Are these the secrets to a smarter child?
Every parent wants to feel like they’re doing the right thing for their child. Many wonder if they’re doing all they can to promote healthy development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using the “5 Rs of Early Education” with your child, starting at birth:
- Read to them.
- Rhyme, talk, sing, play and cuddle with them.
- Create routines around eating, playing and sleeping.
- Reward successes and good behaviors.
- Foster consistent, respectful and nurturing relationships.
“Children’s bodies and minds develop incredibly quickly over the first few years of life. This is a critical developmental period that helps set your child up for success,” she says. “That’s why it’s important we as pediatricians go beyond addressing behavior or learning issues after they’ve developed and instead help families prevent them from ever arising. To do this, we provide anticipatory guidance, or a ‘what to expect next’ discussion, which almost always includes one or more aspects of the 5 Rs.”
A few recommendations stand out to Dr. DeBoer and Kayla Sloan, medical assistant at Aurora Children’s Health. They provide further details on relationships, reading and routines below:
Dr. DeBoer: Within the first year of life, babies learn to recognize their parents’ faces and can discern parents’ and other familiar faces from unfamiliar ones. Children can surprise us by picking up on even the most subtle of interactions between adults and often will mimic those behaviors in their own interactions with other children.
Modeling healthy, respectful, uplifting relationships (whether in the home or in public, with friends, strangers, others of similar or dissimilar races or backgrounds) is a crucial way parents can teach children empathy, emotional intelligence and confidence.
Sloan: I recently noticed my 17-month-old is really attentive to relationships. If he hasn’t been in close contact with someone before, he responds, but not as intensely as he would to someone he sees regularly. If he does see someone regularly, he recognizes them and interacts like he knows what’s expected. He recognizes faces, voices and familiarity. He’s beginning to know who a person is and what purpose they serve. This brings the love, respect and consistency he needs to stay familiarized with those relationships.
Dr. DeBoer: Reading shapes a child’s development in numerous ways. Children see words and images on the page, listen to the caregiver’s pronunciation and inflections and can practice motor skills like turning pages or social-emotional skills like looking toward a caregiver’s face after a particularly interesting plot twist.
Sloan: Without one, if something out of the ordinary happens, a child might become startled or uneased, potentially causing setbacks or delays. If a child is restless from lack of sleep, it can change their mood and/or the start of their day, causing crankiness or agitation. I try to maintain my son’s daycare nap schedule on the weekends. Sometimes he acts like he knows he’s not at daycare, so he won’t nap. Other times, his body is naturally tired, but he refuses the nap all together until he is ready. The joys and wonders of our children!
Dr. DeBoer: Bring up school readiness, learning, behavior and development at pediatrician appointments. These aspects of health are equally as important to a child’s success as eating a well-balanced diet or getting the right amount of sleep at night.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.