Early childhood lays the essential foundations for health, learning, and behavior for a lifetime. During the first years children change: from dependent and helpless newborns they become children who actively solve problems. This process of change occurs due to complex mutual actions between nature and upbringing, genes, and environment.
The development process requires attention to a range of aspects including early education. Adults caring for a child, including parents, families, health care providers, educators, teachers, social workers, are responsible for providing as much ground work for children to grow up healthy.
What factors affect the early development of a child?
- A healthy diet for child growth and appropriate health care – quality nutrition is necessary for the growth and development of the child. The diet of pregnant women, infants, and toddlers must contain the necessary nutrients such as proteins and essential fatty acids, vitamins, iodine (which helps the development of the child’s brain), and iron (which protects mental and physical abilities).
- Stimulant social environment – infants learn quickly from the moment of birth. They grow best and learn when their parents and guardians provide love, attention, and stimulation. In that way, they develop a sense of trust and security, which flows growing up turns into self-confidence. Children who feel loved and certainly have more self-confidence, respect themselves and find it easier to cope with life’s challenges. Infants and toddlers need constant attention. Children should not be left alone (unattended), as this lack of interaction can slow down not only their psychical but also physical development.
- Opportunities for play and early education – play is an essential, natural behavior and is an important prerequisite for learning and development. Infants and toddlers play independently or in groups, actively exploring their surroundings. Through play, they can discover, examine, integrate ideas and developmental/physical abilities.
A healthy diet for child growth
Children and adolescents should eat a lot of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains of cereals (including bread, rice, pasta, and noodles), lean meats, fish and seafood, milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or alternative foods. Low-fat milk is not suitable for children under 2 years of age (due to their high energy needs), but it should introduce in older children and adolescents. Also, they need to use water as a primary drink.
It is a recommendation to limit saturated fat intake (a low-fat diet is not suitable for infants), to choose foods with less salt, and consume only moderate amounts of foods with added sugars.
The first-morning meal provides better results in school, children having breakfast are less tired, have fewer absences from classes, and mental problems. To achieve this, breakfast should provide a third to a quarter of daily energy needs, as well as the need for minerals and vitamins.
Water in the digestive organs dissolves other foods, transfers nutrients, helps to expel harmful ingredients from the body, and affects the maintenance of a constant body temperature. Thus, water cannot replace by other beverages.
Healthy exercise habits
Physical activity is necessary for every age group: children, preschoolers, schoolchildren, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. Healthy exercise habits encourage endurance body, keep it strong, including the heart, lungs, muscles, bones, brain. They help the body be mobile, elastic, harmonious. Physical activity prevents obesity and controls body weight. During adolescence and maturation, physical activity helps to relieve tension, nervousness, anger, or sadness.
Experts agree that children of all ages should be physically active every day. Physical activity is any type of movement that consumes energy. We recommend sports – volleyball, tennis, basketball, swimming. Or, just running / brisk walking, for half an hour a day.
Finally, healthy exercise habits with a healthy diet and enough sleep are factors to help children grow into healthy adults.
Early education is natural, meaningful and self-rewarding
Today there is an awareness that early education and development are of high significance for further progress and that they significantly depend on the quality of the social and cultural environment in which children live.
The everyday life of a preschool child is about learning. Learning is a natural way of getting to know and discovering ourselves, the world, as well as functioning in close association with that world. Children learn from everything they do. The major prize in learning is self-knowledge, mastery, discovery, and getting to know the world.
- Development results from a dynamic intertwining of heritage and environmental influences.
- Early education stimulates children’s curiosity, creativity, and self-confidence.
- Caring for young children means building relationships with others and creating optimal conditions for the child’s activities, including the establishment of daily routines and experiences.
- At an early age, an integrative approach to the child is necessary, through which all aspects of development are encouraged (physical, social, emotional, cognitive).
- Early education is an interactive process. Children learn through active interaction with adults, other children, and materials.
- Learning at early age should be highly challenging for children.
Controlled usage of electronic devices and media
Given the multiple functions and benefits provided by digital devices have in the lives of today’s children, time is not necessarily an indicator of problematic use. Much more important is the quality of time, type of online activity.
- Children under two should not spend time in front of the screen (meaning all types of screens – TV, mobile phone, tablet, computer).
- Children between the ages of 2 and 5 should not be in front of the screen more than one hour a day, well-designed time (which includes educational and age-appropriate content and activities), with the active mediation of adults.
- For children aged 6 and over, it is necessary to ensure that the time in front of the screen does not affect social, cognitive, and physical activities that are important for children’s development.
How can adults mediate the smart use of digital devices in children?
- By choosing high-quality educational content, developmentally appropriate children’s needs
- Quality communication and active participation in children’s activities on the Internet
- By applying technical protection measures, together with other forms of parental mediation
- Proper use of digital devices and the Internet (setting up clear, reasonable, and firm boundaries, by consistent application of the rules)
- Encouraging the positive and meaningful use of technology (for learning, research, teamwork, content creation in digital format)
- By continuously improving their digital skills