Interact with young children to strengthen bonds and boost development
Learn about the impact of interacting with young children as you explore suggestions to incorporate this type of contact into your child’s life.
During the first three years of a child’s life, the interactions she has with her parents are critical. According to Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, positive interactions not only contributes to the parent-child bond, they influence early literacy skills and success in school. They also teach the child vital communication skills and how to read emotional cues.
Interactions with your child can include:
- Personal care such as feeding, bathing and dressing. Basically anytime you are taking care of his needs.
- Assisted learning, which includes when you teach your child how to do something or engage her in an educational activity.
- Connecting activities, which refer to when you follow your child’s lead in play, meaning you watch what he is doing and join in without taking over.
Many times these interactions can easily flow from one type of interaction to another. For example, if your child is on the floor playing with blocks and she is banging them together, you watch her and copy the banging. Next, you begin stacking two blocks on top of each other and she attempts to stack two blocks. You have just moved from connecting to assisted learning.
Finding opportunities for these interactions can be challenging as many families are very busy. Taking care of infants and toddlers is also very time consuming, so many caregivers may feel like they don’t spend a lot of time with their children. However, it is important to understand that there is a difference between time spent and interacting. Interacting can be as easy as incorporating moments into our daily activities such as chores, mealtimes and running errands: sing while getting your child dressed; bring some toys into the kitchen while you are cleaning and talk to your child about what you are doing, and what he is doing. When you are riding in the car, talk about what you see; and from time-to-time, stop what you are doing and go play with your child even if it’s for a few minutes.
See the American Academy of Pediatrics website for more ideas or see these articles from the Michigan State University Extension website as you take steps to encourage healthy development in your child:
- MSU Extension educator Elizabeth Gutierrez suggests that parents and children engage in the four types of play to help them refine motor skills, physical skills, learn to problem-solve and regulate emotions in her article, “Playing with Children Encourages a Variety of Skills.”
- MSU Extension educator Kittie Butcher explains that every area of development – physical, cognitive, communication and social/emotional – can be enhanced when children engage in pretend play or make believe in her article, “Childhood Pretend Play Builds Critical Skills for Late Years.”
- MSU Extension educator Rachel Meyers makes suggestions to encourage and refine fine motor skills in her article, “Developing Fine Motor Skills in 3-year-olds.”