When we talk about child development, we talk about the different steps and stages of growth and learning that a child goes through from birth to adulthood. It is important to understand that while there are many frames of reference, goals, and expectations for what children should be doing at a certain age, each child grows and develops freely and at their own pace.
The development of a child occurs in different areas, some of which are:
- Social-emotional: socialization with peers and familiar adults, handling transitions and emotions, developing identity and self-esteem
- Cognitive: language acquisition, problem-solving, building memory, forming own thoughts and ideas
- Physical development: playing physical games, exploring movements, engaging in musical and dancing experiences, fine motor growth, and forming healthy habits
It is known that the first five years of a child’s life have a great impact on future school years and adulthood. How can we positively impact and support the development of a child? Here are 6 suggestions:
1. Relationships: Creating a bond and relationship of trust between a child and an adult opens an effective line of communication between that child and the caregiver. Positive interactions and building bonds will make children feel appreciated, cared for, and safe. A healthy and respectful relationship between children and adults can impact how effective the adult is when requiring that child’s attention, teaching a new concept, redirecting behavior, or helping the child manage emotions.
2. Behavior: The way we behave is the way children often behave too. With our modeling, we teach good habits, manners, and life skills that the children will later adopt as their own.
3. Games: Through games, children acquire language and understand rules and procedures. Games become children’s first adult-directed experiences that require them to listen and follow rules that happen in a fun and exciting way.
4. Routines: Routine gives children a sense of security and calm that facilitates the understanding of a schedule, transitions, and learning processes.
5. Clear goals: While it is true that children learn at their own pace and time, it is also true that understanding rules and instructions clearly helps children understand what is expected of them in a certain activity or moment. Setting goals can be motivating for children and promote a positive approach to tackling challenges.
6. Observation: The development of a child is a process that evolves, changes, and progresses. When we observe children’s behavior and take notes, we are able to set goals that adjust solely and exclusively to the abilities and needs of that child.
Understanding that the development of a child is unique and belongs exclusively to the child is the first step to doing our work as facilitators of learning. When we gradually enter a child’s world and use thoughtful teaching strategies, we can have a positive and lasting impact on the child.