Mom! Look! Children get just as excited about learning a new skill as parents do. Children’s early experiences shape their development and new skills are built on earlier ones.
Every new skill helps to build a strong foundation for future skills
Brain development involves making and refining connections over time through environmental influences to form neural pathways. In this way, the foundations of many skills are formed during the early years.
The development of language, for example, starts with a few words, followed by an increase in vocabulary. Gradually your child speaks in longer sentences with increasing complexity, and later they refine their sentence structure and grammar. In most children, language develops rapidly between two to four years of age, where they start to understand the meanings of words and their grammatical use.
Children’s brains develop in an orderly fashion, making their development predictable
Every new experience – such as learning to catch a ball, recite a rhyme, draw a person or play a board game – is the result of a pathway in the brain that was activated and strengthened by earlier experiences in a hierarchical manner.
Child development is broken down into five main areas:
- Gross motor
- Fine motor
- Speech and Language
- Social-emotional and Behavioural
Although each child is unique and develops at their own pace, you can check their developmental milestones against a “standard range”, which most children reach at a certain age.
The milestones your child masters at a certain age can tell you whether their development is on track
We like to differentiate milestones into “flags”:
Green flags: signal that a child has mastered a milestone and is ready to learn the next one.
Red flags: signal the minimum developmental milestones a child should be able to master at a given age. “Red flags” indicate the minimum that a typical child should have learnt at a particular age, and therefore any delays in reaching the red flag milestones may be due to underlying issues. For example, a child who shows delayed speech may have an underlying hearing issue, or a child with motor development issues may have a visual problem.
Issues can often be treated with interventions such as speech therapy or occupational therapy. In these cases, the earlier the issue is addressed, the more successful the intervention.
Developmental milestones also reveal important information about what children are learning and what their next step will be
When we know what to expect at different times, it becomes easier to meet our children’s needs and enhance their growth at an age-appropriate rate.
“Green flags” are special milestones that pop up to indicate that a child is ready to learn something exciting
For example, a child can be expected to learn how to clap once, twice, and three times on command sometime between their third and fourth birthday. When this happens, a green flag is raised that signals that they are ready to learn to count three, four, and later five objects with understanding.
This is exciting because we can create opportunities for them to master the art of counting objects while pointing – saying one number word per object – and stopping at the last one, knowing that the last word said indicates how many items there are. Everyday activities, such as counting crayons while colouring in or the number of forks when setting the dinner table can help them to practise this skill.
Another green flag, which has to do with intellectual development, is raised when a four-year-old is able to tell you what they know about a subject when you ask them questions such as “What do you know about a cat?” or “What can you tell me about summer?”
A child that has mastered this, is a signal that they are ready to move to the next level, which is learning to describe their own actions step by step. You can ask questions such as, “How do you get dressed in the morning?” or “Can you describe how we wash your hair?”
One of the most awaited green flags for five-year-olds is raised when they are able to draw a triangle with straight lines and neat corners. Being able to do this indicates that they have developed the full set of visual-motor integration skills that they need to be able to form any letter of the alphabet.
In other words, the best time to teach children to write their name is when they are between five and six years old, and able to draw a triangle with good control.
As parents, we play a key role in preparing our children for school and life
Although some things can be delegated, such as fixing a car or cleaning a house, being a child’s most important teacher will always be the parent’s unique privilege. Family activities such as singing, reading, telling stories and playing games all contribute to school readiness.
NESTLÉ® NANKID® 4 is ready to celebrate and support you as an engaged parent by providing you with a milestone reminder tool that is available to parents of three- to five-year-olds, free of charge.
Sign up here to receive age-appropriate information on your child’s milestones on a monthly basis.
IMPORTANT NOTICE. A-well balanced diet, both during pregnancy and after delivery helps sustain an adequate supply of breastmilk. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended during the first six months of life followed by the introduction of adequate nutritious complementary foods, along with sustained breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond.
NESTLÉ® NANKID® 4 is not a breastmilk substitute. As babies grow at different rates, seek advice with your health professionals on the appropriate time when your baby should start receiving this product.
I find it so fascinating to watch children learn and master things. It truly is watching the world unfold through fresh eyes and realising how much I take for granted in the simplest things like, drawing a triangle or putting on shoes. To think that we all had to learn it somehow. Milestone charts are wonderful, and please also remember to trust your gut – if you’re concerned your child isn’t reaching a milestone yet, speak to your doctor.