A child’s early years in life are very important for their health and development. Parents, family, teachers, and others work together so each child can reach their full potential.
Healthy development means that all children can grow up having their social, emotional and educational needs met. A safe and loving home, spending time with family are all very important. Examples of this include playing, singing, reading and talking. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep are foundational.
Positive parenting practices include:
Parents and caregivers who use these practices help children be healthy and safe.
Key learning takes place in a child’s first 6 years. This learning sets the foundation for success in school and in life.
Parents and caregivers play a powerful role in wiring a baby’s brain for learning. From a child’s first breath to the first day of kindergarten, loving relationships are the best teachers.
Raising a child is too big of a job to do alone, and many cultures believe the whole family is involved, as well as communities. Wise families support communities in launching children for success.
Areas of Development
There are different areas of development all children progress through. Here are some key areas and tips.
Social skills help your child build relationships with the people around them: family, friends and neighbours.
Singing songs and telling stories to each other (including make-believe) is a fun way to practice social skills. Children can develop self confidence by engaging you in your stories or learning a song.
- Hold your baby close and talk to her
- Play simple games like peek-a-boo
- Provide opportunities to play with other children. Bring your child to a community playgroup or preschool
- Encourage and model how to share
As your child grows, self-help and independence skills allow your child to be independent and do things for themselves. This eventually leads to their independence in children’s programs, preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Independence also boosts children self esteem and helps them develop life skills.
- Simple things may seem difficult at first, but with help, patience and practice, your child will develop the necessary skills.
- Around 12 months let your child try feeding themselves with a spoon – help when needed.
- When they are ready, encourage your child to put things away, put on their own clothes and other simple things.
Gross Motor Skills
Coordination and balance are a combination of skills called gross motor skills.
- Your child will learn how to coordinate the body by practicing climbing, walking, pushing and pulling things around.
- She will want to do the same thing over and over because she is learning by repetition.
- If she is climbing dangerous things, provide something safe to climb over
- Games where children move their whole bodies help them to learn how to make their bodies do what they want and it feels great!
Fine Motor Skills
The development of fine motor skills eventually leads to writing and drawing, and other activities that require physical precision.
- Babies play with toys in one hand, then as children grow they become more coordinated and can pick up smaller objects, build things, put things together, and use crayons to draw.
- Allow your child to turn the pages of a book you are reading together or to help out with household chores: misting houseplants with water or wringing out the sponge when you do dishes.
All these things can be fun, help them with their fine motor development and help your child feel included too.
Language and Literacy
Language and literacy begins when a baby is born.
- Talk to baby while you change their diaper, bathe them, and cook dinner.
- Talk about things your child sees, hears, feels.
- Include your child in conversations, sing with your child and talk to them about the world that surrounds them.
- Speak in your first language so that children develop an understanding of the patterns of grammar through the stories behind them
-The patterns of language can be applied to a second language – speaking your first language with a child can help them be literate with a second language. Children must hear language spoken fluently to understand how it should sound.
Children develop numeracy skills by sorting objects, pouring water, counting things and adding objects to other objects. As they play, their brains are making connections which they will build on when they go to school.
A child’s emotional development is important for building self confidence and self esteem. When a child feels good about themselves they will learn and grow in productive ways.
- Hold your baby to feed and look into his eyes
- Provide positive guidance
- Talk to your child about feelings and emotions. Help him learn to identify and name them.
Many cultures believe in the holistic development of children and include spiritual development. Many cultures have their own ceremonies, practices and traditions that support the child’s development emotionally, and spiritually that provides the foundation for health and wellness in later years.
Child Development Chart - First Five Years