Early childhood is one of the most important stages of a person’s life. Children during this phase of development grow rapidly, both physically and cognitively. There are a wide range of issues that affect this vital time. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million children fail to meet their full potential because many of their most basic needs aren’t met. Parents, caregivers and community leaders have the opportunity to make a difference in young children’s lives.
According to the World Health Organization, up to 25 percent of children in developing nations lack basic nutrition, and even in developed nations, children suffer from malnutrition. Lack of healthy food leads to stunted physical growth, slowed or reduced brain development and the suppression of the immune system. This leaves these little ones at risk for viral, bacterial and parasitic infections. Simply stated, children whose early childhood is marked by malnutrition face a lifetime of health issues. The good news is that these can all be avoided by making a variety of healthy foods and supplemental vitamins available to children.
Doctors do more than just help young children get over the sniffles. Adequate healthcare during the critical years of early development can identify and help to fix health and developmental issues before they become critical. Dr. Patricia Engle proposes in the medical journal Lancet that the best solution is for primary care pediatricians to partner with parents in the child’s care. This involves teaching parents as to what to look for and how to identify key developmental stages.
To learn and grow properly, children need a safe environment. It’s an unfortunate fact that thousands of young children are hurt or killed every year. The Center for Disease Control lists accidental falls and motor vehicle accidents as the highest ranking causes of injury and death. While no parent can make the world completely safe, there are ways to tip the odds in the child’s favor. It is vital that parents educate themselves on safety issues, including the proper use of car seats, household and environmental safety.
In a perfect world, every child would get the undivided attention of a parent until she is ready to start school. But the reality is far different. The Center for Workforce Studies has found that half of all parents with children a year old share the duties of childcare with someone else. This may be a family member, an in-home caregiver or a childcare center. Quality childcare is vital to the young child’s physical, intellectual and social development. The National Association of Social Workers recommends small class sizes to ensure that every child gets enough attention. Caregivers for infants should have a ratio of no more than three infants, and caregivers for toddlers should have no more than four children.