Child Development Stages

July 22, 2015

At some point, all parents are very likely to have conversations with teachers and other education professionals to discuss their child’s development. It is important therefore, that everyone understands what we mean by child development in order to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.

As any child grows and develops there are measures that can be used in five key areas that give an idea if they are where they would normally be expected to be on their developmental journey from infant to adolescent – this is what is meant by child development. These indicators refer to a child’s stage of development across a range of various physical and emotional behaviours and skills – and help to guide trained professionals advise parents if any extra help and support might be needed.

We should always remember that each child is different, education professionals will assess a child and discuss what they observe and help parents to understand their child’s development.

The development of a child will involve five key skill areas; motor & physical, cognitive, social & emotional, communication & language, and self-help & adaptive. The pre-defined key stages of development are made at intervals, typically around birth to 2 years, 2 to 6 years, 6 to 12 years and from 12 years upwards.

Academic Theories on the Stages of Child Development

There are many theories relating to child development, one example according to Piaget proposes that there are four stages:

  • The ‘sensory’ stage between 0-2 years as children learn, through the development of their senses, an awareness of objects.
  • This is followed by the ‘pre-operational’ between the ages of 2 and 7, where children begin analyzing their environment using words and images.
  • The third ‘concrete’ stage is between 7 and 11 years old and is where children can start to solve problems and apply new thinking to different events they may encounter.
  • The final stage is the ‘formal operations’ stage from 11 years old upwards. Now, Piaget says children can “think more rationally and systematically about abstract concepts and hypothetical events”.

Another psychologist, Vygotsky, believed that children learn through hands-on experience, as Piaget suggested. However, unlike Piaget, he claimed that timely and sensitive intervention by adults when a child is on the edge of learning a new task (called the zone of proximal development) could help children learn new tasks. This technique is called ‘scaffolding’ because it builds upon the knowledge that children already have - with new knowledge that adults can help the child learn.

It is important to remember that the early years are so important for children as they reach key developmental milestones.

How can we Help and Support our Children’s Development?

It has been said that 'play is the highest form of research and when children create, they are thinking and solving problems'.

As I reflect on this and how we can help children with their development I think it is important to remember that the key aspects of learning can take place away from the school desk and we as teachers, parents and families can support children to have the opportunities they need to develop at the key moments in their learning journey.

Child Development - What Do We Mean?

As the summer holidays arrive I was thinking about what can help children continue with their development and I thought of the Summer Camps. Summer Camps can very influential in child development as they offer fun filled days where children are exposed to many new experiences, developing a whole new set of skills through a variety of activities and play both indoors and out.

They enable children to develop through raising self-esteem, developing confidence and communication skills in addition to making new friends and learning to work in teams where they have to solve problems, think critically and be creative. This can be done through so many activities and children have the opportunity to be involved with challenges which may involve the use of dance, music, arts, crafts, robot building, writing, numeracy and sports.

Such opportunities lend themselves to children developing resilience and coping strategies as well as a sense of completion and satisfaction as they are stretched and challenged. This supports the development of a child’s ability to listen, reflect, talk, try something new and to be confident to make their own choices. The camps help children develop their awareness of others and a sense of community where they celebrate success and feel a sense of self-worth enabling a ‘can do’ attitude to develop.

Life is Art, Paint your Dreams!

An interesting piece of research for me was the work completed by Dr Madeleine Portwood who has developed The Child Development Programme which has been seen to show how certain activities can help children from ages of 2 to 6 years accelerate their learning abilities quite significantly.

This programme could be an invaluable aid in supporting children in Early Years to improve in motor skills, language, literacy, numeracy, information and social skills. It also supports thinking skills development. The programme has a range of preschool activities which can support a child in their development of learning skills through ‘doing’, ‘seeing’ and ‘feeling’ in a creative and enjoyable way. It will also support the improvement of gross and fine motor skills in addition to improving concentration, perceptual skills and learning about information processing.

As I close this reflection I leave you with something I once read:

A Child is like a butterfly in the wind.
Some can fly higher than others,
But each one files the best it can.
Why compare one against the other?
Each one is different.
Each one is special.
Each one is beautiful.

If we, as teachers, parents and Summer camp providers can provide opportunities to inspire our children and support their development to very best of our ability, then I believe we will have enhanced their educational and life journey and we will have a world full of talented 'butterflies' each with something very special to offer the world they live and work in.