International Day of Families

Today is the International Day of Families. Created by the United Nations it’s an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.

Families play a critical role in early childhood development (ECD), and there is an opportunity to better engage parents in understanding early childhood development, to facilitate positive child development.

“The quality of relationships and learning environments for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers is critical. A number of studies show that parenting is the primary influence on ECD.” Explains Dr. Lauren Stretch, founder and MD of Early Inspiration. “Parenting practices such as reading to children, using complex language, responsiveness, and warmth in interactions are all associated with better developmental outcomes.”

The overarching message for parents is to include children in everyday, nurturing life, where they are loved, talked with, played with and are well nourished; where they can socialise and explore and are kept safe from chronically chaotic or abusive environments.

The key areas of development of your child are: physical-motor, social/emotional, language, play and cognitive so ensure you do activities to stimulate these key developmental areas. Here are some suggested activities:

0 – 12 months

  • When feeding look your child in the eyes and talk to them
  • Massage your child’s feet to improve circulation and aid walking and balance when they are older
  • Hold and move an object 30cm from your child’s face to strengthen their eyes which will help with their reading
  • Talking to your child throughout the day, telling them their name, pointing to body parts exposes children to language
  • Introduce your child to music and teach them to clap their hands
  • Read simple books to teach new words and new objects

1 – 2 years

  • Play clapping games and dance to music. Use this as an opportunity for them to also interact with children and adults
  • Read books and introduce new words and objects
  • Go outdoors, talk about nature and encourage them to touch and count what they see. Even play in the sand and mud
  • Build with blocks: this helps with math as they get older
  • This is a great age to teach children their body parts

2 – 3 years

  • Play outdoors in the sand and grass and expose children to nature
  • A child should be able to identify and name body parts
  • Encourage your child to draw and thread beads. By using their hands their fingers will strengthen
  • Allow your child to mimic you, be it sweeping, talking on the phone or doing the dishes
  • Make musical instruments from household items
  • Play catch with a big ball

3 – 4 years

  • Thread beads in sequence
  • Play hopscotch  – this is great for balance
  • Your child should be able to dress themselves at this point, so also teach your child about hygiene, they should be able to wash, brush their hair and teach and understand healthy eating
  • Kick a ball to one-another – this is great for physical strength
  • Throw and catch different sized balls, and introduce targets to throw a ball into
  • Make and dance to music. Clapping games are also important.

4 – 6 years

  • Sort objects with your child, count with them and identify numbers
  • Play with colour and use pictures in your play. This helps with their eyes’ development
  • Give your child responsibilities appropriate to their age
  • Read to your child and get them to re-tell you the story
  • Play guess the object from a description you give
  • Get out of the house and encourage your child to speak with other children and adults. Going out for breakfast or lunch is a great way to do this
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