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Healthy Growth and Development

For Babies/Children

As parents or caregivers, it is important to realize that there are many factors that contribute to the healthy growth and development of children.

  • Maintaining physical health, including proper nutrition, healthy pregnancy, safe environments and detection of early developmental problems, are important for a child’s future.
  • Children who develop secure attachments to parents and caregivers are more likely to grow and develop into healthy adults. Parents who are sensitive to the child’s needs and flexible in terms of the expectations they have for their child will have more positive outcomes. Children need to be nurtured by their parents and caregivers; with emotionally capable parents, the child is more likely to be emotionally healthy.
  • Parents can assist with appropriate development through use of appropriate stimulation, positive parenting skills and safe and diverse environments.

Healthy growth and development is divided into different categories: social, intellectual, emotional, gross and fine motor development.

Social development will assist the child in making friends and getting along with others, as well as working as part of a team and being a good leader. These skills are all built on self-confidence, co-operation and trust.

Intellectual development is a lifelong process, but in the early years, the key features are the ability to think creatively and abstractly, pay attention, solve problems and develop keen judgement along with a continual readiness to learn.

Emotional development involves the development of a full range of emotions from sad to happy to angry, as well as techniques to deal with them appropriately. Through emotional development, children can increase self-esteem, resulting in the development of deeper emotional qualities such as sympathy, caring, resiliency, assertiveness, empathy and the ability to rise to life’s challenges.

Gross motor development involves gaining control of the large muscles, allowing the child to gain balance needed for physical activities such as sitting, crawling, walking, running, climbing and jumping.

Fine motor development is the gradual mastering of precise and accurate small muscle movements in the fingers and hands, which are useful in grasping and manipulating small objects.

What do I look for?

Being a parent or caregiver can be an exciting but stressful time, especially if it is your first child. Primary care practitioners, family and the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program can offer assistance.

Growth and development occurs in stages. For each stage of development listed below, we have listed some key markers to look out for.

The Nipissing District Developmental Screen is a great resource to monitor growth and development.

Also included are some Activities for Parents and Children to Promote Healthy Growth and Development

Activities for Parents and Children to Promote Healthy Growth and Development

Birth to six months

  • Games like “peek-a-boo.”
  • Play with toys of different sizes and textures (e.g., balls and hand puppets)
  • Songs that require actions (e.g., This Little Piggy, Itsy Bitsy Spider).
  • Read picture books.
  • Play with toys that make sounds.

Six to 12 months

  • Read picture books (point out pictures and repeat words).
  • Encourage dancing and movement to music.
  • Play pretend games and use props (e.g., tea party).
  • Songs that require actions.
  • Encourage crawling on tummy toward favourite toy.

One to two years

  • Sort objects by colour, size, etc.
  • Solve puzzles with a few big pieces.
  • Allow children to imitate adults (e.g., using a broom).
  • Play pretend games (e.g., dress up).
  • Play with toys (e.g., dolls and cars).

Two to three years

  • Matching games (using cards or books).
  • Play pretend games.
  • Use playdough.
  • Make crafts with leftover household materials.
  • Play with blocks and other toys

Three to six years

  • Make you child a special helper.
  • Play board games.
  • Read and tell stories.
  • Play active games (e.g., tag).
  • Arts and crafts (e.g., drawing or painting).

Sources: Invest in kids – Ages and Stages, Growing Healthy Canadians – A Guide for Positive Child Development, Nipissing District Developmental Screen

How do I know for sure?

Nipissing District Developmental Screens

The Nipissing District Developmental Screens were developed in 1993 in response to the increased number of children over three years of age being identified with developmental delays. Since its inception, the screen has evolved through input from speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses, teachers, social workers and parent-infant therapists.

The screen covers areas of development including vision, hearing, communication and gross motor skills.

The first screen can be administered as early as one month and continues through the ages of four months, six months, nine months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, two years, 30 months and yearly until age six.

For more information, or to receive the Nipissing District Developmental Screen, contact:
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

519-426-6170 ext. 3250

or visit the Nipissing District Developmental Screen website

The Haldimand-Norfolk Preschool Speech and Language Department also has a communication checklist available for families. To find more information on this topic on the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit website, click the following tabs in the following order: families, preschool, speech, resources. As a parent or caregiver, not only are you responsible for feeding, clothing and protecting your child, you play a big role in how your child develops. There are many different activities that you can do in the early years to assist with healthy growth and development.

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