Child development is a nearly inexhaustible subject. Kids grow, develop, play and learn in rapidly changing yet fascinating ways. So much happens in the first five years of a child’s life that it is impossible to cover it all in a single article and I’ll focus on the finer details of development at each age and stage in subsequent articles. But basically, child development is all about the processes through which children learn and master new skills.
When things go right, children across the world develop with striking similarity. This development is a continuous process with a predictable sequence and the skills children generally acquire within a specific time frame are collectively known as developmental milestones. Each new milestone a child achieves is dependent on the milestones that they have already developed. Understanding our children’s development helps us become better parents, but it is important that we think about developmental milestones as a guide only – each child will develop at his own pace and may not reach his developmental milestones at exactly the same time as his peers. Ultimately, parents know their children best. If there is something about your child’s development that bothers you, schedule an appointment with your doctor to address your concerns.
For children, the ultimate goal of growing up is becoming confident, independent adults who are capable of maintaining good relationships, managing their own emotions and achieving their full potential. Child development thus encompasses, among other things, the areas of fine motor control; gross motor control; auditory and visual perceptual development; concept development; cognitive development; emotional regulation, the development of sympathy and empathy and building of self-confidence – and in order to stimulate growth and development in these areas it is important that we expose our children to age appropriate challenges. Expecting too much of them at a young age can be detrimental to their development!
In general we talk about the cephalacaudal and proximodistal trends of development. Simply put, the cephalacaudal trend means that children develop from the head down. For instance, babies first become able to lift their heads, then to sit up and only then learn to crawl and walk. The proximodistal trend refers to the fact that children generally develop from the trunk of the body outward toward the limbs – think about the way in which babies first strengthen their neck muscles, then their shoulder girdle, then the arms and finally the small muscles in the hands and fingers.
All of this might make child development seem like a very serious subject, but development and play go hand in hand and helping your child reach their developmental milestones can be a rich, rewarding and fun experience for you both!
Anel Annandale is a prominent Educational Psychologist with a passion for early childhood development and a special interest in neuropsychology.
She is experienced in the field and has established herself as an expert, often appearing on television shows such as Exspresso. She is also available as a guest speaker at relevant events and functions.