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Physical Development ( 0 - 3 Years )

Between the first 0 to 3 months, babies learn how to control their muscles and movements. Motor control develops from the head, moves down through their arms and the trunk and then to the legs and feet. At first, children's movements are reflexive in nature -- for example, turning their head to the side when you stroke their cheek. As motor development continues, babies will learn to interact with their environment. By one month, a baby can turns its head from side to side when lying on the back or belly, and can move its hands and arms.

From 3 to 6 months, motor movement continues to improve as a baby approaches their first half-birthday. A 3-month-old kicks it's legs when lying on the belly or back, and bats and briefly grasps toys. Between 3 and 4 months, they should be rolling with belly to back first, and by 6 months will be rolling back to belly.

As an infant approaches their first birthday, their motor skills continue to develop and they can begin to explore the world around them. At 6 months of age, the average baby can begin to sit without support, and begins to stand with support between 7 and 8 months of age. By 8.5 months, infants begin crawling on their hands and knees, and walking with assistance occurred at approximately 9 months. The ability to stand alone takes a bit longer, about 11 months.

By 12 months of age, the average baby can take a few steps on their own. Between 13 and 15 months, walking skills increase and they can begin to walk, unassisted, across a room. Playing movements, such as kicking and throwing balls, begin around 18 months, and at this time babies might start running, climbing stairs with assistance, and propelling scoot toys join the toddler’s set of mobility and play skills.

Between the ages of 2 and 3, balance improves and the toddler begins walks with a smoother pattern. During this period they learn to stand briefly on one foot, walk backwards, and walk on tiptoes. The average child can jump in place by age 2, and is able to jump over objects by age 3. Between 30 and 34 months, toddlers begin to walk up stairs alternating feet without a hand held or use of a railing. Around 35 months, you may start to see some prowess on the playground, and children can run and play with standard playground equipment. And by 3 years a child is well on their well to riding a tricycle.

Cognitive Development ( 0 - 3 years )

Babies are born with cognitive skills that allow them to recognise and respond to their caregivers. For example, they are able and ready to immediately begin a bond with their caregiver — to get those who keep them healthy and alive connected to them immediately. The skills that let them do this are their visual fixed focal length (about the distance from breast to caregiver’s face), their ability to perceive high contrasts and contours (allowing outlines of things like a face to be defined), their orientation to human voices over other sounds, and their ability to recognise a familiar voice by the time they are a week old.


During the sensorimotor stage (birth to age 3), infants and toddlers learn by doing: looking, hearing, touching, grasping, and sucking. The learning process appears to begin with coordinating movements of the body with incoming sensory data. As infants intentionally attempt to interact with the environment, infants learn that certain actions lead to specific consequences. These experiences are the beginning of the infants' understanding of cause‐and‐effect relationships.


Object permanence, or the knowledge that out‐of‐sight objects still exist, may begin to appear at about month 9 as infants search for objects that are hidden from view. In (months 12 through 18), toddlers explore cause‐and‐effect relationships by intentionally manipulating causes to produce novel effects. For example, a toddler may attempt to make her parents smile by waving her hands at them. In (months 18 through 24), toddlers begin to exhibit representational (symbolic) thought, demonstrating that they have started to internalise symbols as objects, such as people, places, and things. The child at this stage, for instance, uses words to refer to specific items, such as milk, dog, papa, or mama.


Central to early cognitive development is memory development. Memory is the ability to encode, retain, and recall information over time. Researchers generally refer to sensory (less than 1 second), short‐term (less than 30 seconds), and long‐term (indefinite) memory stores. Children are not able to habituate or learn if they are unable to encode objects, people, and places and eventually recall them from long‐term memory.


Social Development ( 3 - 5 years )

The preschool years are a magic time in development. Children move from being almost entirely dependent on their parents, to being somewhat independent beings in the world. In virtually every aspect of development, their knowledge base are exploding, not the least of which are their social and emotional skills.


The preschool years (ages 3 to about age 5) begin with the tail end of Erik Erikson’s second stage of psychosocial development: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. In this stage, children are learning to be self-sufficient in ways such as self-regulation, toileting, feeding, and dressing. Around the age of four, they enter the third stage of psychosocial development: Initiative vs. Guilt. Over the course of this period, children learn to imagine, to become more independent, to broaden their skills through play, fantasy, and exploration, and to engage, participate, and cooperate with others, including peers. According to Erikson, if these goals are not accomplished, the child will become fearful, socially excluded, limited in their ability to play, and negatively dependent on adults.


While seeming lofty, these goals are achieved by most children through natural interactions with family and other caretakers. While preschoolers are also learning how to relate to peers and interact with them, most of the social growth occurs in the relationship with caregivers. One of the challenges of this period is to learn to navigate maintaining the secure attachments accomplished during infancy and toddlerhood, while simultaneously differentiating oneself as an individual.


Individuation for children over the preschool years means developing a better understanding of who they are, as well as beginning to understand and relate to others. Creating this personal identity means exploring many fundamental aspects of themselves—gender, race, personality. At age 3, children still believe they can grow up and transform genders. By 6, they understand that gender is more or less a fixed aspect of their identity. Thus, over the preschool years, children begin to have a sense of the stable characteristics that make them the unique person that they are.


In the course of this development, preschoolers also learn more sophisticated ways to relate to others. For example, empathy develops, beginning at around age 2 but becoming more visible between ages 3 and 5.  When a child experiences empathy, he realises that he can positively affect another by taking action or offering help (e.g., getting a band aid for a crying peer). While empathy can be fostered, it seems to be an inherent part of development across cultures. On the flip side of empathy is the negative ways preschoolers learn to impact others. While toddlers may flail about in anger, preschoolers can use aggression to willfully inflict harm. 

Emotional Development ( 3 - 5 years )

Three, four, and five-year-olds express a wide range of emotions and are able to use appropriate labels such as mad, sad, happy, and just okay to show their feelings. During these preschool years, children’s emotional states are very situation-specific and can change as rapidly as they switch from one activity to another. As children develop from three-year-olds into five-year-olds, there is an increasing internalisation and regulation over their emotions. As three, four, and five-year-olds acquire new cognitive and language skills, they learn to regulate their emotions and to use language to express how they and others feel.



Three-year-olds experience emotions in extremes. When three-year-olds are angry, they often express their emotions through temper tantrums or some physical display. The same is true when they are happy, expressing their joy through uncontrollable laughter and/or squeals of delight. The slightest event can bring uncontrollable laughter. Once they begin, it is difficult to stop them from laughing.


Four-year-olds are beginning to develop a sense of humor. Four-year-olds may laugh simply to make others laugh. They will be amused at the things that adults do. This silliness is accompanied by a fascination with “potty” humor. They are also beginning to understand the nature of a joke, when people say things for the sole purpose of being funny. Four-year-olds can spend endless amounts of time telling the same corny riddle or joke over and over and laughing each time.


Five-year-olds are beginning to develop socially acceptable behaviors. If they see something that they want, they ask for it. If they are told that they cannot have something, they are learning to deal with their feelings of either disappointment or anger. Although natural curiosity is strong in five-year-olds, they are beginning to learn the limits of this curiosity. Instead of grabbing a train off a classmate’s chair, they may ask if they can see it.

Language Development ( 5 - 8 years )

By five years, children can use the correct form of verbs to talk about past and future events. For example, a child can say ‘I played with Mason’ to talk about the past and ‘I will play with Mason’ to talk about the future. Children also begin to understand some concepts of time – for example, night, day and yesterday.



Your child will start to realise that there are exceptions to grammatical rules – for example, we say ‘broke’, ‘threw’ and ‘ate’ rather than ‘breaked’, ‘throwed’ and ‘eated’. But it will take a few more years for them to learn the many exceptions in the English language. Even at eight years of age, some children might have trouble with the past tense of some verbs.



At 5-6 years, children understand that single words might have different meanings, so they start to rely more on the context of a word to know what it means. For example, ‘cool’ means something different when you say, ‘It’s a cool day’, compared with when you say, ‘That’s a really cool robot you’ve built’. They also begin to understand metaphors and non-literal language – for example, ‘Make up your mind’.



A child will understand that they can make new words by joining two other words – for example, ‘bookshelf’. You may see ‘compound’ words like this more often in a child’s speech.


A child will also begin using longer words as they learns that the beginnings and endings of words change their meanings. For example, they could add ‘ness’ (as in ‘happiness’), ‘un’ (as in ‘unwrap’), and ‘er’ (as when ‘teach’ becomes ‘teacher’).


And a child will also start to understand that words don’t always need an ‘s’ to become plurals – for example, ‘feet’ and ‘mice’ rather than ‘foots’ and ‘mouses’.


By eight years, children are learning lots of new words through reading. They also start to understand jokes and riddles that play on sounds. 

Physical Development ( 5 - 8 years )


At the age of 5 most children would be expected to be able to walk backwards, walk heel-to-toe without losing balance, run on toes, hop proficiently, get up without using hands, balance on alternate feet (eyes open or closed), catch a ball using hands more than arms, jump rope and to be able to jump down several steps at a time.


At the age of 6 most children can throw and catch a small ball well, move in time to the beat or rhythm of music, and skip, gallop, and dance.


At the ages of 7 & 8 children are old enough to ride a two-wheel bicycle and are able to learn different sports involving good physical control.


Good physical development will have good effects on the childs health and will have a positive effect on their ability to join in physical activities in school or at home with their friends. 


Physical development can either be the childs health, or it could involve the childs fine and gross motor skills. A childs fine motor skills are their small muscle developments for example when the write they begin to use their pincer grip which works the small muscles in their hands. Gross motor skills are the childs whole body movements which involve the large (core stabilising) muscles of the body to perform everyday functions, such as standing, walking, running, and sitting upright. It also includes eye-hand coordination skills such as ball skills (throwing, catching, kicking).

Cognitive Development ( 8 - 12 years )

Lots of daydreaming and playing with the imagination
Your seven year old will love to daydream. She will be forgetful, absent minded, and often lost in her own little world. Magic, fantasy, and make-believe will be a source of fascination. Stories of "once upon a time" and "happily ever after" will dominate her play time.

More meta perspective when problem solving
Abstract thought will improve and she will be able to look at problems from more than one angle and consider multiple solutions.

Humor now includes jokes
Her sense of humour will be well-developed and she will enjoy hearing and telling jokes.

Starting to self-evaluate
They will be able to look at their own drawings and notice things that they missed such as a nose on a face or a handle on a door.

They will be very critical of themselves, especially when they make mistakes, so make sure that the child gets lots of encouragement and reassurance.

One way to do this is to NOT evaluate drawings as bad OR good. In this way a child will be more prone to drawing because the task in itself is fun and interesting rather than drawing because he or she equates drawing with praise and attention.

In other words, non-judgement sets a child free to set and follow their own goals, which again supports healthy independency and free personal growth.

Reality will slowly replace the fantasy world
A child will begin to trade their fantasy world for reality.

Humor is still evolving
The child will still enjoy humor and like watching funny shows or reading joke and riddle books.

Language experimentation and playing with words
They may ask for a secret password before someone enters their bedroom, or make up nicknames for their friends.

Listening to other languages may interest them and they might create their own funny words for objects then insist that everyone use them in conversation.

Children at this age can be very dramatic which can also be seen in their choice of language: a child may use phrases like, "This is the worst day of my life" or "I'm bleeding to death".

Continual expansion of consciousness
A child's "competitive spirit" will not be as prevalent as it has been in previous years. They will concede a loss and celebrate a friend's win.

You may notice that they will become less argumentative and will only argue a point that they feel is important.

Rather than always needing to be right, they will now be more willing to listen to other points of view.

Friends become increasingly more and more important
This is the age when friends' opinions will be much more important than what parents say.

Peers will have the ability to affect their self-esteem or confidence. Even though they think that parents opinion does not matter, they will need their support and encouragement when their friends hurt or let them down.

Emotional Development ( 8 - 12 years )

Emotional changes in a child at this age:

Because family is now prioritised alongside friendships, personal interests and school, children of this age may often express preferences to spend more time doing things outside the home.

Friendships develop based on mutual trust and the ability to give emotional support when necessary and loneliness can be experienced when the support is not available. 8-12 year olds will still mostly have friendships with people of the same sex rather than the opposite sex but can better maintain friendships and move forward after conflicts.

Older kids will show more self-reliance and consult more with peers prior to seeking adult assistance to help them deal with emotions, and can feel conflicted between the values of their parents and peers.

As they get older each year, 8-12 year olds will want to try adult things and be resentful of limitations and the authority figures that put them in place (especially parents), so parents should set boundaries about what is safe and not safe, and talk about topics such as drugs, smoking, alcohol, bullying and safe sex and provide more details each year as children mature. They may break rules regardless but are more likely to listen to reason at this age, and recognise when they have misbehaved as they start to have a sense of conscience.

"Tweens" will be more guarded in their emotions as they become more aware of how their emotions can impact on other people and will adjust behaviour towards certain people for this reason. They now experience mixed feelings and have a number of coping techniques to help them deal with stressful situations. They also rely much less on a routine as much for a sense of comfort and better accept changes and disappointments.