As parents, we usher our children from the nursery through to their first day of school. There are many difficult steps along the way. Our sleep-deprived shuffle at the beginning and their unsure first stumbles as they gain independence on their chubby legs. Balance is eventually attained and one day, as impossible as it may seem, they will toddle away into their kindergarten class.

The journey from 0-6 is all about ‘early child development’, which refers to not just the milestones our children hit, but so much more. Early child development is influenced by the quality of stimulation, support, and nurturing in the environment where children grow up.

As parents, we control that.

We can pivot, play, and help our children prepare for the world outside our doors.

How do we do it?

If we break early child development down into five categories, it provides us with some amazingly simple ways we can set our children up for success in the classroom, and beyond. The best part is these lessons are attainable through play-based learning so we get to teach our child while still letting them be a child.

  1. Physical health and well-being involves a child’s physical readiness for a day at school, their physical independence, as well as their gross and fine motor skills.

How you can help foster this development:

  • Create and enforce a routine for your child at home to follow (i.e. meal times, naptimes, and bedtimes) to help prepare for the structured schedule of school
  • For fine motor skills, grab the crayons and scribble, encourage them to write with a pencil, and pop open jars of clay or playdough
  • For gross motor skills, go for a family bike ride, or play a rousing game of hopscotch, Tag or Follow the Leader
  1. Social competence in early childhood development is how a child functions as part of a group. A socially competent child will often demonstrate responsibility, respect for others, socially appropriate behaviour, as well as self-control.

How you can help foster this development:

  • These social skills are best developed in social situations like playgroups, drop-in activities at community centres or in daycare/preschool
  • Assign simple household chores such as putting toys away and picking up clothes
  1. Emotional Maturity in children involves pro-social behaviour and how they function alongside peers in a more informal environment, like the playground. Positive behaviours include empathy, helping, and tolerance of others, as opposed to aggressiveness, hyperactivity/inattention, and impulsiveness.

How you can help foster this development:

  • Help your child to identify and express their emotions, and then help them to further use these skills to try to understand the emotional signals of others
  • When someone in the family is mad or sad, talk about why they feel that way, and how your child can help.
  • For helpful resources like books and puppets for interactive storytelling, swing by your local library
  1. Communication skills and general knowledge involves a child’s ability to clearly communicate their needs, understand others, as well as having an interest in the world around them.

How you can help foster this development:

  • Answering the 176 “why?” questions you are asked every hour
  • In turn, ask them questions about their day, dreams or invite them to “tell me a story”
  • Create a curious kid and they will increase their communication skills and develop a love for learning
  1. A child’s language and cognitive development involves their ability to read, count, and their ability to remember numbers and letters.

How you can help foster this development:

  • Regular visits to the library for a stack of new books is an easy (and free!) way to introduce your child to various authors and amazing stories
  • Make a game out of sorting socks – have your child count them and label the colours
  • In the community, point out signs and ask your child to tell you what symbols they see – the world opens up when they realize the alphabet is all around them

If you are mindful of these facets of development, with a lot of love, patience and support, your child will enter kindergarten with confidence and an eager and open heart. Those are surely steps for success.