Every parent prioritises the wellbeing and optimal development of their child. Paediatric physiotherapist WAN YING TEH specialises in babies and children and tells us why a physiotherapy development assessment can help you achieve just this. She also gives us some great information on developmental milestones and tips on selecting age-appropriate toys.
Why are developmental milestones important?
The first few years of a child’s life are crucial for brain development. Developmental milestones are the markers that guide you through your child’s growth journey, highlighting what most children can typically do at a certain age. They’re an invaluable guide for parents, helping you comprehend, monitor and track your child’s progress. These milestones encompass physical achievements, like first steps and crawling, as well as cognitive and social milestones.
Early intervention is key. If your child isn’t meeting milestones, it’s a red flag that might indicate an area of concern. Recognising developmental delays early enables timely assessment and necessary interventions.
Understanding milestones also aids in setting realistic expectations. Every child is unique, and each will follow their own timeline of development. By being aware of milestones, you can alleviate parenting anxiety and appreciate the individuality of your child’s growth journey.
What is a development assessment and what does it involve?
When assessing motor skills to identify potential areas of concern, it’s crucial to use a standard tool that allows therapists to understand a holistic overview about the child’s growth. Parent input is also invaluable and complements a physiotherapist’s findings – after all, you are the expert on your child’s daily behaviour and growth history.
Our paediatric physiotherapists then look at physical development, assessing motor skills, muscle tone, posture and coordination of your child. We also observe the quality of their movement, whether it’s those first attempts at crawling or the first few steps. We use a specialised tool called the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales (PDMS), which is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of your child’s motor developmental journey.
The PDMS offers an accurate, month-by-month breakdown of your child’s behaviour and motor development. We can pinpoint the specific age at which their behaviour aligns, allowing us to understand them better. More importantly, it helps us categorise your child’s motor development as average or below average.
This development assessment offers parents an accurate picture of their child’s overall development, allowing for early intervention if needed. Parents can confidently track and address any areas of concern and provide their child with the best possible support.
How important are play and engagement strategies?
Effective play and engagement are essential components of a child’s development, especially in today’s digital age. Modern parents face the challenge of children being drawn to technology, and these devices can be tempting tools for pacifying them. But studies have shown that the overuse of screens has significant long-term consequences for development and wellbeing.
I can’t stress enough the importance of reducing screen time and immersing kids in the real world with engagement and play strategies. Let your child touch the petals of tropical flowers and taste the diverse culinary delights. These experiences stimulate their senses, feeding their young minds with an abundance of sensory information.
Engaging with your child in imaginative play, like treasure hunts in a lush park or creating stories based on Singapore’s rich history, encourages not just entertainment but the development of problem-solving and teamwork skills together as a family. Singapore offers a variety of outdoor playgrounds for physical experiences, from sandy shores at East Coast Park for building castles, to expansive, green parks at the Botanic Gardens for running and exploring. If you prefer indoor environments, the many indoor playgrounds and play gyms are designed to foster children’s physical play.
Expose your child to the world of arts and music! Whether they visit a local museum, embrace the rhythms of a traditional dance performance, create artwork or help decorate a freshly baked cake, these experiences nurture their creativity and fine motor skills.
What role do age-appropriate toys play in development?
Choosing the right toys for your child is more than just a matter of keeping them entertained. It’s a strategic decision that can significantly impact their development. Parents have a world of options, from the latest hightech gadgets to a vast array of toys in stores. The key to effective stimulation is knowing that not all toys are created equal.
At every age, children possess varying levels of gross motor, fine motor and problem-solving abilities. That’s why it’s crucial to select age-appropriate toys that complement their cognitive, physical and emotional development. Choose the most effective ones that aid in improving the quality of a child’s movement – quality over quantity is the guiding principle here.
Infants at six months prefer colourful, easy-to-grasp rattles that make a sound when they shake them. Toddlers at one year are starting to use creativity and problem-solving skills, so they find joy in stacking blocks and inserting shapes. And preschool children, ever eager to explore and learn, will benefit from age-specific puzzles and pretend-play kits.
The goal of play is to enhance the quality of their movements, refine their problem-solving skills, and promote their cognitive development. Knowing this helps parents make informed choices on the toys they provide for their children, ensuring that playtime is purposeful and constructive.
What personalised guidance and tools can you offer parents?
As part of our commitment to ensuring the child’s healthy growth and development, we offer a comprehensive developmental booklet that provides parents with the tools they need to track their child’s milestones effectively. It goes beyond just listing developmental milestones; it also provides common strategies tailored to each age stage. Designed to educate parents on how to stimulate their child at specific ages, this resource helps them play a more active role in their child’s development.
If our paediatric physiotherapists identify specific areas of concern during the development assessment, they will guide parents on the proper exercises or programmes that can be practiced with the child at home. This personalised guidance empowers parents to take an active role in their child’s development journey, so they can provide the necessary support and intervention needed to give their child the best possible start in life.
Now you know all about what’s involved in a development assessment and the importance of age-appropriate toys, why not read about post-pregnancy physio?
This article first appeared in the December 2023 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe so you never miss a copy!
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