The research is clear in it’s call to ‘see these children early’. ReadyStepGrow see these children earlier than any other service (beyond hospital).
Body awareness is the awareness of how our bodies move in space. It involves knowledge of body parts and an understanding of how our body parts move in relation to one another and in spThe development of body awareness is influenced by sensory processing in particular proprioceptive processing. Proprioception is an internal awareness of the position of our body parts, knowing where our body parts are positioned without looking at them, through feedback we receive from the receptors in our muscles and joints.
Children who are still developing body awareness may have difficulty learning new tasks, rely on their visual system to help guide their movements, seek proprioceptive input to their joints and muscles e.g. seeking big “bear” hugs, struggle to copy movements and/or appear clumsy.
Why is body awareness important?
✔ It helps us to coordinate movements
✔ It helps us to use the right amount of muscle strength and body position required to perform a movement.
✔ It helps us to control our pencil and scissors later on.
✔ We develop our body scheme with body awareness.
✔ It allows us to move around safely without bumping into obstacles.
✔ We develop an awareness of our own abilities or capabilities.
How can we encourage development of body awareness?
✔ Proprioceptive input (heavy work activities). This includes weight bearing, pushing pulling and resistance type activities e.g. animal walks/hops, wheelbarrow walks, tug of war, pushing/pulling a small shopping trolley/pram/laundry basket, carrying heavy objects.
✔ Identifying body parts. This can be included in games such as Simon Says, Do the Hokey Pokey, while building body puzzles, and naming body parts as you draw around their body onto a large piece of paper or during daily activities such as bath times, naming body parts being washed or dried.
✔ Copying movements. This can be done in front of a mirror, during games such as Simon Says or trying to copy movements on picture cards.
✔ Develop spatial concepts in language and movement e.g. climbing over, under, through, in and out of obstacles to develop body and spatial awareness.
✔ Encourage physical gross and fine motor activities they enjoy e.g. jumping, running, climbing, dancing, swimming, squeezing dough, construction activities or toys that need to be pushed or pulled apart.
✔ Encourage sensory play e.g. sand, water, squeezing dough, rough and tumble play.
✔ Break down tasks into simpler steps when learning a new task or movement.
✔ Use visual cues to support learning new activities.
✔ Complete tasks with and without vision where possible and safe to do e.g. drawing circles in the air with your arm with eyes open and then closed.
Did you know body awareness develops throughout childhood?
Maintain the Division of Responsibility
Research has shown that young children have a finely tuned ability to regulate their calorie intake, so that they eat and drink the amount that is just right for them. They lose this ability if they are pushed to eat more than they really need, so encourage your toddler to listen to their appetite (“is your tummy empty/hungry or is it full/has it had enough?”). Always let your child decide if and how much they are going to eat from the food you provide at regular meal and snack times.
2. Structure meals and snacks
Offer breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper (if needed) at regular times. That way, your child (and you) will feel secure knowing that the next opportunity to eat is never far away and they will feel confident to stop eating when they have had enough. Try not to give in to requests for extra food and drinks (except water) in between times. Research shows that children who “graze” actually end up eating less over the course of a day than children who eat structured meals and snacks.
3. Make eating social
Eat together as a family and try to make it a relaxed, enjoyable time. Use positive language about food and show them that you enjoy eating a wide variety of foods yourself. Toddlers love to be part of family activities. Let them get up nice and close to the table so they can be part of the action.
4. Get them involved
The more exposure children have to different foods, the more relaxed they will be about trying new foods. Let them help with simple food preparation (e.g. picking up vegetables from the chopping board and putting them in the pot ready to cook, arranging pieces of salad vegetables on a plate) and serve food from the table (e.g. ask them to put a piece of cucumber on your plate) – look for opportunities for them to look at, smell and touch foods.
5. Avoid distractions
In order for children to develop a positive association with eating and the foods themselves, they need to be fully engaged at eating times. Otherwise, they will learn to associate eating with a particular distraction technique.
6. Keep meals short
Toddlers have short attention spans, so keep the length of meal times realistic – 15-20 minutes is usually long enough for a toddler to sit and be engaged at the table. Of course, if they are happy and want to keep eating, it’s okay to stay there longer! At other times, it may be obvious that they are just tired and not hungry, so you might end the meal earlier.
7. Keep offering new foods
It can take up to 20 positive experiences with a new food for a child to become familiar with it/develop a taste for it. Some children are more sensitive to smells, textures and tastes, so for them, it could take even more tries.
8. Be considerate without catering
Aim to serve the same meal for the whole family. This may mean changing the texture for some family members, or adding some extra side dishes for others who are unfamiliar with the particular meal you have made. Be realistic and plan ahead – if you know it is unlikely that some family members won’t eat what you have made, add some side dishes that they do like, so that everyone can fill up without you having to make extra food (this will just set up patterns of behaviour for future meals).
9. Encourage independent feeding and tolerate mess
Set up your eating environment so that your child can make a mess with their food without you feeling stressed. Put a plastic mat under their high chair and dress them in a smock that covers their arms/body. Sometimes, a child may feel overwhelmed by the feeling of a particular food on their hands – you can reassure them by showing them that they can wipe it away with a cloth. Otherwise, try to wait until the end of the meal to clean their hands
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Toddlers can use their thinking and physical skills to solve complex problems by creating and acting on a plan to reach a goal. For example, if they see a toy out of reach, they might climb on a child-safe stool to get it. Or, they might take your hand, walk you to the shelf, and point to what they want.
Your toddler is learning to solve problems when s/he:
✔ Tries to flush the toilet
✔ Explores drawers and cabinets
✔ Stacks and knocks down blocks
✔ Pushes buttons on the television remote control or home computer
✔ Pokes, drops, pushes, pulls and squeezes objects to see what will happen!
Being goal oriented also means that toddlers are much less distractible than they may have been earlier. While at 9 months they may have happily turned away from the stereo if shown an interesting rattle, now most toddlers will glance at the rattle and then turn right back to the stereo. Time to do another round of child-proofing!
Your toddler can also solve problems by using memory to apply ideas to new situations:
✔ Pull the cover off a toy hidden from view
✔ Go find the kitchen stool when she wants to reach the countertop
✔ Blow on her food when you say that her dinner is “hot”
✔ Try to get her own jacket on
✔ Use early turn taking skills and simple language (with the help of adults) to solve problems with their peers.
What you can do:
Provide the support your child needs to solve a problem but don’t do it for him. If he’s trying to make a sandcastle but the sand won’t stick, show him how to add water but don’t make the castle for him. The more he does, the more he learns. This builds thinking skills and self-confidence.
Child-proof your house—again! Get down on your child’s level and explore in all the ways he is able to now. This will help make sure you identify and move all the things he can get to. Doing this helps ensure your child is safe and also reduces the need for lots of No’s.
They also help your toddler feel helpful which builds their self-esteem and self-confidence!
As your child gets closer to 2, thinking skills take a leap as they develop the ability to use imagination. A child’s ability to use imagination in action is demonstrated as s/he goes from using objects for their ‘purpose’ to using them in new, creative ways which is what we call symbolic thinking.
Improving symbolic thinking skills can play a major role in enhancing the cognitive development of your toddler. While it is often easy to see if physical development is on track, when it comes to cognitive development, it may not be as easy for parent’s to see. Looking at the way your toddler uses symbolic thinking is one way to keep track.
An example of symbolic thinking skills in action would be seeing your toddler hold up a stuffed dog and saying ruff ruff, or babble into a toy phone. S/he now understands that his stuffed dog is a symbol for a real dog. When s/he babbles into a toy phone, s/he understands that this is a “stand-in” for a real phone. Symbolic thinking skills are critical for learning to read as well as for understanding math concepts.
What you can do to help build symbolic thinking skills?
Play pretend with your toddler. When you see him cuddling his stuffed animal, you might say: “Bear loves it when you cuddle him. Do you think he’s hungry?” Then bring out some pretend food. These kinds of activities will help build your child’s imagination.
Provide props. Offer your child objects to play with that will help him use his imagination: dress-up clothes, animal figures, dolls, pretend food.
Let go of your own agenda and immerse yourself in the world of your child for best results!