By: Dr. Laura Smith, D.O. - Pediatrician

The moment you first met, her first smile when she looked into your eyes and she smiled back, her first giggle, the first time she developed enough courage to toddle a few steps on her own. With each milestone you thought you could not be more in love with your little one.

Then come the toddler and preschool years when they really starts to explore and discover their world and all of its wonders! Catching fireflies, telling stories, the proud look on their face after helping make pancakes for breakfast and the kitchen is a mess…these are the years of wonder, untamed ambition, curiosity, and joy for life!  The developmental milestones that take place in the first five years of a child’s life are truly a miracle.  It is everything I love about being a mom and being a pediatrician!

Kids start developing communication skills from the moment they’re born. The skills we teach them as they develop last a lifetime.

The first five years of a child’s life are critical for speech and language development –the brain is best able to absorb language during this period. That’s why it’s important to talk, listen, read, sing, and play games with young children, every day!

Here are some helpful tips to help boost your child’s development:

Reading to your child is important at every age.

Children who are read to enter kindergarten with 20,000 words in their vocabulary, compared to 3,000 words for children who are not read to. While reading with your child, it’s not what you read that counts – it’s how! Make the story come alive by changing your voice or using sound effects and motions. Point out pictures that match your words. Ask questions!

Newborn to 12 months old

Newborns quickly begin to recognize important sounds in their environment, such as their parents’ voices. Baby babble is your child’s way of communicating. Respond to them in their own language, or talk to them in your normal voice about everyday things. When your child is experiencing an emotion, name the emotion and continue talking so they learn to associate emotions with words. All of these activities help build their vocabulary and communication skills.

Try playing a game of peek-a-boo. This simple activity teaches your child that you exist, even when they can’t see you.

1-2 years old

Daily experiences at this age will determine how your child’s brain cells will form and connect to one another. Help them learn new sensations by letting your child play with something textured, like a dry sponge while you do the dishes. Ask them how they feel about it, and name the object for them.

Simple activities like singing your child’s favorite song – and encouraging them to sing along with you – build vocabulary and communication skills. The more sound they hear, the more they will appreciate language.

2-3 years old

Toddlers are learning to explore the world at this stage. Ask your child questions and encourage them to talk about their observations. Conversations like these help children pay attention to what they see and use their memory.

Use household objects, like cups, to build towers and have fun knocking them down with your child. You are helping your child explore and discover how the physical world works.

3-4 years old

At this stage, kids begin to form reason and start building a concept of how and why things work. Listen to their reasoning, and explain why things are the way they are. Show your child how to turn the light switch on and off. Say “on” and “off” and see if they can match your words. This helps kids learn the essential concept of cause and effect.

Whenever possible, be silly together. Dance to your favorite song. Shake a leg, wiggle your hips and follow each other’s dance steps.

4-5 years old

Begin to mentally challenge your child at this stage. Ask questions throughout the day, and let your child form their own answers. Questions will help them exercise their working memory.

Continue to involve them in everyday activities. When you’re cooking, have your child taste a few grains of salt, herbs or spices, and talk to them about the difference. They are learning to explore their senses at this stage. So let them experiment!

By the age of five, your child’s brain will have grown to 90 percent of its adult size! Keep up with their development by incorporating age appropriate activities that are not only fun, but also educational.

If you have more questions about helping your child’s brain development, talk to your child’s doctor. If you don’t have a doctor or provider, make an appointment with one of Amery Hospital & Clinic’s providers on our Pediatric Care team.

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