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Child Development by Trisha Roberts

Children grow in many different ways.  Toys can assist their development in these different areas:  Gross Motor Skills, Fine Motor Skills, Language, Sensory, Cognitive Skills. Let’s take a brief look at each of these parts of development.

Gross Motor

Gross Motor Skill Crawling
Crawling is an Extremely Important Skill
Gross Motor Skills are larger movements your baby makes with his arms, legs, feet, or his entire body. Rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, running, and jumping are examples of gross motor movements. These abilities are usually acquired during birth and early childhood as part of a child’s motor development; toys are a great way to stimulate gross motor skills. Gross motor movements are controlled by the large muscle groups of the body and develop in a head-to-toe order. Children learn head control and trunk stability before sitting, standing up and then walking. Gross motor skills, as well as many other activities, require postural control and coordination. Infants need to control their head in order to stabilize their gaze and to follow moving objects. Within a few weeks after birth, children can hold their heads erect and soon they can lift their heads while prone (on their tummy). By 2 months of age, babies can sit while supported on a lap or in an infant seat, which helps them build the strength and control that they need for independent sitting which occurs at about 6 or 7 months of age. Children who are allowed to play frequently on their tummies are usually crawling by 8-10 months and learn to pull themselves up to standing by 10-11 months.  Most children will learn to cruise, stand alone, and walk by 12-13 months of age.  Most children by age 2 are able to stand up, walk, run, negotiate stairs, and throw and kick a ball. As childhood progresses, these skills are improved, built on, and better controlled.  Children continue to refine and hone their skills into adulthood. 

Fine Motor

Finger Painting Fine Motor Skill
Fine Motor Play
Fine Motor Skills are actions which require the use of the small muscles in the body, particularly the muscles of the hands and fingers, feet and toes, and the muscles of the mouth.  They include such actions as grasping an object between the thumb and a finger or using the tongue and lips.
At about 2 months of age an infant will begin to voluntarily use their fingers to touch. Between 2-5 months a baby will begin to develop hand-eye coordination and they will start reaching for and grasping objects. Infants 6 months and older will be able to pick up toys with one hand.  Between 7-12 months, the young child will develop the fine motor skills of improved grasp, improved vision, the ability to point with the index finger, transfer a toy or object from one hand the other, hold their own bottle, pick up a small piece of food between their thumb and index finger (Pincer Grasp) and take it to their mouth.
By the time a child is one year of age, their fine motor skills have developed to allow the manipulation of objects with greater skill.   They begin to hold a crayon and make scribbling motions on a paper.  As a child manipulates objects with purpose, they gain experience identifying objects based on their size, weight and shape. Children learn through exploration of toys that some objects are heavy, requiring more force to move them; that some items are small and can easily slip through the fingers; and that other objects come apart and can be reassembled again. Playing in this fashion is essential for Fine Motor Development and also in learning how the world works! 
Preschoolers (children between the ages of 2 and 5) will begin to show a preference for one hand or the other; this is called hand dominance. They are capable of grasping objects using a tripod grasp, which is the combined use of the middle finger, thumb, and index finger. This enables them to grasp and use a crayon or marker with more control.  They begin to use scissors to cut shapes out of paper, draw or trace over vertical lines with markers, button and unzip their clothes, and pick up objects of varying sizes and shapes.  They are able to use their fine motor skills to sort and manipulate geometric shapes, make patterns, and use measurement tools to build their math skills.   Finger painting, arts and crafts activities like cutting and gluing paper, and dressing up develops their creativity.
As children begin Kindergarten and early elementary school, their fine motor skills are developed and refined to a higher degree. Children should be able to make precise cuts with scissors, write more accurately on lines, and print letters and numbers with greater precision.


Mother reading--Language Development
Start Reading to your Children as soon as possible!
An infant learns that a cry will bring food, comfort, and companionship; this is the start of communication and language acquisition. Newborns begin to recognize the voice of their mother as well as other important sounds in their environment. Young babies begin to sort out the speech sounds that compose the words of their language and by 6 months of age, most babies recognize the basic sounds of their native language.
The most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills is during the first 3 years of life, when the brain is maturing and developing. An environment that is rich with sounds, visual stimulation, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others provides the best opportunity for language skills to develop. By listening to books, singing and listening to songs, engaging in interactive play, using writing tools and reading books, children build their language and literacy skills.
Development of speech and language skills varies from child to child, however, there is a natural progression of language skills. If a parent or doctor notes a delay in language skills, it may be caused by hearing loss or may be due to a speech or language disorder.

Sensory Motor Skills

Sensory Motor Skill--Vision
Visual Stimulation is Important to Development
Sensorimotor skills involve taking sensory input or messages and producing a motor response. We receive sensory information from our bodies and the environment through our vision, hearing, touch, taste, proprioception (the ability to know where our limbs are in space) and vestibular (head position and balance) systems. Any activity that stimulates a child’s senses is called sensory play and develops the sensory motor skills that are the basis for learning. As an infant or child moves, plays, explores, creates, and investigates, their brain learns.  These early skills affect later academic learning and classroom skills.

Cognitive Skills

Thinking Imagination Cognitive Skill
Help your Child Developing Thinking Skills
The progressive building of learning skills like memory, attention and think are called cognitive skills. Children learn to process sensory information using these crucial skills which enables them to remember, analyze, evaluate, understand cause and effect, and make comparisons. Practice and training can help a child improve their learning and thinking skills.

Author:   Trisha Roberts

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