Interact with your children often and early for healthy development

Playing and reading is important for child development. (Photo by Romeo Gacad / AFP)

The first five years of life are the building blocks of a child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. For parents and caregivers, who play a large role in fostering learning and development, it is important to ensure that their child has the support they need to reach their full potential from an early age.

“Early childhood development is critical to the development of the country as children are the future of the nation. Children with healthy cognitive development have the ability to think and reason,” said Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingchoroenchai, Head of the Ministry of Health.

However, a recent study showed that many Thai children are not fully supported by their parents, leading to developmental delays.

The sixth Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 6 (MICS6) for Thailand, relevant to early childhood development, showed that Thai children show a significant delay in cognitive and language development in their early years compared to other developmental domains.

About 64% of girls have the appropriate cognitive and language development, but the number drops to 61% for boys, according to the survey. While 92.3% of Thai children showed healthy development in the early years. Thailand is in 7th placeth in Adequate Child Development in 80 low- and middle-income countries.

The survey included 5,787 children aged from birth to 5 years living in 17 provinces of four regions in Thailand and aimed to assess child development in four domains: cognitive and language skills; motor skills; social skills; and learning skills.

MICS6 was conducted in 2019 in collaboration between the National Statistics Office (NSO), the Ministry of Health and the International Health Policy Program (IHPP) with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It focuses on many aspects of child well-being, including child nutrition, early childhood development, essential learning skills and parental involvement.

This collaborative survey provides useful data and information covering more than 150 indicators on the health, development and protection of children and women in households across Thailand. It also includes a gap analysis between different population groups across different levels of household wealth and maternal education, household language, and between regions and urban-rural population.

The Thailand Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey is the largest national survey of the situation of children and women in the country and is conducted every three years.

UNICEF and NSO are collecting data for MICS7, due for release in early 2023.

Interaction promotes the development of the child

Parents and caregivers should educate their child to interact, said Dr. Rapeepong Suphanchaimat, head of the IHPP, urged her to spend more time communicating with her child to promote proper development.

“There are many things you can do to help children develop healthily in their early years. Parents can help them name objects, count numbers and draw pictures. Talking to them, reading them, and signing them can help close the word gap,” he said.

Children also learn through their play, the doctor noted.

Play with your child or take them to the playground to play with others. It helps develop skills, he said.

Analysis of MICS6 showed that consistently interacting and engaging with your child increases the level of appropriate development in children in their early years by 28%.

Poverty impairs a child’s intellectual development, noted Dr. Rapeepong fest. He cited the survey’s analysis, which suggests that children raised by highly educated, ambitious parents have been shown to thrive more appropriately than those raised by less educated, low-income parents. The gap is wide too, with 34% more youth from the first group benefiting compared to their poorer peers.

The power of reading and playing

The analysis also showed that children in low-income families have poorer cognitive and language development. However, experts believe that reading can help reduce inequalities.

Reading and playing help close the gap, emphasized Dr. Udom Asawutmangkul, director of the Department of Physical Activity and Health, Ministry of Health, and urged parents to play more with their children to help them develop the necessary skills.

“Reading aloud helps children with pronunciation, expands their vocabulary and understanding. It also brings parents and children closer together,” the doctor said.

dr Udom joins Dr. Rapeepong’s comment on the importance of play in child development.

He said the Health Ministry worked with the Interior Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, local government organizations and a network of alliances to create the Family, Free, Fun project in line with the Thai government’s policy where holistic development of children to help children grow strong and healthy. The project aims to encourage children to play freely and promotes family play.

“Our goal is to develop playrooms in all subdistricts to make play easily accessible to all children regardless of gender and class. This should give them equal opportunities. All children have the right to a healthy development and a healthy life. Udom.

By Veena Thoopkrajae with additional reporting by Sukhumaporn Laiyok

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