Children's psychophysical development in summer
Summer is the ideal season for the psycho-physical development of the child. The training of the 5 senses and the slow tempo that helps to grow.
The month of June ushers in summer, the season of sun, heat, for many that of holidays and life which seems lighter for all these reasons.
If we think about it, each of us carries a memory linked to summer in our hearts: a scent of flowers or a pine forest in the mountains, the smell of the sea, the deafening noise of cicadas when it's very hot, the taste of a typical fruit of the season, the coolness of the nocturnal dew of nights spent chatting with friends. Over the years, each of us has developed a preferential sensory channel through which we have perceived reality and built our memories of situations that we love to carry in our hearts.
Summer is the season of sociability par excellence, of lightness where everything magically seems to become simpler; it will be for the longer days that leave us more time for personal things, it will be the heat and the light and more casual clothes that we prefer to wear, it will be the thought of the upcoming holidays ... everything contributes to preparing us for a climate of general pleasantness, just thinking about it.
In this magical season, life in the open air is the best opportunity to offer our child the opportunity to have experiences outside the walls of the house which are and will be important for his future development.
Early childhood psycho-physical health experts from all over the world agree that nature and contact with it are the ideal place, the most suitable for children from birth to discover the world, learn and grow by developing the 5 senses : touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell . So walking on wet sand or barefoot on a lawn, touching the earth or sand, breathing different smells in nature such as natural perfumes or scents, looking at flowers of different colors and shapes or eating a freshly picked blueberry, all become unique experiences that are difficult to repeat even with the "sensory" toys that are so popular in recent years. In addition to the experiences of the senses, in nature it is possible to experience the possibilities of the body, the freedom of movement without being constrained by space limits and also to develop the sense of orientation.
Therefore, if we are planning a holiday or simply a weekend out of town during the summer it is always preferable to choose a natural environment rather than, for example, a city of art because if you have small children they will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a reality that can enrich them more with stimuli for the five experiences: tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory.
The sense of touch
The tactile experience is one of the first in every child's life and is very important for the development of the first knowledge of the outside world after leaving the mother's womb . Often speaking of touch we link the concept of sensory perception to the exclusive contact through the hands and fingers; it's actually a perceptive function that involves the whole skin of the body . Just think that in addition to feeling the opposite sensations and the various gradations of cold-hot, smooth-rough, soft-hard, we also feel the difference between a slap and a caress, a push away or a hug. This explains, for example, why sometimes speaking between adults we pronounce phrases and idioms like "I feel it on my skin..." or "I would tell you that person on my skin etc..".
We therefore leave children free to touch and manipulate the earth, the sand, a dry leaf, a flower, a blade of grass, touching the water…it will be their natural way of discovering different tactile sensations even for the same element : sand can be wet or dry and will have a different texture, a leaf can be green or dry with a smooth or rough sensation, a blade of grass can be flat or rounder, a flower can have delicate petals that detach or be more robust, water slips between your fingers. It is no coincidence that when we observe a child grappling with these actions, we remain captivated and intrigued by the way he touches and looks: it is precisely at that moment that his brain is storing precious information and the little one begins to cultivate his own inner world from an early age.
From the first days of life, the newborn can watch movements from 20-30 centimeters away but it is from 4 months that the big change takes place that allows him to begin to see and discover a new world around him that attracts and excites him , in addition to the face of the mother who knows more than anyone else and that of the father or little brother or older sister. From 6 months onwards, interest in the surrounding environment grows exponentially and if at home it is possible to stimulate vision through colored puppets, lights, moving toys and dedicated books, it is outside the home that he will be able to train his gaze considering different situations such as natural sunlight, better perceive the depth of visual fields and understand concepts such as far-near, following objects that move quickly, observing the movements of other people. Among the problems most recently analyzed in both the European and American population, it emerged that about a third of people suffer today from " adaptive myopia", i.e. the adaptation of our visual field to looking closely in a prolonged and continuous way , when instead our eyes were born to look at various distances, especially remote ones.
This is the result of changes and social lifestyles, of prolonged schooling and the continuous use of technology and finding the right balance is essential for the good development of eyesight and beyond.
So walking in the open air in a wood or on the beach or in the countryside and letting the eyes of children look at the world around them in spaces with different borders, horizons, landscapes, colours, things and people nearby, distant and possibly moving is the optimal system for training the eyesight . Let's leave all the necessary slowness to observation, let's participate in their attentions and let's be interested in what they are observing with questions and comments. They will feel spurred to curiosity and at the same time reassured; let's not forget that the eyes are a very important channel of information, the beginning of the “vision” process which involves all the other senses.
Hearing is the first sense that develops in the fetus and represents the first contact channel towards the outside ; in fact already during pregnancy the baby that is forming, hears the mother's heartbeat , recognizes her voice , perceives the external and internal noises of the belly and during the last months is also able to recognize the father's voice if stimulated to listen through simple constant and frequent techniques.
Hearing is the one of the 5 senses most "guided" by the mind ; Since birth, the ear gets used to hearing different noises and sounds of different acoustic impedances, mixed together, superimposed, overwhelming, but it is not always able to codify the different perceptions and use them as a source of information for the brain. There is only one way to train hearing to perceive sounds and transform them into a usable message as knowledge : using silence as a basis . So being outdoors and teaching the child to be silent for a few seconds at a time to be able to identify the sounds of nature is a useful and fun exercise. Helping the child to listen and recognize sounds is a fun and stimulating game that will help him make connections with the reality of things ; simple situations are enough such as stopping to listen to the noise of cicadas, the meowing of a barking cat or dog, the roar of water in a stream, the chirping of birds in the woods… all stimulating exercises for his brain if we are able to teach silence for a few seconds which will help him identify the source of the sound.
The sense of smell
Smell is the sense that develops from the first months of pregnancy at the same time as that of taste and together they contribute to making the baby gradually recognize the unmistakable and unique scent of the mother. It is curious to know that any newborn is able to recognize his mother by smell from the very first days and it is actually the perfume he knows best in the world, the one that calms him and makes him feel safe having perceived it for nine months.
From the moment of birth onwards, it will be a succession of experiences on new smells and it being understood that the favorite will always remain that of the mother and her milk (if she is breastfed), it is starting from weaning that the little one will begin to experiment with his personal sense of smell and will begin to express preferences or refusals depending on whether he perceives a pleasant or unpleasant odor according to his current canons.
Food and food are the first sources of variety of scents and smells that every child's nose smells and considering that the sense of smell will have fully developed at 8 years of age , there is a good amount of time to build up a rich knowledge of aromas, perfumes, smells and stinks with their conceptual and objective differences.
When the child is completely weaned and around one year old, he will use his sense of smell to decide every time he is faced with a new dish brought to the table whether he likes it or not and he will do so on the basis of the experience gained up to that moment. This explains the reason why some "no" on baby food or other are expressed well before each taste : it is probable that the little one brings the aroma or smell back to something he has already tasted and decided that he is not to his liking.
It is important to train the child's sense of smell to the various nuances in times and places suitable for the various moments in order to promote knowledge of it : a smell can be sweet, acrid, pungent, delicate, etc. ... just as one can be unpleasant or even be just a smell. Good smells such as that of freshly baked bread or sweets are both very pleasant but one will be of the "salty" type, the other "sweet". A good idea is to start with the spices and cooking aromas by letting the child touch and smell them because being the ones we probably use most often for the preparation of home recipes, he will be able to find them familiar in the flavors of the dishes.
Other pungent and good smells are those that are breathed in nature such as the scent of rain, freshly cut grass, the smell of sea salt, the scent of the pine forest . Visiting a zoo will allow you to train your sense of smell to the smells and smells of wild animals or visiting a farm in the countryside will allow you to discover a world of scents and smells that cannot be imagined from books; even a simple activity in the garden among ripe tomatoes and fresh parsley or in the garden smelling the most fragrant flowers can be a simple curious and interesting activity as an olfactory experience . The important thing is to guide the understanding of what is being smelled and smelled by describing it to the child with enthusiasm and a positive approach.
During pregnancy , the baby learns about flavors through the amniotic fluid and continues his learning during breastfeeding, already orienting his future tastes and any predisposition to discover new ones. With weaning and the introduction of solid foods, knowledge widens more and more provided that the baby does not show a certain diffidence which can sometimes happen. It has been demonstrated, for example, that babies fed with formula milk, which has a constant and monotonous taste, or are weaned with industrially prepared foods and foods, often tend to have a refusal towards foods naturally prepared at home with natural ingredients and less perfect consistency than artificial ones.
In these cases , the summer season is the best way to help us force and arouse the interest of even the most reluctant children thanks to the great variety of fruit and vegetables available during the period, full of inviting colors and scents. It is certainly worth taking advantage of the opportunity to encourage the most curious children to taste but also and above all those less predisposed to food innovations through some simple expedients that can be applied according to age and which will serve to relate food with curiosity and direct experience of handling. For example, you can involve the little one in the preparation of meals by letting him touch the ingredients while cooking, inviting him to collaborate by mixing with a spoon, washing the fruit and vegetables together, breaking an egg into a bowl for an omelette, filling a bowl with flour, etc... Another suggestion is to cut very colorful fruit into cubes such as watermelon, melon or a peach, a banana and let the children serve themselves by starting to nibble first by taking from the same serving dish and pretending nothing happened. They are small tricks that work by relying on the imitation of adults by children . Even the creation of figures and drawings on the plate using food is an excellent way of presenting a dish or a snack in order to attract great curiosity and in this regard there are many online tutorials where you can get creative ideas.
The last but not least suggestion is to try to eat at the table with the whole family when possible because the convivial environment is always more involving on an emotional level. Again, summer and the holidays are the best time to organize without having the strongly marked times of daily life for the rest of the year. And if we are on holiday in the mountains or in the countryside, a walk in nature can offer taste surprises: a wild strawberry, a blueberry, an apple picked from a tree... all gifts from nature which, quickly rinsed with a little water, can become an immediate opportunity to discover a new flavour.
Undoubtedly the summer period is certainly full of many opportunities for the growth of our children as many mothers assert that they prefer the summer to face some important phases more easily and serenity such as " pottying ", abandoning the beloved diaper in favor of the potty and weaning with the transition from milk to the first solid foods. Many children "make up their minds" to take up walking often while on summer vacation.
A little advice to parents who find themselves spending the first holidays of their lives with young children is to try to carve out some time for themselves every day in any case; children require a lot of energy and attention and sometimes one is not trained enough with the risk of losing patience and getting nervous.
Even just an hour all to yourself is enough, the important thing is that you can do something pleasant just for yourself, even if it were a walk or reading a magazine or watching a TV program without being disturbed. You can agree with your partner to take turns in this small personal interval to recharge.
Another excellent solution, when possible, is to organize a mini vacation for the couple before leaving with the children or immediately after the holidays with them ; it will serve to relax and rediscover that complicity sometimes put to the test by everyday life and by the sustained rhythms necessary for the care of children in the very first years of their lives.
In these cases , grandparents and uncles are invaluable resources and will be happy to pamper themselves and take exclusive care of the little ones for a couple of nights while the parents can finally relax on their own for a little momentary break from diapers, bottles and lullabies .