How to Help Parents Understand How Young Children Develop
Parents need help understanding child development for different reasons. New parents often simply lack experience, while others may just fail to see when their children progress from one developmental level to another. Lack of developmental understanding on the parents part leads to boredom and frustration on the child's part. This dynamic also causes stress for the parents and creates conflict in parenting strategies. The most effective way to help parents understand child development is to arm them with the tools and information they need to foster healthy development.
Expose the parents to the work of child development experts. Depending on the situation, you could give the parents a book as a gift or suggest reputable child-rearing sites for parents to explore on their own. Take care not to patronize, but rather capitalize on any opportunity to help when the parents are receptive and open to advice.
Demonstrate developmentally-appropriate activities. Choose an activity that matches the child's needs. To demonstrate developmental opportunities during tummy time for an infant, for example, find a comfortable, open space on the floor and introduce a colorful storyboard or rattle. Parents are typically open to activities that engage children or that help them release pent-up energy. Author, child care trainer and former child care provider Lisa Murphy teaches that children learn mainly through play 1. Physical development seems a natural outcome of play, but children also learn intellectually, socially and emotionally through play that engages all five senses.
Encourage parents to play and interact with their young children. Children learn best through hands-on experiences, and the parents will see this during their interactions. As the parents observe and participate in their child's learning and progress, they will better understand the connections between movement, communication and healthy development.
Present the children with developmentally-appropriate games, books and toys. Parents like to see their children engaging in safe, educational activities, and having the right materials around will help get them in tune with their child's current developmental level. Storybooks about feelings, movement or nature not only teach the children, but also make parents aware of topics, ideas and concepts that are important to children.
Introduce the parents to families with children at or near the same age. Observing interactions between parents and children will enable them to gain new perspective on their own child's developmental progress. Seeing how other parents deal with developmental issues increases awareness and sensitivity in addressing children's changing needs.
Laminate a developmental milestone checklist for the parents. Access to developmental guidelines helps parents better recognize the needs of children at different developmental stages. When parents know what to expect from their children at different ages, they are more likely to foster healthy development through appropriate materials, activities and communications, according to the Purdue University Extension 2.
- "Play"; Lisa Murphy; 2009
- Purdue University Extension: Child Growth and Development
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