What are the main areas of child development?

Child development refers to the sequence of physical, language, thought and emotional changes that occur in a child from birth to the beginning of adulthood.

As children grow, they develop in various different ways.  Every child goes developmental stages that include everything from physical skills such as sitting and standing, to social skills such as smiling and forming relationships with others.

Of course every child develops at his or her own pace but there are certain skills considered to be particular important and which should be attained by a certain age range.  These are known as developmental milestones.

To track a child’s progress, we look at five main areas of development.  These are:

Cognitive development

This refers to the thinking skills and knowledge that help children understand the world in which they live.  They learn to, amongst other things, process information, to learn facts, to know right from wrong, to make decisions.   This aspect of development can be broken down into further categories. These are: (1) intellect, which determines how much children are capable of learning at different stages of development, (2) memory and (3) reasoning, which allows the child to make connections between things.

Social and emotional development

Social skills make it possible for children to interact with others while emotionally they learn to understand and manage their feelings.  It is common to refer to socio-emotional skills and the acquisition of empathy, sympathy,  ability to recognise feelings and being able to relate to others in various situations.  This area is especially important for developing self-awareness and self-confidence.

Speech and language development

Being able to understand and communicate with others are vital in our peopled world.  We also use language for problem-solving and, of course, for school learning.

Gross motor development

The large muscles in our bodies are referred to as ‘gross’.  Those in the head, neck, arms, legs and torso are used to move in a coordinated and controlled way.  We use these muscles in most of our everyday activities.

Fine motor development

The ability to move small muscles especially in the hands and fingers refers to fine motor skills.  In turn, small movements need accompanying skills, such as body awareness and hand-eye coordination.  They are crucial for basic skills such as tying shoelaces, buttoning shirts, playing a musical instrument, using knives and forks, and also for handwriting. Fine motor development is typically a little later than gross motor.

Any delay or interruption in these developmental areas may have implications for later school learning.  If you notice that your child is lagging in any area, it might be wise to seek the help of a developmental specialist.







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