Children will generally start school at around four to eight years old, depending on where in the world they live. But they start learning vital skills long before that, as soon as they’re born, and potentially even before that. There are lots of important skills that babies and infants develop as foundational skills for the rest of their lives. And, as they continue to get older, they keep building on these skills and learning new things. Grabbing a toy can turn to learning how to hold a crayon and eventually being able to write their own name. You can do lots of things to help your child’s development at home, with several different types of development to consider.
Cognitive development is the development of your child’s thinking skills and memory. It’s the skills and knowledge that help them to understand the world around them, and the development of their thought process. This involves everything from telling right from wrong to problem-solving. Your baby is constantly learning new things every day, even just from watching what’s happening in their environment. They’re always processing new information from both external sources and their own emotions and thoughts.
There are different types of cognitive development, including intellect, memory, and reasoning. You can do lots of things to help promote your child’s cognitive development at different ages. Generally interacting with your child in various ways will help to grow different skills. Start talking to your baby from the beginning and make sure your face is visible too, so your baby can start to pick up on facial expressions. Read books and try out different activities, sing, and encourage reaching for and then playing with different toys. You can start to teach colors, shapes, and other basic things from around a year old.
As your child grows, you can start to introduce more activities that help them to develop cognitively. Encourage playing pretend and imaginative thinking, learning animals, shapes, colors, and eventually numbers and letters, and making decisions and choices. Help your child to start thinking on their own and using their own words to express themselves.
Social and Emotional Development
Social and emotional development is all about learning to recognize different feelings and learn how to cope with them too, as well as interacting with others. Small children have a lot of big feelings, and it can take a long time before they’re really able to manage them. Even adults can struggle to understand their feelings and know what to do with them, so we can’t expect children to be able to do it perfectly. The development of social skills is important too, as children first learn to interact with their family and then start to develop the skills that they need to interact with peers.
You can do many things to help with the development of your child’s social and emotional skills. Making sure they get plenty of attention from you is the most important thing, from making eye contact and talking about different things to providing physical affection. Interacting with your child in different ways, including engaging them in conversation, reading stories, and more will help your child learn to recognize and express their feelings. Pets can be excellent for teaching your child important social and emotional skills, including empathy. By watching pets, children can learn to recognize when they might want space or other important cues.
Speech and Language Development
The development of speech and language might start in the womb. Babies start to pick up on speech patterns, tone of voice, and other things very early. Their speech and language skills develop in various different ways as they grow. Speech is related to making sounds, which later become words. Language is the use of words, both spoken and written, and gestures to communicate. Both speech and language development are important for your child, and for you to help develop.
Talking to your child regularly is essential to help develop speech and language skills. It doesn’t always come naturally to all parents, but even just narrating what you’re doing or thinking out loud ensures your baby hears you talking more. Communication can start before your baby is able to talk too. Responding to gestures like lifting their arms to be picked up and asking questions are two things you can do. Many parents use baby signs or a signing system like Makaton to teach their children non-verbal ways to communicate too. Eventually, you will also start to explore written language too. At this point, you will want to explore reading readiness vs emergent literacy. Making sure your child is ready to learn to read is important. Some children might show interest in it earlier than others.
Fine Motor Skill Development
Fine motor skills are the skills required to make small movements like grabbing onto or holding something. When babies are born, they reflexively grab onto things and their fine motor skills continue to develop as they get older. Eventually, you will want to be making sure your child can hold a pencil or pen and other skills so that they’re ready for school and learning to write.
Fine motor skills help your child to do a lot of things. Being able to move their fingers in small movements allows them to do things like doing up a button, tying a knot, zipping a zip, using tableware, using a keyboard, playing musical instruments, and a lot more. One of the most important skills children need to learn before they start school, is being able to hold and use a pen or pencil. Due to a larger focus on using tablets and other digital devices, a lot of children aren’t developing the fine motor skills needed to start learning to write and draw. This is one skill you should try to develop at home. There are lots of ways to develop these skills, from playing games that require picking things up to encouraging your child to dress themselves and doing arts and crafts.
Gross Motor Skill Development
Gross motor skill development includes the physical skills that your child needs to move around and make large body movements. This can include walking and running, riding a bike, swimming, and other types of exercise. Babies start to develop these skills when they begin to raise their heads when sitting, then roll over and eventually crawl and walk. Gross motor skill development is partly about developing strength in the muscles and bones but is also related to coordination and hand-eye coordination.
You can start developing your child’s gross motor skills early. Tummy time is important to help your baby start to strengthen the muscles in their neck and other muscles needed to lift the head. Placing a toy out of reach encourages your baby to reach for it. When your baby starts to stand, toys that can be wheeled around are great for encouraging stands and taking steps with support.
You can also practice gross motor skills by playing catch, playing with stacking toys, dancing, trampolining, and lots of other activities. Go out on bikes, whether they’re balance bikes, bikes with training wheels, or two-wheelers. Other things like trikes, scooters, rollerblades and skates, and other outside toys and modes of transport are fun too. Get active as a family to develop these important motor skills.
Children grow and develop in different ways. You can help your child to grow by helping with different types of development using various methods.