At first thought, you may think that child development and parenting varies greatly across the world and different cultures. While this is true, there are also tons of similarities. For example, infants and toddlers across all cultures will seek attachment and a need to trust a primary caregiver. Children require a nurturing and responsive caregiver and a safe place to explore and play regardless of where they are being raised or the culture they live in.
On the other hand, language is a huge difference between cultures and it does affect development because it directly affects how people think and reason. For example, parents of Western European and Northern American countries tend to focus on their infant’s needs and them as a person. While on the other hand, Asian and African countries focus more on their child’s interactions and surroundings. The result of this happens when these children are asked to describe themselves and the Western European and Northern American children say “I am smart” or “I am good at dancing” whereas the children from Asia and Africa will say “I am a good student” or “I can dance.”
Although, no matter where a child is from in the world, studies have shown that developmental milestones are generally met in the same order. For instance, a child will crawl before they can walk, or they will eat with their hands before they eat with cutlery. There may be some variation in when these milestones are met but they will all be met in the same order.
Child development and parenting styles differ across the globe. But, there are still many factors that influence development that stay the same among different cultures. Overall, infants and toddlers across the world that have a nurturing and responsive caregiver and a safe place to explore and play are bound to thrive.
There are many different factors that influence an infant or toddler’s development in all three areas. To name a few: technology, nutrition, and the environment all play a key role in how a child matures.
To begin, technology and the increasing popularity of it have drastically changed how children are raised. The world is moving at a much faster rate with smartphones, iPads, and watches to constantly keep us connected and busy. Although this new and improving technology can have both positive and negative implications on a young child’s development. For example, according to the International Journal of Childbirth Education, the rate of smartphone usage has increased and in turn, the rate of nonfatal accidental injuries in children 0-5 has increased because parents are more distracted. There are also studies that have shown that infants and toddlers can potentially have delayed language development because they are not interacting with other people but instead with a screen. On the other hand, there are positive aspects to this. For example, iPads offer an easy way for young children to play games that can improve their cognitive development. There are millions of apps for children to learn their colors, numbers, and more while they think they are just playing a fun game. If parents are careful with how their children use this technology it can be very beneficial. One way parents can control the amount of time their child spends with technology is via the settings on an iPad where they can control how much screen time they are allotted per day.
Next, proper nutrition specifically while a child is very young is essential for proper growth and development. For infants, feeding time can be used to bond with their caregiver and establish routine. When the child is old enough to participate in family meals they can start improving on the social aspect of feeding time. A lot of the time, children will mimic the feeding patterns and habits of family members. This makes it important for parents to be conscious of their eating habits because they will often be passed down to their children. Many times, parents will have difficulty making the transition from a cooperative infant during mealtime to a toddler who wants to be defiant and independent. The solution to this is to be patient with that child and encourage them to be independent and learn for themselves.
Finally, where a child plays, eats, and sleeps are all included in the environmental factors that affects their development. When a child is surrounded by easily accessible toys and are given positive relationships with their caregivers, they are more likely to thrive than a child who does not have access to these things. For example, a toddler who can reach toys like dolls, blocks, and stuffed animals on a low shelf will have more opportunities to learn and explore which in turn furthers their development. Also, a child who is placed in an environment with caring parents who are willing to spend time with them is more likely to be compassionate to others when they mature.
There is no exact age for when a child needs to start demonstrating specific developmental milestones but, there is a range to when they should start to show them. For example, an infant should be able to hold their head up without support around four months, they should start crawling around nine months, and they should start walking alone at around 18 months. When a child is developmentally delayed, this means they are taking much longer than normal to show some of these milestones and this may result in that child needing therapy or counseling. There are also three types of development: Physical, Cognitive, and Social-Emotional.
Physical development has to deal with a child’s fine and gross motor skills which is based on their muscles and physical coordination but, can be affected by a number of outside factors such as nutrients, health, and activity level. Parents can support their infant or toddler’s physical development by offering them tummy time when they are awake to help them to develop muscles in their neck and back. They can also hold and dance with their infant or toddler to music to stimulate their gross motor skills. Finally, to support a child’s fine motor skills (as well as imagination) a parent should encourage them to scribble and draw on paper with different crayons, markers, and paintbrushes. A traditional doctor’s visit will help parents to understand if their child is developmentally on track but there are checklists all throughout the web that a parent can check if they are interested.
Cognitive development is how children think and figure things out. This can include problem-solving skills, knowledge, as well as visual and auditory processing. Some examples of toys that stimulate cognitive development are blocks, stuffed animals, and floating bath toys. Parents can support their infant or toddler in this area by singing songs with them, asking and answering questions, and identifying potentially unknown noises and sights. An infant will start to recognize familiar faces and respond to facial expressions around three to six months and a two-year-old child should be able to sort objects by category and respond to simple directions.
Social-Emotional development includes a child’s ability to manage their emotions and how they create relationships with others. Separation and stranger anxiety is very common for infants and toddlers from about six months until they are three to four years old. This can be attributed to the milestone where at around six months, infants are able to differentiate strangers and familiar people’s faces. Some things parents can do to influence their child’s development in this area is to encourage them to try new things, establish a routine, and to set up playdates where the child can interact with other children their age.
Here is a chart that displays the range of skills that are acquired at different ages: