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What is child development and what skills do children develop at different ages

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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".
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.


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.

Childhood Developmentental Milestones:

1 month  to 6  months
7 months to 12 months
13 months to 18 months (one year to one and a half years)
19 months to 24 months (one and a half years to two years)
25 months to 30 months (two years to two and a half years)
31 months to 36 months (two and a half years to three years)
3 years  to 5 years
Developmental delays

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 and websites 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 behavioural 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.

What can I do to improve my child's motor development?

Motor development is a very important part of growing up. Motor activities help children learn how to use their bodies, gain confidence as they master skills, and prepare them for school. Here are a few suggestions to promote motor skills. Remember to always give children a safe place to play and lots of repetition to learn and master skills.

Infant


Toddler

Preschooler