental delay may be eligible for support through the NDIS. Your child’s caseworker can make referrals to the appropriate supports once a formal assessment has been completed.

Potential signs of developmental delay or disability in children aged 0-5 years are described in this brochure (PDF, 523.7 KB).

Parenting skills

As a carer it may be a while since you last looked after children and young people or you might be doing this for the first time. The following resources will help you in this important role.

The Australian Childhood Foundation is a national not-for-profit organisation that provides therapeutic services, educational programs and creative resources aimed at ensuring that all children are raised in relationships that are safe, caring and respectful. The following resources will assist carers to reflect about what is important to them in raising children, how they communicate with children and how they can learn and grow alongside children:

Parenting SA supports parents and caregivers through the provision of quality information, and publishes Parent Easy Guides on a wide range of topics from birth to 18 years. The website also provides links to information and support, and seminars and videos on topics of relevance to parents and carers.

The Child and Family Health Services (CaFHS) Parent Helpline (1300 364 100) provides telephone information and support for parents and carers of children from birth to five years living in South Australia at any time, seven days a week. It is staffed by qualified nurses, social workers and community health workers who receive ongoing training and support.

Many of these resources have been translated into multiple languages. Culturally appropriate information tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island families can be found here.

Iceberg fact sheets

A trauma informed approach to understanding and managing traumatised children and young people’s behaviours

Children and young people who have experienced harm may behave in unexpected ways. These behaviours are often the ‘tip of the iceberg’, while ‘underneath the surface’ are the emotional causes of the behaviours. Times of stress can trigger unexpected behaviours.

These fact sheets can help caregivers and others working with vulnerable children and young people to better understand the reasons underlying the behaviours that these children and young people often display.

Supporting fitness

Physical activity keeps bodies and minds fit and healthy. Your child or teenager can be physically active by participating in a range of activities, like sports, dancing, bike riding, going on family walks, collecting shells, doing land care and exploring outdoor areas.

Source: Raising Children - physical activity for school-aged children factsheet

Source: Raising Children - physical activity for teenagers factsheet

A list of playgrounds around South Australia  is available through the South Australian Playground Finder

Page last updated: 24 October 2022