Child development would be a fascinating process to observe on fast-forward, but for most parents it is a laborious process wrought with many fears and concerns. The stages of childhood development are fairly concrete, but the milestones of child development that occur in each stage are loosely defined as each child develops at his or her own natural pace. The stages of childhood development are infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence.
Infancy is the stage of child development that actually begins in the prenatal stage as the baby is developing in utero. A baby can be monitored for normal growth and development even before being delivered into the world. Once the child is born, he or she considered an infant until the age of one year. Many physical developments happen during this time, some of which include developing teeth, learning mobility, strengthening of muscles, development of eyesight, and the beginnings of communication. Development through this stage should be monitored by a physician through routine well-child visits.
Early childhood is perhaps the most important of all the stages of childhood development. This is the time between approximately one year and fives years of age. During this time, children use more of their brain capacity than in any other time in life. Mental stimulation is important and can be achieved through both free and structured play. During this stage, communication and language development, motor skill development and behavior responses occur as well as milestones such as learning to walk, talk, self-feed, and toilet train.
Middle childhood is the period of time between five years and ten years of age. Children during this stage attend school, develop more advanced social skills and improve on their learning skills. Self-control, coordination and advanced levels of self-care occur during this stage. This is a period in development when cognitive abilities will be assessed and often the stage during which any learning disabilities are likely to manifest.
Finally, and perhaps the most difficult of all stages of childhood development is adolescence. This period is the longest stage of child development and consists of 11 to 21 years of age. During this time, puberty occurs and as a consequence, all the behavior concerns that come with raging hormones and an overwhelming desire for independence. This can be a difficult stage of development for parents for certain, but can be equally difficult on the child. Children in this stage experience both physical and emotional ramifications. Growing pains, hormonal imbalances, and awkward physical changes that accompany puberty are compounded by social complexities and often strained relationships with parents and authority figures.
Regardless of where a child is in the stages of childhood development, attentive parents and caregivers can ensure that development is occurring normally. Any concerns about normal development, either physical, mental, or emotional, can be collectively addressed by parents, medical professionals, and educators who are professionally trained in child development. The sooner a concern is addressed, the easier it will be for both the parent and the child.