Early Childhood Development; beyond just child survival!
By Lydia Kabwijamu
Often in passing we mention the need to see all children survive and thrive but less often do we ponder on the holistic development of the child. Likewise, oftentimes when we hear about Early Childhood Development (ECD) our minds run to early child education; interesting!
To bring it further home, how often do we do the simple but critical things that will help our children grow into well-grounded children? Take for instance talking to our unborn babies. Ok that might be a preserve for us “who get pregnant” but how often do we take time to play with our children, may be feed them, sing to them or even bathe them? Most of us who do 8a.m.- 5p.m. jobs are good at shopping the best toys, hiring the best nanny or the best everything but oftentimes leave out the most critical things for our children.
Hold it! This is not supposed to be a guilty read but rather a moment of reflection for all, especially the working parents. Indeed the children need the simplest but most expensive things; our time! I bet somebody is saying ‘…but I give them my time.’ But take a minute to reflect; is the time you give mostly used critically; do you know your little angel’s favorite toy or game, food or even colour?
This month opened my eyes to the core meaning of holistic growth; where all children not only survive but thrive . As I attended a series of Early Childhood Development (ECD) meetings I learnt that stimulation (defined as either encouragement of something to make it develop or become more active or the action of arousing interest, enthusiasm, or excitement in something) in the first 1000 days of life i.e right from when a woman conceives throughout the child’s second birthday and further beyond is very critical.
Stimulation may be as simple as a tummy rub or a soft song or having a conversation with the baby in utero. You can also do it through play (here I need to emphasize dedicated play time) be it during bath time, towards dose off or even during the meal. And before I forget, it’s not a preserve for women only! Stimulation not only helps us bond but also facilitates cognitive development for our children. Science shows that cognitive development is best harnessed in the first 5 years of life and can happen across many points such as homes, schools, hospitals to mention but a few. In that entire list, home is the most critical. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do or provide what we do best; let’s shop the age appropriate toys, feed our babies nutritious foods, seek out the best nannies we can. But as you do that include stimulation and play; let the caretakers do so too. Remember, it all starts at home.
Till next time, I am off to stimulate growth for my little Miss P!