Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Developmental Map, 6-12 months

The key markers in development from six months to one year that are most memorable are in the area of gross motor development. Our baby sits alone on the floor without being propped up; maneuvers himself on his hands and knees; and begins to toddle around on two feet holding onto furniture or our fingers.

The social skill markers listed in Dr. Ireton’s Developmental Map are the ones we find most endearing. In these skills the personality of our little man begins to unfold. At 7 months, he shows by crying that he is upset if we leave him alone and by eight months he begins to enjoy ‘peek-a-boo’. In a few short months he will wave ‘bye-bye’ and play ‘pat-a-cake’. The crowning achievement at the end of the first year is his ability to imitate simple social play such as hugging a dolly.

Some independence in eating can be observed in his self-help development. These markers include feeding himself a cracker and holding onto a spoon and even getting some of the food on the spoon into his mouth! The start of ‘It’s MINE!’ appears as our little man resists having things taken away from him. At 12 months, he will even help us when we dress him, by holding his arm just right and pushing through the sleeve opening.

The developmental markers in fine motor development include being able to hold two things, one in each hand at the same time. This skill appears around the 7th month. He begins to use his fingers to poke at or into objects and with his finger and thumb picks up objects for closer examination. At eleven months he will have good time dropping these objects into a container. At twelve months his fine motor skills take him on a literacy track: he turns the pages of a book.

The markers in language development begin with playing with sounds. In the first six months, the developmental milestone was baby babble. Now we hear vocal play as he changes the consonant beginning the sounds he makes. We hear sounds like ma, ba, da, ka, and ga. Very soon, maybe a month later, we hear repeated sounds like ‘ga-ga’ or ‘da-da’ and a month later he will imitate some sounds we make. He will give meaning to some of these special sounds (ma-ma and da da) as we celebrate his first birthday. However just before that point he will show us he understands our language, especially in the much-used phrases such as ‘all gone’ and ‘NO-NO’.

If you look at one developmental area next to another, you can see how everything grows together. Our young man would not be able to achieve the self help skills in eating if it were not for the development in fine motor skills, giving him the tools to hold that cookie or spoon. Conversely, without the motivating cookie, the reason to hold things in his hand would not be there. Next week we will see where the language of ‘no-no’ takes us from age one to age two.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Development in the First Six Months

In the first six months of our baby’s life she racks up a great list of accomplishments. These accomplishments can be thought of as markers to our baby’s development. Dr. Harry Ireton took these markers and organized them into a map of five developmental areas: 1)social skills, 2)self help skills, 3)gross motor skills, 4)fine motor skills, and 5)language development. We will look at this Developmental Map from Dr. Harry Ireton and to see how growth in each areas is intertwined with the growth in other areas and how this all works together as baby’s physical self grows. As Mr. Rogers would say, “everything grows together because we’re all one piece.”

Let’s begin with social skills. At birth, our baby can see very close up. Have you ever noticed the way we hold our newborn when we interact? We bring our face close to our baby’s face. Babies appear to recognize the importance of faces and research has shown that babies spend more time looking at simple face drawings than any other drawing. This internal brain wiring helps our baby develop her social skills. Dr. Ireton lists the markers to development in social skill from birth to 6 months: quiets when fed, makes eye contact, will give us a social smile, recognizes mother, then recognizes other familiar adults, interested in her image in a mirror, reacts differently to strangers, and finally reaches for a familiar person.

Self help skills follow a similar path. We all know that newborns sleep a lot; more interesting is how alert they are when awake. They are taking it all in and showing us by their movements and behaviors how they are learning to take care of their own needs. The developmental map lists this alertness and interest in sights and sounds as the first marker in the development of self help skills. Following this we see our baby react to the sight of the bottle or breast. She doesn’t yet have the motor skill development to be able to reach and hold her bottle, that skill will show up in fine motor development a little later. Next in the growth sequence we see an increase in activity when we show her a toy. Just think what this leads to. Soon she will be able to occupy herself with interesting objects she can learn from. By four months she will be reaching for objects and by six months she will be looking for objects that disappear from her sight such as the toy falling from her high chair tray.

The first six months of gross motor skills begin with our baby wiggling, kicking, and thrusting her arms and legs in play. Remember the social smile in the 2nd month? In gross motor development our little one is actively holding her head up to look around. There’s something out there to smile about!

The progression of the markers in development of fine motor skills begins with focusing and then following a desirable object with her eyes. She will clutch at objects, hold them briefly in one hand, and by 6 months, she will transfer an object from one hand to the other. A lot of those objects will go into her mouth!

In the area of language development, our little one goes from undifferentiated cries to crying when she is hungry. Around 2 months she will be making cooing sounds, laughing aloud, or squealing in delight. By six months she will be very interested when mommy talks to her and will begin talking back in her own language—baby babble!
Development is all inter-related and our task is to engage our infant which will support the growth in all areas of development. Next week we will look at the markers of development that occur from 6 to 12 months.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ages & Stages of Development

We are heading into the last months of five years of this column. I reviewed the topics we have covered--covered in many ways more than once! I would love to learn what readers would like to hear more about. Please call or email to offer your suggestions. Now as I look back I decided to bring back a topic that was important to me in my career--ages and stages in development.

There was a song by Mr. Rogers often used on his program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that comes to mind. I cannot remember all the words, however it goes something like this: “Everything grows together, because we’re all one piece. Your ears grow as your fingers grow as your arms grow because we’re all one piece.”

In these next few weeks we will explore stages of development from birth through age five. You may have seen these stages listed and outlined at the doctor’s office or your child’s day care or preschool. One of my favorite charts was compliled by Dr. Harry Ireton from Minnesota. I met Dr. Ireton at a conference on young children. Like Mr. Rogers he is a kind, easy to talk to gentleman whose work gave us ways of looking at the stages of child development. This helped us to screen for problems in children.

Using the Ireton’s‘Developmental Map’ we will discuss how growth in each area of development (motor, language, social, cognition) are inter-related, how ‘everything grows together’. We will add another component to the map, how our parenting is intertwined with everything growing together.

Let’s start at birth. Our newborn comes to us with many reflexes: startling, rooting, and sucking. Socially, the child will quiet and calm when it is fed, wiggle and kick when happy, stare intently at faces, and communicate need by crying. Within a few months, the crying may stop as the infant sees the mother and begins to anticipate something nice happening. This is related to improvements in vision and also to learning a pattern: first mom comes and then my tummy is full. Communication between mother and infant begins.

Next week we will look at development in the first 6 months and what parents do to support their baby’s growth.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pretending with The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Last week I shared two of Julie Reinaas's ideas for extending play using familiar songs and nursery rhymes. She had an additonial idea for us that could either fall under the topic of extending play or under the topic of helping children transition from playtime to nap or bed time.

Julie uses one of Eric Carle's beloved stories, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The story gives children the opportunity to learn many different things. On one level, children can learn about the concept of metamorphisis. The book follows the development of a butterfly from a tiny egg, to the caterpillar stage, to the cocoon stage, to a beautiful butterfly. On another level, they can learn one to one correspondence and begin counting with Carle's vividly colored fruits and foods. Carle covers the topic of eating healthy by letting children know that after the caterpillar ate chocolate cake, candy, and other sweets he had a tummy ache.

Using a caterpillar puppet that can be purchased with the book, all the foods in the story (plus anything one could imagine!) can be fed to the caterpillar puppet. After eating, the puppet can 'go to sleep' and by turning th puppet inside out a beautiful butterfly will emerge. Without the puppet, the child can pretend to eat pretend foods and then go to sleep under the covers and emerge as a beautiful butterfly. At this level of storytelling, we can touch upon a concept that all young children understand: growing up. Julie says it has been a great way to finish bedtime stories and to go to sleep happy.

The book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is available at both the Bruce and Ladysmith libraries. You will be able to find other Carle stories at your library, such as “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth and Little Cloud.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print