St. Rita’s health focus: Age birth to 3 so key

By Cindy Pisano - Guest Columnist

Many people think children don’t really start learning until they go to preschool, but that’s not the case. The first three years of a child’s life are critical in setting the foundation for lifelong success.

These years shape a child’s future health, happiness, growth, development and school achievement. It’s during this time that the child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development, producing more than 1 million neural connections each second so they are learning more quickly than at any other time in their lives.

Parents are their child’s first teacher and play a key role in their child’s brain development and learning. We all know that children need the basics — a safe and loving home and proper nutrition, exercise and sleep. But it’s also important that parents understand normal child development and provide support, encouragement and access to activities that enable their child to master key developmental milestones.

To encourage language skills, parents are encouraged to talk to their babies about anything and everything even before their child is able to understand what is being said. During tummy time, say things like, “Are you looking at your blue blanket? It’s so soft.” During routines such as bath time, parents can describe what they are doing with statements such as, “Now Mommy is going to wash your belly.”

Parents are encouraged to play games such as patty-cake, peekaboo and this little piggy and to sing songs such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Parents should read books to their children. For infants, this may mean just showing them colorful pictures of animals, naming them and making the corresponding sound. Developmentally appropriate toys allow babies to explore and interact and learn about their world.

Recognizing that children don’t come with a handbook and sometimes parents are left feeling that they just don’t have the information and resources they want or need, Mercy Health provides Help Me Grow Home Visitation services. Research has shown that home visitation helps parents create a more responsive and developmentally stimulating home environment, decreases parental stress and improves school readiness, child health, parent-child interaction and family self-sufficiency.

Help Me Grow home visitors understand that all parents want the best for their babies. Caring and professional home visitors partner with parents to provide reliable information on the topics that matter most to parents such as how to soothe a crying baby, breastfeeding, baby and child health, toilet training and how to deal with the stress of parenting. They conduct developmental screenings and give parents strategies to help their child meet important developmental milestones. Home visitors also help parents access helpful community resources.

Help Me Grow is free of charge to Medicaid and WIC eligible families in Allen County who are expecting or who have a child under 3 months of age.

Our office is located at 967 Bellefontaine Ave., Suite 202, in the Mercy Health Urgent Care Center. For more information, call 419-226-4339. Mercy Health also provides home visitation services in Lucas and Wood counties.

By Cindy Pisano

Guest Columnist

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