Asian Little Chinese Girl Playing and Painting

Find out more about the different elements of early child development to understand why these are important. Plus, activities you can do with your kids, to boost their life skills and help them reach their full potential!

Children are curious and active learners — they gain knowledge and crucial skills by exploring the world around them and through activities and interactions with others. And a supportive and loving environment at home helps them develop these crucial skills outside of school.

To help your child grow up to become competent and confident, take steps to encourage lifelong learning. Don’t just focus on her academic performance, lest she dreads school and loses her eagerness to learn. Instead, you should aim for holistic development: nurture your child’s natural curiosity, help to develop her social skills and encourage her to express herself.

Here’s a short guide to the key areas of your child’s early development and what you can do to help the little one acquire these important life skills.

Physical development

We may take simple tasks such as holding a cup or writing with a pencil for granted. But for kids, these are all newfound abilities that they gradually become more able and competent with. As they grow, children start to develop age-appropriate motor skills and working their muscles, to hone their agility, coordination and spatial awareness. This starts with gripping objects and getting used to the steps and motions

What you can do: Do creative projects together with your child such as finger painting. This can help your child strengthen her dexterity and hand-eye coordination, as she learns to control her hands and finger movements. Such art and craft projects are also the first step in helping your child embrace creative expression, while learning about colours and shapes.

Toys like the Gakken New Block are another fun way for kids to improve their motor skills. These air-inflated blocks are light, soft and easy to hold and can be assembled to make imaginative toys such as a truck, a robot or a dinosaur.

Help your kids embrace playing in the great outdoors too, under your supervision as the little ones learn to move and become more confident with their bodies as they run, jump, dance, crawl and roll about. Just remember, dirty clothes can be cleaned, plus little bumps and scrapes can be treated.

Cognitive development

This process involves thinking skills which shape your child’s ability to learn, remember and solve problems. Your child’s cognitive development starts with the little one exploring the world with her senses as a toddler. Her hands reach out to stroke and hold anything of interest that she sees. Over time, your child slowly grows to learn the basic rules of cause and effect as she starts to recognise and categorise patterns, objects and events happening around her.

As your child starts school, these mental skills extend to numeracy, as she learns to understand and use numbers in everyday situations. It also involves language development, such that your child is able to understand and use language to listen to others and convey her thoughts.

What you can do: Kids learn by playing, listening, watching and asking questions; in fact, a lot of questions. So be patient with your child and be prepared to answer a seemingly endless list of queries from her. Do prompt your preschooler to ask questions too, to encourage her to think for herself.

You can also make learning fun through a variety of simple and educational games to help your child with counting and recognising objects. For instance, you can identify and count the fruits while shopping together at the supermarket. Sing-a-longs in the car help too, for the songs she loves singing can help her learn and remember new words.

If you need more ideas on activities that your child can do, grab the Go Go Life Skills workbook. It helps hone your child’s observation and problem solving skills through fun activities such as colouring, drawing and writing, while learning about colours, shapes and numbers.

Social and emotional development

By the age of three to four, your child is becoming more sociable. Her growing self-awareness should couple with taking responsibility for her actions, as she learns to become more aware of her feelings and communicates these to adults and other kids. Crucial skills that your preschooler will need to learn include managing her emotions and behaviour appropriately, while showing care and respect towards others, regardless of their differences.

What you can do: Be the best role model that you can be for your children, as the little ones mimic the behaviour that they see. Lead by example and stay calm instead of blowing up at your child when she throws a tantrum, to show her how to be in charge of her emotions. Remind the kids to mind their manners and praise good behaviour where possible, such as when children remember to say “please” and “thank you”. Positive reinforcement can help cultivate good behaviour more than angry words of scolding too.

It’s okay if your kids may struggle with acquiring these life skills at first. Try not to swoop in to “rescue” your kids all the time the minute they face any difficulty in completing a task. Take things one at a time and understand that children may grow at different rates. Your child might be more comfortable with some tasks while lagging in others. So enjoy the process with your kids, to make the best of these beautiful early years.

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