When it comes to parenting, there are almost as many incorrect myths and pieces of bad advice as there are scientifically sound facts passed around. From the moment you announce your impending addition to the family, you will be overwhelmed with unsolicited advice of questionable authenticity. However, the child development facts listed below are among those you should arm yourself with in order to be prepared and well informed about your child’s growth.

Baby talk and silly faces are beneficial

It is a common misconception that parents should avoid baby talk and making silly faces, and only speak to their infants in complete sentences from the moment of their birth. Researchers have found that baby talk is a seemingly instinctual response which is crucial to infant development – its musicality, exaggerated tones and slow structure emphasize critical components of a language, making it easier for babies to grasp words. Similarly, when babies imitate the facial expression of their caregivers, it triggers the emotion in them, as well. This helps infants build on their innate understanding of emotional communication and it may explain why parents tend to make exaggerated happy or sad faces at their children, making them easier to mimic.

Education is important from an early age

From the moment babies enter the world, they have an innate desire to interact with their caregivers and a proclivity to direct their attention toward human voices and faces, especially the eyes. Nurturing face to face contact and stimulating verbal interactions in a social environment helps babies learn quickly about people’s behaviour and develop emotional intelligence. Infants only respond to what responds to them, which is why passively observing educational DVDs or TV shows won’t benefit a child’s development. Instead, a child needs an interactive environment that will respond to their cues. An exceptional playgroup in Hong Kong is a great example of a stimulating environment where children can develop their language, physical and cognitive ability, using a wide range of mediums and developed sensory activities.

Babbling is a signal of learning

Within their rights, infants do tend to focus, however momentarily, and when they do, they usually make a sound to convey their interest. In particular, the nonsense syllables babies spout, also known as babbling, are the acoustic version of a furrowed brow, which signals to adults that they are ready to learn. The only thing we know of that helps babies develop intelligence is talking to them, making a dialogue where parents respond within the pauses of an infant’s vocalizations the best way to help them learn.

Self-regulation is a crucial skill

Self-regulation is the most important skill a child should learn in early childhood, as it underlies everything else we focus on as parents. A well-regulated child will be able to pay attention, do better at school, be empathetic and get along well with others. As parents, we face tantrums, impulsiveness and big emotions on a daily basis – all of these things are caused by the immature self-regulation system in children that do not fully organize until the age of 3 and only fully matures at the age of 5. Then, the whole system reorganizes and goes through further development in adolescence and, by some estimates, doesn’t completely mature until the early 40s. But the foundation for all of that is set in early childhood, which is why it is crucial to learn how to foster self-regulation in children. Helping your child regulate stress, frustration or any other emotion is one of your main duties as a parent.

The developmental timeline is variable

Contrary to popular belief, development does not happen on a precise timetable or in concrete stages, and what appears to be true at one age can change over time. For example, babies who are born prematurely often show some developmental delays, but many catch up to their peers by the time they are in adolescence. Or for example, brain development occurs earlier in girls than in boys, hence the saying that girls mature faster, but boys do catch up. We don’t know how or why these things happen developmentally, but what we do know is that each child has their own course. There are many times in the development of a child when the brain is open to change and when development adjusts itself based on experience. Just remember that warmth, love and sensitivity can affect child development in a deeply positive way.

Understanding your child is one of the most important things that you should learn as a parent, as it is very helpful in becoming effective in guiding and nurturing your child as they grow and mature.