New parents and parents-to-be are usually very interested to learn about how their babies will develop, physically, emotionally and socially. They enjoy observing how their baby changes and starts to be aware of things, to interact and to do things that just a few weeks ago were not possible.

It can be a source of daily joy to observe their baby exploring the world and to share new experiences, helping to make them safe and fun. Many parents are eager to find out more about what babies can and cannot manage at different stages and about how they can help them with scaffolding activities and encouragement.

What parents often are not aware of is how much impact the everyday interactions between parent and child can have on a child’s developing brain.

Lynne Murray is professor in developmental psychopathology at Reading University and has published extensively on the psychology of babies. In her research overview, she looks at how children's communication develops in the first two years of birth.

NCT Early Days courses help new parents adjust to parenthood, offering support and postnatal education at a time that many find demanding and exhausting. in Talking to parents about child development, Claire Maguire shares her approach to running a regular session on child development as part of an Early Days course.

Many new parents and parents-to-be are interested in books that will inform them about babies' development. Lucy Markes looks at what is available.

In September 2014, NCT is launching the NCT Parent practitioner qualification to support parents of babies up to two years. Since publication of this article, NCT has renamed the qualification NCT Postnatal practitioner. For more information, see www.nct.org.uk/nct-college/work-opportunities/postnatal-leader.