Children go through different stages of development as they grow. Cognitive is the acquisition of knowledge as well as growth in mental and intellectual abilities (California Department of Education, 2018). According to kidshealth.org (2017), speech is the articulation and expression regarding the formation of words and sounds, while language is the system of sending and receiving meaningful information verbally, non-verbally or in written form. Physical development, on the other hand, is the development and coordination of gross motor skills (for large body parts like hands and legs) and fine motor skills for smaller ones like fingers and toes (Oswalt, 2018). Cohen et al. (2005) define Social and Emotional development as a stage where a child has control over feelings while establishing friendships with peers.
Caregivers and parents have a role to play in supporting this development by offering the opportunities and a healthy environment, mostly through activities and games that children find memorable.
Activity 1: Know your body parts
This activity is appropriate for children aged six to twelve months. It can be undertaken by up to five toddlers, the main play items being pictures or toys. Since it is an age where children are learning how to crawl or walk, teaching them about body parts helps them develop these skills. It is important for them to know so that in the event one of the parts gets hurt they can easily express themselves when seeking medical attention. The activity involves pointing at a body part and asking the toddler to name or demonstrate its function. An example would be gently poking or tickling the baby in the tummy while repeating the word 'stomach' to help them coordinate the body part, its name and the feeling that comes with the tickling.
Activity 2: Counting
Counting is best taught to a group of ten to twelve children aged between one and two years using balls, cubes, toys, and numbers. The activity involves pointing at balls or cubes and asking the baby to count. Since toddlers are attracted to their toys, showing them numbers through their favorite objects ensures the information is stuck in their minds, which enhances cognition. The numbers are increased slowly as children start memorizing the previous ones, for instance showing only one ball or toy on day one then presenting two or more after a few days.
Speech, Language and Communication Development
Though the stage at which speech and language development are the same, the gripping abilities vary from one child to the next, therefore caregivers should be patient enough with children who seem slower than the others.
Activity 1: Learning Sounds
This is an excellent activity for a group of ten children between twelve and twenty-four months, the advantage being it does not require equipment. Simple sounds like 'ba, ma and da' can be pronounced as the baby is asked to attempt repeating after the speaker. If a baby makes a particular sound, the caregiver tries to prompt a repeat of whatever was said to give it the feeling of a conversation. The caregiver should also talk about every activity happening to keep it in their minds, for instance, taking food or going for a shower. Learning sounds is the first step in developing speech, language, and communication.
Activity 2: Learning to speak
This activity is for children between thirty-six and forty-eight months, and it thrives on conversation. It is suitable for a home setting with about three children. A significant portion of it involves speaking to the children with good model speech. It is essential that the practitioner repeats whatever words a child says to make them realize that they are understood. Short conversations work best, for instance asking the baby in two-word sentences, "I have apple juice, want apple juice?" Baby language too should be applied, like "Din Din time now" to mean 'its dinner time.' According to Vandell et al. (2015), such help the child to know about the environment and happenings around until they internalize and begin responding without much hustle.
Children aged between two and three years surpass the toddling stage and develop the ability to jump, hop and run, a critical yardstick for planning age-appropriate activities for that age group.
Activity 1: Balancing and Hopping
The most appropriate age group for this activity is twenty-four to thirty-six months. It can be played outdoors by a group of ten children with the intention of building their gross motor skills. Since the center of gravity of preschool children lies within the upper body, they are prone to falling and sometimes face difficulties with balance. Balancing on toes or hopping on one foot can help children improve their coordination, balance, gross and fine motor skills. As Woodhead (2015) explains, successful balancing goes a long way in boosting their confidence while developing physically. Mroz (2018) proposes that the practitioner participates in such activities to offer guidance so that children can understand better.
Activity 2: Obstacle Courses
The obstacle course is a perfect activity for up to eight children from forty-eight to sixty months. It requires an outdoor compound and obstacles in the form of objects like ropes, old car wheels, paint cans, laundry baskets, and ladders. The car wheels are used to create a tunnel through which children squeeze from one end to the other. The paint cans become hurdles that children jump over before ladders are laid flat on the ground so that they hop through the spaces. Timing is essential so that the children learn the spirit of competition in search of who completes the hurdles faster than the rest. Obstacle courses do a great deal of developing gross motor skills.
Social and Emotional Development
Infants tend to perceive and express emotions before they can fully understand what they mean. Therefore, they build the skills by connecting with peers, teachers and family members. It is essential in helping them navigate through complex social interactions and relationships.
Activity 1: Display of Emotions
This activity aimed at a group of-of ten children of about forty-eight months requires drawing materials and pictures portraying emotions. The first activity could involve children depicting their feelings through drawings. Another approach could be showing different images of a child making varied expressions and asking the students to explain their feelings by pointing at the pictures on display given there. Yawkey & Pellegrini (2018) underpin the fact that such activities foster a child's social and emotional development since they get in touch with their feelings.
Activity 2: Scaffolding
Volunteers are the primary requirement for scaffolding, a social and emotional development activity perfect for a group of ten children aged one to two years. Rock (2018) defines scaffolding as a method of imparting knowledge on children by giving support to already mastered concepts. It, in essence, means teaching children something new by building on what they already know. In the emotional realm, an example would be a girl crying yet no one bothers. The new knowledge would be that the crying girl has an opportunity to be happy if someone joins, shows sympathy or shares toys with her.
California Department of Education. (2018). Cognitive Development Domain - Child Development. CA Dept. of Education. Retrieved from https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/itf09cogdev.asp
Cohen, J., Onunaku, N., Clothier, S., & Poppe, J. (2005). Helping Young Children Succeed: Strategies to Promote Early Childhood Social and Emotional Development. National Conference of State Legislatures and Zero to Three, pp 2.
Kidshealth.org. (2017). Delayed Speech or Language Development. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/not-talk.html
Mroz, J. (2018). The Benefits of Pretend Play. Retrieved from https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/social/the-benefits-of-pretend-play/
Oswalt, A. (2018). Early Childhood Physical Development: Gross and Fine Motor Development - Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7). Retrieved from https://www.gracepointwellness.org/462-child-development-parenting-early-3-7/article/12755-early-childhood-physical-development-gross-and-fine-motor-development
Rock, A. (2018). Scaffolding in Early Childhood Education and Development. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/education-scaffolding-preschoolers-2764951
Vandell, D. L., Larson, R. W. Mahoney, J.L., & Watts, T. W. (2015). Children's Organized Activities. Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science.
Woodhead, M. (2015). Psychology and the Cultural Construction of Children's Needs in Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood (pp. 72-91). Routledge.
Yawkey, T. D., & Pellegrini, A. D. (Eds.). (2018). Child's Play: Developmental and Applied (Vol. 20). Routledge
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