Children begin the development process the day that they are born. From learning how to nurse to lifting their head, they are growing and reaching developmental milestones at a rapid pace. Do you remember that first smile you elicited from your baby and how excited you were to see it? Or how proud your baby seemed when he rolled over for the first time? These are milestones and all parents should be watching their baby for these signs of growth.
Developmental milestones are things that MOST babies do by a certain age. By saying "most", it means that all children are different and while one baby may hold his head up not long after birth, another baby will hold her head up after several days or weeks. Your child will be developing in areas of play, learning, speaking, behavior, and movement and while it's true that all babies develop at different rates, the milestones are indicators of the "norm" and a lag may be cause for concern and should always be checked with your child's physician if you see no change.
A young baby learns to focus her vision and starts to see things around her. She will begin to recognize faces and objects and begin responding to them with smiles and babbling. Cognitive, or brain, development begins and memory, language, thinking, and reasoning skills develop as your baby grows. He is beginning to develop bonds of love and trust with parents and others in his life, and this is the beginning of social and emotional development, an extremely important facet of growth.
Some important parenting tips include:
• Talk to your baby. This not only is soothing but also aids in babies developing vocabulary.
• Read to your baby. You will be helping baby develop a love for books as well as spending quality time together. And you will be expanding her language.
• Respond when your baby babbles at you. This is the beginning of conversation and when baby says something that sounds like a word, your response helps to solidify that word in her mind while she is learning to mimic it.
• Cuddle your baby. Touch is extremely important and with your newborn, it has been found that skin-to-skin contact helps in the bonding between parents and child.
Safety of your baby is very important for his development. Be sure to never "shake" him, always support his head when young, and minimize things that may hurt him in the home. Use an infant seat, facing backwards and in the back seat, and be sure it is secured in the car. Never hold your baby on your lap in the car; in an accident, that precious baby will fly right out of your arms to almost certain injury. Don't smoke in your home or around baby. This is detrimental for her health and well being, as well as yours. Be sure to cut baby's food into bite sized pieces to prevent choking and don't leave non-food items on the floor for crawling babies to pick up and put in their mouth.
If you can, breast feed your baby for as many months as possible but at least try to do so for the first six months. At around 6 months, your baby will begin trying new foods and the focus should be on healthy, natural foods. Try a variety. Babies love avocado and kiwi! Limit the time your baby spends in front of the television. Babies under age two should not really be watching television at all. Give your baby lots of tummy time. This helps develop strong arms and hands, as well as strengthens neck muscles. Being seated in a car seat or a bouncer for long hours is not good for baby's need for movement and also is not good for your baby's head shape. Too long in one position can change the shape of their head as the bones are still soft and developing. Have a playpen for your baby and use it at various times of the day. It is a safe place and if used regularly, your baby will be content there for short periods of time and will learn to develop independent play.
As your baby grows into a toddler, you will see many changes come about. From crawling to walking, from babbling to talking, from walking to running, and a growing sense of self and socialization. Socialization is the process by which children lean the values and behaviors accepted by society. And, it is also about becoming a confident and competent person. Your child will watch and copy things that they see you do. If you are a good, kind, and loving person, your child will take on those characteristics as well. However, if you have negative qualities, your child will learn those as well.
Social and emotional development has three goals:
• Achieving a sense of self
• Taking responsibility for self and others
• Behaving in a prosocial or socially acceptable manner
These goals are so important to a child's well being and success, in school and in life, and are linked to the emotional wellness that we strive to experience as adults. If you don't achieve this as a child, it will be harder to achieve it as an adult. A child must learn acceptable behavior in order to function in life and needs to know that there are limits and boundaries, that not everyone can win, that we must apologize when we hurt someone, even if we didn't mean to, and that losing is not the end of the world and can help us to grow and work harder to achieve something.
Physical development has two goals:
• Achieving gross motor control
• Achieving fine motor control
This development begins in your infant's activities, such as lifting up their head during tummy time, picking up cheerios with two fingers, or learning to crawl. And, it continues on as your child grows, fostered by activities you do together such as games that you play, time to run and jump outdoors, doing puzzles, learning to ride a bicycle, and playing a sport such as soccer.
Cognitive development has three goals:
• Learning and problem solving
• Thinking logically
• Representing and thinking symbolically
Cognitive development is all about the expansion of your child's mind. Feed it nourishing food and feed it stimulation. Read and talk to your child. Talk about the pictures if you aren't a good reader, let your child see you reading, whether it be a newspaper, comic book, text book, or a novel. It is all about the example for the child. Help your child develop his creativity. Have art supplies readily available. Use them together. Color, in the lines or out! Take them to the library, join a children's book club, but stimulate their minds. Don't just park them in front of the television and leave them there for hours. And when they do watch television, be discriminating. There are too many "cartoons" that aren't for children, too many mindless shows. Watch Animal Planet or Sesame Street with your child. Talk about what they are seeing on the screen. Sing along.
Language development has two goals:
• Listening and speaking
• Reading and writing
Children are born with the capacity to communicate with others-verbally and non-verbally. When holding your baby grandchild on your lap and he wants to get down, you know it! And he doesn't say "put me down". He uses sounds, body language, and motion, and grandma knows exactly what he means, saying "down" as she lets him slide off her lap. This is how your baby learns new words. So talk to him, show him pictures and label what he sees. Point things out when out for a walk. The greater his vocabulary, the better reader he can become, and the greater school success he can enjoy. Communication allows a child to have some control over themselves and their world.
These are just a few facts about child development. There are many books written about this subject for parents, teachers, and grandparents. And, there are many websites to check if you don't have time to go to the bookstore or library. To see a list of milestones, go to www.babycenter.com/milestones-charts-birth-to-age-3 where you will find a milestones for every age. For information regarding child development, check out the CDC website or a book from the "What to Expect..." series. You can find copies of this series at your local libraries in Vineland or Millville or at Bogart's, a used bookstore in Millville.