Activities and Skills Essential for Kids

As soon as a child is born she is launched on a lifelong journey of discovery. During the first three years of life a child learns more than she ever will again in her life. Think about it -- she must learn to eat, communicate her needs without language, roll, scoot, crawl, walk, talk, feed herself and on and on. As parents, your job is to nurture her and help her through that journey.

A part of that nurturing is making sure she is marking milestones appropriate to her age. For instance, there are some children who skip crawling altogether and move right to walking. Studies have shown that learning to crawl, even after a child can walk, helps to develop reading skills. The bilateral motion (using both sides of the body) of crawling helps connect the parts of the brain necessary to become a fluent reader.

What skills does a 2-6 year-old need?

At each year’s well-child check up your pediatrician will check for certain milestones and skills. As a child approaches school age, the doctor will be specifically looking for: gross and fine motor skills, social skills and verbal skills.

Gross, or large, motor skills include things like running, hopping and climbing. Fine, or small, motor skills are related to dexterity issues - holding a crayon, picking up and manipulating small objects and using silverware properly. Social skills vary by age group but includes things like sharing and playing well with other children. Verbal skills will also vary. By school age, most kids should be able to communicate their wants, needs and frustrations well without resorting to physical outbursts.

Parents should be aware that milestones and various skills vary tremendously in each age group. It is not uncommon for a child, particularly one with older siblings, to delay speech - even baby talk - only to show up at breakfast one morning as a 3-4 year-old speaking in complete sentences. Other children have issues pronouncing certain letters and letter combinations until they are 7-8.
Parents with both boys and girls may notice a distinct difference in the development of fine motor skills. As a rule, girls perfect these skills much earlier than boys. Talk to your doctor about specific concerns before deciding your child is “behind.”

How does a parent help develop these skills?

The main job of young children is to play. There are plenty of fun ways to enhance your child’s various milestone skills. Reading together is a great way to grow a child’s vocabulary and understanding of a wide-range of ideas and concepts. Painting, play-dough, lacing activities and stacking blocks are all things children love to do that strengthen fine motor skills. Regular, challenging outdoor activity is the best way to make the most of your child’s gross motor skills potential. And, finally, playing with other children in age appropriate settings will help set them on the road to being socially ready for school.

Ready for the future

Follow your child’s lead and interests. Work together in an atmosphere of fun and play. Read, draw, run, climb and make new friends. All of this, combined with a close relationship with your pediatrician will ensure that you and your child are ready for the transition to school when the time comes.

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