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Early support for babies and toddlers

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Early intervention is used when children need to catch up in development due to certain circumstances. This targeted funding is intended to make up for or compensate for current disadvantages.

In this article, you will find detailed information on early intervention.

  • Start early
  • Optimize your child’s skills
  • The help is also for parents
  • strengthen your bonding
  • enjoy parenting
  • Cooperate and compromise

But you can also find information about the assessments, about experts, where to find help, and who has to pay for it.

Who is early intervention for?

Early support is suitable for all children from 0 to 6 years of age to prevent or catch up on developmental deficits or to find their way around in kindergarten.

Parents often take part in early support with:

  • premature babies and babies at risk of development,
  • children with disabilities,
  • children with behavioral problems,
  • children with learning or performance difficulties,
  • Children who are developmentally challenged and
  • worries and uncertainties

Above all, the early intervention aims to provide parents with the support and skills they need to support their child’s various aspects of development.

When should you start early intervention?

Theoretically, the sooner, the better. Especially in the first two years of life, our children are usually very well looked after and examined by pediatricians. You should always be honest and not, out of false motivation or pride, answer the pediatrician’s questions in the affirmative if this is not the case.

Your pediatrician will advise you if there are any abnormalities and, if necessary, advise you on what is or is not necessary for more detailed clarification.

But even after the age of two, you should consult your pediatrician first if you have any concerns or abnormalities. 

The earlier you start early support with your child, if necessary, the better the chances of success. On the one hand, we can start with the promotion before more serious problems or even consequential damage occur. On the other hand, the behaviors are not yet so well practiced and consolidated. This makes it easier to relearn them.

Why is early intervention important?

Goals of early support for children:

  • Promote children’s skills to optimize development opportunities
  • Promoting self-esteem and self-awareness: are two essential skills that our children need for healthy development. First, information is collected here through observation, and then the parents are given tips on how they can promote and develop these skills. I have written some tips for you here.
  • Integration and inclusion: this point mainly relates to the social interactions that your child has. Here, too, it is essential to see where possibilities and chances exist and how your child can best be supported according to the level of development.

Objectives of early support for parents:

  • Advice and professional advice and tips: You will receive a lot of information about the development in general and the developmental level of your child in particular. Exercises for support will be explained and shown to you. In the best case, you will also be referred to a group with other parents and similar problems.
  • Concerns and fears when dealing with the reasons: in a good early intervention all worries, fears, and other concerns of the parents have a place. It is also important that you are supported in establishing routines in everyday life and that you learn to recognize and observe the limits of your child as well as your limits.
  • Social inclusion
  • You will learn about the opportunities you and your child can take outside your family. 

Methods of early intervention


Theoretically, it is about diagnostics, support, and therapy. These will be coordinated and adapted to your child. It is important to consider all aspects and to create a concept that suits you and your child individually. The focus here is on your child’s self-determination and independence.

Family Orientation

The family is the most important living environment for our children. It is therefore particularly important that the support includes the family. Support goals and concerns of the parents must be coordinated. This is how early support achieves the best possible results for your child. Parents are actively involved in the promotion.

Cooperation of several departments

Early intervention is made up of many specialist areas. And that’s how it should be encouraged. It is usually advisable to contact specific experts for various problems.

The main disciplines for early intervention are:

  • Psychological counseling in terms of developmental and family psychology
  • Medical clarification
  • Speech therapy for all language difficulties
  • Occupational therapy for all motor and neurological problems.

What do you do in early support?

Entry phase

First, it is of course important to make contact and to specify the problem. It must be clarified what exactly is to be supported, what concerns the parents have, and who can support them in which area. This phase can usually be clarified in 1-2 sessions.

Promotion phase

The promotion is of course exclusively about supporting the child in its development and the advice and support of the family. A duration is difficult to determine here. Depending on the individual situation, this can range from a few weeks to years.

Closing phase

Usually, the last unit is used to draw a conclusion and to explain the parents’ final questions again. What’s next? What should we keep at home? When should we come back?

Early intervention exercises for parents

Almost all support for children is playful. Practicing something is just a lot more fun when it’s packaged as a game. Your child must learn to play with something alone.

This has the advantage that your child is not given everything that it can do with the toy. It encourages exploration and discovery. And of course, it helps us, in everyday life, if our child can also spend some time alone.

Especially in the support area, it is also necessary that you play together with your child. That sounds banal, but it isn’t. Many parents spend very little time during the day actively playing with their children. That shouldn’t be an accusation. It’s just that the common parent-child game is often simply lost in everyday life.


Children primarily learn by observing. Let’s play together with them, and learn a lot from us along the way.

I also have a post on being a role model, which goes into more detail on this topic of model learning.

Strengthen relationship

Every joint play and joint activity promotes the parent-child relationship. This may be underestimated, but a good and secure relationship between parents and child is particularly important for good development. It is an indispensable prerequisite, especially for funding. Here you can already contribute quite well at home.

Play games together, do crafts, dance together, or just go out for a walk. Everyday tasks can also be done together, such as cooking or emptying the dishwasher. All this trains numerous areas, but if you have fun doing it, it strengthens your relationship with your child. 


Make sure that you choose an activity that your child, but above all you like, likes. 

Children get excited about almost anything. Not like us parents. Choosing an activity that you are not good at or that you dislike will cause you stress. A well-intentioned action may turn into frustration and a dispute may arise. So, rather choose something that suits you.

Enjoy time

Try to enjoy these activities together. Of course, that too is often lost in everyday life. Sometimes there is no time to do everything as long as it is fun for everyone.

Everyday life with children is often stressful and exhausting. It is important for both sides, i.e. children and parents, to consciously enjoy moments together. On the one hand, this strengthens the relationship and at the same time gives strength for the strenuous moments.

You should express what you are feeling at the moment. This is how your child will learn. Communicating one’s feelings and thoughts to others is an important prerequisite for preventing misunderstandings and possible conflicts.

Try out, for example, blowing soap bubbles. For me, it’s particularly easy because I could watch the soap bubbles forever.


Closeness and especially physical closeness to close caregivers, i.e. us parents, is a basic need of our children. It gives them security. Our children need this to be able to develop optimally. A sense of insecurity of any kind causes anxiety and interferes with development.

Try to find a slot when you have enough time and don’t have to stop.

Learning to cooperate and compromise

Cooperation is the combined actions of two or more people

Compromise is an agreement by mutual agreement.

Help is often well-intentioned, but our children take it badly. Especially in everyday family life, children and parents often have different goals that need to be reconciled. A willingness to cooperate and compromises are required.

Cooperation prevents many a dispute and thus creates a more relaxed family life and many beautiful moments together.

Cooperation exercises

  • Pad Transporter:  Take two long sticks (from brooms, for example) and place a pad in the middle. Then take one end of both sticks and have your child take the other end on the opposite side. Then try to achieve an agreed goal. 
    To increase the difficulty, you can also take a ball. Talk to your child beforehand about how you want to do it and what strategy might be successful. Please have no hesitation to try all strategies and also make useful suggestions. In the end, you enthusiastically mention again how well you have solved it together and emphasize that your child’s idea and your own have led to success jointly.
  • Building a tower: Building a block tower together can require a lot of cooperation. Discuss the tactics and the possibilities together. For older children, you can choose a castle or something similar. Overall, it is always good to once again emphasize and praise the joint successes and, if possible, the compromises that have been made.

You can read about how to praise your child correctly in this article.

Take care

Being considerate of one another is particularly important in families. For us parents, it is usually natural to take care of our children. But we can and should also demand it from our children, adapted to their age and development.

In games, it makes sense to practice this aspect with you. Consideration promotes a willingness to cooperate on a social level. It makes it easier for our children to learn perspective taking, which is mature around school age. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of others and also of mum or dad is essential for our children to get along well in social groups, i.e. among friends, in kindergarten, school, and later at work.

Who is eligible for early support?

Early intervention benefits are given to children between the ages of zero and six who, because of their disability, are significantly restricted in their ability to participate in society (substantial disability) or who are at risk of such a significant disability.

In practice, any child with developmental delays or abnormalities that require special child support is eligible for early intervention. The parents are then free, usually after a discussion with the pediatrician, to seek out the comprehensive range of early support services. However, early support also offers a low-threshold counseling service that can be used even before the first diagnosis. According to Lebenshilfe.de

Where can I get early support?

Early intervention should take place close to home. The support usually takes place in an early support center where interdisciplinary cooperation can take place. But also with private providers of the various disciplines.

Who is an expert on what?

funding areaexpert
Health, physical, and organic concernspediatrician or specialist
Development, learning, cognitive processesPsychologists, reading and spelling coaches
languagespeech therapist
Motor skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, coordinationoccupational therapy

Who pays for early intervention?

In the USA, early intervention is founded by the government if there is a recognizable need. If you are from GB, you can find help near you with your postcode here.

How do I get early funding?

  1. Go to the pediatrician
  2. Describe in detail your observations, concerns, and wishes regarding your child
  3. Find an early intervention center
  4. Make an appointment for a consultation there
  5. First, the actual need for support is determined by a precise diagnosis
  6. Follow the recommendations of the early support center
  7. Ask the early support center about how you get the federal support (the early support center itself usually does this)
  8. If you are not satisfied or do not feel well, look for another early support center.
  9. If you do not meet the requirements for early support, ask the early support office again for the exact reasons.
  10. You can also look for early support or support for your child privately. Above all, of course, if you do not meet the federal requirements or these of the health insurance companies. In any case, you save yourself the diagnostics, which is useful for all further funding. In the case of private funding, however, you bear the costs yourself. It is also up to you to contact the right experts. Perhaps you have already discussed it during the conversation with your pediatrician or the clarification in an early intervention center. Normally, however, before the initial consultation with a psychologist, occupational therapist, literacy trainer, learning coach, or speech therapist, they should clarify whether you are in the right place. If not, he or she will normally advise you 

Early Intervention Centers

Head startGovernment.ukCarers Australia
Programm in your areaProgramm in your area Programm in your area
Are you eligible for the service  NDIS
Where to get early childhood Intervention

Test sheet for early intervention

Different diagnostic tests can be used to create a developmental profile of your child. These profiles show the child’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Peabody developmental motor scale, second edition (PDMS-II) is an example.  It is intended for children from birth up to 5 years.

All development assessments are very similar in many areas. Only the tasks usually differ from each other.

Here are some examples of subtests from various early assessments:

Gross motor skills

This subtest is about the child’s physical coordination, balance, dexterity, and mobility.

Examples for 3-year-olds:

  • Jump on the spot
  • Jump on one leg
  • Do five final jumps in a row
  • Stand securely on one leg (once left leg, once right leg) for at least one second without holding on
  • Catching a 10-15 cm diameter ball thrown from about 2 meters away
  • Carry a cup of water around a chair five feet away and back again without spilling anything
  • walk 3 steps down the stairs at an adult step (always one foot per step).

Examples for 4-year-olds:

  • Repeat examples for 3-year-old children
  • Balance forward in heel-toe gait (goose foot).
  • Stand on one leg and maintain your balance without holding on for at least 5 seconds
  • Jump back and forth sideways over a rope with both feet at the same time
  • Throwing a 10-15 cm diameter ball to someone from a distance of 2-3 meters
  • Hop on one leg at least 2 times in a row

Examples for 5 and 6-year-olds:

  • Repeat examples for 3 and 4-year-olds
  • balancing forwards and backward in a heel-toe walk (goose foot)
  • balance in a one-legged stand for at least 10 seconds without holding on,
  • catch a tennis ball thrown from a distance of 3 meters,
  • bounce a ball at least four times in a row,
  • jump like a jumping jack.

Fine motor skills

Here hand-eye coordination, hand dexterity, and accuracy of hand movements are observed.

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Example for 3-year-olds 

  • Draw a cross
  • Trace a pre-drawn cross with the pen
  • Fold a sheet of paper in half
  • Pour a half-full cup into another, empty cup and back again without spilling anything
  • Form a “snake” out of ball-shaped, walnut-sized modeling clay,
  • Open a box to view its contents, e.g. B. a pearl, a surprise to arrive
  • To unbutton and button again
  • rip scraps of paper

Examples for 4-year-olds 

  • Repeat examples for 3-year-old children
  • Draw a human made up of at least 6 parts
  • Wind up a ball of wool (I can also recommend threading games for practice here)
  • Form a sheet of paper into a compact ball
  • Draw a picture depicting a scene with multiple objects (e.g. tree, house, and sun; flowers, clouds, moon, snowman)
  • Paint within given lines and shapes, e.g. in a coloring book

Examples for 5 and 6-year-olds 

  • Repeat examples for 3 and 4-year-olds
  • Draw or write 3 numbers or letters. They may be twisted or mirrored.
  • Sharpen a pencil with the sharpener
  • Erase with an eraser

Language and cognition

The following skills are dealt with in this subtest: language production or speaking ability, language understanding, and communication skills, but also memory performance, as well as the ability to find problem solutions independently, and the ability to think abstractly.

Examples for 3-year-olds 

  • Repeat a sentence with at least 5 syllables
  • Speak sentences of at least 3 words grammatically correctly
  • Use question words: e.g. B. why, what, how
  • Recognizing and naming simple activities of people or animals in a picture book, e.g. B. “The cat is drinking.”, “The child is playing.”
  • Knowing what certain everyday objects are used for, e.g. B. the cup, the plate, the comb, the spoon
  • Recognize and use the plural when appropriate
  • Know at least 3 of the following colors: red, green, blue, yellow, white, and black
  • Be able to have a little conversation
  • Know the opposites of “small”, “cold”, “light” and “sour”.
  • Being able to recognize and describe connections, picture stories in a picture book

Examples for 4-year-olds 

  • Repeat examples for 3-year-old children
  • Properly repeat two four-syllable “magic words”.
  • Can form the past tense
  • Complete three simple prompts/tasks in the correct order
  • Form grammatically correct sentences of 5 or more words
  • Retell/report experiences in logical and chronological order
  • Assemble a children’s puzzle with at least 12 pieces
  • Define objects by their use, shape, and material from which they are made or by generic terms (e.g. dishes, plates)

Examples for 5 and 6-year-olds 

  • Repeat examples for 3 and 4-year-olds
  • Read/recognize four numbers between 1 and 9
  • Clap the syllables of a 2 and 3-syllable word
  • Use simple time terms like “today”, “yesterday” or “tomorrow” correctly
  • Recognizing and correctly naming the shapes square/rectangle (rectangle), circle, and triangle
  • Count five items without using your fingers
  • Explain a game that the child knows to other children or the teacher, and speak fluently
  • Solve simple and clear plus and minus tasks in the number range up to 6

Social Development

This is about your child developing independence. To what extent can a child cope with everyday life’s demands without help? Social rules in dealing with others are the focus here. I can recommend feeling cards for all age groups to practice with. Different social situations can be discussed and looked at in peace.

Examples for 3-year-olds 

  • Play with a doll or teddy caringly
  • Speaking of yourself in the first person
  • Recognizing and distinguishing between boys and girls
  • Wash your hands independently
  • Take off a previously opened jacket independently
  • Ask for the toilet in good time
  • Play and build constructively without tearing everything down again
  • After playing, tidy up individual things if necessary, even if it doesn’t work well yet

Examples for 4-year-olds 

  • Repeat examples for 3-year-old children
  • Put the right shoe on the right foot
  • Adhere to the rules of the game (age-appropriate board or card games)
  • Respond appropriately to other children’s expressions of emotion (crying, pain, sadness, happiness).
  • Taking on and maintaining a role in role play
  • Cultivate a friendship with another child that lasts for a few weeks
  • Take care of yourself at the table
  • Resolve disputes and conflicts peacefully
  • Recognizing dangerous situations in everyday life and behaving appropriately (street, household, strangers, dog)

Examples for 5 and 6-year-olds 

  • Repeat examples for 4-year-old children
  • In a group, put your own needs aside for now
  • Wait for the child’s turn
  • Dealing appropriately with failure
  • Being able to listen attentively to the teacher’s instructions and stories
  • Being able to take and carry out the instructions of the teachers
  • Cooperative behavior towards children
  • Respond to offers of play and contact from other children
  • Being able to focus and persevere on a task over a long time

Be aware

Please keep in mind that our children study almost around the clock. Your child learns all these tasks while playing, in everyday life, through observation, and experience. Of course, it is nice when you practice together with your child. But you should only practice as long as your child enjoys it, and never put pressure on it. Practicing and promoting are good things, but not at any price.

Children tire much faster than we do. They will then no longer be able to record. If you force your child to continue, he/ she will only lose joy and motivation. If this happens frequently, it will associate the study exercises with stress, anxiety, and frustration. And we want to avoid that, for sure.

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