What is Child Development?
refers to the sequence of physical, language, thought and emotional changes that occur in a child from birth to the beginning of adulthood. During this process a child progresses from dependency on their parents/guardians to increasing independence. Child Development is strongly influenced by genetic factors (genes passed on from their parents) and events during prenatal life. It is also influenced by environmental facts and the child’s learning capacity.
Child Development can be actively enhanced through targeted therapeutic intervention and the ‘just right’ home-based practice, recommended by Occupational Therapists and Speech Therapists.
What does Child Development include?
Child Development covers the full scope of skills that a child masters over their life span. Development can be seen as the way in which individuals grow and change and this can take place in different domains:
i) Biological – which includes features such as physical growth and developments in fine
motor (finger) skills and gross motor (whole body) skills. Sensory awareness –
the registration of sensory information for use. The developing brain develops through dynamic interactions of genetic,
biological, and psychosocial influences and child behavior. Exposure to biological and psychosocial risks leads to
deficits in brain structure and function, and impaired cognitive, social & emotional development;
ii) Cognitive – which refers to changes in thought processes such as memory, reasoning and problem solving, imagination, and creativity and language;
iii) Emotional – where the focus is on changes in emotional experience and understanding; and social, which refers to changes in our understanding of ourselves and other
people and how we relate to other. Among these are social interaction and emotional regulations, interacting with others and mastering self-control. Lack of learning opportunities and poor-quality caregiver-child interaction – are major risks for poor development
iv) Speech and Language – understanding and using language, reading and communicating.
The effective and efficient provision of ECD, the Ministry can be able to reduce inequality by addressing multiple risks children face, which can effectively reduce developmental delays. Especially, if interventions are early, of high quality, and integrated.
“The science and economics are clearly on the side of investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, starting with a woman’s pregnancy,” said Keith Hansen, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank Group. “If we don’t do this, children fall behind long before they set foot in school and suffer a lifetime of disadvantage. But if we do, we can make an irrevocable difference to their ability to fully participate in the economies of tomorrow as active, productive citizens. The Lancet research is further proof, if more is needed, of just how important this agenda is.”
Environments across the life-course
Quality and timing of early environments shape a child’s future potential. (Lancet series 2016: Advancing Early Child Development from Science to Scale)
Why is Child Development Important?
Observing and monitoring child development is an important tool to ensure that children meet their ‘developmental milestones’. Developmental milestones (a ‘loose’ list of developmental skills that believed to be mastered at roughly the same time for all children but that are far from exact) act as a useful guideline of ideal development.
By checking a child’s developmental progress at particular age markers against these arbitrary time frames, it allows a ‘check in’ to ensure that the child is roughly ‘on track’ for their age. If not, this checking of developmental milestones can be helpful in the early detection of any delays in development.
This ‘check’ is usually carried out through child/mother health and under-five services as infants and toddlers, and later through preschool, early childhood education and school term skills assessments.
The earliest possible detection (and early intervention treatment if appropriate) of developmental challenges can be helpful in minimizing the impact these developmental delays can have on a child’s skill development and subsequently their confidence or serve as an indicator of a possible future diagnosis.
Developmental milestone checklists or under-five cards are used as a guide as to what is ‘normal’ for a particular age range and can be used to highlight any areas in which a child might be delayed. However, it is important to be aware that while child development has a predictable sequence, all children are unique in their developmental journey and the times frames that they meet the many developmental milestones.
Key Stages in Child Development
1. Conception and Birth – this is more concerned with healthy and secure infants (0-5 years). The aim is to ensure that a child starts their lives in the conditions they need to live at their fullest potential with safety, nutrition and stimulation from responsive and loving caregivers.
2. Early childhood care and learning – at this stage of child development (2-5 years) there is more concern to build a foundation for livelong learning and support children’s safe transition to early childhood. This is the period of child growth that has the greatest impact on the future development of the child and future as 90 percent of brain synapses are being formed during this stage.
3. Early Childhood – (6 – 13 years) – during this age the child is transitioning from early childhood education to primary education. The overall goal is to create a conducive environment for the holistic development of the child. The programmes offered
are intended to allow children to thrive and achieve their potential. The child is learning to become more independent and to socialize with others children and adults beyond their immediate families to make decisions for themselves, to build literacy, numeracy and life skills to engage in community life.
4. Adolescent – (14 – 18 years) – child development for this age group is designed to allow children thrive and realize their potential. The programmes are designed to promote and improve physical and social well-being and encouraging meaningful child
Early Childhood Development
Early Childhood Development (ECD) is a key component of Child Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have embraced young children’s development agenda as key to the transformation that the world seeks to achieve by 2030. Globally nearly 43% of children under
the age of 5 years in low- and middle-income countries are not getting the
nutrition, protection and stimulation they need of these, 66% are in
the Sub-Saharan region. This diminishes both the child’s potential and
sustainable growth for society at large. Early Childhood Development: https://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/ 17th May 2017
Good news ECD presents an incomparable window of opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. Right interventions at the right time can counter disadvantage and boost a child’s development. Zambia has seen an
improvement in child survival & decrease in <5 MMR from 192.2 per 1,000
live births in 1997 to 61 in 2018 (DHS 2018).
While more children are surviving, – unacceptably large number of children continue to fail to thrive and not reach their developmental potential in life due to high stunting levels (For Zambia it’s at 35% – ZDHS 2018- WHO acceptable thresh hold is < 20%). Large proportion of children are at risk of developmental delays associated with stunting. From the start of pregnancy through the early years marks the period of most rapid development in a human being’s life. After this period, delays in: physical growth, social and emotional connectivity and intellectual development are often irreversible & with sometimes long-term consequences Children in the early years, who receive appropriate and adequate: health care nutrition, and stimulation in a secure safe environment characterized by responsive care giving grow up to be healthier, more educated adults, with better economic and social outcomes in life.
Parenting and Nurturing Care
Nurturing care envelops early child development. It Comprises all essential elements for a child to grow physically, mentally and socially: Nutrition, Health care, Love and security, Protection from danger and Opportunities to learn and discover the world.
Source: The Lancet Advancing Early Childhood Development
from science to scale.
Nurturing care is fostered by a supportive environment – the ecological model
Source: The Lancet Advancing Early Childhood Development
from science to scale
The Role of the Department of Child Development:
Child Development cuts across all sectors. It is therefore important that
stakeholders take a multi-sectoral approach in implementing the National Child Policy at National, Provincial, District and Community levels. These include all line ministries, N0n-Governmental Organizations, Cooperation Partners, Civil Society and Faith Based Organizations and the private sector. The institutions involved in child rights development work will implement activities outlined in the National Plan of Action for Children.
The Department will coordinate and manage multi=sectoral child welfare and development programmes in order to ensure child survival and child development rights are promoted and upheld. Coordination will include:
· mobilizing and utilization of resources for the
promotion of child survival rights;
· raising community awareness on the importance of
child survival and development rights;
· involving community-based approaches in the
management of early childhood development;
· strengthening community-based organizations in
promoting the provision of child survival and development rights;
· capacity build caregivers, parents and guardians in
the care and management of early childhood development programmes;
· facilitate the development of evidence-based policy recognizing early child development as fundamental to promotion of child survival and development rights;
· Identify opportunities
for integration of stimulation and education programmes with nutrition and
health services; and
· Ensure quality ECD evidence based programmes.
Problems in Child Development:
Problems in child development can arise due to: genetics, prenatal circumstances, the presence of a specific diagnosis or medical factors, and/or the lack of opportunity or exposure to helpful stimuli. Specific assessment by the best fit professional (which may initially be the GP or Paediatrician, and then Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Psychologist and/or Physiotherapist) can provide clarity about the developmental issues and extent of concern as well as can help to formulate a plan to overcome the challenge(s). As the process of child development involves multiple skills developing simultaneously, there may then be benefit in consulting multiple professionals.
Overcoming the developmental challenges is crucial to maximizing the ease and speed of development, minimizing the gap that occur between a child’s ability and those of their same aged peers, the confidence of the child as well as the frustration that can be encountered by the child’s parents and/or caregivers.
PDF DOCUMENTS TO BE ATTACHED ON THIS PAGE:
ECD Country Profiles
· Insaka Early Childhood Development (ECD) community hubs in Zambia
· The Science of ECD – an overview presentation