What is Holistic Development?

Jan 30th 2021

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15 min read

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How’s your little one doing? Has he managed to learn the numbers up to 100 yet? How’s potty training going? Mine already knows five poems.

Does this sound familiar to you? That’s how most parents and educators talk about their child’s development. It’s all about milestones and achievements. Tick all the boxes and your little Arjun is doing great. But what about Arjun as a person, how’s he doing?

The Six Pillars

There’s so much more to a child than reaching milestones. Most parents will brag about their kids being able to climb to the top of the slide because that’s an obvious achievement. And then there’s Arjun who’s wandered off chasing, well, almost chasing, a colorful butterfly. That’s an achievement, too.

Parents are increasingly leaning towards a more holistic approach when it comes to the growth and development of their child. So, what exactly is holistic development? The holistic approach to growth pays equal attention to the six fundamental pillars of a child’s development - physical, cognitive, social, emotional, creative, and moral.

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Physical Development

It is easy to understand and track the physical development of a child as it can be easily observed and quantified. While healthy nutrition and a safe environment is necessary for a growing child, activities like playing catch, building blocks, playing on different terrains help develop their hand-eye coordination, motor skills and balance etc.

It is natural to focus a lot on the physical aspects as any parent is eager to see their kid developing well but one should never ignore the other areas of a child’s development.

Emotional Intelligence

When your kid runs to offer a cookie to a crying child, unprompted, that’s emotional intelligence at play. You can help your child develop empathy by personal example, by talking about everyday situations and by reading.

Another important thing is to teach your child to talk about their feelings. Here, personal example can be of great help. Talk about your feelings when you’re tired or frustrated, rather than trying to hide it from the child.

A kid who can analyze and express their feelings will grow up to be a well-rounded adult.

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Cognitive Development

This has to do mainly with learning and acquiring information. Cognitive development also includes information processing, reasoning, language development and problem-solving skills. This happens through interaction. The more you talk to your child, the more information they receive that they can identify, quantify and understand.

You can show your kid pretty pictures in a book and explain - ‘This is red and that’s blue’. Or you can do it another way. Why not take little Arjun to the park and get him to know the world he lives in ‘That’s the sky, Arjun and it’s blue’.

Social Development

Your child might very well be the next Einstein, but be sure to focus on his social skills as well. Children need interaction as much as they need academic instruction. Social interaction is what helps them develop social skills as well as emotional intelligence.

A child needs to interact with all sorts of people, young and old to understand how society works and develop social skills. It’s not something that can be taught from books.

Yes, you can teach Arjun to count at home, that’s great, but you can also teach him to count the number of toys he brings to the sandbox and how putting them together with that cute little girl’s toys will allow him to have more toys to play with. And a friend to play with. Playing with other children teaches your kid about respecting boundaries, sharing, and the importance of collaboration.

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Developing Creativity

Unsupervised play and books are some of the best tools to foster creativity in a child. It’s been often said that schools destroys creativity in children and the best thing you can do is to let children express themselves freely through art, music or crafts.

Reading is also important as each book takes the child on an imaginary trip. Don’t just read the story to your kid, talk about it, and explore how it makes them feel. Do they feel sorry for the three little pigs and what should a hungry wolf do? Get a job maybe? What sort of job would a wolf be good at? They might look like silly questions and that’s how they should be because fun is an essential part of development.

Moral Development

Instilling strong moral values in your child early on is essential for their moral development. Right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies - these are concepts a child should hear about from you, but not in the form of a lecture. Use every day situations to analyze the moral aspects involved. Don’t force your own beliefs into their heads but rather help them develop their own moral compass.

Focusing on these six pillars of development will provide a path for your child to develop into a well rounded adult.

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By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man; body, mind and spirit. Mahatma Gandhi