Child development is the study of how children think, feel, and grow. Development occurs in a predictable sequence, but every child has their own unique timeline.
Children will babble sounds before saying words. They usually walk before they run. But not every child will say his first word at 10 months or walk at 1 year.
Normal development occurs within a range of timeframes with developmental milestones occurring during a broad range of ages. All children will experience easier times of development (equilibrium) and more challenging periods of growth (disequilibrium).
Understanding child development can help parents feel more comfortable that their children are normal, and help parents to modify their daily expectations.
What is Child Development?
Child development refers to the natural growth and learning that occurs in all children from birth to adulthood, including physical, intellectual, and social-emotional growth.
Intellectual, or Cognitive development
Intellectual development describes how mental processes — learning, remembering, problem solving, and thinking — develop from birth until adulthood. Understanding cognitive development is useful in determining the kind of thinking children are capable of at different age levels.
Physical development is the process by which a child’s body grows and acquires movement, including fine and gross motor skills. Physical development provides children with the abilities they need to explore and interact with the world around them.
Social-Emotional development describes how children develop skills that allow them to interact with other people and to express and control their emotions.
Social-Emotional stages are often harder to notice than signs of physical and cognitive development. Waiting patiently. Making friends. Sharing toys. Taking care of others. All of these qualities are examples of social-emotional development. Young children develop these abilities in small increments over time.
Key Points of Understanding Child Development
- Among children of the same age, there is a range of what is normal in the way they develop socially, emotionally, intellectually and physically.
- A child’s maturity level may be different for the various qualities he is developing, including social skills, athletic abilities and learning capabilities. He might be strong in reading but weak in math (or vice versa), or good at running but not at baseball.
- The variations described above may be permanent, forming a child’s own unique profile; or they could be evolving and thus be subject to change.
- The particular parenting style of their parents and caregivers, as well as the child’s environment, will affect their behavior and development.