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Understanding Child Development Stages as an Aid to the Assessment of Child Growth

Child Development

Childhood is a period of a person’s life starting from birth to pre-adolescence, or from 0 months old to about the age of 8 or 9 years old. During this period of time the child grows and develops in body, intelligence, emotion, and social behavior. While children grow and develop at different rates, altogether, their levels of growth and development may be assessed along a time line and an average level of achievement can be derived. Child development stages are points along the time line of childhood where, on the average, children have completed an average level of competence in some area of growth and development and are ready to begin the next stage of development.

In child development stages, some growth or development is exhibited, achieved, or attained in body height, weight, and function, in motor skills, language and speech, vision, hearing, and social interaction. Each stage for a given area builds on the achievements of that area’s previous stage: growth and development.

Child development stages are arbitrary schedules for child growth and development. These schedules use age as the principle of division, as is expected if we are dividing a period of a lifetime, but the number of years included in schedules differ. Some schedules define childhood as the first six years of life while other extend to the age of thirteen. While we do normally define a child as one who is age 0 to 13, most recognize a division of that range into ages 0 to 6, or childhood 7 to 11, or pre-puberty, and 12 to 13, or puberty.

Among those schedules that consider only the first six years as childhood, some see four child development stages while others see thirteen. The ones with more stages actually divide the stages of those with fewer stages into more discrete sub-stages. Most schedules agree that there are four stages, but some schedules simply divide those four stages even further.

The four child development stages for schedules 0 to 6 years of age divide that segment into infant, ages 0 to 18 months, toddler, ages 18 months to 3 years, childhood, ages 3 to 5, and school age, ages 5 to 6.

Infancy can be sub-divided into 6 sub-divisions by age: month 1, 1 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, 6 to 9 months, 9 to 12 months, and 12 to 18 months. By the end of infancy, the child is able to stand, walk or toddle, categorize, speak a few words, manipulate objects with gross actions, recognize pictures, and relate to others, perhaps with some anxiety, may wave, and is able to (to a degree) use a spoon. Toys are faithfully attended.

At the end of the toddler stage, the child walks, talks, climbs stairs, draws, stacks, plays with others, is toilet trained, requires only one nap, obeys simple commands, and baby fat has for the most part, disappeared.

From age 3 to 5, childhood proper, the child is able to run, skip on one foot, dress, brush teeth, feed self, knows right from left, recognizes and names colors and letters, draws shapes, plays games with other children, questions, and speaks fluently.

From ages 5 to 6, the child can skip on both feet, speaks with some malapropisms, draws complex shapes such as diamonds, is more independent, and capable of carrying out simple chores. The end of this stage shows the attainment of reason.

Child development stages describe average levels of attainment, but one should always keep in mind that children grow and develop at varying rates. The child who seemed small for her or his age, for instance, may end up being a towering basketball player. These schedules are to aid us in the assessment of a child’s growth, but these are not hard-and-fast rules.

This video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (developingchild.harvard.edu) features Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Harvard Medical School addressing basic concepts of early childhood development, established over decades of neuroscience and behavioral research, which help illustrate why child development—particularly from birth to five years—is a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society.
Video Rating: 4 / 5


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