What is child development?
Child development is a process every child goes through. This process involves learning and mastering skills like sitting, walking, talking, skipping, and tying shoes. Children learn these skills, called developmental milestones, during predictable time periods.
Children develop skills in five main areas of development:
This is the child’s ability to learn and solve problems. For example, this includes a two-month-old baby learning to explore the environment with hands or eyes or a five-year-old learning how to do simple math problems.
Social and Emotional Development
This encourages children to help themselves and self-control. Examples of this type of development would include: a six-week-old baby smiling, a ten-month-old baby waving bye-bye, or a five-year-old boy knowing how to take turns in games at school.
Speech and Language Development
This is the child’s ability to both understand and use language. For example, this includes a 12-month-old baby saying his first words, a two-year-old naming parts of her body, or a five-year-old learning to say “feet” instead of “foots”.
Fine Motor Skill Development
This is the child’s ability to use small muscles, specifically their hands and fingers, to pick up small objects, hold a spoon, turn pages in a book, or use a crayon to draw.
Gross Motor Skill Development
This is the child’s ability to use large muscles. For example, a six-month-old baby learns how to sit up with some support, a 12-month-old baby learns to pull up to a stand holding onto furniture, and a five-year-old learns to skip.
Early childhood is not only a period of amazing physical growth, it is also a time of remarkable mental development. Cognitive abilities associated with memory, reasoning, problem-solving and thinking continue to emerge throughout childhood. When it comes to childhood cognitive development, it would be impossible to avoid mentioning the work of psychologist Jean Piaget.
After receiving his doctoral degree at age 22, Jean Piaget began a career that would have a profound impact on both psychology and education. Through his work with Alfred Binet, Piaget developed an interest in the intellectual development of children. Based upon his observations, he concluded that children are not less intelligent than adults, they simply think differently. Albert Einstein called Piaget’s discovery “so simple only a genius could have thought of it.”Piaget created a theory of cognitive development that described the basic stages that children go through as they mentally mature. He believed that children are like “little scientists,” actively trying to make sense of the world rather than simply soaking up information passively.
Most infants develop motor abilities in the same order and at approximately the same age. In this sense, most agree that these abilities are genetically preprogrammed within all infants. The environment does play a role in the development, with an enriched environment often reducing the learning time and an impoverished one doing the opposite.
The following chart delineates the development of infants in sequential order. The ages shown are averages and it is normal for these to vary by a month or two in either direction.
- 2 months – able to lift head up on his own
- 3 months – can roll over
- 4 months – can sit propped up without falling over
- 6 months – is able to sit up without support
- 7 months – begins to stand while holding on to things for support
- 9 months – can begin to walk, still using support
- 10 months – is able to momentarily stand on her own without support
- 11 months – can stand alone with more confidence
- 12 months – begin walking alone without support
- 14 months – can walk backward without support
- 17 months – can walk up steps with little or no support
- 18 months – able to manipulate objects with feet while walking, such as kicking a ball