Child Development

Understanding Development

While children grow and develop, they often acquire specific skills within predictable age ranges. These skills are often referred to as developmental milestones.

Child Development Typical development can be divided into five areas: cognitive, communication, physical, self-help or adaptive, and social/emotional. It is important to remember that developmental areas overlap. Learning in one area of development can enhance learning in other areas. Although children often acquire skills at predictable ages,the actual age when a typically developing child reaches a milestone may vary. Each child develops differently, according to their own pace. The following pages offer examples of developmental milestones. They are intended to be general guidelines for expected skills, rather than specific requirements.

Some children do experience developmental problems that may require special attention, if you are concerned your child displays any delays in developmental milestones, you should consult with an educational or health professional.

#Follow the links to learn more about each area of development:

Cognitive Development

Communication Development

Physical Development

Adaptive/Self-Help Development

Social Development

Supporting Development

If you are concerned...

References


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Cognitive Development

Cognitive development refers to thinking skills, such as learning, understanding, problem solving, reasoning, memorizing, and attending. Developmental specialists look at how children apply learned concepts to everyday situations.Children develop cognitive skills by learning about causes and effects in everyday activities and similarities and differences in things around them. Thinking skills help make all experiences more meaningful to children.
 

Skills Developing Between:

 
 2-3 Years of Age
 3-4 Years of Age
 4-5 Years of Age
  • Matches an object to a picture

  • Matches and sorts objects by one property (shape, color)

  • Completes simple 3-4 piece puzzles

  • Understands simple quantity concepts (‘Give me one’)

  • Understands the use of every objects (a spoon is for eating)

  • Imitates adult actions (housekeeping play)

  • Uses pretend objects in play

  • Plays make-believe (with dolls, animals, people)

  • Engages in fantasy play
  • Correctly names some color
  • Understands the concept of counting, knows a few numbers
  • Listens to and can recall parts of a story
  • Understands the concept of ‘same’ and ‘different
  • Sorts objects by property (color, shape) and category
  • Draws a face


 
 
 
 
  • Can count 10 or more objects with one-to-one correspondence
  • Better understands the concept of time
  • Retells a story from a picture book with reasonable accuracy
  • Can tell what will happen next
  • Names some letters
  • Copies then later prints own name
  • Sorts objects in more than one way (by shape, then by size)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Learning starts at birth. Much of what the young child learns, he learns at home.Parents are the child’s first teacher during these important years. Children learn by hearing, seeing,moving, and touching. From the security, encouragement, and love parents give, children learn to explore and understand the world around them.


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Communication Development

Communication development refers to both receptive and expressive language. Receptive language is the understanding of spoken language. Expressive language is the ability to use spoken language – to talk. Developmental specialists often look at verbal and nonverbal expression as well as how a child relays information to others.

Skills developing between:

2-3 Years of Age
3-4 Years of Age
4-5 Years of Age
  • Identifies common objects and pictures

  • Combines at least 2-3 words
  • Uses some pronouns (I, me, you) and plurals (dogs, cars)
  • Speech can be understood by familiar listeners 75% of the time
  • Understands differences in meaning (in/on, big/little)
  • Follows a 2 part request (go to your room and get your shoes)
  • Asks and answers basic ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions

 

  • Speaks in sentences of 5-6 words
  • Has mastered some basic rules of grammar
  • Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand 80% of the time
  • Begins to ask questions, using ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘why’, and ‘how many’
  • Responds to 3 part commands
  • Tells how common objects are used
  • Engages in simple back and forth conversation


 
 
  • Speaks in sentences of more than 5 words and is 90% intelligible
  • Tells stories without picture cues
  • Talks about experiences (what they did at school)
  • Shares personal information (name, address, birthday)
  • Uses possessives (boy’s) and future tense (he will go to the store)
  • Understands concepts such as long/short, first/middle/last, between/above/below


 
 
 
 
 
 

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Physical Development

Physical development refers to both gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor development involves using the body’s large muscles Children develop physical awareness by using large muscles when crawling, walking, jumping, climbing, sliding, and throwing aball. They gain self-confidence and a sense of control by using these skills.

Fine motor development involves using the body’s small muscles to do things such aswriting, cutting, or manipulating small objects. Fine motor skills help children develop small muscle control when they use their hands in coordination with their eyes. Children learn about the things around them by reaching, grasping, holding, and letting go.

Skills developing between:

 
 2-3 Years of Age
3-4 Years of Age
4-5 Years of Age
  • Runs forward
  • Walks up and down stairs, alternating feet
  • Climbs low playground equipment
  • Jumps in place with both feet together
  • Kicks a ball forward
  • Uses one hand consistently in most activities
  • Stacks up to 6 blocks
  • Turns pages in a book one by one
  • Imitates vertical, horizontal, and circular strokes


 
  • Walks stairs without support
  • Runs around obstacles
  • Hops/balances on one foot for up to 5 seconds
  • Pedals and steers a small tricycle
  • Catches a bounced ball
  • Holds a writing utensil between first two fingers and thumb
  • Copies a cross and a square
  • Uses scissors to cut on a line
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Balances on one foot for 10 seconds or more
  • Jumps over objects 5 to 6 inches high
  • Hops in a straight line on one foot
  • Turns a somersault, swings, and climbs
  • Gallops, may be able to skip
  • Uses a mature grasp on a writing utensil
  • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
  • Draws a person, prints some letters, colors within lines
  • Cuts out simple shapes


 

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Adaptive/Self-Help Development

Adaptive or self-help skills are those skills needed for independence in daily activities. Self-help skills such as dressing, toileting, washing, eating, and personal responsibility are among the most important things a child can learn. Children develop a sense of independence as they learn to do things for themselves.

Skills developing between:

2-3 Years of Age
3-4 Years of Age
4-5 Years of Age
  • Cooperates with dressing
  • Removes loose clothing
  • Puts on/pulls up simple clothing
  • Uses a spoon
  • Begins to indicate toileting needs
  • Attempts to wash and dry hands 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Completely undresses self
  • Independently puts on socks, coat, sweater, pants manipulates large buttons and snaps
  • Eats entire meal independently
  • Uses a spoon and fork effectively
  • Can pour liquid with some assistance
  • Washes hands unassisted
  • Learns toilet training
  • Wipes nose unassisted (may need a reminder!)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Dresses and undresses without assistance
  • Uses all feeding utensils
  • Cares for own toileting needs


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Social Development

Social skills refer to the ability to form relationships with others. Emotions involve the expression of feelings. Developmental specialists may look at a child’s ability to engage in meaningful social interactions with both adults and peers in their environment. This may include response to and initiation of social contact with others, establishment of friendships, cooperation, and effective participation in group activities. Developing self-awareness, self-concept, sensitivity to the feelings of others, and coping skills are also part of a child’s social-emotional development.

Skills developing between:

2-3 Years of Age
3-4 Years of Age
4-5 Years of Age
  • Imitates adults and playmates
  • Understands the concept of ‘mine’ and ‘his/hers’
  • Attempts to take turns in games
  • Expresses affection openly
  • Asks for assistance when having difficulty
  • Shows pride in accomplishments


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Interested in new experiences
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Negotiates solutions to conflict
  • Converses with other children in social situations
  • Plays group games with simple rules
  • Increasingly inventive in pretend play and dress up
  • Calls attention to self (shows off)
  • Shows empathy for others
  • Likes to ‘help’ with simple household tasks


 
  • Prefers play with others, selects own friends
  • Wants to please friends
  • More likely to follow rules
  • Understands rules of fair play, explains rules of games to others
  • Shows concern for others, expresses the feeling of being sorry
  • Can distinguish fantasy from reality
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Supporting Development

Give your child:

  • A daily routine
  • Lots of patience, love, and affection
  • A safe home to explore and play in
  • Freedom to test their strength and growing skills
  • Reassuring words to foster independence
  • Time to read and play together
  • Engage in conversation: really listen, talk, and answer your child
  • Use discipline as a teaching opportunity



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If you are concerned...

Each child develops at his/her own pace; however, some children do experience developmental problems that may require special attention. If your child displays the following concerns, you should consult with an educational or health professional:

2-3 Years of Age
3-4 Years of Age
4-5 Years of Age
  • Inability to communicate/very unclear speech
  • Difficulty manipulating small objects
  • Frequent falling and difficulty with stairs
  • Failure to understand simple instructions
  • No involvement in pretend play
  • Little interest in other children


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Cannot jump in place
  • Cannot ride a tricycle
  • Difficulty using writing utensils
  • Cannot stack blocks or copy a circle
  • No interest in interactive or pretend play
  • Ignores other children
  • Resists self-help tasks
  • Does not use 3 word sentences
  • Lashes out without self-control when upset
 
  • Displays extreme fearful or timid behavior
  • Seems unhappy or sad most of the time
  • Displays extreme aggressive behaviors
  • Unable to attend to an activity for more than 5 minutes
  • Little interest in playing with other children
  • Unwilling to respond to others
  • Rarely uses imitation or pretend play


 
 
 

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#References

American Academy of Pediatrics (2005). Caring for your baby and young child: Birth to age five (4thedition). (Shelov, S.P., &Hannemann, R.E., Eds.). New York:Bantam.

Apel,K.P., & Masterson, J. (2001).Beyond baby talk: From sounds to sentences. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Boyse,K. (2005). Developmental milestones. Retrieved February,2008: www.med.umich.edu.

Newborg,J. (2005). Battelle developmental inventory (2nd edition).Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.

Public Broadcasting Service (2008). The abc’s of child development: Developmental milestones for your child’s first five years. Retrieved February2008: www.pbs.org/wholechild/abc.

Scott,J. (2004). Early developmental milestones. Greenville, SC: Super Duper Publications.

Voress,J.K., & Maddox, T. (1998). Developmental assessment of young children. Austin, TX: Pro-