Will kids be able to ‘bounce back’ or ‘catch up’?
Okay, so we know there is an impact. Research is still being done to help us understand it better and also most importantly help us understand if children will “bounce back” or “catch up” to their developmental milestones or if specialised support is required.
If you are worried about your child’s development, speak to your doctor at their check-up or get professional support as early intervention is always best. Your child may not need ongoing support; however, as a parent/ caregiver, you can learn some strategies to help facilitate speech and language development.
Here is some general advice for parents with kids up to 5 years old:
1. When at home (mask-free) try to put aside some time each day to play/ converse/interact with your child. When doing so, try to be at their level to ensure they are able to see your face/lips.
2. Whenever physically possible, ensure your little one can see your face when you are talking with them or playing with them. For example, play with them while they are in a highchair, lifting them up onto a counter while you stand in front of them, talk to them when they are lying down for a nappy change, lay on your tummy when they are playing on the floor etc
3. Try limit screen time if possible. We all used screens to help us get through the days of lockdown/working from home etc; however The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video chatting, by children younger than 24 months. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.
4. Now that things are slowly starting to open up, try to expose your child to varied (screen-free) experiences. These don’t have to involve spending a lot of money. E.g. visit the different farms in Singapore, visit different parks/ playgrounds, learn new skills together- cooking, painting, tie-dye (a personal favourite) etc. Varied experiences provide opportunities for children to learn new words, be exposed to learning new skills and therefore develop a range of neuropathways and helps develop executive functioning skills.
5. Comment and narrate your experiences and activities when you are with your child. Describe what you are doing, even with familiar everyday routines.
6. If your child says a word or attempts to say a word, repeat it back and perhaps even add to it e.g.
Child: “wawa” (pointing at a flower).
Adult: “flower” “pretty flower”
Child: “dog eat”
Adult: “ooh yes the dog is eating food”.
Connection is the key!
But mamas (and papas) the most important message to take away from this article is not that the situation is dire but rather how important connection is. And in many ways lockdowns, HBL and WFH situations and the pandemic have created opportunities for us to do just this – connect. Connection with our children is the key to both communication development and building positive relationships which in turn will promote a positive mental health. Make time to connect with your child, connect with a loved one and of course connect with yourself!
For more ideas, here are some resources: