Children develop at varying rates, so that any statements about normal child development must always be about averages. We use the age of a child to segment the course of development over time, but this too is not a hard-and-fast framework for describing child development. Some children may develop slowly in one segment, yet show above average growth in another. The ages and stages of child development, then, are always presented as averages and never as absolutes.
The ages and stages of child development framework gives us a means of determining if our children are progressing as average children do. Some descriptions hold to a three stage pattern that ranges between 0 and 5 years of age, while others describe as many as 10 stages in the same age range. Agreement between these different descriptions are fairly consistent, yet each sets somewhat different expectations. Those descriptions of ages and stages of child development that see more numerous stages than those with wider ranges may be setting less reasonable expectations. The fewer the stages, the more reasonable we can expect the description of ages and stages of child development to be, since more time is given for development. Children develop at different rates. This principle must always be kept in mind when we are referencing descriptions of ages and stages of child development to judge the development of our own children.
In a more general description of ages and stages of child development, four stages of development were presented: 0 to 18 months, 18 months to 3 years, 3 years to 5 years, and 6 years to 8. In a more discrete description, 12 stages were recognized: 0 to 29 days, month 1, month 1 to 3, month 4 to 6, month 7 to 9, month 10 to 12, month 13 to 18, month 18 to 23, 2 years to 3 years, 3 years to 4 years, 5 years to 6 years, and 7 years to 8 years. Each of these two descriptions gave the same items of development, but the one with fewer stages was not as hard and fast as the one with more stages as to when an item of development would begin and end. The one with fewer stages generally allowed more time for an item of development to occur.
When referring to descriptions of child development, a parent would probably do best to read those with broad and narrow categories, rather than to go with just one. This will allow the parent to know what specific developmental considerations occur on the average for a given month of a child’s development and yet recognize that development can span more than a narrow time slot. If the description with more categories says your child should be exhibiting a particular growth and your child is not, take a look at the more general description and see if it puts that development into a larger time frame. Of course, if both descriptions indicate your child should have achieved growth in a particular area and the child is not, see your pediatricians. The problem may only be a matter of nutrition or something that can be easily corrected.
Children grow at different rates, yet most of them come out in the end to be of average height and weight, of normal intelligence and social health. Don’t rush your child, yet don’t be remiss. Whatever their rate of growth, they’re growing at nature’s pace.