The first five years of parenthood are overwhelming and exhausting. Parents often find themselves in a fog, just trying to survive from day to day, especially if there are other siblings in the house.
Between parenting books, articles you read on social media and the advice (often unsolicited) from family and friends, it’s hard to know what to believe and what’s truly important when it comes to raising your child. To make things even harder, the research on how to best parent your child continues to evolve and change.
But it’s important to note that those early years are the most crucial when it comes to a child’s overall social, emotional, gross motor skill and fine motor skill development.
Between having more than 40 years of combined experience treating children with developmental delays and the information and questions we get from you, our patient families, we’re sharing the inside scoop on what you really need to know when it comes to your child’s overall development.
To drive this point home as dramatically (yet scientifically) as possible, we’ll start with this: By age 5, a child’s brain is 90 percent developed. Pretty shocking, huh?
This means, the earlier you notice a delay and begin some sort of therapy, the faster you’ll see improvements and the better chance your child will have to catch up to their peers. Delaying treatment by just a year or two can significantly change the long-term outcomes of your child’s development. We say this not to scare you but to emphasize the importance.
We often hear from parents that their baby absolutely hated tummy time so they just gave up. While some babies tolerate it more than others, it is crucial for babies to spend time on their tummies. And it’s not just important for babies but for children of all ages.
One of the main reasons that tummy time is so important is that it helps develop core strength. Without core strength, your baby won’t be able to sit up and crawl and then eventually, as a young child, run around the playground with their friends.
Core strength is the precursor to the development of all the gross motor and fine motor skills that are needed to function successfully in everyday life.
3) Gross motor skills develop before fine motor skills
Simply put, large muscles develop before small muscles. It’s the large muscles that allow a child to develop gross motor skills like sitting up straight, running and jumping. All of that relates to the core strength we referred to above.
Once those larger muscles develop, the foundation is set for the strengthening and manipulation of the smaller muscles, particularly in the hands. This is what allows children to learn fine motor related activities like getting dressed, brushing their teeth and writing.
4) Skipping milestones is not generally a good thing
Just like tummy time, each of the developmental milestones like sitting up, crawling, walking and running generally set the stage for your child to reach another milestone.
While not always the case, skipping one a milestone can cause them to miss out on the foundational skills and muscle development needed for the next phase of their development. Those skills can include coordination, problem solving, left brain/right brain development and coordination.
And remember, when it comes to muscle development, it’s those little muscles that develop last. And fine motor development is CRUCIAL for functional everyday living.
5) Playing with your child is crucial to their brain development
We completely understand that life is busy and we often ask our kids to entertain themselves while we work on other tasks. While learning to play independently is important, it’s crucial to a child’s development that parents get down on their floor and spend a dedicated amount of time playing with their children.
With the popularity of electronics and video games these days, playing with our children looks much different than it did when we were growing up. The kind of play we’re talking about are unstructured activities like building blocks or legos, coloring or painting, having a dance party, playing pretend or kicking around a soccer ball outside.
Yes, it’s important to teach your child their letters, colors and numbers but play based activities like these have been proven to better develop a child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being.
The importance of play is so important that there’s a million different sub-topics we could address (and we will!) but for now, try setting aside a certain amount of time each day or week to dedicate to playing with your child. Let them lead while you follow along with wherever their imagination takes them.
Have other questions about what’s truly important as your little human being develops into a bigger human being? Give us a call or leave us a comment on our Facebook page,
we are here to help!