There are periods of development in early childhood that every child goes through. Understanding these will help prepare a parent since they will know what to expect from their child and be able to better guide their child successfully through that stage. The three broad stages of childhood development are: early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence, but this post will focus only on early childhood development which goes from birth to eight years.
Because of the incredible amount of growth and development that happens during early childhood development, it can be further broken down into several stages by age.
Birth to Three Years
During the first three years of life, a child quadruples their weight and doubles in height. At the same time, their body proportions are also changing as their head goes from making up a quarter of their body length to a more adult-like proportion. There are also a number of skills that a child learns during this time including sitting, crawling, walking, using a toilet, and feeding themselves.
Language development is another area where there is rapid growth. Children can learn between 300 and 1,000 words during these first three years, and can form simple sentences to express ideas. They use their language to communicate with others and to learn about the world.
One of the most important milestones in a child’s life occurs during this stage of early childhood development, right around the age of one. This is the point during which attachment formation occurs. Attachment theory claims that the social interactions a child has with their primary caregivers at this point will positively or negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.
Three to Five Years
For these two years, there is a bigger focus on the development of fine-motor skills even while the child continues to grow physically. By the end of this stage, gross motor skills usually include being able to balance on one foot and being able to skip. Fine motor skills involve being able to handle scissors and various writing implements, usually well enough to begin writing.
Children continue to expand their vocabularies during this time, often to 1,500 words. By the time they reach age five, they should be able to create sentences of up to 7 words and will begin to use past tense. They can also reproduce familiar stories from picture cues.
Another important area of development during this time is in the area of socioemotional skills, where they form peer relationships. They also develop a sense of right and wrong, but social justice at this point only extends to the needs of the child and does not yet include others. This is because they are not yet able to see things from another person’s perspective.
Five to Eight Years
As a child goes through these years, further development in the areas of language and social connections continues. By age eight, a child is able to understand less concrete ideas like money and time, but will still have trouble with abstract concepts. Socially, children will begin to compare themselves to others at this point and start to be able to see things from another person’s perspective.