5 Facts about Child Development
What are the true facts about child development? It can be easy to mistake what our friends tell us for being a true fact about child development milestones.
Is “wait and see” actually good advice for delays in child development? Is it a fact that bilingualism causes delays in child development? Or is there reasearch, truth and facts that can help us understand child development in our toddlers better?
Child development Fact 1: Bilingualism does not cause speech delay in kids
Speech is one of the areas of child development that all parents wait for. Naturally we want to hear our babies say “mama”. We get so excited when they point and say “ball”.
It’s an amazing transition from your child seeming like a little “baby doll” to an actual little person that we are able to now connect with.
But speech development is more than just connection, it’s a tool for your toddler to express themselves. Every parent has experienced a toddler meltdown because they want something but don’t know how to communicate it.
Let’s face it – toddlers desires can be above their speech ability and your guessing skills for some time.
While this is normal, we all want to decrease potential tantrums, and improving toddler communication skills seem like an easy route to do this.
As a bilingual family it can get confusing as to whether we are setting our toddlers up for speech success.
- Maybe they didn’t understand my question because I said it in the wrong language?
- Maybe they are not hearing one word in one of our languages enough?
- Are we making word-salad for our kid by bombarding so much vocabulary?
These questions become even more pertinent when with a toddler that isn’t meeting the normal child developmental milestones for speech.
Naturally the first place we go to as a parent when we think our child may be slightly delayed in an area- the playground.
We look at our friends’ kids, we ask “when did they start speaking?”. “Wow they speak in sentences already!”.
And express our concern for our toddler “My child is only saying a few words and they are nearly 2!”
I have heard time and time again a well meaning friend saying “Don’t worry about it! Bilingual kids always speak late!”
Unfortunately this is not true.
Here are some facts about bilingualism in child development:
- Bilingual kids may say their first words a little later than those that only speak 1 language BUT this is still within the child development normal age range. Namely between 8-15 months of age 9 (source)
- There is no empirical evidence (meaning research) to link bilingualism to language delay. Teaching your child or exposing them to two languages does not cause language delay
- Now this doesn’t mean that your child must reach speech milestones in each language individually. For example, it is generally accepted that between 19-21 months a child should have a vocabulary of around 20 words. That doesn’t mean 20 words in each language. It’s 20 words as a whole.
- It is also normal to expect some blending or “mash-ups” of both languages into one sentence.
Child development Fact 2: Your 3 year old is NOT behind if he doesn’t know his ABCs
Nope. Now I know small children reciting his ABCs or some other “list” are super adorable (Does anyone remember Youtube’s Noel and the dinosaur names- cuteness!). However, it doesn’t mean your kid is smarter or less smart for not knowing them.
Toddlerhood is an explosive time for brain development. A three year old’s brain is TWICE as active as an adult brain. Creating an environment that stimulates this brain most definitely DOES impact future academic success.
However the focus shouldn’t be on learning a list. Child development happens from the bottom up – meaning basic skills using the bottom brain first before top brain “academic”skills.
There are many research studies on what makes our children smarter:
- eye contact
- reading to your child
- self-control and emotional regulation
- attention skills
- gross motor skills
- nutrition (to name a few)
In fact according to child development norms, we expect kids to learn the ABCs between 2-6 years of age.
Yip, that is a huge age range!
If your child wants to learn the ABCs or the names of every country in the world that is great! But we don’t have to worry about “teaching” them when they are still little.
And we certainly don’t have to worry that they are behind or not meeting a child development milestone if they don’t recite their ABCs at age 3.
Child development Fact 3: Choking hazard signs aren’t related to whether the toy or activity is developmentally appropriate
Choking hazard warning signs are something a company has to put on their product for legal reasons. It does not mean this toy is never to be touched by kids under the age of 3. It does mean use with supervision.
By the time a child is 3 they should have been exposed to a bunch of art materials- paint, play dough, plasteline, crayons, markers, stickers. Using these materials develops their creativity, attention span, body awareness, sensory systems and fine motor skills. All crucial skills.
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Don’t get hung up on the warning. Always supervise closely but also use your judgment. If your kid is still eating the play doh, give it a miss until he’s ready. Or try art materials that are edible. But don’t forgo the activities.
Just don’t mistake a choking hazard warning sign to mean that this type of play or art activity is not developmentally appropriate for kids under 3.
Child development Fact 4: Toddlers are not babies that need everything done for them
The transition from being a caregiver to a parent seems to happen overnight…. One day I was all about getting my kid fed and rested and the next day it seems all about boundaries and tantrums. How did this happen so quickly?
The fact is that child development requires that toddlers understand themselves as individuals. All that “me, me , me” and “I do it, I do it” are developmental foundations for actually being able to do stuff by themselves. And later on being able to identify themselves as responsible and confident adults.
It can be hard to watch a child struggle through trying to put on their shoes when you are already late. But creating an environment in which your toddler is challenged and allowed to feel like they achieved something themselves is critical for child development.
Fact 5: “Wait and see” is bad advice!
Another one I hear far too often at the playground.
- “Don’t worry that your 18 month old isn’t walking yet. My friend’s brother was like that too and now he’s a professional athlete”
- “My hairdresser neighbour also hadn’t said a word by the time they were 2 and then suddenly overnight she was speaking in 5 word sentences”.
I know this is always well meaning. I’m sure I have unknowingly given some bad advice like this at some point or another.
I’ve also been on the receiving end of this type of bad advice.
The fact is- it is bad advice! Delays in child development are big red warning flags for us.
Let’s for a minute think of the compound effect of “wait and see” on child development.
The pro-active mom:
At 2 years old her child is slightly delayed. If they receive the right support we can push them forward so that they are now on-par with the child development norms for their age.
The reactive mom:
At 2 years old her toddler had a slight delay. She decided to wait and see. By 3 the delay is now marked.
Meaning it is very clear that he is behind his peers.
They speak in sentences, ask questions, sing songs, and tell jokes. Her son is still not forming sentences.
His friends run, play catch, play together with a bat and ball. He sits on the sidelines watching because he falls over when he runs.
Already the milestones of speech and running have become almost irrelevant to his peers. They have progressed to using these skills in social play and games.
The small delay that was present at age 2 is now very much compounded.
Point being: Please don’t wait and see! Get help if you suspect your toddler has a developmental delay.