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Five Domains for Early Childhood Development

author image Alexis Aiger
Alexis Aiger has been writing professionally since 2010 on parenting, relationship and mental health topics. She has a master's degree in mental health counseling from Walden University and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Portland State University. She has worked as a counselor and case manager for several years.
Five Domains for Early Childhood Development
Mother speaking to daughter on grass field. Photo Credit: amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images

Children begin developing at birth and continue to adulthood. The successful completion of developmental milestones helps your child reach her full potential. You may track your child's physical development at well-child check-ups, but physical development covers only one domain of the five major domains of early childhood development. Your child's social, cognitive, communicative and adaptive development determines future success as much as physical development.

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Physical development includes mastering movement, balance and fine and gross motor skills, according to the PBS website. During early childhood, your child's balance improves. He can walk on a line or small balance beam and balance on one foot. Your child also develops the skill to throw and catch a ball, walk up and down stairs without assistance and do somersaults. At this age your child begins mastering motor skills that allow him to build block towers, draw circles and crosses and use safety scissors.


Social development refers to your child's ability to make and maintain relationships. Your child cooperates with others during early childhood and begins to develop conflict resolution skills. She enjoys attention and may show off, while still showing empathy for others. At this age your child enjoys group games and begins to understand the concept of playing fairly. She can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but enjoys imaginative play with friends.


Cognitive development includes skills pertaining to learning and thinking. During early childhood your child develops the ability to sort objects and can organize materials by size or color. His attention span increases and he seeks information through questions, such as "how?" and "when?" By the end of early childhood, he can count to 10, knows his colors and can read his name. He knows the difference between fact and fiction, making him capable of understanding the difference between the truth and a lie, according to the Child Development Institute.


Communicative development includes your child's skills to understand the spoken word and express herself verbally. During early childhood your child goes from speaking in short sentences to speaking in sentences of more than five words. Your child, once understandable only to those closest to her, now speaks clearly enough that even strangers understand her words. She talks about experiences, shares personal information and understands positional concepts such as up and down. At this age, it becomes possible to carry on a back-and-forth conversation.


Adaptive skills refer to the skills used for daily living, such as dressing, eating, toileting and washing. During early childhood your child learns to dress and undress himself without assistance, use utensils for eating and can pour some liquid without assistance. Your child also becomes able to use buttons and snaps and can take care of toileting independently.

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