Early Development
Vital Phase for Optimal Childhood Development

Early development in children refers to development from conception through infancy and toddler hood. It is the result of incredible maturation seen in all the developmental domains of childhood.

Maturation process

Maturation refers to both growth, a measure of physical characteristics over time, and development, the acquisition of metabolic functions, reflexes, sensory awareness, motor skills, language, and the intellect.

Maturation progresses in a predictable sequence with precise timing. Insults that adversely affect maturation, influence the maturation events occurring at that particular time.

The phase of early development includes the first three years of life; from before birth through infancy and toddler hood; little over 2 years of age. These 3 years are a period of great transition.

Fetal development, infancy and toddler stage of childhood bring in great biological, psychological and emotional changes in a child. Thereby, a dependent newborn grows into a child with self-esteem who feels capable and interacts effectively with others.

Prenatal development

Neonatal reflexes

Neonatal reflexes are the result of early development of the fetus.
N
ormal brain growth pattern shows sharp rise during 20 to 36 weeks of gestation.

Most neonatal reflexes begin to occur in utero through the early months of child’s postnatal life. Reflexes help identify normal brain and nerve activity in newborns.

Iron and other nutrients play crucial role in myelination.

Iron deficiency can have long-term irreversible effects on a child's cognitive and behavioural development.

The body iron is preferentially made available for hemoglobin formation. Therefore the ill effects on the developing brain due to iron deficiency occurs much before iron-deficiency related anemia presents itself.

Brain development and Myelination

Brain development is a complex and prolonged process that starts early in the pregnancy, even before the mother knows that a baby is growing in her womb. Myelination begins at about fifth month of gestation and continues for life, but most predominantly during the first 3 years after birth. Adequacy of myelination determines quick and smooth propagation of nerve impulses. Appropriate maturation and an intricate balance between different neural units are essential for successful development of intelligence, skills and sensory perception. Good nutrition throughout the early development phase is therefore critical for optimal development of children.

For more infomation on Fetal Growth please click here

Neonatal Period of Early Development of Childhood
(Birth - 2 months of age)

Neonatal reflexes

Neonatal reflexes are unique for the newborn period. Any noticeable asymmetry in them could be an indication of bone deformity or compromised central nervous system development.

As the child grows neonatal reflexes are replaced by purposeful, controlled voluntary motor skills.

Persistence of neonatal reflexes beyond 3 months of age is usually an indication of a neurological problem at hand.

Sensory inputs of neonatal period that contribute to early development.

Sensory inputs play an enormous role in neonatal phase of childhood development. During this period a baby's senses are very receptive and largely contribute to early development:

  • Touch sensation
    The skin acts as a major transmitter of expression through its touch sense, which plays an important role in childhood development at this phase of life. It is the most important stimulus for parent child bounding.

  • Vision
    Ability to see develops fast. Consequently, a baby iis able to experience sensory feedback from a distance from a very early age and gradually learn the implications of different facial expression. Over a period of time, they can even recognize the faces of the parents.

  • Hearing ability
    The verbal expressions also act as stimulus to understand the expression and initial step towards language development

Development during infancy and toddler-hood
(2 months to 2 years of age)

Psycho-social development

The interaction between the parents and the child is the basis of psycho-social development during infancy.

By 3 months of age a baby learns to smile at known faces and pleasant experiences. Infants at this age can differentiate in pleasant and unpleasant sounds, seen as a startle response to a loud sound.

Infants try to add their verbal expression by cooing and babbling even if that requires help of hand in initial stages. This is child’s first step towards the development of speech and communication abilities.

This newly developed bilateral communication of early infancy gives a child more and more understanding of his surroundings. He refines his own feelings by observing the parent’s expressions before reacting to a new situation.

The correlation of scary external world and inner feelings in him while trying to read those of the parent’s, gives baby the input for emotional development. Finally, the baby learns what was expected out of him and also how the parent handled it.

So there, unknowingly we adults write the script of behavior norms for our child, on the basis of which children learn to handle different day to day situations and simultaneously form their own personal image and that of the others.

Children who do not recieve appropriate care and affection during first years can neither love nor bond with anyone. They only learn to hate and traumatize others. They are the children of rage.

Postural control

Postural control is crucial for development of gross and fine motor skills. All forms of movements are sequential postural adjustments.

Postural control develops in a cephalo-caudal direction starting from head control at 3 months of age, sitting 6-9 months of age, fine finger thumb grasp at 1 year and walking by 18 months of age.

For more on milestones click here.

As a result of robust brain growth and development during early development, 18 months old infant has full neurological support for coordination of movements and to balance body's posture.
By 2 years, children are able to run, climb and begin to kick a ball.

The integration of visual input and motor output is essential for optimal acquisition of motor skills. This with robust brain growth and development during early infancy marks the onset of cognitive development. However, the effective development follows only after mastering the learning experiences.

Caring interaction with caretakers and child’s environment at large are most critical in childhood development process. The optimal early development of children is vital to for their overall social and emotional stability.

For related pages of interest, please browse right column of the page.

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