How can I best support my child’s development

This excerpt from Parenting Positively: Parenting Skills for children aged 6 to 12 booklet, available to download free from Barnardos, gives tips on supporting your child's developments with suggestions for things to do together.

How can I best support my child’s development, and what activities will help?

Children need appropriate challenges and activities balanced with quiet time to just ‘chill out’ at home, play time, relaxation and opportunity to use their imaginations.

Children go through natural learning stages. Trying to push children to do things before they are naturally ready will only cause damage to their self esteem.

Although they need activities that will challenge them, if an activity is too hard or if they do not get enough practical support, children will become discouraged and give up.

When children are ready to start new skills, they will show a keen interest, asking about it and trying to do it for themselves. For example, when children are ready to read, they start asking what words mean, pretending to read and showing an interest in books and in signs.

You can support your child’s development by:

  1. Spending time reading together, even when your child is able to read well.
  2. Taking your child to the library regularly to choose the books he or she is interested in.
  3. Playing cards and board games together. These develop thinking and social skills.
  4. Sharing creative activities, like woodwork, gardening, sewing, arts and crafts. Try to have art materials like paper, interesting old recycling items such as cardboard boxes and buttons and crayons available.
  5. Create plenty of opportunity for physical exercise, team games and outdoor activities.
  6. Providing puppets, dressing-up clothes and other props. Children love to create their own plays.
  7. Providing traditional toys like skipping ropes, balls, dolls, toy cars and construction toys. These are often far more suitable for encouraging a child’s development than many of the technological toys advertised so heavily.
  8. Limiting computer and television time. Encourage activities that develop social, emotional and physical skills.
  9. Giving plenty of time for free play. Children need unstructured time where they can use their imaginations to create their own games.
  10. Noticing when he or she learns new skills, not only with your words but with your eye contact, interest and enthusiasm.

Have fun with your child, take time to play with him or her, to share activities and just enjoy being together.

Children need time with their parents, especially through play and relaxing activities in which children actively take part, to feel calm and connected. Try to spend twenty minutes a day playing with your child when you get home from work and see the benefits.

How do you spend time with your child?  Share your thoughts below.

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