Children are products of the environment, hence the need to create and maintain the best enabling environment for children to thrive. Children are
influenced by a wide range of factors, governed by both nature and nurture. It is an understatement to say that the environment defines the path a child would follow. hence, the importance of environment in early childhood education and development must be properly considered by every parent. The environment plays no small role in determining the kind of adult the baby eventually becomes.
The economic environment, for instance, determines the level and quality of parenting the baby receives. Parents with low economic income tend to be more chaotic, stressed and less responsive to their baby’s distress signals. They also tend to develop more harsh parenting styles.
The environment can be described as the sum total of all agencies and influences from without which condition of influences a child. Although the environment is not solely the cause of a baby’s reaction to nature, it by far plays a great role in determining it.
Brain imaging research suggests that growing up in a disadvantaged environment causes the brain to develop differently. Further studies reveal a distinctive and noticeable pattern in brain activity of children closely associated with the immediate family income and socioeconomic status. A negative home environment impacts negatively on the baby’s wellbeing such as poor language development, deficits in morals, impaired cognitive development and manifestations of aggression, anxiety, and depression.
Division and Types of Environment
The child’s environment is broadly subdivided into two:
- Prenatal environment
- Postnatal environment
This is the sum total of all the influences and forces outside the unborn baby that can possibly affect the baby in various ways. Aside from heredity, the prenatal environment plays a big role to shape the baby’s future. The prenatal environment includes the physical resting place of the unborn baby including the food supplied by the mother through the cords.
This prenatal environment exercises a great influence on the baby both positively and negatively. It influences and determines a lot about the unborn child. Some contagious diseases, for instance, can be transmitted and communicated to the unborn baby by the mother. Not only that, a faulty physiological structure of the mother may lead to a deformity in the child. Thus, the baby even before he is born learns to make necessary adjustments to its environment.
Unfortunately, many parents fail to understand the vital role it plays on the life and future of the baby. Mothers should understand that the baby depends solely on them at this crucial period, hence the need to provide all the baby needs to develop. This includes the following.
How to stay Healthy during Pregnancy
- Developing a healthy balanced eating habit
- Creating time to rest well
- Taking supplements as needed
- Carving out time for proper kegel exercise, especially pelvic floor exercises
- Eliminating toxins by cutting back on alcohols, caffeine, and smoking
- Writing a birth plan
- Getting all the needed and right knowledge and information to help you and the baby
- Checking your medications and tracking your weight gain
- Drinking more water and eating folate-rich foods
- Staying clean and close to your doctor
This is made of the sum total of all the influences and factors that condition a child after birth. The postnatal environment is the most varied and numerous and children are subject to its influence in one way or the other. The postnatal environment is subdivided into the following:
- Physical environment
- Geographical environment
- Economic environment
- Social environment
This refers to the external factors and influences which originate from outside of the baby’s body and influence the baby’s human organism. Through the physical environment, the baby is either positively or negatively affected. For instance, many diseases with a possible hereditary foundation can be arrested through the intake of certain foods, drinks, drugs, and vaccines by the baby. The influence of the physical environment is quite considerable on the baby, hence parents should ensure that the physical environment of the baby is such that promotes healthy growth and development.
While the physical environment simply refers to the sum total of forces that originate from outside the baby to influence the internal systems of the baby, the geographical environment is much broader. It refers to all the factors and influences of nature outside of the baby which exists independently of the baby but still plays a huge role in shaping the child. These include among the following:
- Flora and fauna distribution
- Political influences
These geographical factors determine in one way or the other the physical and psychic traits of the child, intelligence and achievement of the child.
This refers to all the forces that affect the baby in relation to the resources needed by the baby for his growth and survival. Scanty economic resources, for instance, may mar the growth of the child. The skills built during childhood determine how well the baby succeeds in adulthood.
The connection between the economic strength of the family and the development of the child is strong. Low family income will affect a baby by affecting the home environment and the quality of care the baby receives in a way that will hinder optimal development. Parents with low income tend to generally spend less play time with their babies and are less engaged with them
Parents with low income have less access to quality and balanced nutrition which limits the potentials of their babies. Undernutrition during pregnancy could cause low birth weight, miscarriage or stillbirths. It could also negatively slow down the development rate of the child.
Children born in low-income families, for instance, have access to fewer stimulating experiences and educational learning materials. Hence, such children have lower cognitive skills and increased behavioral challenges. This experience has an immediate effect on the child which last into adulthood
The economic environment determines:
- How well a child feeds. Feeding is pivotal in building a child’s immune system. For working moms, there may be the need to use a breast pump to get extra breast milk when the mother is busy. Getting this well depends on the economic power of the parents
- How well a child is provided for. Children, in their growth and formative years, require various toys and materials to aid their cognitive, physiological and psychomotor skills. Getting all these is a function of the parents’ economic power
- How well a child is protected and safe at home. The provision of playpen and playards for children at home helps to protect children from many home accidents.
- How well a child is educated. The provision of educational materials for children at home is paramount in building a solid foundation for them. For instance, there are toys that help children learn how to write well and toys that help to build children’s mathematical abilities. Children that are provided with these materials would definitely have a more solid foundation than children with no access to these.
This refers to the general totality of the individuals that surround the child all through from birth and who directly and/or indirectly interact with the baby. The society provides a medium for development and the pattern of the society in which the child lives, to some extent, shapes and determines his/her life.
A society with good habits, attitudes, ideas, and aspirations, for example, would most likely produce sane adults. Although there are other factors that shape the child, the social environment greatly influences the baby. The family, both immediate and extended, the school, religious setting, recreational groups, e.t.c all work together to shape the child.
Man is a social being endowed with certain traits that assist him in rational relationships. He possesses three distinct characteristics that distinguish him. These are :
- Intellect. This is the faculty that allows and helps the baby to reason. This faculty must be built and developed at an early stage. Parents must ensure that they provide all that is needed such as toys that help develop a baby’s mental and cognitive skills. These skills if not properly developed at childhood may be difficult to build later in life.
- Will. This is the faculty of choice that enables the baby to independently take decisions and build morals. Providing the best home environment helps and aids children in building these skills.
- Speech. This is the faculty that enables the baby to communicate his/her thoughts to others. There is a need for parents to assist their children to develop their speech skills at this crucial period.