Child Development

The early years of a child’s life are crucial for physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Therefore, it is very important that we take every step necessary to ensure that children grow up in environments where their physical, emotional, social, and educational needs are met.

Children grow, develop, and learn throughout their lives from birth to adulthood. A child’s development can be measured through physical, cognitive and social developmental milestones. If children fail to develop properly they may be unable to reach their full potential. Children who grow up in environments where their developmental needs are not met are at a high risk for health and safety, and learning and developmental delays.

We as parents definitely need to invest time and resources on the health care, and education systems during children’s years, which have effects on their whole life. Therefore, it is in the public’s interest especially, parents’ to ensure that children develop in safe, loving, and secure environments.

What is child development? How can parents prevent developmental delays? What are important developmental milestones? How can parents help to improve child developmental outcomes? Let’s discuss these questions parents asked and find the answers.

Brain Development

How well brain develops by age 6 determines a child’s health and performance in school and throughout life. While we know that the development of a young child’s brain takes years to complete and also know there are many things parents can do to help children get off to a good start and establish healthy patterns for life-long learning. “Well begun is half done.”

The human brain begins forming very early in prenatal life, but brain development is a lifelong process, because the same events that shape the brain during development are also responsible for storing information throughout life. The major difference between brain development in a child versus an adult’s learning is that the child’s brain is far more impressionable in early life than in maturity, which means that young children’s brains are more open to learning and enriching influences but are more vulnerable to developmental problems.

Which is more important in brain development, nature or nurture?
Genes or nature and environment or nurture play very different roles while interacting with each other at every step of brain development. Generally speaking, genes are responsible for forming all of the brain cells and general connections between different brain regions; while experience is responsible for fine-tuning those connections, helping each child adapt to the particular environment such as geographical, cultural, family and school. For example, each of us is born with the potential to learn language. Our brains are programmed to recognize human speech, to discriminate subtle differences between individual speech sounds, to put words together, and to pick up the grammatical rules make sentences. However, the particular language each child masters, the vocabulary, and the dialect and accent with which he/she speaks are determined by the social environment in which he/she is raised, beginning even before birth. Genetic potential is necessary, but DNA alone cannot teach a child to talk.

Does experience change the actual structure of the brain?
The answer is yes. Brain development is activity-dependent.
Like computer circuits, neural circuits process information through the flow of electricity. However, the circuits in our brains are much more flexible. Every experience, such as reading a book, riding a bicycle, sharing a story, excites certain neural circuits and leaves others inactive. Those that are consistently used will be strengthened, while the others may be dropped away. This is called “pruning”, which benefits neural processing, making the circuits work more quickly and efficiently.

Since providing a brain-using environment for kids to grow is so crucial for their brain’s development, that’s why most of our parents give their kids toys, video etc, to nurture the kids to be smarter and wiser.

18 Month Old Milestones

The 18 Month Old Milestones help parents understand the behavior of an 18-month-old, because they can be frustrating at times. Your 18-month-old requires gentle transitions, patience, consistent limits, and respect. One minute he or she insists on independence; the next he or she is clinging fearfully to you, the parent. If your toddler is challenged by a playmate or a sibling, his or her cheerful playing can quickly turn into a screaming tantrum. Much of the energy and drive that was channeled into physical activity is now directed toward more complex tasks and social interactions.

Having learned the concept of choice, your toddler becomes assertive about his or her own wishes. Because his or her repertoire of language and behavior is rather limited, your toddler’s method of expressing himself or herself generally consists of saying “No!” Your toddler can also be strong-willed, collapsing his or her legs rather than walking where adults want him or her to go. The seeming defiance and negativism of an 18-month-old are merely assertions of his or her emerging sense of his or her own identity.

When your toddler bounces a ball 20 times in the kitchen, he or she is not trying to drive you crazy. Rather, he or she is trying to learn about bouncing balls, and repetition is the best teacher. Your toddler resists change and often experiences frustration as he or she attempts to learn new skills. However, he or she responds positively and happily to a stable environment.

Your 18-month-old needs to have strong emotional ties to you, parents. To venture into the world and test his or her newfound assertiveness, your toddler must know that he or she has a safe, emotionally secure place at home. Parents can help your child by not taking his or her assertiveness personally. As your toddler tries out new skills, you can modify his or her environment to avoid as many problem situations as possible. Parents must “choose their battles” carefully to minimize the possibility of continual power struggles with your toddler over minor issues. Extra patience and a sense of humor can help parents with the tough task of continually reinforcing the limits you have set.

Parents who view their toddler’s negativism as budding independence and who provide a physically and emotionally stable environment can support him or her through this sometimes stormy period and be richly rewarded. The 18-month-old can light up a room as she applauds himself or herself and looks around for parental acclaim and reinforcement.

18 Month Old Milestones

  • Walks quickly or runs stiffly
  • Throws a ball
  • Has a vocabulary of 15 to 20 words
  • Imitates words
  • Uses two-word phrases
  • Pulls a toy along the ground
  • Stacks two or three blocks
  • Uses a spoon and cup
  • Listens to a story, looking at pictures and naming objects
  • Shows affection, kisses
  • Follows simple directions
  • Points to some body parts
  • May imitate a crayon stroke and scribbles
  • Dumps an object from bottle without being shown

Nutrition

Serve your toddler three nutritious meals a day. Provide a highchair or booster seat at table height during family mealtimes. Make mealtimes pleasant and companionable. Encourage conversation. Give your toddler two or three planned nutritious snacks a day. Provide snacks rich in complex carbohydrates, and limit sweets and high-fat snacks. Resist using snacks for emotional reasons (comfort, eward).

Continue encouraging your toddler to feed herself with her hands or a spoon and to drink from a cup. Encourage your toddler to experiment with foods, deciding what and how much to eat from the nutritious foods that you offer. Let your toddler develop food likes and dislikes. Do not allow feeding to serve as the focus of a power struggle.

Expect your toddler to eat a lot one time, not much the next. “Food jags” are common at this age. A toddler’s intake will vary considerably over any 24-hour period, but should be balanced over several days.

Be sure that your toddler’s caregiver provides nutritious foods. Avoid giving your toddler foods that can be inhaled and cause choking (e.g., no peanuts, popcorn, chips, hot dogs or sausages, carrot sticks, whole grapes, raisins, hard candy, large pieces of raw vegetables or fruit, or tough meat).

Promotion of Social Competence

  • Praise your toddler for good behavior and accomplishments.
  • Model appropriate language. Encourage your toddler’s language development by reading and singing to her, and by talking about what you and she are seeing and doing together.
  • Encourage self-expression.
  • Promote a sense of competence and control by inviting your toddler to make choices whenever possible. (Be sure you can live with the choices, e.g., “red pants or blue?”).
  • Encourage your toddler to be assertive in appropriate situations, yet provide limits when needed.
  • Decide what limits are important to you and your toddler. Be specific when setting these limits. Briefly tell your toddler what she did wrong. Be as consistent as possible when enforcing limits.
  • Keep “time out” or other disciplinary measures brief. Do not hesitate to pick up or hold your toddler or remove her from danger or conflict.
  • Reassure your toddler once the negative behavior has stopped. When correcting her, make a verbal distinction between your toddler and her behavior: “I love you, but I don’t like it when you do _____.” When possible, give your toddler a “yes” as well as a “no.” (For example: “No, you can’t play with the remote control, but you can play with the blocks.”)
  • Avoid a power struggle with your toddler. Prepare strategies for sidestepping conflicts and appropriately asserting your power. You can control only your own responses to your toddler’s behavior. For example, you cannot make a toddler sleep, but you can insist that she stay in her room.
  • Teach your toddler about limit-setting measures, such as “time out” when she is most capable of learning (e.g., when she is rested, fed, calm).
  • Prepare strategies to deal with night waking, night fears, and nightmares.
  • Encourage self-quieting behaviors such as quiet play or the use of a transitional object (e.g., a favorite toy or blanket).
  • Recognize that toilet training is part of developmentally appropriate learning.
  • Delay toilet training until your toddler is dry for periods of about 2 hours, knows the difference between wet and dry, can pull her pants up and down, wants to learn, and can indicate when she is about to have a bowel movement.

The behavior of an 18-month-old can be frustrating at times, but his or her delight in her own emerging competence and achievements can bring a sense of joy and accomplishment to all around her.

To learn more about 18 Month Old Milestones and improve your parenting skills, please refer to great parenting books.