The challenges of the last year have meant that children needed to play and learn in different ways than usual. Children have missed out on regular play dates, time with groups at the park or indoor playgrounds, group sports and birthday parties. Depending on the family situation and local restrictions, they have spent less time socializing and learning in daycares and preschools. And many have missed time with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. These changes may make some developmental delays easier to miss, and families need to regularly take time to check their child’s development at home and with their primary care provider.
Areas to watch:
• Speech: Parents are often the best at interpreting their child’s speech and may not realize that other people have trouble understanding their child. They often know what their child means with just a look or a cry. While this is a special connection, it can make it harder to notice that some children may not be developing their speech the way they need to for their age.
• Social: Adults often let children lead when they play together while playing with other children pushes them to learn to share or be flexible. Older or younger brothers and sisters may not be interested in playing in the same way or with the same toys which can lead to frustration. And spending much of the day watching videos or playing video games can limit how a child learns to interact with others.
• Motor: Playing on playgrounds is a great way to learn climbing, balance and swinging. As families miss outings, it can be easy to miss if a child is not able to keep up or struggling to learn new skills.
Ways to help:
• Remind your child to use their words to ask for what they want rather than just crying or pointing.
• Talk about what your child is doing, how they are playing, and what you are doing. This helps to increase both their vocabulary and interaction.
•During video chats with family ask how much of the child’s speech they can understand.
- Make regular time to play with your child, joining in their pretend play, doing crafts together, and playing games.
- Practice taking turns during playtime.
- Watch the types of toys your child enjoys and whether they are able to pretend with you.
- Spend time looking for specific things to praise about your child like how they give hugs, help, color, and all of the things that make them special.
- Find ways to exercise at home like dancing together with videos and music or setting up an obstacle course where children have to crawl under the table, go up the stairs, and jump.
- Go for walks or ride bikes together and watch their balance and how soon they get tired.
Parents know their children best and often are the first to notice a concern, but when children are not able to be around other children and adults, some delays can slip through the cracks. Therefore, it is very important to have regular checks of your child’s skills with their primary care provider. And in between those visits you can keep track of what your child should be learning with the app and website created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help families know what to expect. You can find the milestones or the app information at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html.
And most importantly, spending time playing and talking with your child helps to grow your bond and create happy, loving memories together.