Although different authorities stress a different number of developmental stages, According to How Kids Develop, child development refers to a child's ability to learn and master skills called milestones as she gets older. A milestone in child development is a skill that a child learns at a specific stage of development. The acquisition of milestones occurs in a certain sequence in the areas of physical, emotional, and mental abilities. A child graduates from one stage of development to the next after reaching certain milestones. For instance, a child learns to crawl before walking and running. The six stages of child development begin at birth.
Between the time of birth and one month, the newborn child exhibits movements that are automatic in in response to external stimuli, according to "Child Development: An Illustrated Guide." Some milestones include the rooting reflex, where a newborn opens his mouth and turns his head toward your hand when you stroke his cheek; the grasp reflex, which is when the newborn involuntarily grasps at any object put in his hands such as your finger; and the startle reflex, where a child stiffens, extends his arms and legs and then quickly brings his arms together in front of his chest in response to sudden noises or position changes. At this stage, a newborn is able to see objects that are close to his eyes such as his parents' faces, recognize certain smells, move his head from side to side, smile and cries to indicate his needs.
Between one and 12 months, infants displays new developmental abilities. A three-to-six-month-old child is able to control her head movements and play with her hands together. An infant is able to sit without support, respond to her name and babble between six and nine months old. Between nine and twelve months, a baby can crawl, stand with support and pick up objects with her index finger and thumb or a pincer grasp.
Children between one and three years old are toddlers. At this age, they display ritualistic behavior, such as a bedtime routine, which gives them a sense of reliability and comfort. Although toddlers are clumsy, they can walk without help, go up a staircase, jump in place, hold a crayon, draw a circle, build a tower of two blocks, follow simple directions and use short sentences.
Preschool development occurs between the ages of three and five years. This stage of child development is characterized by increased refinement of fine motor skills, according to the book "Maternity and Pediatric Nursing." The preschooler can throw a ball over his head, skip, hop, stand on one foot for 10 seconds or longer, draw a person with features, take care of his toileting needs and dress himself. He can also have long conversations.
The school-age developmental stage is between six and 12 years old. Children at this stage are more capable, independent and responsible, according to the book "The Developing Person through Childhood and Adolescence." The school-age child has greater motor skills and begins to develop secondary sexual characteristics. Peer relationships become important here and are typically with members of the same sex.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the adolescent years, physical, mental, cognitive and sexual changes occur. Girls are physically mature while boys might still be maturing. Teenagers develop their identity and opinions. They have concerns about their looks. Eating disorders may occur at this time. Adolescents develop interest in members of the opposite sex and spend more time with their friends and less time with their parents.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Middle Adolescence (15-17 years old)
- "Child Development: An Illustrated Guide"; Carolyn Meggitt; 2006.
- How Kids Develop: What is child development and what skills do children develop at different ages
- "Maternity and Pediatric Nursing"; Susan Scott Ricci, Terri Kyle; 2008
- "The developing person through childhood and adolescence"; Kathleen Stassen Berger; 2003