Ages and Stages: the First Year

I’m taking a few weeks off from blogging while my family settles in with our new baby.  Before I “unplugged” from the computer, I worked on this series about Ages and Stages.  Today is the second installment, on the first year.  I hope you enjoy it!  Best Wishes – Kara

The first year of a baby’s life is a time of amazing changes and growth.  It has always seemed to me that my babies change overnight. Every day they learn something new, grow more confident in their surroundings, and master new ways to communicate and express themselves.

It doesn’t seem take long for the tiny, quiet curled up newborn to become a happy, bouncy, giggling, cooing one year old eager to get into everything and be on the move!  The days of the first year go by in the blink of an eye.

I find that parents go through some big changes during the first year, too. That first birthday?  It is not just a celebration of the first year of life for a baby, but it a celebration of the first year of life as a parent.

What Does a Baby Really Need?

Much like a newborn, my firm belief is that mostly what baby needs is YOU.  They need your hands to hold them, care for them, tickle their toes and play peek a book.  They need your voice to model speech and sing songs, to talk to them, to soothe them.  Babies need connection and time in the arms of people who love them.

Later, once they are mobile, babies needs a safe place to explore.  This is a time for “baby proofing” and providing them an area where they are free to move and discover without danger.  Electrical outlets need to be covered, sharp edges padded, breakable things within babies grasp need to be relocated, etc.

I believe that a natural, simple environment is best for a baby.  Babies don’t need media or toys that play for them.

Babies need play things that they can interact with and manipulate by themselves.   I like open-ended play things that can be used in many ways and that are made of natural materials like wool, cloth, or wood.

Also nice to have:

  • a rattle to clutch and shake
  • a teether or soother
  • a large soft ball
  • a mobile over their crib and/or diaper changing area
  • a soft stuffed animal or doll (that is safe to chew on and cuddle)
  • a high chair or booster seat, once baby starts eating solid foods
  • once baby is mobile, a walker or a pull and push toy that encourages movement can be nice

So, what do you think?  Did I leave anything out? What would you include in this list of resources for the first year?


Have you heard the news? The new baby play ebook Zero to Two is here and it is full of ideas for play and learning from infancy through the toddler years. Find out how to pick up your copy here.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Hi Kara- good to have you back! your tips are very useful and so simple. it’s maybe a little scary to be a new mom but you give the feeling that it’s actually not so complicated.
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  2. I think you hit the nail on the head! With my first we received so much stuff, most of which we didn’t use…including the crib. The one thing that I found to be essential, more for me than for my babes, was my moby. I used it all. the. time. And now I also have an ergo. It seems to make my life with two toddlers a lot easier 🙂
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  3. Cute baby 🙂
    The most important thing your baby needs is LOVE!
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  4. Wow, what a smile full of love. Now is the most important days to put all the attention on this angel 🙂 enjoy
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  5. We definitely took the less-is-more approach with our little guy (now 20 months), too. The only other things we found to be “essential” (for us) were the sling (a Hotslings; for the next we’re already planning on investing in a Moby or Ergo), a variety of music (our little guy really responds to music; we play classical, kid’s stuff, world music, and Sinatra, depending on the day and the mood) and a variety of books to read to him.
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  6. My youngest grandaughter will turn one next month. It is so funny because most of the things she likes to play with are not “toys” at all! They are household items or kitchen items that she can hold, manipulate and bang together. Trying to get my daughter-in-law to realize she doesn’t need every toy under the sun!
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  7. Books! My kids all loved books–to look at and eat occasionally. My friend made us fabric texture blocks– using satin, denim, corduroy, etc. They are good for building, squishing, tossing. “Baby-zilla” is a popular game, the big kids make towers for the crawler to knock down.

  8. Thanks for these reminders. We’re unexpectedly expecting again, so it’s helpful to think again about what we will and won’t need!
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  9. I absolutely agree that the first birthday is really a celebration of the parents making it! Some babies are easy, easy, but we had challenging babies (colic, reflux, non-sleepers), and getting through that first year felt like a major accomplishment!

    However, even with all the challenges, the list of what our kids needed is just what you listed – love, attention, safety, and simple objects to explore… plus hours of walks in the park and guitar music to soothe the fits.

    The list of what we needed was simple as well… more sleep!
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  10. “That first birthday? It is not just a celebration of the first year of life for a baby, but it a celebration of the first year of life as a parent.” – i never thought about it this way! the baby doesnt know he have birthday, he just feel something special is going on, but the parent know he have 1 year of parenting expericnce 🙂
    “Babies don’t need media or toys that play for them.” agree with you about toys, in case of watching television, its depend what he\she sees, if its a good content i dont mind to watch
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  11. the first year is realy amazing
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  12. Most of the things a baby needs most in the first year are not things at all…as you say, they need love, care, touch. Babies also thrive on routine or some kind of predictability so that can be important. I also think they need understanding. Babies are still people, just smaller and they are their own being.
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