As a parent, it's normal to worry about whether your child is developing appropriately, especially if he seems to be lagging compared to other children. Development happens in a unique way for each child, but learning to recognize behaviors associated with developmental stages could aid in early detection. Three typical stages of development are physical, cognitive and psychosocial. Knowing a bit about each can offer insight and perhaps even a little peace of mind.
Physical development refers to changes in the growth and function of the body. Over months and years, a child should display age-appropriate physical characteristics, indicating their development is on track. For example, from infancy to 2 years of age, your little one is quickly adjusting to the new experiences of the "outside" world. Detection of abnormalities or delays in development at this early age may result in more effective treatment options. Pay attention to your child's eye movements, muscle development and auditory responses. Monitoring your child's abilities to respond to changes in lighting and scenery, bring a spoon to her mouth or hear someone clap, will assure you that her physical development is on track.
Cognitive development is the bridge between physical and mental function, and can be monitored, like physical development, by comparing your child's behaviors to the expected abilities for his age group. For example, at ages 3 to 5 years your child will begin to retain simple information, allowing him to learn and remember some of the colors, alphabet and numbers. This is the period during which he will begin understanding rules -- both the rules of his parents and his environment -- with the ability to talk about these rules in fragmented or full sentences. For example, your child might make statements such as "No eat crayons -- bad." and "Don't touch -- hot." It is through cognitive development that your child will grow to understand, and operate successfully within, his environment.
Psychosocial development begins at infancy, shaping whether your child views the world as a safe place where they belong. At each age, the presence of specific characteristics in your child indicates healthy development. For example, children ages 6 to 12 years, school aged children, have more opportunities for socializing outside the family unit and must learn to manage emotional responses in an acceptable way. Your child begins asking questions with broader concepts, while having the expectation that she be given detailed answers. It is particularly important to positively support your child during this time, as the new social experiences often bring about feelings of insecurity and anxiety, which may affect self-esteem.
Monitoring Child Development and Resources
If you have any questions about child development, or if you notice that your child is not responding as expected, speak with your doctor to find out if a medical issue is present. If you are curious to find out more specific details about the many milestones your child will achieve over the months and years to come, there are very good pamphlets and resources available online from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Network for Childcare. You can also consult your local hospitals, clinics and child care centers, which typically offer additional resources.