A child’s development is continuous and can be measured in a number of different ways. Children develop at different rates but the sequence in which they develop is roughly the same. Development is broken down into stages of age and is much more rapid in the early years as the developmental milestones are much closer together. They become further apart as baby becomes a child and a child becomes a young adult.
There are five aspects of child development. Social, Physical, Intellectual (Cognitive), Communication (Language) and Emotional. An easy way to remember these aspects is with the acronym SPICE.
Social Development is learning the values, knowledge and skills which enable children to relate to others and form relationships (Meggitt, 2012). Certain skills such as sharing and taking turns are learnt but also thinking about the feelings of others. Children also have to learn how to behave in different social situations, for example, sitting down at the table to eat.
Physical Development involves developing control over the body including muscles and physical coordination. There are two main areas of physical development.
Gross Motor Skills use large muscles in the body and include walking, running, jumping and climbing
Fine Motor Skills include gross manipulative skills which involve single limb movements using the arm or leg including throwing, catching and kicking and also fine manipulative skills which is the precise use of hands and fingers for pointing, drawing and writing (Meggitt, 2012).
Intellectual (Cognitive) Development is the development of the mind and part of the brain which is used for recognising, reasoning, knowledge and understanding (Meggitt, 2012). This type of development plays an important role to other areas of development as it is about learning, thinking and remembering. It is closely linked to language and social development, for example, a child who has difficulty with language may find it hard to use and develop intellectual skills.
Communication (Language) Development helps children to gain skills in understanding and communicating with others. These skills include receptive speech which is what someone understands, expressive speech which is the words we produce and articulation which is the pronunciation of words (Meggitt, 2012). Language development is very closely linked to intellectual development so a delay in one are will usually affect progress in the other.
Emotional Development is about how we feel about ourselves and how confident we become. It is also the development of feelings towards other people. There is a strong link between emotional and social development. When children feel happy and confident with themselves for example, they find it much easier to form bonds and friendships.
Babies are born very social and have a strong need to be in the company of others. In the first few months, babies will establish strong bonds with their parents through eye-contact and spontaneous facial expressions. They will begin to smile and vocalise in response to interaction and also make excited movements (Meggitt, 2012).
By 9 months they will respond positively to active play and imitate actions such as hand clapping. They will now clearly distinguish between strangers and familiar people and will need reassurance when meeting new people.
At the age of 18 months they have become toddlers. They have now become very curious and will imitate the actions of their parents by helping with tasks around the house and garden (Minett, 2017). They will show an interest in other children but are still trying to establish themselves in different social groups.
By the age of 3 they are now capable of showing a range of feelings and emotions, enabling them to empathise with the feelings of those close to them. They begin to become independent and happily play on their own but will also learn to play with others and mimic them during play. They will still be quite defensive of their own possessions and don’t quite understand the concept of sharing.
By the age of 5 children will have developed friendships and happily play in a group setting and play games involving taking turns and sharing. They are now much more independent and determined and will begin to show anger and frustration and may even argue.
By 7 they have gained self-esteem from developing and demonstrating new skills such as learning to write their own name (Minett, 2017). They are now aware of what rules apply in different social settings such as school and will adapt their behaviour accordingly. They are very aware of their own feelings but may hide being sad or upset in certain situations. They will have a strong desire to please and be accepted by adults and other children and will happily play group games and understand the rules.
During this age group children have developed strong friendships and will more than likely have one very close friend. They will enjoy playing and inventing games that have rules and will tend to be more cooperative. They have now developed the capability to control their own feelings and emotion and are able to express or withhold them in certain social settings. They will enjoy spending time with friends socially but will also be susceptible to peer pressure and will want to talk, dress and act like their friends.. Their moral values have now developed and have a good understanding between right and wrong. They are now able to help younger children and have gained a senses of responsibility (Meggitt, 2012).
They become to be self-conscious and worried about physical appearance. They will be strongly influences not only by their friends, but also by people such as celebrities through social media for example, and have a strong desire to be liked and accepted. They will identify more with friends and begin to distance themselves from their parents and become less dependent on their family for affection and emotional support (Meggitt, 2012).
They will become much more private and also begin to take an interest in the opposite sex. They will develop mood swings and will have periods of conflict with their parents. By the age of 19 they will have gained many life skills and will now be much more independent by learning to drive and getting a job and may even move out of home. They will be much less rebellious and have more social ethics.
In the first few months, babies learn how to control their muscles and movement. They will gradually gain head control when laying on their stomach or being held upright. They will gain strength in their leg and arm muscles and will bare weight on their legs by the age of 6 months. They will learn to hold objects in their hands such as a rattle for a short periods of time (Sheridan, 1997). By 9 months of age they can sit unsupported and can lean forward to pick up toys whilst maintaining balance. They will be now be moving around independently by means of rolling, wriggling or crawling.
By 18 months they are able to pull themselves up on furniture and then begin to walk albeit unsteady with feet far apart. They are able to build towers with two or three blocks and hold a crayon using the palmar grasp and will use either hand to imitate scribbling (Minett, 2017).
By the age of 3 they can walk much more steadily with feet closer together and can walk up and downstairs and jump from the bottom step. They can run avoiding obstacles, throw, catch and kick a ball. They can peddle a three wheeled cycle and steer around corners and obstacles with confidence. They can build a tower with numerous blocks and will hold a pencil between the first two fingers and thumb in their preferred hand and have better control drawing a person with a head, arms and legs (Sheridan, 1997).
They are now able to show coordination by playing ball games, dancing and have increased agility to enable them to use play equipment such as slides and swings. They can run and walk on their tiptoes and also bend and touch their toes without bending their knees. Their drawing will now have a lot more detail with a person now with the addition of eyes, nose, mouth and ears (Minett, 2017).
By age 7 their gross motor skills are well developed. They are much better at throwing and catching and have a better sense of direction when kicking a ball. They are good at controlling speed and will now be able to ride a two wheeled bicycle. They are now able to hold a pencil like an adult and draw with details adding clothes, hands, hair and feet to a person. Their writing is more competent with the addition of capital letters and small letters in proportion and words are much clearer.
Physical development is much more rapid from the age of 7. Children’s bones broaden and lengthen dramatically. In general, children will grow an average of 5 to 7.5cm taller each year between the ages of 8 and 12 (Meggitt, 2012). They will have increased and improved strength and coordination due to increased flexibility, balance and agility. They can play much more energetic games and team sports and with good skill.
By the age of 12 most children will begin puberty and go through many physical changes which differ for boys and girls. They will develop body proportions of those of an adult (Meggitt, 2012). 12 is the average age for girls who have entered puberty, to start to menstruate and boys may have voice changes and the beginnings of facial hair. They may now start to become more tired at times and tend to sleep longer and get up later in the mornings. This is mainly due to the growth spurts.
At this stage they transition between childhood and adulthood known as adolescence. Puberty is a time of rapid physical development meaning the end of childhood and the beginning of sexual maturity. During adolescence coordination and strength increase greatly and by the age of 19 the adolescent has full adult motor capacities.
Girls generally begin puberty a few years earlier than boys. They grow taller, their hips widen and their breasts enlarge. Hair growth will develop on the legs, under the arms. Their bodies become more rounded, developing the curves of womanhood. Some girls have reached full physical maturity by the age of 15 and be almost physically mature and likely to be close to her full adult height.
Adolescence for boys usually begins later than girls and usually occurs around 14 years of age. Boys will usually become much taller than girls, heavier and stronger. They will start to develop sex characteristics such as deep voice, body hair and also experience muscle growth and begin to take on a manly physique.
During the early months, a baby will act without thinking. The ability to imagine is not yet developed and babies learn through interaction with other people and objects in the environment. They will start to recognise their parents and other familiar faces and also toys. They will respond to interaction by making cooing and gurgling noises and smiling and become much more expressive. They will get excited at the sound of a familiar voice or sound and in turn are comforted by them (Minett, 2017).
By the age of 1 they will develop memory, giving them the ability to remember and understand daily routines. They will imitate actions, sounds and gestures and by 18 months will understand the names of objects and can follow simple instructions and will learn about things through trial and error. They will use toys to represent real life such as using a doll as a baby and often chatter to themselves during play (Minett, 2017).
By age 3 children will use their senses to explore the environment. The memory skills have greatly improved they understand concepts such as matching shapes or colours and will also understand that if you drop an object, for example, it may break. This is known as cause and effect (Meggitt, 2012).
From the age of 3 children develop symbolic behaviour such as talking, pretend play, taking part in games and draw pictures from memory. They will develop strong emotions and develop what is known as temper tantrums (Minett, 2017). They are very eager to learn and become active in exploring the environment. Have an understanding of songs and will join in and perform the actions. They will remember these songs and be able to sing them independently. They are able to count to 20 and understand opposites such as more and few, big and small.
By the age of 7 they are able to understand the feelings and emotions of others and so sympathy and empathy for example, if a parent is upset, they will hug them to make them feel better. Their concentration is much better and can take part in tasks for a longer period of time and can go back to the same task later on. Their understanding of concepts is much more varied including length, weight and distance. They will enjoy roll play and begin to use different voices to play different characters (Meggitt, 2012).
Children begin to have a more logical way of thinking and are much more organised and flexible in their ability to imagine and play. They have a much better attention span and have no problem in expressing their ideas in a social setting. They have a great sense of reasoning and will be able to solve a problem much better.
By the age of 12 children have the ability to understand the motives and actions of others but are also curious about these particular actions. They can concentrate on certain tasks for a much longer period of time and enjoy projects that involve a lot of skill such as sewing or artwork.
During puberty the brain goes through a dramatic stage of development (Meggitt, 2012). Children will develop an adult way of thinking including functions such as reasoning, judgement and self control and will rely on the sense to apply these functions. They will begin to learn morals and gain the ability to reason about what is right and wrong.
During adolescence they take personal responsibility for finances, accommodation, employment and relationships. Education plays a vital role in distinguishing an individuals identity through moral, social, economic and cultural code.
The first three years are considered to be a critical period for language development. As a newborn, babies will communicate by crying and there will be different cries for different needs. They will also communicate with eye contact and facial expressions. By one month babies will start to use other sounds such as gurgling sounds which come from the throat. These are known as guttural sounds (Minett, 2017). By the age of 9 months these sounds are much easier to understand with audible words such as ‘da-da’ and will begin to copy words and sounds made by another. They will laugh, chuckle and squeal when excited but also scream when unhappy or annoyed.
By the age of one, the child will have a better understanding of the meaning of words such as ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ and be able to match the word to the object or person. A child’s first words are usually related to people, animals or objects. They will continue to use and learn more words up to age of 2 where they will then be able to use 50 or more words and may be able to put a sentence together of two or three words (Minett, 2017).
By the age of 3 they are able to hold a conversation and tend to talk quite a lot. They will now be using pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘you’ and understand the meaning and will also ask a lot of questions to develop there language and understanding.
Young children will make many mistakes when learning to speak. They will mispronounce words as they have difficulty in making the correct sounds such as:
Replacing s with th (yeth for yes) known as lisping and is very common in young children
Replacing th with f (fin for thin)
Replacing r with w (wed for red)
From the age of 3 a child’s language and communication develop rapidly. They will start to use different pitch and tone and begin to use plurals, pronouns and adjectives and start to speak in the past tense. There vocabulary will extend to about 1500 words and they will question in a more complex manner. By the age of 5 their grammar will be much more accurate and they will use language to communicate their own ideas. They will enjoy looking at books and use the pictures to follow a story.
By the age of 7, a child will be able to recognise their own name and a few other words. They will be now extremely fluent and be able to hold a conversation and make up stories of their own. They will begin to read books and understand the meaning and recognise an increasing number of letters and link them to the sounds (Meggitt, 2012).
From the age of 8 a child will be able to make and understand complex sentences and learn spelling. There vocabulary will grow with the introduction of new words and new ways of using language. They will speak fluently and be able to describe events with good details. They will be able to read books now out load and understand what they are reading.
By the age of 12 they write fairly long stories which show imagination and are legible. They will understand how to write in past and present tense and understand the grammatical terms and where to use them in their writing. They will understand and know the use of sarcasm and know when others are being sarcastic and know how to use subtle and witty humour. They may speak differently to friends than to parents or teachers, using slang words for example (Meggitt, 2012).
Young adolescence will communicate well and in an adult manner showing great maturity. They have a legible style of handwriting and can understand abstract language such as idioms, figurative language and metaphors (Meggitt, 2012). They can relate words to meaning and context and will understand and use punctuation and correct grammar in their work.
As a teenager, they can become very sarcastic and witty as they test their new, sophisticated language skills. Their logical ability is maturing well and they may enjoy practicing their new intellectual and verbal skills through debating, either in a school setting or with friends and parents.
During the first 6 months a child will communicate their emotions by crying. They will cry when hungry, cold, scared, tired or in pain. Babies will also smile to show their emotions for example if they are happy when fed or see a familiar face. By the age of 12 months they develop a more complicated understanding of the relationship with the environment and people. They may develop a fear of strangers and need the reassurance of a parent or carer when meeting new people but by 18 months will have less anxiety with new people but still need the presence of a familiar person (Minett, 2017).
Between the ages of 2 and 3, a toddler will experience a lot of emotions and also learn about the feelings of others. As children don’t understand how to use words to express certain feelings such as anger and frustration, they may develop temper tantrums to show their emotions in a non verbal manner. They will feel more confident around new people and not get as upset when a parent or carer is not around, such as nursery or grandparents house. They will begin to have an understanding that certain behaviour affects other peoples emotions and also their own.
During these early years, children’s emotional and social development leads to making friendships and being with children of similar age. From the age of 3 children are able to be cooperative with other children starting off for a short period but by the age of 5 they can play together for longer periods of time (Tassoni, Burnham, 2017).
By the age of 3 a child will know whether it is a boy or a girl. The tantrums that come with being frustrated will still be there and they may show jealousy and anger towards other children and want to be close to a parent or other familiar adult.
By the age of 5 they will find it much easier to be separated from parents especially if they are with friends. They will show stronger feelings and emotions but are able to explain their feelings to others. They will show great self-esteem from encouragement of tasks. They are able to control their feelings and will show anger towards adults by way of arguing. They will also hide their feelings in some situations.
By the age of 7 they will have a much wider social understanding. They may show strong emotions to events that are happening around them or what they see on the news. They can also be sensitive towards others and their needs. They can control how they feel much better now but there will still be times when they want to do it their way and arguing will still happen (Meggitt, 2012).
By the age of 8, children will respond to negative and positive comments and may become discouraged easily. They are still argumentative and become bossy but will also be generous and compassionate towards others. They have now developed the capacity to regulate their own emotions and are beginning to see things from another child’s point of view. They will have a close emotional bond with their parents and other family member and also a small group of friends.
By the age of 12 they are much better at expressing and controlling their emotions in certain social settings and in a much more acceptable way. They will be experiencing strong emotional changes due to starting puberty and this is more common in girls as they experience puberty much earlier than boys. They will be very sensitive and may become upset or frustrated when being criticised (Meggitt, 2012).
Young people have will go through many emotional changes as puberty progresses. They will become self conscious or worried about the changes that are happening to them during this stage and will develop strong mood swings, e.g. fluctuate between emotional peaks of excitement and depths of moodiness (Meggitt, 2012).
By the age of 19, many teenagers may have developed an interest in romantic relationships and are much better at regulating their emotions. They will be less likely to lose their temper and will be able to deal better with uncomfortable feelings. They will form stronger relationships than in previous years and will develop strong bonds with friends. They will begin to work to the future and feel both excited and apprehensive. They will have to make a lot of decisions about their future and this brings with it many emotions rollercoasters.