Both animals and humans learn by interacting with those stimuli that surround us. Therefore, it is logical to think that the sooner such stimulation begins and the more it is enhanced, the more possibilities we have to learn and improve our skills.
These are the principles governing early stimulation . Through these dynamics of activities the capacities and abilities of the children are strengthened, facilitating their physical, psychological and social development.
What is early stimulation?
The early stimulation activities are based on a series of exercises that aim to enhance the development of the child , both intellectually, physically and socially. These practices can be started from the very moment of the baby’s birth and continue to be practiced until the child is 6 years old.
It is necessary to specify that there are a series of specific routines or practices for each of the child’s stages, appropriate to the developmental level of the child’s age. The reason why the ideal age range for these exercises is up to 6 years old is that until this age, the child enjoys greater brain plasticity.
The concept of brain plasticity refers to the ability of the nervous system to change and modify in response to interaction with the environment. This means that, through appropriate stimulation, our brain has the ability to create new synapses and neural circuits that allow it to enhance or improve the activity and performance of certain brain areas .
These exercises can be practiced both in healthy children, with the intention of enhancing their skills, and with children with some type of disorder or condition that affects their development. In this way, their compensatory abilities are stimulated and their physical and psychological skills are improved.
Furthermore, these dynamics can be carried out both within the home and in specialised schools and nurseries . After a short informative period, those parents who wish to do so can carry out all these exercises in the comfort of their home, thus also strengthening the emotional bonds between parents and children.
The main objective of early stimulation is that, through the performance of a series of stimulating activities, the child develops his or her autonomy and independence. In the same way, great advances can be achieved in physical and cognitive development, communication skills and the sensory aspect.
What is it?
First of all, a specific plan or program needs to be developed for each child. This program should be tailored to the needs of the child, the availability and level of parental involvement, and the resources of the household.
In this way, it will be possible to gradually evaluate the child’s progress according to minimum objectives set . With an adequate activity plan, parents will be able to strengthen all those areas of the child that interest them.
Parents must be patient, and be aware that you can’t set too strict a time frame for achieving goals, because there is no pre-set time frame that dictates how and when the baby will have achieved a goal.
The most important thing is to provide the child with a series of age-appropriate exercises with which to work and increase their self-esteem. Gradually, the parents or those in charge of carrying out the exercises will modify the objectives of the plan according to the development of the child as well as the results obtained.
The first step will always be to create an emotional and affective bond with the child, generating a space of trust in which he feels comfortable and safe to interact with us. Once this bond has been achieved, the adult in charge of carrying out the early stimulation can start working on the rest of the areas.
These areas include:
- Emotional area : development of the child’s autonomy and independence, as well as the recognition and expression of emotions
- Cognitive area : development of the child’s intellect and knowledge
- Motor area : development of gross and fine motor skills, strengthening of muscle control and coordination.
- Social area : development of the skills of interaction with the environment
- Language area : development of expression and understanding of language.
Conditions for implementation
A number of aspects need to be taken into account that will facilitate the implementation of these activities. The first is that if the child is not in the mood or does not feel like doing the activities at a particular time, he should not be pressured; since for him it should be a diversion not an obligation or punishment.
Also, as mentioned above, the exercises should be adapted to the age and abilities of the child . If we force them to do a task for which they are not prepared, we will only increase their frustration and lower their self-esteem. In the same way, if the exercises are too easy or do not pose a small challenge for the child, he will lose interest in them and, therefore, his motivation will decrease.
Reinforcement by parents or professionals is very important. Congratulating the child and praising his progress will be of vital importance to maintain the child’s interest and motivation.
Early stimulation exercises according to stage
Following the line of the rest of the article, we present a series of examples of early stimulation exercises adapted according to the age of the child, as well as designed to enhance each of the developmental areas mentioned above.
1. 0 to 12 months
Gross motor: a very effective activity to work on the baby’s gross motor is one that helps control the baby’s head. To do this, the baby should be placed on his stomach, showing toys or striking stimuli that force him to keep his head up .
Social development: this exercise facilitates corporal self-knowledge and consists of placing the child in front of a mirror, in a comfortable position, so that he can begin to recognize himself in it. Then, make movements with the arms or hands to maintain their attention.
2. From 1 to 2 years
Gross motor skills: through this exercise we will improve the child’s sense of balance. To do this, it is necessary to hold the child under the arms, moving gently from side to side and from front to back , allowing it to straighten itself.
3. From 2 to 3 years
Cognitive and language area: read aloud children’s stories with illustrations that the child can see. Then ask simple questions about the story or let the child tell his version of what he has understood.
4. From 3 to 4 years
Language and fine motor skills: the child will be asked to draw freely on a sheet of paper, asking him to explain while he is drawing . They can also draw together and ask questions about the drawings.
5. From 4 to 6 years old
- Gross motor skills: encourage the child to dance. Performing fun dance exercises will stimulate their coordination and balance .