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What are the 5 Stages of Child Development

The 5 Stages of Child Development

Children change rapidly as they grow. Many of these changes are physical. Other changes are cognitive, which means the changes affect the way children think and learn. Child development often occurs in stages, with the majority of children hitting specific developmental landmarks by the time they reach a certain age. What are the 5 stages of child development? Read on to find out.   

A Brief History

Scholars have different opinions on the exact number of stages of development children go through on their way to becoming adults. In 1936, for example, Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget worked out a theory that describes four main stages of child development: Birth through 18 – 24 months, a “preoperational” that includes toddlerhood and early childhood through the age of 7, a “concrete operational” stage from ages 7 – 12, and adolescence. Other scholars describe six stages of child development that include newborns, infants, toddlers, preschool, school age, and adolescents. Failing to reach some of the milestones may signal a developmental disability. Because of screening techniques child development specialists use, most people with developmental disabilities receive a diagnosis by the time they reach adolescence. With this in mind, child development may be discussed in terms of five stages.  

Five Stages of Child Development

1. Newborn

During the first month of life, newborns exhibit automatic responses to external stimuli. In other words, a newborn will turn her head toward your hand when you stroke her cheek or grab your finger when you place it in her hand. A newborn is able to see close-up objects, recognize certain smells, smile or cry to indicate a need, and move her head from side to side. Newborns may show signs developmental disabilities, such as spina bifida, genetic disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome.  

2. Infant

Infants develop new abilities quickly in the first year of life. At three to six months, an infant can control his head movements and bring his hands together. By six to nine months old, an infant can sit without support, babble and respond to his name. Between nine and twelve months old, a baby can pick up objects, crawl and even stand with support. Slow development in infants may be signs of Down’s syndrome and other developmental disabilities.  

3. Toddler

As children reach the ages between one and three years, toddlers learn to walk without help, climb stairs and jump in place. They can hold a crayon, draw a circle, stack one block on top of another, use short sentences and even follow simple instructions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends screening for autism at 18 to 24 months, or whenever a parent or health care professional has a concern.  

4. Preschool

Between the ages of three and five years, children refine their motor skills. They can throw a ball overhand, skip and hop, stand on one foot for ten seconds or longer, dress themselves, and draw a person with features. Signs of developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, may appear during this stage of development.  

5. School age

School age children are six to 12 years old. They are capable, confident, independent and responsible. Peer relationships, particularly relationships with friends of the same gender, are important to school age children. The older school age child begins to develop sexual characteristics. Signs of ADHD, such as trouble staying focused and being easily distracted, may appear in school age children.   If you worry that your child is falling behind, contact RISE, innovative human services network originally established in 1987. RISE offers a variety of helpful services for people with disabilities, including day programs, employment assistance, managed care, residential settings, and home and community based services. The developmental specialists at RISE provide early intervention services, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy for children with developmental disabilities.