What Influences Child Development?
There are many factors that influence child development, and for most of them, we do have some control. If we have a good understanding of what children need to grow, we are better able to address the needs. Every child deserves the opportunity to blossom.
This article will discuss environmental influences on child development, as opposed to genetic influences which are not in our power. The world around us has a major part in shaping the child.
Five Areas of Child Development
- cognitive (thinking and learning)
- social and emotional
- speech and language
- fine motor skills (small muscle control)
- gross motor skills (large muscle control)
A child's environment - for example, his family or school - plays a huge part in his development. Simply stated, a nurtured child will do better than a deprived child. That may seem like common sense, but you may not realize the little things that make a difference. Some assume that a rich privileged child will automatically thrive more than a child living in poverty. That is not always the case.
Some of the main factors that influence a child's development are his family, where he lives, and socio-economic status. These factors often cross over and blend as they are often related.
Ways to Help a Child Grow
- good nutrition
- keep active
- spend quality time together
- ensure enough sleep
- consistent and fair discipline
- limit time on electronic devices
- read, read, read!
The child's family is the most important factor in his development. Whether he is raised by parents, grandparents, or others, the family provides bonding and first relationships. The successful family preserves the innocence of the child by nurturing and protecting him, or on the flip side, allows him to be exposed to negative experiences which can harm his development. Styles of parenting have a big affect on child development, as well.
The family that invests time, energy and love in raising a child will see the most positive growth. Read to the child and with the child. Spend time playing with the child, from floor time with babies to throwing a ball with older children. Talk to the child and let him know that his opinion matters. All of these measures can be taken in any household, no matter the socio-economic status.
Obviously, the family that abuses or neglects a child will be detracting from his natural development. But the indifferent family has a negative effect as well. The child left playing video games or watching television all day will not gain the experiences and interactions needed to further his development.
Where a child lives is an important factor in his development. How are the schools? What types of services and opportunities are there in the community? Is there access to good health care?
Children often spend a large part of the day in school, and can gain much or not, depending on the quality of the school. If there is a choice for schools, parents should do as much research as possible to find which will serve the child best. If there is only one school available to the family, parents can still be active in making sure their child is getting the most from the school. Meet the principal, join the teacher/parent organization, and volunteer at the school.
Does the community have a library, parks, and community centers for sports and other activities? When your child is old enough, consider getting him a library card. An early love of reading will go far. Parks and community centers offer space to run and play. This is a critical pastime in today's world of electronic gaming and television.
Does your community have good health care? Are there reputable hospitals, clinics and doctors in the area? You may be surprised to hear that a state capital city in the US did not have adequate health care for my disabled child, so we had to drive to another city for services and eventually moved to that city.
Check your local library, newspaper, and hospital for child development or enrichment classes. You may find that many are free and open to the public.
Socio-Economical Status and Its Influence
There are socio-economic trends that can influence child development. It is true that poorer families are at a disadvantage when it comes to providing the richest environment for a child to grow. Many families must rely on public education that may not be the best in their area. What if a child needs special services to aid development? What if the parents spend most of their time working multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their heads? Children living in poverty may also have poor nutrition, limiting their ability to reach their potential.
Get involved with your child's schooling. Check and see if your local school has a child development program. Your community may even have an early intervention program for little ones who qualify. Head Start is a national program in the US that provides developmental assistance to low-income children from birth to age five. When my children were toddlers, we took free classes designed to help child development and parenting skills. It was a county program I happened to hear about from another parent.
For the parents who must spend a lot of hours at work, remember it is the quality of time spent with the child that counts. Make the most of your time off with the family. Be sure to eat meals together and really listen to each other. Good nutrition can still be found on a budget. Watch sales and stock up on meat when the price is at the lowest. Consider growing a garden which is a double bonus -fresh produce and a rewarding fun family activity.
Even if times are tough, children will thrive in a close-knit loving family.