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Stages of Development

Every child is a unique person with an individual temperament, learning style, family background, and pattern and timing of growth. There are, however, universal, predictable 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 is essential.

Approximate
Age
What children do What children need
Birth to 3 months Begin to smile
Track people and objects with eyes
Prefer faces and bright colors
Reach, discover hands and feet
Lift head and turn toward sound
Cry, but often soothed when held
Protection from physical danger
Adequate nutrition
Adequate health care (immunization, oral
  rehydration therapy, hygiene)
Motor and sensory stimulation
Appropriate language stimulation
Responsive, sensitive parenting
4 to 6 months Smile often
Prefer parents and older siblings
Repeat actions with interesting results
Listen intently, respond when spoken to
Laugh, gurgle, imitate sounds
Explore hands and feet
Put objects in mouth
Sit when propped, roll over, scoot, bounce
Grasp objects without using thumb
All of the above
7 to 12 months Remember simple events
Identify themselves, body parts, familiar voices
Understand own name, other common words
Say first meaningful words
Explore, bang, shake objects
Find hidden objects, put objects in containers
Sit alone
Creep, pull themselves up to stand, walk
May seem shy or upset with strangers
All of the above
1 to 2 years Imitate adult actions
Speak and understand words and ideas
Enjoy stories and experimenting with objects
Walk steadily, climb stairs, run
Assert independence, but prefer familiar people
Recognize ownership of objects
Develop friendships
Solve problems
Show pride in accomplishments
Like to help with tasks
Begin pretend play
In addition to the above, support in:
Acquiring motor, language, and thinking
  skills
Developing independence
Learning self-control
Opportunities for play and exploration
Play with other children
Health care must also include deworming
2 to 3 1/2 years Enjoy learning new skills
Learn language rapidly
Always on the go
Gain control of hands and fingers
Are easily frustrated
Act more independent, but still dependent
Act out familiar scenes
In addition to above, opportunities to:
Make choices
Engage in dramatic play
Read increasingly complex books
Sing favorite songs
Work simple puzzles
3-1/2 to 5 years Have a longer attention span
Act silly, boisterous, may use shocking language
Talk a lot, ask many questions
Want real adult things, keep art projects
Test physical skills and courage with caution
Reveal feeling in dramatic play
Like to play with friends, do not like to lose
Share and take turns sometimes
In addition to above, opportunities to:
Develop fine motor skills
Continue expanding language skills by
  talking, reading, and singing
Learn cooperation by helping and sharing
Experiment with pre-writing and pre-
  reading skills
5 to 8 years Grow curious about people and how the world
  works
Show an increasing interest in numbers, letters,
  reading and writing
Become more and more interested in final
  products
Gain more confidence in physical skills
Use words to express feeling and to cope
Like grown-up activities
Become more outgoing, play cooperatively
In addition to above, opportunities to:
Develop numeracy and reading skills
Engage in problem-solving
Practice teamwork
Develop sense of personal competency
Practice questioning and observing
Acquire basic life skills
Attend basic education

Source: Adapted from Toys: Tools for Learning, National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1985; Ready or Not ... What Parents Should Know About School Readiness, National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1995; Donohue-Colletta, 1992, information provided by Judith L. Evans of the Consultative Group; and "Investing in Young Children," Mary Eming Young, The World Bank, 1995.

Related Internet links: Child Development Theory

Requirements for Child Development  |  Early Child Development Home Page

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