The 0 – 8 years, otherwise known as early formative years, are very important for early childhood development. These core years will determine the general health, intelligence, and completeness of a child until adulthood.
Parenting mistakes and external life stresses can mess up these achievements, and impair a child mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically.
To ensure all is well for your child, you are challenged to be watchful of the diet, sleep, physical wellness, sickness, and the environment.
What actually happens between 0 – 8 years?
According to CDC,
Although the brain continues to develop and change into adulthood, the first 8 years can build a foundation for future learning, health and life success.
The brain of a child grows rapidly from day one to the 8th year. Its weight is actually half-way complete by 6 months, and 90 percent mature at 8 years.
At 3 years the brain of a child is twice as active as that of an adult. The activity levels go down during the adolescent years. It is important therefore to avail the child of whatever is necessary to facilitate rapid brain growth.
Well documented guidelines explain the five cornerstone stages of infancy to early childhood development:
- Cognitive skill development
This skill centers around the ability of a child to pay attention, retain it and think out solutions to problems.
- Social and emotional development
The ability of a child to play, interact and accommodate other kids.
- Speech and language development
This is about a child being able to understand and use language for purposes of communication.
- Fine motor skill development
The ability of a child to use small muscles to accomplish smaller tasks, such as holding a spoon or a book.
- Gross motor skill development
It is about a child being able to use the larger muscles to accomplish bigger tasks. For example, a 3-month-old is expected to use such muscles to attempt sitting, or a 10-month child using leg and hand muscles to stand up.
Six ways to mess up or perfect early childhood development
The food you put on the table from early on will make or break the health and lifestyle of your children as they grow up. As mentioned earlier the young brain grows at an amazing speed and definitely requires the right kind of nutrition to fuel this process.
Good or bad nutrition affects intelligence, physical, emotional, and behavioral learning processes both at this stage and adulthood.
Parents should insist on organic foods rich in proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and Vitamin A which provide sufficient servings of core nutrients. These are available in non-refined whole grains, leafy green vegetables, fruits, calcium-rich milk, lean meat, and unrefined oils.
Clean and sufficient water should also be preferred in place of carbonated drinks.
Parents should cut out excessive servings of refined and junk food. These are low in beneficial nutrients. They instead contain excess sugar, fat, and salt. In addition, planned dining routines should be in place in order to cut out risk factors such as picky eating.
The meals should be served on a timely basis every day.
Finally, smartphones and other devices should be kept away from the dining table. The TV too should preferably be off. The rules should apply to the parent(s) too. If these habits are followed to the dot, they can form a firm building block in early childhood development.
2. Health and sickness
The well being of young children is heavily reliant on how healthy they are born and remain throughout the early child development years.
Technically, the health of the baby starts way back before conception, through birth to early childhood. A pair of healthy parents in addition to good feeding of the expectant mother and other factors will contribute to a healthy child during and after birth.
A child that falls sick repeatedly during early childhood years will experience delayed growth and miss out on growth milestones. Apart from genetic and unavoidable chronic illnesses, sickness as a whole can be prevented if parents provide a clean environment at home.
A sickly child will also most likely skip school mots of the time and this is known to affect both mental and social development.
When kids are out of school for long periods, they miss both cognitive and social learning,Nina Bass, MD
3. Play time/ physical activity
Right from the time they learn to crawl, kids develop the love for playing. It is a skill they want to explore extensively to stimulate brain growth.
Active childhood strengthens the bones and charges up the nerves and muscles. These activities will also help the body burn the sugars and fats which they love to consume excessively.
Besides, play helps them build up confidence and firm social skills through interactions with other kids.
They also experience a high sense of elevated excitement when they play in your presence. Participate as much as possible.
For these reasons provide the space for children to play, and let them play, play and play. This is better than them spending all day glued to tablets or smartphones.
The modern digital kids are, however, spending less time outdoors. They prefer playing computer and other electronic games.
Whereas this keeps them busy and allows parents to concentrate on other matters at home, it is slowly creating a generation of inactive children. This could be a breeding ground for health complications later in life.
Interestingly, children welcome the opportunity to go out and play early on than when they mature into adolescent years.
Do it before it is too late.
Poverty impairs the development of children in very many ways. It makes them fail to meet the five childhood development milestones because their parents cannot fulfill even the basics of needs.
They may not grow into useful persons if brought up in small, crampy, noisy, toxic, and unhygienic surroundings.
It increases the likelihood that children will drop out of school earlier than their peers who come from well to do families. Statistics show that poor parents may not have gone far with education and therefore recreating the cycle in their children.
Stressors such as physical abuse, family instability, unsafe neighborhoods, and poverty can cause children to have inadequate coping skills, difficulty regulating emotions, and reduced social functioning compared to other children their age.3,4,25Early Child Development and Education
Poor parents also risk passing on the stress trait to the young ones. The parents and children in such families may not easily jump out of the poverty cycle, because of the time spent worrying.
Thus, they miss out on social and emotional privileges enjoyed by their peers. Poor parents lack the time to show the necessary love that builds young children into socially and emotionally responsible adults.
It gets worse if the neighborhood houses neighbors with bad habits. The talk and characteristics can impair the learning curve of innocent children.
Another equally unhealthy place to raise children is a war-torn environment. Children brought up in such surroundings very often develop negativity towards everything around them. Many never feel they are part of normal society even when they mature.
5. EMF radiation
Exposure to cell phone-related radiation is one other negative effects of technology that is silently impacting on early childhood development stages. Young children are ever more using mobile devices at the expense of other activities.
The cognitive, social and motor development skills are all affected. Kids now depend on computers to solve the simplest of tasks other than challenging themselves mentally. They spend a lot of time playing games on tablets than playing out in the fields and woods.
As a result, we are having to deal with the risks of EMF-related radiation which come with the extensive use of these devices. The effect of this interaction is not explained clearly by everyone concerned. Not even the experts have clear answers.
It is up to parents to exercise caution to avert serious consequences later on in the life of their children. All parents should seriously consider EMF protection at home.
6. Poor sleep
The importance of sleep in children is the same today as it has been for centuries. It is critical in children who are only growing up. Children should be allowed to sleep for the maximum number of hours in order to grow well and achieve the necessary development milestones.
Lack of sufficient denies children the time to experience muscle growth and appropriate cognitive development. Sleep sharpens their brains, improves their mood during the day, and makes their hearts stronger.
The following sleep routines are necessary for all children:
- A minimum of 10 hours of sleep for most children below 3 years, and 8 for those above.
- Children should have good and uninterrupted sleep. Sleep can be disturbed by noise, extreme temperature, EMF, and light.
- Children need to have sufficient physical activity during the day in order to sleep well during the night.