Understanding the Development of your Child Edunation South Africa

Understanding the Development of your Child

Let's look Development as the Doors that a baby reaches. Each developmental door is equipped with certain competencies. How these competencies flower into skills depends upon interaction with the care giving environment baby finds with the learning keys to open each door. If the interaction is responsive and enriching, baby will open the door with more skills, and the transition to the next door is much smoother. Because baby reaches the next door with more skills, the interaction with the next learning keys of development is even more rewarding.

How Babies Grow

Here are some basic principles that will help you understand and enjoy the individual variations of your baby.

Getting-Bigger Charts

At each well-baby check-up your doctor will plot your baby's height, weight, and circumference on a growth chart. In the most used charts, each line represents a percentile, which means that's where your baby is, compared with hundred other babies. For example, the fiftieth percentile, or average, means that one half of babies plot above the line, the other half below. If your baby plots in the seventy-fifth percentile, he is larger than average. Twenty-five babies plot above your baby, and seventy-five below. Note that these charts are not infallible. They represent averages of thousands of babies. Average growth is not necessarily normal growth. Your baby has his or her individual normal growth. These charts are simply handy references to alert the doctor to any unhealthy trends.

Getting-Smarter Charts

Your baby gets bigger not only in size but also in competence. Developmental charts show the average age at which infants perform the most easily identifiable skills, such as sitting or walking, called developmental milestones. The developmental chart used most by paediatricians, the Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST), shows that 50 percent of children walk at one year of age, but the normal range for beginning to walk is ten to fifteen months of age. Expect your baby to show uneven development in many of the developmental milestones. He may plot "ahead" in 1 milestone and "behind" in another.

Progression Is More Important Than Timing

Your baby will progress from sitting to pulling up to standing to walking. He/she may accomplish these motor milestones at different ages than the baby next door, But both will follow a similar progression. Compare your baby only with himself/herself as they were a month ago.

Infants spend different amounts of time at each stage before moving on to the next higher stage. Some infants seem to make a quick stop at one level and then quickly progress to the next. Some may skip a level entirely. Avoid the neighbourhood race to see whose baby walks first. Milestone races are neither an indication of baby's smartness nor a badge of good parenting.

Why Infants Grow Differently

Not only do babies look and act differently from one another, they grow differently. That's what makes them unique. It helps parents to understand the wide variation in normal growth patterns and the way that many of life's little setbacks may affect growth and development.

Not only do babies look and act differently from one another, they grow differently. That's what makes them unique. It helps parents to understand the wide variation in normal growth patterns and the way that many of life's little setbacks may affect growth and development.

Baby's body type.
Your baby is endowed with tall and slim genes, short and wide genes, or in-between genes. Ectomorphs (tall and slim "bananas") often put more calories into their height than weight, so that they normally plot above average in height and below in weight, or they may start out hovering around the average line and eventually begin a stretching-out phase, soaring up the chart in height but levelling off in weight. Mesomorphs ("apples") show a stocky squared-off appearance. They usually centre around the same percentile in both height and weight. Endomorphs ("pears") plot in the reverse of ectomorphs, often charting in a higher percentile for weight than height. All of these variations are normal and indicate the importance of looking at your baby (and their family tree) while looking at the chart and putting the two together.

Growth spurts.
While the chart implies a smooth, steady progression, many babies don't grow that way. Some babies grow in bursts and pauses, and when you plot them on the growth chart, you notice periodic growth spurts followed by periods of levelling off. Other babies show a consistent, steady increase in height and weight over the first year.

Health and nutrition.
Sick babies temporarily divert their energy into healing rather than growing. During prolonged colds your baby's growth may level off. With diarrheal illnesses your baby may even lose weight. Expect catch-up spurts after the illness is over. Breastfed and bottle-fed babies may show different growth patterns, and the growth charts currently in use do not differentiate. Some breastfed babies, especially high-need babies and frequent feeders, may plot high on the weight chart and be unfairly dubbed "overweight." Nearly all of these "overweight" breastfed babies begin a natural slimming process around six months to a year, when breast milk fat naturally lowers. Both breastfed and bottle-fed infants who plot on the overweight side of the first six months normally begin a slimming process that we call "leaning out" between six months and a year as their increasing motor milestones help them burn off the chubby rolls.

The Five Features of Infant Development

As we travel through infant development from birth to two years, we will group baby's developmental skills into five general areas: gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language skills, social and play skills, and cognitive skills. (Skills can be split into more sub categories)

Gross motor skills.
How your infant uses the larger muscles of his body -- trunk, limb, and neck muscles -- is determined by his gross motor skills. They include such milestones as head control, sitting, crawling, and walking. The progression of gross motor skills from birth to two years means getting more and more of his body off the ground, moving from head to toe.

Fine motor skills.
Finger and hand skills that baby uses to manipulate toys rely on fine motor skills. Like gross motor skills, fine motor skills develop in an orderly progression, from imprecise punch like reaching to pinpoint pickup with the thumb and index finger.

Language skills.
Here is where your skills as a baby communicator really shine. Parent input can affect language development more than any other of your baby's skills. You may think that babies don't talk much until one and a half to two years. Baby "talk" begins at birth. The cry of a new-born that causes nurses to come running, mothers to drip milk and embrace her baby, and causes a parent to bump into furniture during a night-time sprint toward the 3:00 a.m. summons -- that's language! To a tiny baby, language is any sound or gesture that makes a caregiver respond. During the first year, called the prelinguistic state of language development, babies learn to communicate before they can say words. Early in the new-born period a baby learns that their language (crying) is a tool for social interchange that can be used to get attention and satisfy needs. By sensitively responding to your baby's early cries, you help them refine these somewhat demanding signals into more polite body language requests that are easier on the nerves.

Mothers are naturals at talking with their babies. Language researchers who have studied moths all over the world notice a sort of universal mother language, called motherese. Mothers are intuitively able to speak down to the baby's level, yet they're able to shift to a higher level of communication when their infants are ready.

Social and play skills.
The ways a baby interacts with caregivers and plays with toys make up their social skills. Like language development, interaction with caregivers can profoundly affect social development.

Cognitive skills.
We have frequently watched our babies' facial expressions and said, "I wonder what he/she is thinking?" While you will never be certain what goes on in your baby's developing mind, it is fun to deduce what your infant is thinking by their expressions and the way they are acting. Cognitive skills include the ability to think, to reason, to adjust to different play situations, and to solve problems such as how to crawl over obstacles. We will point out what signs to watch for to give you a clue to what your baby is thinking.

Make Your Own Chart

A valuable exercise during the first two years is to make your own growth and development chart. Using a large poster board, list the areas of development down the left-hand side and monthly stages of development across the top. Divide the sheet into blocks and plot your baby's skills. Concerning cognitive development, fill in what you think is going on in baby's mind. For simplicity, you may wish to combine social and language milestones, as we have done on our chart and throughout. Charting your baby's development not only improves your skills as a baby watcher, but it also adds your overall enjoyment of growing together.

Every baby has a different journey with its own unique challenges, just keep following the fundamentals and trust your motherly instinct. You have got this!