Ages and Stages
Especially in the early years, young children seem to change and mature almost day-by-day. Having an awareness of their developmental progress has several benefits: as a parent or caregiver, you gain an appreciation for the almost miraculous journey you are taking with your child, satisfaction at the results of your parenting efforts, and an early warning system if your child’s development is not happening as it should.
Born Learning provides easy-to read explanations of what you should expect from each age and stage, as well advice on care and safety. During the first two years, children are changing and developing so rapidly that it is necessary to chart progress in increments of 2-3 months.
PBS.org (the Public Broadcasting System) has compiled an ABC's Of Child Development
that details the developmental milestones for for a child's first five years.
While children grow and develop at different rates, most follow a path of predictable milestones. The PBS map divides the developmental milestones into four areas:
- Physical Development
- Social Emotional Development
- Thinking Skills
- Communication Skills
Looking at child development from this perspective helps a parent to feel less overwhelmed by the complex changes they see in their child, focus more easily on specific aspects of growth, and identify the behavior characteristics they are seeing in their child. Be sure to keep in mind that each child develops differently and that an individual child may develop more quickly in one area than in another.
Brain DevelopmentRecent research has given us incredible insights into the young child’s brain development. Believe it or not, parents and caregivers can have a profound effect on a child’s brain development.
“The experiences young children receive in the first three years of life are crucial to brain development. As your child receives loving care and stimulation, neural connections are formed between his brain cells. These connections form the wiring system of the brain. Your child's early experiences largely determine the strength and function of her brain's wiring system. Warm responsive parents, who cuddle and talk to their children and provide challenging learning experiences, promote healthy brain development for their children.Ironically, simple, daily interactions – talking, singing, and reading to your child from birth, holding and cuddling them - are the most effective brain stimulants. No flash cards or “baby genius” videos are needed, just your time and attention.
"New technology allows the thorough study of the brain, like we've never seen before. These studies prove that a child's early development is determined by his daily environment and experiences, rather than genetics alone. Researchers now believe it is the plasticity of the brain, its ability to develop and change in response to the demands of the environment, that enables a child to learn to use computers, solve mathematical problems and learn foreign languages.”
—Smart Start: The North Carolina Partnership for Children
Is a child really, really good at puzzles? Has a great memory? Has always been able to learn a song the first time he/she hears it? Those are just a few examples of the possible “multiple intelligences” that we all can have. Learn how to identify and support your child’s special talents by reading “Different Kinds of “Smarts”: Supporting Children’s Intelligence Styles.” (PDF)
Test yourself to see how much you know about brain development – take Zero to Three’s “Brain Quiz”. Don’t worry if your score is low – you’ll learn a lot!
Doubts About Developmental Progress
If your child or a child in your care does not seem to be making typical developmental progress, start by voicing your concerns to his or her pediatrician. (Tracking a child’s development is a top priority for pediatricians- another important reason for a child to have regular check-ups.) If warranted, the doctor will recommend an evaluation.
Living With Your Child With Special Needs. From the About.com Guide to Parenting Special Needs. There are several local organizations that will aid you in finding the services you may need.
The Children’s Health Council serves the needs of children from infants to teens who face behavioral and developmental challenges. They provide assessment and treatment services for a range of developmental, behavioral, emotional, and learning challenges. Financial assistance is available.
First 5 Santa Clara County provides an extensive list of service contacts for children with special needs.
Parents Helping Parents provides lifetime guidance, support and services to families of children with any special need and the professionals who serve them. Among their services are: Information & referral consultations, assistive technology services, integrated parent participation playgroups, and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that are specific to a certain condition/disability or language.
Parents Place, a parent education center with offices in San Francisco, Marin, and on the Peninsula, has just opened a Peninsula Special Needs Center (Palo Alto office phone: 650-688-3040). Services offered include: information and referral; parent education workshops; planning and coordination of services; psychological assessment for children and adolescents; counseling; support groups; and parent-child play activity groups.