What Is Holistic Development in Children?

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Holistic development in children places a focus on nurturing all parts of a child's being, including physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual and creative elements. It focuses on all parts of a child instead of one part.

Childhood is an important development period in a young person's life. It can affect a person's health, well-being and education. Holistic development models encourage complete, simultaneous development of a person's diverse needs, which includes psychological and emotional development. Unlike traditional childhood development models, holistic development encourages a strong and fluid connection between the mind, body and spirit. Holistic development strives to nurture all parts of a child regardless of age, gender and socioeconomic status.

The holistic method of child development emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, and it has steadily gained traction since then. Holistic development follows several models, but one of the most prominent is Montessori. In the Montessori method, there is less emphasis on fast-paced learning through drills and memorization. Instead, students are encouraged to learn at their own pace and grow intellectually with a more exploratory style of learning. One main goal of holistic development is to encourage children to connect with others around them and be in touch with their natural surroundings. Children are taught that the world is an interconnected place with cooperation among humans, plants and animals.

Holistic Development in School

In school, teachers focus on "hands-on" learning for their students in a natural and comfortable setting. They might ask children to work in small groups to finish projects, and children are encouraged to participate in friendly play with fellow students. Teachers consider learning to be experiential, and they encourage children to think for themselves. Instead of memorizing information and demonstrating knowledge through tests and quizzes, teachers ask open-ended questions. They encourage self-development by having their students learn through trial and error. Instead of putting an emphasis on punishment for incorrect answers, they respond with support and enthusiasm, and encourage students to continue challenging themselves to produce the correct answer. The goal of teachers in a holistic development setting is to make students feel empowered and capable of taking on challenges. They strive to create mindsets of enthusiasm, empathy and curiosity.

Holistic Development at Home

At home, parents play a key role in fostering their child's holistic development. As the primary caregivers, parents and other family members can help children learn proper behavior, skills and values. One way that parents participate in holistic development is by giving their children dedicated space for creative play. They are encouraged to identify their child's interests and turn it into a learning opportunity. If a child enjoys planes for instance, parents can teach children where and how planes are made, what types there are and more. Parents use bright colors, kid-friendly furniture and setting up interest-specific spaces that are dedicated to promoting a child's interests and hobbies. Parents with a child who enjoys reading, for instance, might set up a corner in the house with books and a seating area.

Since community interaction is an important component of holistic development, parents and educators work to build strong relationships based on trust. At home, friends and family can further this bond. Teachers might seek the assistance of a teaching aide to foster meaningful relationships, especially if they have students with disabilities.