Encouraging Early Childhood Development

Children’s early experiences – the bonds they form with their parents and their first learning experiences – deeply affect their future physical, cognitive, emotional and social development.

Optimizing the early years of children’s lives is the best investment we can make as a society in ensuring their future success, which is why it’s important to know how to encourage early childhood development in young children.

Brain Development

There are four main areas of development: motor (physical), language and communication, social and emotional, and cognitive. Brain development is part of cognitive development. Cognitive development describes how a child’s intellect grows, and includes thinking, learning and problem-solving skills. These skills affect all other areas of development.

The first three years of a child’s life are critical for learning and development. Many parents ask how they can help their child’s brain develop. The best way is to actively engage your child through everyday activities like playing, reading and being there when he/she feels stress.

Here are ideas to encourage brain development:


Play is a wonderful way to help a baby or toddler’s brain develop. Play might be a game, talking or singing to actively engage your child’s brain. “Peek-a-boo” and holding toys out to watch help a baby’s brain develop. Talk to your baby about what you are doing. For toddlers, sing songs with actions, like “Wheels on the Bus,” encourage pretend play, colour and build with blocks and toys. These foster imagination and creativity.


Babies can feel stress. Hold and cuddle your baby. Let him/her know you are there to comfort and help them when they feel stress. Studies show that responsive, loving and supportive care helps babies handle stress better than if care is inconsistent.


Reading is one of the best ways to promote a child’s brain development. Even before he/she can recognize letters or words, reading kick starts language and communication skills. Hearing words and seeing pictures connects the two in a child’s mind. Repeating the same books further builds recognition between the words you speak and the images on the page. As a child grows, ask him/her to point to specific pictures on the page, like “Where is the dog?”

Providing children with opportunities to learn and develop in healthy environments at a young age while experiencing positive interactions will be beneficial in the short term as well as the long-term. That is the responsibility of their child care providers.

For more information about the importance of childhood development, or to book a consultation, contact Anel Annandale at 021 423 0739 or via email at  anel@childpsych.co.za.

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