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:
- Cognitive 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 is the child's ability to interact with others, including helping 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
- 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
The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities has recently launched a campaign to promote child development. For more information on child development, visit the Act Early website: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/actearly/
What is a developmental milestone?
A developmental milestone is a skill that a child acquires within a specific time frame. For instance, one developmental milestone is learning to walk. Most children learn this skill or developmental milestone between the ages of 9 and 15 months.
Milestones develop in a sequential fashion. This means that a child will need to develop some skills before he or she can develop new skills. For example, children must first learn to crawl and to pull up to a standing position before they are able to walk. Each milestone that a child acquires builds on the last milestone developed.
To find out more information about age-appropriate developmental milestones click on a specific age below. If you are concerned your child has not met a developmental milestone, click here to learn more.
What are typical milestones, or skills, children learn
at different ages?
We now know that our brains are not fully developed at birth. In fact, a baby's brain weighs about one quarter (1/4) of what an adult's brain weighs!
The brain grows very rapidly during the first several years of life. During this time, your child is learning all sorts of new skills.
Because children usually acquire developmental milestones or skills during a specific time frame or "window", we can predict when most children will learn different skills. The pages below describe the types of skills children usually learn at different ages. If you are concerned your child has not met a developmental milestone, click here to learn more
What if my child does not meet a developmental milestone?
Each child is an individual and may meet developmental milestones a little earlier
or later than his peers. You may have heard people say things like, "he was
walking before he turned 10 months, much earlier than his older brother" or
"she didn't say much until she was about 2 years old and then she talked a
blue streak!" This is because each child is unique and will develop at his or
her own pace.
However, there are definitely blocks of time when most children will meet a milestone. For example, children learn to walk anytime between 9 and 15 months of age. So, if your child is 13 months of age and not yet walking, there is no need to worry if he is crawling and pulling to a stand. He has acquired the skills he needs to learn to walk and may begin walking soon. However, if you have a child 15 months of age who is not yet walking, it would be a good idea to talk with your child's pediatrician to make sure there aren't any medical or developmental problems since age 15 months is outside of the normal "window" or time frame in which children learn to walk.
In this website, we will provide you with some information about these "windows
" or blocks of time when children usually develop a skill. We also will share with you some warning signs
or "red flags" to watch for that may mean your child is not meeting developmental milestones. We will also give you the names of some books
about child development that you may find helpful.
However, whenever you have questions, do not hesitate to ask a professional
like your child's doctor, nurse practitioner, or a trained child development
or behavioral specialist. There are also several clinical specialists who are
specifically trained in various areas of development who can be consulted. These
include speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, developmental psychologists and audiologists.
How can I help my child meet these developmental milestones?
As parents, we all want our children to succeed and be the best they can be. We know from research that two factors influence how your child succeeds and grows: genes and environment.
One of the factors that influence our child's development is their genetic makeup
or "genes." Some people refer to this as "nature." Genes are the genetic material
we pass onto our children. Children are born with their "genes" in place. These
genes act like a blueprint for what characteristics a child may have. For example,
genes determine if a child will have blue eyes or brown eyes; they also determine
if he will be left- or right-handed.
The other factor that influences child development is the environment. This
includes experiences children have in their home, school and community environments.
Some people refer to this as "nurture." The environment can either improve or
harm a child's genetic blueprint. For example, malnourished children who live
in third world countries may not reach their IQ potential because of the impact
of their environment on their brain development.
We often think we need to run out and buy special toys, music and games to stimulate
our child's development, but we have to remind ourselves that it is more important
to provide the following, every-day activities you can do with your child to
encourage brain development.
- Give your child lots of love and attention. No matter what a child's age, holding, hugging, and listening are important ways to show your child they matter.
- Interact with your child by talking, singing, playing, eating, and reading with your child. Your child will grow up feeling special and important to you. You will also learn a lot about your child's interests and skills.
- Read, read, read. Research has shown that children who are read to by their parents have a larger vocabulary than other children. Reading also provides children with new perspectives about the world we live in.
- Learn some simple parenting skills for helping your child to learn how to behave. The most important parenting skills are having consistent rules, rewarding behaviors you want to see your child do more of, and having consequences for behaviors you do not want your child to continue to do.
- Limit TV time and video time to no more than 1-2 hours of educational viewing per day.
- Download C3's informational handout on supporting your child's development.
- Ask for help when you need it from your spouse, partner, family, friends, and your child's doctor or nurse practitioner. Parenting is wonderful but it is not always easy.
- For more helpful suggestions on parenting, click here.
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