Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 35: Early Stimulation and Development Activities

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 35: Early Stimulation and Development Activities


On the next pages are activities to help young children’s development. They are especially valuable for children who are mentally and physically delayed. They are also useful for children who are mentally normal but whose physical disabilities make both physical and mental development slow or difficult.

In this chapter we describe activities for early skills in the order in which they usually develop. So we start with head control, then progress to more advanced levels: reaching, grasping, sitting and balance, scooting or crawling, standing and walking, and language. (Self-care activities including eating, dressing, and toilet training are discussed in later chapters.)

a child's fingers grasping large and then smaller objects.

In any area of development, such as head control or use of the hands, a child also advances through different stages of ability. For example, in developing grip, first a child can grasp only with the whole hand, later with thumb and finger.

To decide which activities to begin with, start by using the downloadable chart to determine the developmental level of your child. Then look through the next few pages and pick those activities that are next in line for your child. After she learns these activities, go on to the next.

A child advances in many areas of development at once. Try to help her in several areas at the same time. In each area, pick activities that help her to do better what she already does, and then to take the next step.

a man holding a toy up while the child in his lap reaches for it.

Often an activity that helps a child to develop in one area also helps in others.

For example, we put the activity with this picture under “head control.” But the activity also helps to develop use of the senses (eyes, touch, sound), hand control, eye-hand coordination, balance while sitting, and flexibility of the body (twisting to one side). If done in a friendly way, with praise, it can develop confidence and ability to relate to other people. And if father talks to the child as they play, naming each object and action, it also prepares the child for learning language.

When helping your child with these learning activities, remember to introduce new skills in small steps that the child can easily learn. Praise her each time she succeeds, or tries hard.

CAUTION! Many activities in this chapter are useful for children with cerebral palsy or other physical disabilities. However, some must be changed or adapted. Read the chapters that apply to your child’s disability. Above all: USE YOUR HEAD. OBSERVE HOW YOUR CHILD RESPONDS. NOTICE HOW AN ACTIVITY HELPS—OR HINDERS—THE CHILD’S WHOLE DEVELOPMENT. DO NOT SIMPLY FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. ADAPT OR INVENT ACTIVITIES TO MEET YOUR CHILD’S NEEDS.


This page was updated:19 Jan 2018