You may have heard the phrase: “The Early Years Last Forever.” There is a lot of truth to that phrase. The foundation for attachment, relationships, communication, physical senses, mobility, education, and career, are is set during the early years.
Some things can be made up later if they are missed during the early years; however, because a child’s brain is learning, growing, and expanding during the early years, these years are crucial. A healthy enriching; but not over stimulating environment can have an extremely positive impact on the life of a child. This kind of environment does not require a great deal of money, even impoverished homes can provide this type of environment for a young child.
Reading to and interacting with your young child will have a lasting impact. Learning to communicate with your child and understanding your child’s communication will help you provide more stimulation and a chance for your baby’s self-regulation and calming according to your child’s individual needs.
Understanding typical child development will help you know what skill to emphasize and when and will help you know when to seek additional assistance.
What is typical child development?
What can you do if you have concerns?
What is Child Development Screening?
Fortunately there is now considerable research and material available on child development. In the United States , there are also a lot of resources for children with developmental delays and disabilities.
While playing and working with children you will notice certain behaviors as they grown and develop. Many of these are called milestones and you may even have a baby book that your parent put together for you that included such information as when you took your first step or said your first word. There are a lot of these milestones that help us understand how well a child is developing, as well as gives us ideas on things that we can work on with children which are developmentally appropriate.
Let’s look at a few.
Many children will be able to:
By 3 months:
Follow moving objects with eyes
Turn head towards bright colors and lights
Move eyes together in same direction
Recognize breast or bottle
Respond to loud sounds
Make fists with both hands
Grasp rattles or hair
Wiggle and kick with legs and arms
Lift head and chest while on stomach
Make cooing sounds
By 6 months
Turn towards source of normal sound
Reach for objects and pick them up
Roll from stomach to back
Transfer objects from one hand to other
Play with toes
Help hold bottle during feeding
Recognize familiar faces
Sit well while leaning on hands
By 8 months
Turn head when name is called
Smile back at another person
Respond to sound with sounds
Enjoy social play (such as peek-a-boo)
By 12 months
Get into sitting position
Pull to a standing position
Crawl on hands and knees
Drink from a cup
Enjoy peek-a-boo and patty cake
Use basic gestures i.e. Wave bye-bye
Hold out arms and legs while being dressed
Put objects into container
Have a 5 to 6 word vocabulary
Walk with help
Make sounds such as “ma,” “pa,” and “da”
Imitate actions in play i.e. clapping
By 18 months
Like to pull, push and dump things
Follow simple directions like “bring the ball”
Pull off shoes, socks and mittens
Like to look at pictures
Make marks on paper with crayons
Use 8 to 10 words that are understood
Walk without help
Step off low object and keep balance
Stack 3 blocks
Do simple pretend play i.e. talk on a toy phone
Point to objects s/he thinks are interesting
Look at objects when you point and look at it and say “look”
By 2 years
Use 2 to 4 word phrases
Say names of toys
Recognize familiar pictures
Carry an object while walking
Feed self with spoon
Play alone and independently
Turn 2 or 3 pages at a time
Identify hair, eyes, ears, and nose by pointing
Build a tower of 5 blocks
Follow simple instructions
Show interest in other children
By 3 years
Walk up steps alternating feet
Ride a tricycle
Put on shoes
Turn one page at a time
Play with other children for a few minutes
Repeat common rhymes
Use 3 to 5 word sentences
Name at least one color correctly
Use the toilet
Show affection for playmates
Imitate playmates i.e. run when other children run
Play make-believe with dolls, animals and/or people i.e. feed a teddy bear or doll
By 4 years
Balance on one foot 4 to 6 seconds
Jump from step (just one step up to the floor below)
Dress and undress with little help
Cut straight with scissors
Wash hands alone
Play simple group games
As questions beginning, “What, Where, Who?”
Give reasonable answers to basic questions
Give first and last names
Show many emotions
Use 5 to 6 word sentences
Follow 3 step commands i.e. “get dressed,” “comb your hair,” and “wash your face”
Cooperate with other children
By 5 years
Skip using feet alternately
Catch a large ball
Count 5 to 10 objects
Draw a body with at least 5 parts
Print a few letters
Copy familiar shapes (square, circle, and triangle)
Much of the information about these developmental milestones is taken from information at the CDC website.
You may know some children who are significantly behind (two to three months) for some of these milestones. When that happens there are many options.
You may want to view the following video:
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides some wonderful additional information on basic child development, positive parenting tips, and child safety. It is arranged specifically by age and can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/default.htm
If you have concern about a child’s development and you are not the parent, tactfully and with care speak with the parent. It can be very difficult information for a parent to receive. Questions come up about what they might have done wrong or what might be wrong with themselves. Sometimes parents realize that there may be a problem but it is difficult to face and deal with. It’s much easier if you already have a good relationship with the parent. You would want to have this discussion in private with the parent and ease into it very gently. Share positive things about their child that you have genuinely noticed before you share concerns. If possible, provide potential resources with the parent at the same time you share your concerns.
You will find good information about Developmental Screenings in the US at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/devtool.htm
So, if a child has a developmental delay or disability, why is early intervention important?
When a child is born, if s/he is developing typically, is healthy and has good enriching environment s/he will make 3 billion synaptic connections per second (according to some experts, some others place the number as lower; however it is still at least in the hundreds of thousands) in his or her brain during the first three years of life. While we continue to learn throughout our lives, unless a disability makes it impossible, we never again learn at this rate.
Some things are very difficult or impossible to learn. For example, if a child is born without hearing and gets a cochlear implant at a very early age, s/he will probably develop typical or fairly typical speech. If an adult, who has never been able to hear, gets a cochlear implant; while s/he may be able to hear the sounds s/he will probably never be able to process language.
Don’t wait, early intervention is important.
Though developed specifically to demonstrate the affect of drugs on the brain, this website provides a partial animated view of how the brain works.
The Animated Brain http://www.brainviews.com/abFiles/AniEmdev.htm
Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the BRAIN two web sites:
Understanding your Baby’s Vision Development
There is some disagreement on baby’s ability to focus at a distance at birth; however it is generally accepted that they do not have good muscle control for focusing.
In the US, if you have concern about your child’s development you can call 1-800-cdc-info (232-4636)
Birth to Three programs throughout the United States are encouraged to provide services in the child’s natural environment, which can include his or her home and/or the child care center. Often a therapist can come either to your home or the child care center and provide support both for you and for the eligible child on a periodic basis.
Key Words for the Google Parenting Search Engine below:
Children Early Years; Birth to Three; Birth to Three (your state or country)
Key Words for the Google Scholar Search Engine below:
Infant Self-Regulation; Early Intervention
Developmental Screening, Child Development - NCBDDD, CDC
Child Development - NCBDDD
ZERO TO THREE: Homepage
Better Brains for Babies
HowStuffWorks Videos "Understanding the Brain: Development"
Baby Brain Growth and Development - Stimulate Baby Brain Development Video
Neuroscience For Kids - Brain Development
The Secret Life of the Brain : Episode 1
From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development
BBC NEWS | Health | Breastfeeding 'helps to boost IQ'
LLLI | Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast-Feeding Cuts Risk of Myopia
Child Development and Public Health - NCBDDD, CDC
Why Babies Cry: Help a Baby Stop Crying
Baby Sign Language
Communication between baby and me!
CJO - Abstract - Brain development, infant communication, and empathy disorders: Intrinsic factors in child mental health
Development of Eating Behaviors Among Children and Adolescents
Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development
Social Emotional Development