Children seem to grow up in a blink of an eye. Whether you are about to have your first child or just unsure about what to expect as your little one grows up, learning about the ages and stages of development can help parents to better understand what a child is going through. From babies and teetering toddlers to teens, each stage of development holds it's own magic and wonder.
The infant period of development typically includes the first year of a child's life. From birth through 12 months, infants are growing at an extremely rapid pace. You may notice that your baby develops new skills seemingly overnight. During the first three months a newborn develops basic skills such as recognizing faces -- especially yours -- and using sounds such as crying to alert you about her needs. As your infant grows during the first year she will develop the ability to sit on her own, babble and copy communication signals such as waving by 6 months and crawl or walk by 12 months.
While technically your child becomes a toddler when she begins walking, or toddling, around, most early childhood professionals consider 1- to 3-years-old as the age range for this stage. During the toddler years your child will rapidly develop her language skills, learning up to 700 words by 24 months and speaking over 500 words by 30 months. Toddlers are also quickly developing more advanced physical skills and typically run, begin to kick a ball and walk up and down stairs during this stage. Although the 1- to 3-year-old's social and emotional development is still unrefined, toddlers are beginning to understand the idea of friendship and playing with peers.
Whether your child actually goes to some sort of 'pre-school' or not, the ages of 3 to 5 (or in some cases 6) are commonly known as the preschool stage. Preschoolers develop a more sophisticated social and emotional state than their younger counterparts, and may exhibit self-control behaviors, the desire to play well with others; or, as part of a group, the ability to negotiate conflict and even form the beginnings of empathy. Physically, your preschooler will refine her small and large motor skills. This leads to new abilities, such as writing letters with a pencil or crayon, using eating utensils, throwing and catching a ball and riding a tricycle.
When your child turns 5 or 6m and enters kindergarten she moves into the school age, or grade school, group. This stage lasts until the preteen years -- typically through age 12. During this time, you may notice that your child is turning into a social butterfly, enjoying the company of her friends over yours. She will also have the cognitive abilities to grasp new, more sophisticated, concepts such as mathematics, science and other academics. As in the previous stages, physical development continues at a rapid pace. School-aged kids refine and develop motor skills, leading to success in sports or other physical pursuits.
The teen years include a notable departure from the "little kid" ways of childhood. As children enter the early adolescent years, they also enter the biological changes of puberty. An increasing need for, and demonstration of, Independence is a key development in children 13 to 18 years. This means that your teen may feel that he is ready for more adult pursuits such as a first job. Socially, adolescents often want to spend more time with friends than with parents, and they may even have a first boyfriend or first girlfriend. It becomes clear that the child you once knew is becoming more adult-like in his viewpoints, opinions and in his emotional maturity; at the same time, however, you can still see the emotional growth and maturity that he needs to achieve before he becomes an adult.