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Since 2010, parents around the world have been raising the most tech-savvy batch of children: the Generation Alpha. These little ones are growing up in a world where tablets, smartphones, and artificial intelligence are a way of life. But just how positive are their effects on a child's development?
In recent studies of preschoolers, researchers found that excessive screen time can negatively affect a child's motor skills development, and you don't have to look for a real-life example: just look at your child's pencil grip.
Our kids may be savvy at scrolling touch screens, but they could end up lacking hand strength and skill to hold a pencil. And if they have difficulty controlling their grip using their fingers, it affects their ability to write.
In an interview with Dr. Mark Reysio-Cruz, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician from Capitol Medical Center, he explains the nitty-gritty of motor skills development, and what parents can do to help address their concerns about it.
Motor skills are physical skills or movements children need to be able to do using certain muscles in the body. They are categorized into two: gross and fine motor skills.
According to Dr. Reysio-Cruz, "Gross motor skills develop before fine motor skills. Development occurs from the trunk (of the body) moving outward to the arms and legs, and then, hands, fingers, feet, and toes."
Basically, gross motor skills involve large muscles of the body, while fine motor skills — like hand-eye coordination — involve smaller muscle groups. "These domains of development are not mutually exclusive of each other," adds the pediatrician. "[They] overlap so that if one area is affected, the other may be affected, too."
Dr. Reysio-Cruz explains that though there have been studies about the adverse effects of excessive screen time on the motor skills development of a child, the results are not yet conclusive. This means more research has to be done.
"There is conflicting evidence on this, as there are some studies that would say that gadget use delays fine motor skills development while others say they enhance it," Dr. Reysio-Cruz says.
Before parents start worrying, they must first know the developmental milestones kids generally need to achieve at a certain age. "By age 3, [a child's] preference for using one hand over the other is usually evident," Dr. Reysio-Cruz says, referring to a person's left- or right-handedness. At this age, "they can also copy [drawing] a circle or a cross."
He notes that 4-year-olds could usually draw a square and a smiley face. By age 5, children could copy drawing a triangle, illustrate a stick figure, "and maybe even write their first name," the pediatrician adds.
If you want to help your preschoolers reach their developmental milestones, especially in this time when screens and gadgets can be a distraction, Dr. Reysio-Cruz recommends the following:
1. Introduce toys and activities where kids need to use their fingers and hands.
Toys and educational tools such as crayons, finger paint, and balls can help in the development of both fine and gross motor skills. These items can activate muscle memory in children, which helps them learn how to grip writing or drawing materials, as well as train them in hand-eye coordination.
2. Let your children do things by themselves.
One way to do this is by teaching and letting kids eat on their own. "Provide them with opportunities to use a fork and spoon," Dr. Reysio-Cruz explains. Other activities like "undress and dress by themselves, wash their hands, and brush their teeth will help," he adds. Not only do these movements reinforce motor skills development; they give children a sense of routine and teach them basic hygiene.
3. Provide your kids with a balanced and nutritious diet.
"Malnutrition may negatively affect growth and development of a child at any age," stresses Dr. Reysio-Cruz. "The good news is that these effects may be reversed with an improved diet." It's never too late to introduce kids to vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious meals, which can positively affect their overall health.
For moms who want to take an active role in their child's skills development, try complementing their balanced diet and active lifestyle with age-appropriate growing-up milk. It helps fulfill the daily nutritional requirement of kids depending on their age group. It's rich in calcium that helps build strong bones, which are necessary for motor skills development, and other vitamins and minerals beneficial to a growing child.
Try NIDO 3+, a growing-up milk made with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to support the brain, digestion, immunity, growth, and development of kids 3 to 5 years old. One glass of NIDO 3+ can help fulfill 65 percent of kids' daily calcium requirement.
It is also the only growing-up milk formulated with Lactobacillus Protectus. Together with proper nutrition and exercise, NIDO 3+with Lactobacillus Protectus can help support kids' respiratory defenses.
Keep toddlers and preschoolers happy, independent, and protected with the help of NIDO 3+.