Supporting Your Child’s Development
Children learn from the moment they are born. They are learning all the time, at greater speeds than at any other time in their lives. More than 80% of brain development happens before the age of three. Imagine if your child grew to be five feet tall before his or her third birthday.
When wondering about how to help promote your child’s development, or looking for programs for your child, keep the following in mind:
Children learn through play. Through play, children learn to follow directions, take turns, solve problems, and learn about the world. Engaging your child in the routines and activities that make up a normal day are terrific ways to help your child learn. Children also need lots of different people to play with them.
Loving and caring relationships with the people in their lives are critical for children’s successful development. Children need lots of different people – parents, caregivers, brothers and sisters, friends – to talk to and play with. Through relationships with other people, children learn about themselves and gain the confidence they need to try new things. Making friends, expressing anger through words, working through conflicts, showing concern for others, waiting patiently, and having fun with others are all part of healthy emotional and social development. As with any skill, children learn how to do these things in small steps, with the help of those around them.
Talking and Listening
Talk with and listen to your child. It’s the best way to help them learn language and to support their brain development. From the very first day of their lives, children are listening and learning to understand the language they hear. But it’s not just numbers and words; conversation is most meaningful when you look directly at your child. Facial expressions, gestures, and sounds, also help your child learn language and learn to relate to the world. Responding to your child’s communication, whatever form it comes in, helps your child understand that words have meaning and that communication is a two-way street.
Muscles Big and Small
Learning how to control muscles is an important job for very young children. Children use their big muscles – in the arms, legs, and trunk – to crawl, walk, jump, climb, and balance. Activities that use big muscles are often referred to as “gross motor skills.” One of the best ways to support the development of these muscles is to give young infants lots of “tummy time” to play on their bellies.
Small muscles in the hands, fingers, and face let children express themselves or handle simple tools like spoons. Pushing toy buttons, stacking blocks, grasping toys, finger painting, playing with clay or play-dough and using crayons, markers and pencils are great ways to develop small muscles. These small muscle activities are “fine motor skills.”
Children become independent through little steps that parents and caregivers can encourage. Teaching children to hold their cup, hold onto a spoon, and pick up food with their fingers can help them take the first steps toward eventually feeding themselves. Asking children to participate in the dressing process by lifting arms and legs or putting little feet into shoes are the early steps in teaching children to dress themselves. Letting children participate in clean-up activities by washing faces and hands and helping with bathing, putting toys away and wiping down tables and chairs encourage independence.
Choosing Toys for Children
These websites give advice and recommendations on toys based on various criteria like communication, sensory, cooperation, and more.