“Child Development” seems like this gigantic, general term that gets overused from pregnancy through young adulthood. What does it mean to encourage healthy childhood development? How do your really do that? Does it matter?
Child development is defined as the various stages of physical, social, and psychological growth that occur from birth through young adulthood. As parents, teachers, and coaches we observe this development through how your child is able to do complex things as he/she gets older. Development involves learning skills such as tying shoes, skipping, kicking a ball, walking, and learning of all types. We compare our kids to everyone else’s and measure against our perception of the “norm”. Ironically that “norm” is based on our personal history and what we observe in our peer group. Our peer group is heavily impacted by our socio-economic position. We use these comparisons in “development” to determine our child’s strengths and weaknesses and inately steer them in all aspects of their lives.
Neurological research shows that the early years play a key role in children’s brain development. The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become. Early risk exposure (poverty, trauma) can have profound and lasting consequences, especially given that different developmental processes in humans are interconnected. Kids are basically in-training to be adults. We, as little animals, are imprinted by our surroundings and especially the people closest to us. Everything we are exposed to, especially in the first 1000 days of life, can have a lasting effect on who we are, what we will become, and how we deal with life.
“The basic principles of neuroscience indicate that providing supportive conditions for early childhood development is more effective and less costly than attempting to address the consequences of early adversity later.” – Jack P. Shonkoff, Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to use the five R’s of Early Childhood Education to help boost your child’s development. The five R’s are;
- Read together. Reading together daily will help strengthen your child’s literacy development. Read every chance you get. Start identifying letters before they can talk.
- Rhyming, playing, talking and singing together. This may or may not be natural to a parent. But these simple daily interactions increase vocabulary and perceptual comprehension on a multitude of levels.
- Routines and regular times for meals, play, and sleep allow children to know what they can expect and what is expected of them. Consistency builds trust and healthy habits.
- Rewards for everyday successes – praise is a great reward! Training kids is similar to training puppies. Your smiling face and enthusiasm can be the greatest reward to a child.
- Relationships that are reciprocal, nurturing and enduring. Being there, being present, and being supportive teaches a child self worth. Strong basic relationships with the primary adults in a child’s life teach them that they matter and encourage them to be independent. Forced independence when a child isn’t ready, ingrains self-doubt and abandonment. The energy an adult brings into an interaction with a child will be reflected in how the child feels about themself.
It’s important that parents understand that the definition of “normal” in many environments is fluid. Equally important then, is not over-reacting or over-thinking our child’s development in comparison to others. At Aurora Kids Gymnastics we are child development based. That means we create classes prioritizing what’s age appropriate. Even for us this is fluid. We give ourselves a range of options for activities and skills and no 2 classes in a week will be exactly the same. That’s what makes it fun as well as challenging. We love to see parents that feel the same way about their children when they come to the gym.
Embracing the differences, celebrating the strengths, and using the weaknesses as learning tools.
Want more information on benchmarks for your child? PBS Parents website has a Child development tracker for ages 1 through 8yrs which gives insight into stages of growth : http://www.pbs.org/parents/child-development/