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What is Child Development? How Can Parents Help Foster It?

Child development is one of the major concerns for any parent. 

But what exactly is child development? And how can parents help foster it?

We'll define the components of child development and then talk about activities that parents can do to encourage the growth of their children.

Related: Learning to Share - Eight Things Parents Should Do

What is Child Development?

Child development is the emotional, cognitive, physical, linguistic, and social changes a child goes through from birth to adulthood.

A significant part of child development is how parents help foster children from being dependent on their parents and growing independent

You can break child development down into five key areas:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Speech and language skills
  • Cognitive and intellectual abilities
  • Social and emotional skills

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Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are the abilities needed to control the body's muscles for large movements like:

  • Crawling
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Skipping
  • Jumping
  • Throwing and Catching
  • Climbing

Activities Parents Can Do To Foster The Development of Gross Motor Skills

You can do indoor and outdoor activities with your child to help them develop their gross motor skills

Here are some activities that will engage your child and help them as they progress toward their goals:

  • Wheelbarrow Walking
  • Walking Like an Animal
  • Dancing
  • Homemade Obstacle Course
  • Monkey Around on Monkey Bars
  • Playing Catch
  • Hopscotch
  • Chalk Drawn Balance Beams
  • Hiking

Using these fun activities, you can help your child develop their motor skills while they have a lot of fun!

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills involve using the smaller muscles of the hands in everyday activities like:

  • Writing
  • Drawing
  • Using Scissors
  • Doing and Undoing Zippers and Buttons
  • Using Cutlery
  • Brushing Their Teeth

Activities Parents Can Do To Foster The Development of Fine Motor Skills

Developing their fine motor skills will help your child do more for themself. There are a ton of activities that can help develop your child's fine motor skills, including:

  • Playing With Puppets
  • Building With Blocks
  • Putting Puzzles Together
  • Drawing, Scribbling, Writing, and Painting
  • Getting Dressed
  • Setting the Table
  • Opening and Closing Containers With Lids
  • Finger Painting

Any activity a child can safely do with their hands is an opportunity to strengthen their fine motor skills and progress to more advanced ones.

 

A Child Learning Geography

 

Speech and Language Skills

Speech is using words, gestures, and sentences to convey messages from one person to another. Speech skills include:

  • Gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, taking turns
  • Vocabulary and Grammar
  • Forming Sentences
  • Signing 
  • Body Language

Language, or the ability to understand words, involves gaining information and developing meaning and context from routines and the environment. Language skills include:

  • Understanding Questions
  • Following Directions and Instructions
  • Proper Spelling, Grammar, and Syntax
  • Being Able to Read and Write
  • Grasping Concepts

Related: Parallel Play - Using Playtime to Encourage Social Development

Activities Parents Can Do To Foster The Development of Speech and Language Skills

Participating in activities with your child is a great way to work on developing their speech and language skills and also make them more socially confident. Activities that are both fun and great for speech and language skills include:

  • Word Games
  • Riddles
  • Jokes
  • Singing, Rhyming, and Rapping
  • Telling Stories
  • Tongue Twisters
  • Play With Homonyms
  • Face to Face Talking/Listening

It takes a lot of practice to master speech and listening skills, and there are plenty of activities that your child can do on their own or with you to help them grow.

Cognitive and Intellectual Abilities

A child's cognitive and intellectual abilities show how they reason and think. It is how they organize the thoughts and ideas in their minds to make sense of the world around them. Cognitive abilities include:

  • Reading
  • Asking Questions
  • Telling Stories
  • Understanding the Differences Between Past, Present, and Future
  • Following Instructions
  • Counting
  • Recognizing and Naming Objects
  • Responding to Their Name
  • Engaging in Imaginary Play

Activities Parents Can Do To Foster The Development of Cognitive and Intellectual Skills

Watching your child's curiosity and mind grow is a rewarding part of their cognitive and intellectual skills development. Here are some fun activities that can help them hone these critical skills:

  • Playing Pretend
  • Make Faces in the Mirror
  • Ask Them a Lot of Questions
  • Encourage Them to Help With Chores
  • Learn Colors, Shapes, and Textures
  • Play Outside
  • Field Trips
  • Story Time
  • Listen to Music
  • Puzzles
  • Play I Spy
  • Card Games

A big part of helping your child with their cognitive development is introducing them to abstract ideas and getting them to use their imagination. In addition, getting them to engage with the world around them will help them grasp more complex intellectual concepts. 

 

A Child Tracing Numbers

 

Social and Emotional Skills

Social and emotional skills refer to a child's capacity to:

  • Have, regulate, and express a wide range of emotions
  • Develop close and satisfying relationships with children and adults
  • Explore their environment and learn from it

Social and emotional skills include:

  • Playing Cooperatively With Other Children
  • Show Jealousy 
  • Understand Their Feelings
  • Notice the Feeling of Others
  • Show Competitiveness
  • Develop a Sense of Humor
  • Become Self-Critical
  • Spend Time Talking With Peers
  • Develop Friendships
  • Show Independence
  • Enjoy Group and Team Activities

Activities Parents Can Do To Foster The Development of Social and Emotional Skills

Helping your child with their social and emotional development requires you to interact with them regularly so that they can learn from you and you can learn about them. Some everyday activities that can help with this include:

  • Read Stories That Your Child Can Relate To
  • Emotion Charades
  • Improvisational Storytelling
  • Play Games That Require Sharing
  • Do Jobs and Chores Together
  • Establish Daily Routines
  • Acknowledge Their Feelings
  • Play Outdoors
  • Journal Writing
  • Mindfulness
  • Role Playing

By taking the time to stimulate their social and emotional development, you'll help them be more comfortable with who they are and how they interact with the people around them.

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Do Activities Together to Foster Your Child's Development

From the time they are born to the time they grow into adults, your child is continuously developing their motor, speech and language, cognitive, and emotional skills.

You can do many activities that help different skills simultaneously while you and your child have a lot of fun.

There are also subscription boxes with fun activities and toys from 123 Baby Box that are curated and designed to help your child's development.

Most activities you can do with your child to foster their development don't take much money. 

They only require you to spend time with your child and pay attention to who they are as they grow into amazing little people. 

Related: 8 Ways to Nurture a Curious Child: Stimulate Their Mind