Several factors contribute to your child’s development in the early years. As a parent, you have a vital role in shaping your little one’s experiences and assisting her in reaching her full potential. Help your child succeed by becoming an informed and active participant in her life.
As one of the strongest influences in your child’s life, you can help her develop to her full potential. Be sensitive to your child’s needs and respond quickly. Don’t be afraid to show your child affection by hugging, kissing and snuggling with her. Use kind words and a warm tone. Laugh, play, dance and sing with your child as much as you can. Nurture and love your child to help her develop through these vital years. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), positive stimulation from the time of birth is a crucial factor in children's development for a lifetime.
Providing a safe, clean, calm and comforting environment is essential for your child’s development. Keep hazardous and inappropriate toys away from young children. An environment where your child is exposed to physical or verbal abuse will negatively affect her development. Not only is your child missing out on seeing what a healthy relationship looks like, stressful situations cause the body to release elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to Sean Brotherson, a Family Science Specialist at North Dakota State University. Extended periods of this hormone can make the brain vulnerable to processes that can destroy brain cells or lower the number of connections in the brain.
A child needs adequate nutrition to allow her body and mind to develop properly. Feed your child foods that are appropriate for her age. Breast milk or formula can provide almost every nutrient a baby needs for the first months of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a child grows, her nutrition needs change. Your pediatrician can help guide you on what foods are best at each stage. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and water are all part of a well-balanced diet as your child gets older. Malnutrition can lead to development issues and a failure to thrive.
According to the World Health Organization, the amount of stimulation provided in a child’s environment can dramatically affect her brain and cognitive development. WHO states that this is especially important during the first 3 years of life because early childhood is the most intensive period of brain development during a person’s life. Hands-on experiences, such as touching a cat, grasping a spoon, rolling a ball or handling various types of cloth do wonders for your child’s brain development. Show her how to properly touch, listen, talk, play, smell, look and hear the world around her. This world is new to her, so let her take it all in and make those connections.
- World Health Organization: Early Child Development
- North Dakota State University: Keys to Enhancing Brain Development in Young Children
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Impact on Child Development
- HealthyChildren.org: Childhood Nutrition
- HealthyChildren.org: Social Development of 2-Year-Olds
- NAEYC: Brain Development Research -- What it Means for Young Children and Families
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images