Simple Tools to Help Practice and Reinforce Child Development Skills

Developmental milestones are functional skills that most children master at specific ages. Knowing what a child should be doing at a certain age helps parents or care providers identify areas of developmental delay so any concerns can be addressed at the earliest age possible and children can be referred for special education services. All children are unique so some may reach the milestones a little earlier or later than other babies. The areas involved in development are:

  • Gross motor:  using large groups of muscles to sit, stand, walk, run, etc., keeping balance, and changing positions.
  • Fine motor:  using hands to be able to eat, draw, dress, play, write, and do many other things.
  • Language:  speaking, using body language and gestures, communicating, and understanding what others say.
  • Cognitive: Thinking skills:  including learning, understanding, problem-solving, reasoning, and remembering.
  • Social:  Interacting with others, having relationships with family, friends, and teachers, cooperating, and responding to the feelings of other  ( information above taken from the University of Michigan child development site)

Many children on the Rez are born to young teen parents who are unaware of normal childhood development and many have children who are born prematurely. Lack of prenatal care, a poor nutritional environment or exposure to drugs or alcohol in the womb put these children at risk for developmental delay. There is little funding available for programs that might find early delays, a time when intervention would be most beneficial. A recently applied for grant could certainly help fund screening programs that could find problems early and place children into the proper programs. We are partnering with folks on the Rez who are trying to get women into the proper pre-natal and postpartum care, parents to participate in parenting classes and kids into Early Head Start which is a program that helps the entire family but one that especially enhances children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development.

One way we can help parents is by providing resources they might need to help their children reach these developmental milestones. While we are no substitute for loving and caring parents, we can provide tools that can be used to encourage interaction between parent and child. With that in mind we’re trying to put together “activity bags” for the different age groups that will include material appropriate for their level of development. Brain development grows at a rapid rate during the first two years of life. Not all children will need these bags but the people who identify a child who is not getting the needed stimulation for learning will now have some tools to help that along.

The first bag is for a 0- 6 month old  baby and includes such items as:

  • cloth or board books so kids can listen to a parent’s voice encouraging the baby’s own vocalizations coos and babbles  ( language ).  This will also encourage interaction with the mom as she reads and identifies objects in the story (social) and the baby’s environment.
  • rattles that make noise and cause new auditory experiences as well as identify possible developmental delays.  The lack of orientation towards the sound could signal problems with sound perception, the orientating response or the auditory processing pathway . Babies may mimic the sounds of the rattle or mom’s sounds .
  • toys that have various shapes, sizes, textures and colors teach children object recognition, stimulate the somatosensory areas of the brain and help to differentiate size, shape and color and texture (cognitive).  Object tracking ability can be tested by moving a colorful object from side to side (visual-motor coordination).
  • teething ring toys to ease the pain associated with teething
  • soft toys for manipulation or for mouthing which requires hand and eye coordination (fine motor) or that can be put out of reach to encourage a child to move about to reach the toy by raising or turning  the head, rolling over, or initiate crawling and sitting (gross motor)
  • soft dolls or animals for a child to study the face of and differentiate its parts (social) or to function as a transitional object to teach self-soothing (self-regulation).
  • a play mat for kids to  just play on and manipulate toys, interact with mom thru activities such as exercise , massage, quiet talking or practice tummy time, strengthening their necks, heads and arm muscles.  The quilt can be colorful and fun for visual exploration as well.
  • written instructions to provide suggestions and guidelines on ways to use the items in playful ways to encourage socializing and parent-child interaction.
  • milestone guidelines for the age the bag is intended to be used for

Check out these ideas as well for other items to add to the bag.  And this article talks about toys and their effect on a baby 0-6 months.

Last year I wrote a blog  showing you what you can do with scraps and ended up with a baby bag project . This year I added a few more items to the bag which you can see in the photos as well learn how to make them at the various sites highlighted below. The play quilts were put together by Beulah as were the bags.

fish toy, sun ray toy, stroller/car seat toy , cloth book, baby blocks, baby balls, crinkle toy, ring toy, stuffed elephant, sun toy rattle, animal taggies

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Make some of these items to send to the Rez so play bags can be put together on site with the various parts. You can buy toys as well. Many of the extra items I added to the bag were bought at a children’s thrift store new or gently used. We would love to have you join our yahoo group Sew For Lakota Kids and share your skills

Basic needs are a priority of course and we’re helping with that through items we provide to the incentive “store”, which is ready to accept your donations. Check out the needs list and see what you might be able to send for the project.



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