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Child Development

Link Between Breastfeeding and Strong Child Development

Co-Written by WithinReach Staff:
Kirsten Leng and Alex Sosa (Breasting Promotion Program) – Kelly Smith and Keri Foster (Help Me Grow Program)
Health organizations around the world, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend babies receive only breast milk for at least the first six months of life. Many of us know about the various health benefits of breastfeeding, including reduced risk of asthma, fewer ear infections, less incidence of diarrhea, and reduced risk of some cancers for moms. Did you also know that there is a well documented link between breastfeeding and strong child development? In fact, some research suggests that breastfeeding benefits are 90% developmental[1]!
• Skin-to-skin contact is important for children’s brain development[2].
• Breastfeeding improves children’s cognitive development[3].
• Maternal responsiveness and attachment security are increased by breastfeeding[4].
• Breastfed children are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect[5].
• Children who are breastfed are more accepting of new foods[6].
Why do we see these benefits? When a mother breastfeeds, it is not just about passing nutrition through the breast milk. Breastfeeding is also about comfort and nurturing; mother and baby studying and memorizing each other’s faces; speaking and singing to your baby; and building trust and non-verbal communication.
The first year of life is a time of early social, emotional, and verbal learning. Babies benefit from the intimate bonding and affection, nutrition, and early communication that happen between mom and baby. Breastfeeding provides a focused time to build this development.
At WithinReach, we focus on five topic areas of health including breastfeeding, child development, health care, food access, and immunizations. Just as breastfeeding success supports optimal child development, it also is the most nutritious, first (free) food, and a baby’s first immunization. Likewise, access to healthy foods and health insurance supports a child to have his/her best start. At WithinReach, we believe when families are supported in all of these five areas, they have the resources they need to be healthy.
To learn more, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit www.ParentHelp123.org

 

Tags: Bonding   brain development   Breast milk   Breastfeeding   Child Development   Family Health Hotline   Healthy   Nutrition   ParentHelp123   

How Help Me Grow Supports Washington State’s Early Learning Initiatives

Co-written with Keri Foster, Help Me Grow Family Engagement Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA
Washington State is committed to supporting early learning for all children. We know that kindergarten readiness is an issue in our state. According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), only 44% of students showed up to their first day of kindergarten ready to learn (OSPI, 2005). The Washington State Early Learning Plan identifies specific strategies that support early learning professionals to increase their quality of care and interactions with children to improve outcomes for children in school and throughout their lifespan. At WithinReach, our Help Me Grow program is supporting the state’s efforts by joining with community partners who are making early learning a focus. Screening for healthy child development is happening more and more during wellness visits at the doctors, in child care settings, and preschools. We are stepping up to help our partners increase their screening efforts and quality by helping families access community-based resources.
For example, we are partnering with the Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to support primary care physicians to conduct regular screening and ensure families get connected to resources that support their children. We are also partnering with local preschools and child care sites to explore ways to support staff and parents to make screening a regular onsite activity. In preschool and child care settings we are also helping to facilitate the follow-up conversations where parents receive feedback on their child’s development. When we partner with professionals who are serving children, we can have a greater impact. Good health, strong families, and supportive learning experiences are all needed to enable children to succeed in school and life.

Kelly Smith

Bio: Kelly Smith is the new Help Me Grow Program Manager. She brings her passion for building strong families and supporting healthy kids. Before coming to WithinReach, she spent eight years working to address homelessness in Washington State by working to ensure homeless families have the resources they need to thrive. Prior to that, she worked at the YMCA at a drop-in center for teens.

For more information about the Help Me Grow program, call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit Parenthelp123.org

 

Tags: Child Development   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   kindergarten ready   OSPI   School readiness   Washington Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics   Washington state   

Help Me Grow Washington Partners With Parent Support Groups

Written by Help Me Grow AmeriCorps VISTA, Keri Foster

Our Help Me Grow team had the opportunity to talk with eight PEPS groups this year. PEPS stands for Program for Early Parent Support. This program helps connect new parents to other new parents in their community and offers a place to grow, learn, and share their journey into parenthood. There are 12 weekly PEPS meetings in a session and this unique program offers neighborhood-based resources and education opportunities. Each week, group discussions are on a topic related to parenting from feeding, to child development, to local baby-friendly activities.

Attending these meetings was not only a great experience, it was also fun.  The babies were all so cute and playful. It was heartwarming to see all the moms (and dads) supporting each other in learning about their babies growth.

We talked about the topic of child development and did an activity-based questionnaire which gives parents a snapshot of their baby’s development. The questionnaire is an engaging way to have solid activities and skills to be working on while getting concrete feedback about their baby’s development.  It seemed like one of their favorite things was learning about specific developmental milestones. One mom said, “ooh, my baby kisses his image in the mirror!” How hilarious and adorable. Babies are learning so much, and even recognizing themselves in the mirror shows that they’ve reached a psychological milestone.

The most rewarding part of this experience was working with such a captivating audience of new parents. One of my favorite things was hearing the parents talk about what their babies were learning and the new skills they were mastering. The WithinReach Help Me Grow team is looking forward to continuing educating and supporting PEPS groups in the future.

Resources and activities for your child can be found on our Pinterest page. If you would like to get involved in your baby’s development, complete an Ages and Stages Questionnaire today! Call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit Parenthelp123.org.
 
 

Tags: Child Development   Help Me Grow   PEPS   Seattle   

Parents Share Their Experiences With the Ages and Stages Questionnaire

Written by Help Me Grow AmeriCorps VISTA, Keri Foster

As a parent, have you ever wondered, ‘Is my child on track for preschool?’ Developmental milestones are key skills that children learn at predictable times; knowing where your child is at in reaching these milestones is a great way to make sure they’re making good progress towards school readiness. That’s why the Help Me Grow Washington program at WithinReach provides families with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), an easy to use, doctor recommended tool for checking in on your child’s developmental milestones.

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is an activity-based developmental screening questionnaire that asks you to look at your child’s development by completing simple activities together. For example, on the ASQ for a 14 month old baby, the questionnaire asks, “when your baby wants something does she tell you by pointing at it.” You can answer yes, sometimes, or not yet. By completing the ASQ, you can find out what your child is capable of, what their strengths are, and what you can work on together – even if they’re on track.

Parents report having a positive experience filling out the Ages and Stages Questionnaire with their child. According to Scott, a participating father, the questionnaire was accessible: “it wasn’t arduous which I kind of expected and I thought it might be harder.” In fact, he and his daughter, “had a fun time doing it together. [Emma] liked showing off what she could do and so not only did I feel like I could answer the questions, we had a good time.” Watch a video of Scott and Emma completing the ASQ.

The questionnaire can be done in the comfort in your own home. It can also give you insight into new activities you and your child can do to practice emerging skills. Other parents describe similar positive experiences. Kelly, mother to a 14 month old explains, “it gave me some ideas of what I could be working [on] with my daughter. I know some things in our daily life that incorporate picking up things or being able to go up and down stairs so it gave me some ideas of activities we could be doing around the house [to support her development].” Watch a video of Kelly and her daughter completing the ASQ.

Filling out the Ages and Stages Questionnaire is not only simple and fun, it is also a great way to spend quality time with your child and be actively involved in your child’s developmental growth. Plus, we’ll connect you with activity suggestions and community resources that help you support your child’s early learning goals. To get involved in your child’s development complete an Ages and Stages Questionnaire today! Call our WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or visit Parenthelp123.org.

Tags: Child Development   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   

Eight Reasons to Volunteer as a Family

Written by Keri Foster, Help Me Grow AmeriCorps VISTA member

Did you know that youth are more likely to volunteer if their entire family is involved in the effort? The shared experience can also result in strengthened family bonds. Many of us are aware of the benefits to volunteering, so why not mobilize and inspire your family to volunteer together. Ideas could include helping out at a soup kitchen, nursing home, or food bank in your community.

In celebration of National Volunteer Week (April 5-12) here are 8 reasons to volunteer as a family:

  1. Great way to spend time together and have fun.
  2. Provides new learning experiences.
  3. Opportunities for learning and applying new skills and interests.
  4. Teaches social responsibility.
  5. Improves the community.
  6. Chance to meet other families with a common interest.
  7. Way to express gratitude as a family.
  8. Enhances development! Volunteering can benefit a child’s psychological, social, and intellectual development. Volunteering increases self-esteem, responsibility, and interest in learning.

Who would have thought of volunteerism as a tool for positive youth development, and what better way to cultivate that through a family activity? Make volunteering a part of your family culture and you may be surprised in what you gain.

Visit Volunteer Match to find volunteer activities this week in your community.

To learn more about child development, visit ParentHelp123. For fun activity ideas for kids, visit our new  Pinterest page.

Tags: Child Development   National Volunteer Week   Volunteer   

8 Fun Spring Break Activities to do With Your Kids

Written by Help Me Grow AmeriCorps VISTA, Keri Foster

Spring break is a great time to kick back and relax, but it is also a great opportunity to be inspired, seek out new activities, and enjoy time with your kids.

Make physical activity and fun a priority this Spring Break. Consistent and regular physical activity each day is key to raising healthy children who will succeed at school, home, and in their extracurricular activities.

Here are some Spring break activity ideas that incorporate fun, physical activity, and even education:

  1.  Participate in a family volunteering event. This could be either at a soup kitchen, nursing      home, or food bank in your community.
  2. Pick out a new recipe to make together and visit your local fruit stand. Yakima Fruit Market and Nursery opened early March for their season and the Ballard Farmers Market is open year round Sundays, 10a.m.-3p.m.
  3. Head to a neighborhood park! Get some fresh air while connecting with nature and other kids.
  4. Try a new spring sport. Consider looking into soccer, dance, softball/baseball, or ultimate Frisbee.
  5. Visit your local attractions. This could include the zoo, aquarium, library, pool, or a museum.
  6. Venture out and go on a day trip. Ideas could be Bellingham (Skagit Tulip Festival anyone?), Whidbey Island, Lake Chelan, or Walla Walla.
  7. Do some light gardening. Pick out a couple flowers or plants from your nearby nursery and plant them together. Earth day is April 22nd!
  8. Gather your favorite board or card games and have a family game night.

Regular physical activity is vital for healthy child development. By providing opportunities for your child to discover their passions and interests, you are also helping to improve their motor skills, coordination, endurance, and strength!

Visit our website to learn more about child development. For more activity ideas, visit our new Pinterest page.

I Am Five: Help Me Learn and Grow

Written by Help Me Grow AmeriCorps VISTA, Keri Foster
As a parent, have you ever wondered, ‘Is my child on track for preschool?’ Developmental milestones are key skills that children learn at predictable times; knowing where your child is at in reaching these milestones is a great way to make sure they’re making progress towards school readiness. That’s why the Help Me Grow Washington program at WithinReach provides families with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), a free, easy to use, doctor recommended tool for checking in on your child’s developmental milestones.
Children are natural learners. They learn very quickly in their early years and in many ways. Most of the time they do not need to be “taught” to learn, they are learning simply by watching, listening, asking, trying new things, and practicing skills. Here are some fun activities to encourage your child’s development.
That’s a Wrap: This activity utilizes your child’s fine motor skills. Give your child a small sturdy box. Cut a piece of wrapping paper for your child. Let them decorate the paper using stickers, markers, or stamps. Let your child wrap the box with the wrapping paper. This helps develop control of small muscles in their hands and fingers when they hold the paper down, and put the tape on it. It also helps your child’s creativity when decorating the wrapping paper.

Animals All Over: This activity helps to engage your child’s gross motor skills. You will need pictures of animals. Turn the pictures of animals face down. Take turns with your child choosing a picture. Act out the animal you picked together. For example, you will jump for a kangaroo or run fast for a cheetah. This helps your child use their large muscles in their body when they are acting like different animals.

Role Plays: This activity works on your child’s personal-social skills. Collect some items that your child can use to create a pretend restaurant, doctor’s office, or another setting. Have your child take turns playing different roles with another person. This activity promotes creativity in your child when using pretend play items. When role playing with your child, try asking them more questions to help them think further about their role. For example, when playing restaurant, say to your child things like, “I really like French fries. Can I get some French fries with ketchup?” or “Does this restaurant have milkshakes? What kind of milkshakes do you have?”

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   Developmental Screening   Help Me Grow   

Congratulations to Ginelle Nault: Recipient of the Unsung Hero Award

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Ginelle Nault, recipient of the Unsung Hero Award from Strengthening Families Washington – Department of Early Learning . This award recognizes our everyday heroes and honors the important role caregivers play in children’s lives. We were proud to nominate Ginelle for this award, and are thrilled that she is being recognized for the work she has done to strengthen her family and her community.

You may remember Ginelle from our 2013 Healthy Connections luncheon, where she conquered major stage fright to speak in front of our 500 guests. She spoke passionately and honestly about finding the help she needed to connect her daughter, Chloe, to early intervention through our Help Me Grow program, a program that connects families to the resources they need to make sure their kids are growing and developing on track. By providing a free child development screening (Ages and Stages Questionnaire), as well as activity suggestions and community resource information, Help Me Grow empowers parents to check on their child’s development.

Ginelle came to our program seeking support for Chloe after trying every other avenue she could think of, and our staff was able to connect them to the Birth to Three Early Intervention program at Providence Children’s Center where Chloe received further evaluation, diagnosis and eventual help from speech language and occupational therapists.

Following Chloe’s autism diagnosis, Ginelle and her husband have demonstrated tremendous resilience, a commitment to expanding their knowledge of Chloe’s development, and an outstanding commitment to building her social-emotional competence. Thanks to her parents’ unwavering support, Chloe not only receives help from speech language and occupational therapists, but has also participated in multiple intensive studies through the University of Washington. The improvements in Chloe’s developmental progress are truly remarkable.

In addition to the support she has provided her daughter, Ginelle has been a committed Help Me Grow program champion, helping other families access the services that so positively impacted Chloe’s trajectory. Ginelle appeared in a promotional video for Help Me Grow that was intended for a small, one-time audience. Due to Ginelle’s remarkably open and relatable testimony, thousands have seen the video and learned about Help Me Grow.

If you would like to learn more about Help Me Grow and the other ways WithinReach works to make the connections Washington families need to be healthy, join us at our 2014 Healthy Connections Luncheon on March 12, 2014.

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   Child Development   Help Me Grow   

I Am Four: Help Me Learn and Grow

Written by Help Me Grow Vista, Keri Foster

As a parent, have you ever wondered, ‘Is my child on track for preschool?’ Developmental milestones are key skills that children learn at predictable times; knowing where your child is at in reaching these milestones is a great way to make sure they’re making progress towards school readiness. That’s why the Help Me Grow Washington program at WithinReach provides families with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), a free, easy to use, doctor recommended tool for checking in on your child’s developmental milestones.

At age 4-5 , the main thing children need from play with parents/caregivers is to have fun with them! It is important not to turn play into a “lesson”. The best way you can play with children is to provide an interesting environment, have time to play, and follow your child’s lead. Here are some  fun activities to do with your child ages 4-5 years old.

My Own Story Book: This activity uses your child’s language and communication skills. Begin by encouraging your child to tell you a story and write down what they tell you. Encourage your child to draw pictures after telling you their story. When your child is done, show your child their story and read it back to them. This activity helps your child use their language skills to describe their pictures to you.

Count and Wait: This activity applies their problem-solving skills. When you are waiting for something to happen, count out with your child how long it takes for it to happen. You can try this when riding in the car and waiting for the light to change or when waiting for a train to pass on the railroad tracks. This simple activity helps your child learn to be more patient and will help him/her with waiting in the future in situations when you are not around. This activity also helps your child with their counting!

You’ve Got Mail: This activity helps with your child’s fine motor skills. Start with letting your child open the junk mail. They can use their fingers to open the mail, they may even try to tell you what the mail says! Help your child write letters to family members or a friend and show them how to put them in the mail. This activity helps your child control their fine motor skills when putting the letters in the mail slot. Take them to the post office and show them how you put the stamp on and mail the letter.

 

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   Child Development   Help Me Grow   

I am Three: Help Me Learn and Grow

Written by Help Me Grow VISTA, Keri Foster

Help Me Grow Washington is a free program dedicated to helping you understand and support your child’s development. Complete a doctor recommended Ages & Stages Questionnaire, an activity based survey that looks at your child’s ability to complete simple activities in five areas of development. Here are some other fun activities to do with your child ages 3-4 years old. For more activities like this visit our Pinterest page.

I am three.
At this age, children love physical activity and will run, jump, climb, and dance! They are still learning to pace themselves so they may get cranky or tired if they don’t have some quiet activities between their energetic activities. Encourage physical development through these quiet and energetic activities.

Little Artist: This activity engages with your child’s fine motor skills. Outside, show your child how to draw on the sidewalk or driveway with colored chalk. Make shapes, swirls, pictures, or your child’s name. Talk about the different colors of chalk that they are using. Then, use a squirt bottle or paintbrush with water to “erase” their chalk art work on the sidewalk when finished. This helps your child learn to explore materials and tools with their hands, while also strengthening hand control.

Freeze and Melt: This activity builds upon your child’s gross motor skills. You will need music and a music player. Tell your child that when the music plays, you can move around but when the music stops, they have to freeze in the move that they were doing. Say “freeze” when the music stops. Say “melt” when it’s time to start moving around again. This helps by developing large muscles as your child moves around the room, while teaching your child about balance.

I Spy: This activity helps your child to expand their language and communication skills. All you need is yourself and your child. Pick out an object and remember it in your mind. Give your child clues to guess what it is. Say phrases like, “I spy something blue. It’s square and birds like to go in it.” Encourage your child to ask you questions to guess the object. This activity helps to stimulate your child’s thinking and learning skills when guessing the object. It also helps encourage your child to use their language skills to ask questions and name objects they see in their environment.

Help Your Two Year Old Learn and Grow!

Written by Help Me Grow VISTA, Keri Foster

Help Me Grow Washington is a free program dedicated to helping you understand and support your child’s development. Complete a doctor recommended Ages & Stages Questionnaire, an activity based survey that looks at your child’s ability to complete simple activities in five areas of development. Here are some other fun activities to do with your child ages 2-3 years old. For more activities like this visit our Pinterest page.

I am two.
In the second year, don’t be surprised if your child is frightened of falling in the toilet! Certain concepts such as size, space, and distance are still abstract. However, your child is grasping the idea of categorizing and sorting objects into understandable groups. Encourage development through play by trying out these fun activities.

Counting and Grouping: This is an activity that exercises your child’s problem-solving skills. Start with giving your child a piece of cereal. Tell your child, “Here is one piece of cereal.” Give your child another piece of cereal and tell them, “Here is another piece of cereal. Now there are two pieces of cereal.” Do the same thing with using balls and blocks. Then group the cereal, balls, and blocks in twos. Tell your child, “See, there are two cereal pieces, two balls and two blocks. Let’s count them.” Through this activity your child will begin to learn the concepts of quantity and how things can be grouped together.

Being a Little Parent: This activity helps develop personal-social skills. You will need plastic dishes, baby blanket, hair brush, and a plastic baby doll or stuffed animal. Begin with showing your child how they can use the spoon or fork to feed the baby doll. Show your child how to use the brush to “brush” the doll’s hair. Lastly, show your child how to use the baby blanket to cover the baby doll during “nap time”. This helps your child practice pretend play and imagination skills using real life objects.

Picture Book Game: This is a fun activity that helps strengthen language and communication skills. You will simply need a few of your child’s favorite picture books. Show your child the pictures in the book. To see if your child understands and can identify pictures, ask a question such as, “Where is the dog?” Model how to label items you see by pointing and saying the names (“ball”, “car”, etc.) or using a phrase such as “I see the dog”.

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   Child Development   Help Me Grow   

Help Your One Year Old Learn and Grow!

Written by Help Me Grow AmeriCorps Vista, Keri Foster
Help Me Grow Washington is a free program dedicated to helping you understand and support your child’s development. To get started you can complete a doctor recommended Ages & Stages Questionnaire, an activity based survey that looks at your child’s ability to complete simple activities in five areas of development.Watch this video of a father completing the Ages and Stages Questionnaire with his daughter to learn more.
Here are some other fun activities to do with children ages 1-2 years old. For more activities like this visit our Pinterest page.

I am one.
By 12 months your child is likely into declaring, “me” and “mine.” They also are into opposites, probably in the form of whatever you are suggesting at the time! This is because they are learning that they are their own person, understanding their world around them, and how it relates to them. You can encourage social development through these fun activities that involve personal-social, problem-solving, and language/communications skills!

Clean Up, Clean Up: To work on your child’s personal-social skills, first gather a bin/box and child’s toys. Ask your child to help you clean up their toys, show them how to pick up each toy and put it in the bin. You can encourage your baby to help you by singing a song such as, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere, clean up, clean up everybody do your share.” This activity encourages your baby to help others, while teaching them that clean up after play is important.

Copy Cat:  This activity expands your child’s problem-solving skills. You will just need you and your child. First, choose an action and try to get your child to imitate you. For example, clap your hands. When your child claps, say “look, you can clap too!” Try other actions such as touching your nose or sticking out your tongue. After each one, say, “you try!” Be silly and have fun! Your child will enjoy this repetitive activity for hours of fun.

Choices, Choices: This is an activity that engages your child’s language and communication skills throughout the day. Start your day by giving lots of choices to your child and continue to throughout the day. Ask your child, “Do you want bananas or strawberries?” while holding up each one to show them. You can do this with lots of things including toys, food, or clothes. This helps your child’s emerging language skills by encouraging your child to use verbal words. It also helps your child make connections between objects and words.

Tags: Ages and Stages Questionnaire   Child Development   Child Development Screening   

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