Pediatricians Play a Critical Role in Your Child’s Physical and Mental Development

You want your child to develop smartly — emotionally, physically, intellectually, morally, and psychologically. It is not adequate to focus on your child’s food and drink, or on her studies. You must encourage vigorous physical activity to ensure that plenty of oxygen reaches the brain. While video games might sharpen her/his reflexes, you must encourage children to go out and play in the garden, or playground. In this your child’s pediatrician could prove to be your most valuable ally.

What Defines Physical Development in a Child?

Children experience the greatest degree of physical development in infancy, and as toddlers till adolescence. They gain in height, and weight while developing motor skills like acquiring an ever refining sense of balance to sit up, stand, walk, and run. They learn to jump, throw, catch, focus on objects, identify sounds, shapes, and colors. New parents are not always aware of what developmental milestones a child should reach by age six months, at one year, and every succeeding age range. Usually, they rely on grandparents and neighbors to guide them. From language acquisition to intellectual evolution as when a baby indulges in pretend play, and emotional markers like smiling at parents, there are many milestones children must cross.

Every Age Has Its Own Developmental Milestones

For an infant below the age of one year, milestones would include being able to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, wave bye, turn her head towards sounds, recognize parents, and beginning to babble. You know you need the pediatrician’s guidance if baby does not bring her hands to mouth; respond to bright lights, or loud sounds; or if her eyes don’t follow a person who is moving. As the baby grows to be a toddler, expect emotional development like clinging to parents or familiar people, fear of strangers, crankiness, having a favorite toy, and motor skills like shifting toys or other objects from one place to another, or from one hand to the other. One way to ensure that a child remains well is to protect against head injuries from falling off the bed, or bumping into sharp edges of a table; and prevent many critical illnesses by carrying out the complete vaccination regime as advised by the pediatrician.


The Role of the Pediatrician Is Rarely Understood

In typical Indian households, there is no concept of well-baby visits is almost non-existent. Babies and toddlers are taken to a pediatrician only when a crisis occurs, and for getting their vaccination shots. There would probably be healthier, more robust children if parents realized that the best guidance on how their sweetheart is shaping up, and what would ensure the best development can come from their pediatrician. He/she will tell you how vital it is to raise your child in a stress free environment, and protect her/him from toxins by carefully screening the kind of food you serve. This role of the pediatrician providing positive parenting support is under explored.

Be Watchful About What You Serve

Not just at weaning time, but till adolescence, you need to be watchful about the kind nutrition intake your child has, to what degree you depend on processed foods, and what proportion of your baby’s daily diet consists of fresh fruits and vegetables. Both physical and mental development will depend significantly on how nutritive children’s food is. You might consider seeking the pediatrician’s advice on what should be included in the daily diet, and what to avoid. No parent gives harmful food or drink to their children deliberately; but occasionally convenience trumps nutrition, especially in households where there are no family elders to help out, but both parents are gainfully employed.

Be Encouraging, and Convey a Positive Attitude

In a swiftly changing world, there are many impediments to children growing up strong and bright. Not everything can be blamed on genetics and climate change. You need to watch what you say to a child as much as what you say in front of him/her. Your child will develop better if you are always encouraging, celebrate milestones (without going overboard), and be supportive whenever your child suffers a setback. Many parents unknowingly help in baby’s development of social and cognitive skills when they suggest that the little one perform for guests like reciting rhymes, singing, and dancing to the latest songs. It teaches a child not to be shy of strangers, or people they seldom meet. It also refines their motor skills, while helping to identify when a child may have a talent which needs to be nurtured. Don’t brush it off if your pediatrician suggests you admit your child in a music, dancing, or drawing/painting class.

Screen for Developmental Issues

Screening for autism or for issues like deafness would become easier if parents reported to the pediatrician when a child does not separately identify objects, respond to commands, or only understands signs; cannot use a spoon or cup independently; has not learned how to socialize by making friends or try to please them; does not understand the difference between the real world and make believe by age five; or fails to learn new words or skills. Some children do not acquire the motor skills needed to carry out activities of daily living like brushing one’s teeth, bathing. Parents need to be vigilant not to miss opportunities for developmental promotion and surveillance when they meet the pediatrician. This is more so because around ninety percent of the brain’s development occurs in a child in the first five years.

Intellectual Development Depends on Proper Physical Development

Early brain growth depends on a tremendous proliferation of neuronal connections, on how well the synapses in the child’s brain are connecting as much as how well fed she/he is. Synapses connect neurons in the brain to neurons in the rest of the body and the muscles in it. This will determine the development of motor skills, and the child’s ability to respond to stimuli. Your pediatrician can advise you on the desirable stimuli you should provide your child with, and the kind of stimuli you should avoid for proper mental growth and development of cognitive skills. She/he might also suggest that your little one indulge in vigorous physical activity by way of field and court games, athletics, or gymnastics. Even when the children play catch me if you can; the extra oxygen which reaches their brain, and vigorous blood circulation impact areas of mental development which you may not have realized. Children begin to understand how to function as a team, the value of both competition and cooperation, improve their concentration and focus, acquire physical and mental agility, dexterity with their hands, vastly improve their creativity, and enhance their self-confidence.
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Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors