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Early Childhood Development

Every child has a different pattern and timing of growth. There are sequences of growth and change that occur during the first nine years of life. As children develop, they need different types of stimulation and interaction to exercise their evolving skills and to develop new ones. At every age, meeting basic health and nutritional needs are essential.

Stages of Development
Age Intellectual Physical Social
Birth to 2 years
  • Exploring with their hands and mouth. They bang, throw, drop, shake.
  • By 24 months, he can find things hidden under two or three other items.
  • Learning how to use everyday objects is an important development at this age: using a spoon, drinking from a cup, to combing their hair.
  • By age 2, a child typically will have a vocabulary of 50 words. As she learns to speak, she’ll use two- and three-word sentences, like “More juice,” “Me want cookie,” and “Up, up.”
  • Children will first learn to hold their head up. Little by little, they begin to roll and to sit (usually by six months).
  • Children learn to creep, then crawl, pull themselves up, walk while holding onto furniture, stand, and then walk two or three steps without assistance (usually by 12 months).
  • At 24 months, children can begin to run, kick a ball, and walk up and down stairs (while holding onto someone’s hand).
  • You can expect your child to imitate facial expressions, and even develop a social smile by three months.
  • Talking begins with babbling, which leads to gradually learning to say and respond to simple words and phrases. Toddlers will play in parallel—near another child, but not with that child.
  • Crying is the primary means of communication when infants’ and toddlers’ needs are not being met. Similarly, they smile and giggle when they want more of something, and turn their head, shut their eyes, or cry when they want less of something.
3 to 5 years
  • Imaginary play is a notable milestone of this stage.
  • Children begin to name colors and begin to understand simple counting.
  • It’s important to stimulate your child’s intellectual development by reading aloud to him every day.
  • Kids gradually begin to understand the concept of time. By age 3, preschoolers know 300 words. That expands to 1,500 words by age 4, and to 2,500 words by age 5. Stimulate their language development through reading, talking, and asking them questions.
  • Hopping, climbing, swinging, and doing somersaults begin at this stage. By age 5, many kids can stand on one foot for at least 10 seconds.
  • Children can draw a person with up to four body parts by age 5. They draw circles and begin to learn how to copy a square and some capital letters. They learn how to use scissors. Kids often become frustrated with wanting to do something physically and not being able to do it yet. Thus, they have lots of falls and mishaps.
  • Interaction with other
    children increases
  • A great deal of social development occurs through fantasy play and imagination. Children this age need to learn how to deal with conflict and how to solve problems without so much emotion.
  • Kids move easily between fantasy and reality, and can become quite emotional about their imaginary play. They often do not know the difference between fantasy and reality, so imaginary monsters under the bed or in the dark are as frightening to them as a real threat.
6 to 9 years
  • Kids learn to read gradually. Children who are read to aloud and are encouraged to read tend to develop more quickly intellectually.
  • Your child will become more sophisticated in understanding the concept of time. They enjoy hearing about times past.
  • By age 6, most children can count to 100. By age 9, they are beginning to learn how to multiply. Engaging the bodies as well as the minds of children this age will help them learn.
  • More physical abilities will develop. Many children can dribble a ball with one hand by age 6. Most learn how to ride a two-wheel bike. They become more skillful at skipping and catching and throwing a ball.
  • Kids this age like to move. Many become restless and wiggle if they sit for too long, which is why school can be difficult for some children at this age. Your child may practice balancing a lot. They balance on curbs, chairs, and other high places. Monitor their balancing acts to make sure they’re safe.
  • Children this age become more adept at relationships, but they also may have many conflicts with their peers.
  • Many children are competitive, and can become argumentative and quarrelsome when they lose.
  • Children in this age group can be hard on their younger siblings. At age 6 or 7, kids tend to do best with one friend, butby age 8 or 9 they can begin working well in small groups of three or four.
10 to 14 years
  • Most kids enjoy the social aspects of learning. This works well when teachers encourage learning in small groups.
  • Keep them engaged in school and learning. Encourage their curiosity. Many are strongly influenced by friends, so if they have friends who only want to socialize and not learn, emphasize the importance of having friends and working hard to learn.
  • Many kids move from “concrete” thinking to “abstract” thinking. Concrete thinkers focus on the here and now. Abstract thinkers focus on issues that are disassociated from a specific instance.
  • Because kids this age have strong emotions, they tend to either “love” school or “hate” it. If your child happens to “hate” school, help her identify parts that are more enjoyable—even if it’s recess, gym, and lunch. Most kids at this age think there is too much homework. Emphasize how homework helps kids learn. Do homework with them. Make it fun. Applaud their learning and new knowledge.
  • This is the age when kids need to start using deodorant and learning more personal hygiene. Some go overboard and spend hours in the bathroom. Others resist, refusing to bathe.
  • Puberty reigns at this age. Puberty, however, has five stages for both boys and girls, which is why you’ll see kids developing at different rates between the ages of 8 and 18.
  • With growth spurts come clumsiness and a lack of coordination. It isn’t easy for a person to grow six inches within a few months without his sense of balance being disrupted.
  • Typically, between ages 12 and 14, kids become very aware of their own sexuality and others’ sexuality. Some are nervous about developing too fast. Others are worried about developing too slowly.
  • If your child is not athletic, help her find a sport or physical activity she enjoys. At this age, kids who don’t excel athletically are tempted to avoid all physical activity. Consider martial arts such as kung fu, judo, karate, or tae kwon do, which often appeal to this age group.
  • This is the age when peer pressure has the most influence. Kids are more interested in “being the same” and “being accepted.” Thus, many will do things with others they would never do alone.
  • Relationships can become quite complex. Some kids will not speak to others. Some enjoy fighting and making up.
  • Some kids have large shifts in their social circles as they go through puberty. Others withdraw and avoid their peers. Some stick with their friends no matter what.
  • Many kids would rather be social than tend to their school work or other responsibilities. Emphasize how all parts of life are important.
  • Silliness can rule with some kids. Kids at this age can have a twisted sense of humor.
  • Many kids push away from their parents and want to spend most of their time with friends. Some homes become tense with young teenagers who like to argue and test. Other homes are calmer with occasional skirmishes. It all depends on the child’s personality. they fit.