Children change rapidly as they grow. Many of these changes are physical. Other changes are cognitive, which means the changes affect the way children think and learn. Child development often occurs in stages, with the majority of children hitting specific developmental landmarks by the time they reach a certain age.
What are the 5 stages of child development? Read on to find out.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Scholars have differed in their opinions as to the exact number of stages of development children go through on their way to becoming adults.
In 1936, Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget worked out a theory that describes four main stages of child development: Birth through 18 – 24 months, “preoperational” that includes toddlerhood and early childhood through the age of 7, “concrete operational” from ages 7 – 12, and adolescence. Other scholars describe six stages of child development that include newborns, infants, toddlers, preschool, school age, and adolescents.
Failing to reach some of the milestones may signal a developmental disability. Because of screening techniques child development specialists use, most children with developmental disabilities receive a diagnosis by the time they reach adolescence. With this in mind, child development may be discussed in terms of five stages.
THE FIVE STAGES OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT
During the first month of life, newborns exhibit automatic responses to external stimuli. In other words, a newborn will turn her head toward your hand when you stroke her cheek or grab your finger when you place it in her hand. A newborn is able to see close-up objects, recognize certain smells, smile or cry to indicate a need, and move her head from side to side.
Infants develop new abilities quickly in the first year of life. At three to six months, an infant can control his head movements and bring his hands together. By six to nine months old, an infant can sit without support, babble and respond to his name. Between nine and twelve months old, a baby can pick up objects, crawl and even stand with support.
As children reach the ages between one and three years, they learn to walk without help, climb stairs and jump in place. They can hold a crayon, draw a circle, stack one block on top of another, use short sentences and even follow simple instructions.
Between the ages of three and five years, children refine their motor skills. They can throw a ball overhand, skip and hop, stand on one foot for ten seconds or longer, dress themselves, and draw a person with features.
School age children are six to 12 years old. They are capable, confident, independent and responsible. Peer relationships, particularly relationships with friends of the same gender, are important to school age children. The older school age child begins to develop sexual characteristics.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS
- Children reach developmental milestones at their own pace, and some move faster than others. No two children are alike and even two siblings in the same family may reach milestones at different rates.
- Minor, temporary delays are usually no cause for alarm, but an ongoing delay or multiple delays in reaching milestones can be a sign there may be challenges later in life.
- A delay in reaching language, thinking, and social, or motor skill milestones is called a developmental delay. This may be caused by a variety of factors, including heredity, complications during pregnancy, and premature birth. The cause isn’t always known.
- If you suspect your child has developmental delay, speak with their pediatrician. Developmental delay sometimes indicates an underlying condition that only doctors can diagnose.
- Once you get a diagnosis, you can plan for therapies or other early interventions to help your child’s progress and development into adulthood.