Development is the process of gaining new skills in all areas of life. All children are individuals so, although they will all go through the same stages of development, they may not necessarily go through these at the same time. For this reason, the term ‘average child’ is used when talking about the process of development, but we should consider each child’s development progress individually. The development of a child is usually categorised into five main areas: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Social and Language. Physical Development.
A newborn baby will lie on his back with his head to one side and his head will lag when he is pulled up to sit. He will have primitive reflexes, such as grasping and sucking. By 3 months he will be able to kick his legs, play with his own hands and lift his own head. At 6 months, he will be able to sit with support and pass a toy from one hand to the other.
He will have made a large transition by 9 months and may sit without support, crawl or shuffle and will begin to use his index, middle finger and thumb together to pick up small items. He will have begun to walk unaided by 18 months, can use a spoon and will attempt to kick a ball. By 2 years, he will be able to use a pencil to make simple forms, build a tower of six bricks and start to use his preferred hand. Between 3 and 5 years, he will have the capacity to jump from a low step, pedal a tricycle and turn single pages in a book.
His gross motor skills improvement will mean that he will be able to walk backwards and forwards along a line and aim, throw and catch a large ball. By 8 years old he will be able to jump from heights and he will have improved his balancing skills enough to walk along a wall or beam and ride a bicycle without stabilisers. The improvement in his fine motor skills will allow him to control a pencil in a small area and do detailed drawing. He will also have the control to tie and untie his shoelaces and build intricate models. Intellectual (or cognitive) development.
Intellectual development is about how children learn, think and develop ideas. Children develop intellectually at different rates and some in areas that others do not. At birth a baby will blink in reaction to bright light and cry as a response to his basic needs. By 6 months he is easily distracted by movements and objects and will make attempts to reach out for them.
He will also put everything in his mouth. By 12 months he will recognise familiar people at 6 metres and be able to imitate those around him and the moods they express, for example laughing when someone he is with is laughing. By 2 years old he will enjoy imaginary play and will often talk to himself. He will be able to point to and recognise the names of parts of the body. Between the ages of 3 and 5 years, his fine motor skills will have increased enough to be able to control a pencil adequately and cut with scissors. He will be able to draw a square and a range of letters, some spontaneously and paint with a large paint brush.
At 5 years of age, the concepts of numeracy and literacy will be within his capabilities and many children will be able to count and recognise simple words. Between the ages of 6 and 8 his ability to write will be developing, he will read simple books, predict next events and he will know his birthday. Emotional Development
From birth a baby will be able to respond to their main carer. He will gaze intently at his carer and by 6 weeks will start to smile as a response to recognition of that person. At 6 months he will show the first signs of distress at the separation from his carer and fear of strangers.He will also actively seek attention.Between 9 and 12 months, he will enjoy the company of those people that he is familiar with. From 1 year old he will be more demanding and assertive and temper tantrums may start.
He distinguishes between himself and others, but he is still egocentric and shows rage at being told ‘no’. He is also starting to develop object permanence, he no longer believes that an object that has been hidden is actually no longer there. At 2 years of age he will enjoy other children’s company but will still be reluctant to share his toys. He will, however, be able to cope with short periods of separation from his carer, for example while at nursery. At 3 years he is more aware of his own feelings and able to explain to others how he is feeling Between 5 and 8 years he will enjoy co-operative play and understand reasoning and taking turns. He will be increasingly less anxious about separation and have a good sense of self awareness. Social Development
A baby is born with the ability to be sociable. If a baby becomes distressed, he can often be pacified by the sight, touch or smell of his main
carer.Between the ages of 3 and 12 months he will be able to interact with his environment, imitating the moods displayed by others. He will discover how to play alone and entertain himself for lengthy periods.
With his increasing mobility, he will become more confident and between 2 and 5 years old he will learn to make friends, even though at times he may resort to tantrums when he does not get his own way. By 8 years old he will be fairly independent and confident with an increasing sense of right and wrong and he will be able to form firm friendships with his peers. Language Development
There are two distinct stages of language development; pre-linguistic and linguistic. The pre-linguistic stage is from birth to 12 months, when he starts to say his first words.This is the period in which a baby can only express himself by crying, when basic needs require attention, cooing, in response to his carer’s talk and gurgling or chuckling when playing. From about 9 months, he will begin to ‘babble’ sounds such as ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ and he will be able to imitate simple animal noises.
The linguistic stage from 1 year old will bring the beginnings of recognisable words and the ‘average’ child will have a vocabulary of around 50 words by the time he is 2. Between 2 and 3 years he has a rapidly expanding vocabulary and can become frustrated if he is unable to express himself in words. By 5 years old he will be a confident speaker and will recognise new words and ask the meaning of them. His vocabulary will be in the region of some 5000 words. By 8 years old he will be able to speak in different tenses and explain himself with confidence.
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