Happy Healthy Hump Day: Building a Solid Foundation for Lifelong Health, Learning and Well-Being

Posted: August 9, 2017 10:00 am  

Bobbi here. I have a five year old about to start kindergarten and an eight year old that, well, you know, “is going on 21”. Both are active and social. We want what is best for them and what will make them happy, right? Not sure that they always go hand-in-hand. One of the things I constantly fight against is overscheduling. Kids like to try new activities and we as parents have to consider the negative role that the stressors of overscheduling, while it may be to “make them happy”, can play in their healthy development.

There is increasing recognition that early and middle childhood provide the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional foundation for lifelong health, learning, and well-being. 

How a child develops during this time affects future cognitive, social, emotional, language, and physical development, which in turn influences school readiness and later success in life. Research on a number of adult health and medical conditions points to pre-disease pathways that have their beginnings in early and middle childhood.

During early childhood, the human brain grows to 90 percent of its adult size by age 3. Early childhood represents the period when young children reach developmental milestones that include:

 

Emotional regulation and attachment

Language development

Cognitive development

Motor skills

 

All of these milestones can be significantly delayed when young children experience inadequate caregiving, environmental stressors, and other negative risk factors. These stressors and factors can affect the brain and may seriously compromise a child’s physical, social-emotional, and cognitive growth and development.

 

More than any other developmental periods, early and middle childhood sets the stage for:

School success 

Health literacy

Self-discipline

The ability to make good decisions about risky situations

Eating habits

Conflict negotiation and healthy relationships with family and friends

 

Although in early and middle childhood, children are typically healthy, it is during this time that children are at risk for conditions such as:

Developmental and behavioral disorders

Child maltreatment

Asthma and other chronic conditions

Obesity

Dental caries

Unintentional injuries

 

While typically nonfatal, these conditions affect children, their education, their relationships with others, and the health and well-being of the adolescents and adults they will become.

The keys to understanding early and middle childhood health are recognizing the important roles these periods play in adult health and well-being and focusing on and preventing conditions and illnesses that can seriously limit children’s abilities to learn, grow, play, and become healthy adults.

 

Additional Resources

http://www.livestrong.com/article/271974-early-middle-childhood-development/

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/middle.html

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/preschoolers.html