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The Basics of Child Development — Are We Communicating the Right Messages?

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

by dr kate mcalpine

Seeking your feedback on the design of 5 SMS messages that seek to cover the fundamentals of what children need at different stages of the life-course.

Citizens 4 Change are growing the circle of care around East African children. We use SMS messages to inform, survey, mobilise & learn from child protectors.

Members are citizens who want to protect children, professionals working in the sector, and young people who want to keep themselves and their peers safe. They are united in their desire to do the right thing by children.

The aim of this set of SMS messages is to

  • Inform new Citizens 4 Change (C4C) that we are all about promoting optimum child development.

  • Provide new C4C with information that they may not have received from other sources.

  • Create a baseline from which we can assess C4Cs experience & capacity, from which we can design further learning experiences.

The messages will be received by new C4C after they have received 8 different welcome and safeguarding messages. They will receive each of these messages at weekly intervals. The messages will be in the language of their choosing. A more complex set of messages is being developed for those individuals who have expressed an interest in early child development.

Please help us by looking at the message content below and answering a quick survey at the end of this post to tell us how you think we could improve the message design.

Message 1: Babies need to know that you will respond to them.

Babies thrive when they are close to and attached to their caregiver. This helps them to know that they are loved, to learn how to trust others and to develop a sense of security.

How much time a day do you think a baby needs to be held, kissed & cuddled? Do you think it is important to maintain eye contact & to talk to babies when they are fed? Do you think that babies should be quickly comforted when they cry?

Message 2: Toddlers need the opportunity to play safely with their caregivers.

Toddlers thrive when caregivers play with & listen to them; when they ensure that the child is safe & when the adult helps the child to understand their feelings.

What simple age-appropriate games could you play with a toddler? How could an adult provide both freedom to a toddler to explore their environment whilst also ensuring that they are safe? How could an adult help a toddler manage their frustrations without resorting to anger?

Message 3: Children between 3–5 years need to learn how to communicate.

They do this through play & in relationship with their caregivers, friends & family. Children at this age need lots of opportunities for physical play and stimulation, as well as continued closeness and connection with their caregivers. This helps them learn how to initiate and complete tasks and to communicate using language.

What can adults do to develop their relationship with children? What are the age-appropriate domestic activities that are both playful and stimulating to children? What are positive ways in which an adult can discipline children at this age? What positive & diverse learning opportunities should children at this age be able to access?

Message 4: During middle childhood [5–11 years] children need to experience quality education, community life & friendship.

This enables them to experience an expanded world. Children learn to make & complete things, to engage in games & sports; & to enjoy doing so with others. In the process, they become able to evaluate themselves & value the needs of others too; acquiring a positive group identity as they develop their own values, competence & personality.

Do adults need to talk & listen to children so that children feel they are equal members of society? Please elaborate As an adult, are you a positive role model to children? How should an adult who wants to be positive role model behave? How can good behaviour be positively reinforced with a child?

Message 5: Adolescents need to develop their own sense of self-identity.

Adolescence is a period filled with transition & growth. Adolescents need exposure to opportunities where they can contribute & be responsible. These enable them to establish a coherent sense of identity as they mature into young adulthood.

How could adolescents be involved in planning & decision making? Do adults need to respect and recognise the contribution of adolescents? What is required of adults if they are to recognise & respect adolescents? What guidance on sex & mental health should adults give adolescents, to help them keep safe & make healthy choices?

Please tell us what you think by completing this survey.

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