Stages of Child Development From Infancy to Adolescence

Your child is growing and changing by the day. From the time of her birth through adolescence, your little one moves through a steady progression of milestones that include every area of development 2. These vary by age and include acquiring new motor abilities, developing thinking skills and learning emotional regulation, as well as social growth 7.


During the first year of your child's life, she will go from a naive newborn who has little motor control to an on-the-verge-of-toddling baby. This first stage of child development includes rapid physical growth that supports her new abilities. Major milestones include rolling over at roughly 4 to 6 months, sitting up unassisted by 6 months old and crawling or even walking by 12 months. By the end of the infant stage, children also have the fine motor, or hand, skills to use a pincer grasp, pick up and put down small objects and make attempts to scribble with a crayon or other writing tool. You will also notice, as your child reaches between 4 and 6 months, that she will begin to purposefully babble and laugh or squeal with emotion. By 12 months old, an infant may also have the ability to say simple words, such as "mama," and understand a limited vocabulary of basics, such as "no."


Between 1 and 3 years old, your child is making major strides toward independence. During the toddler stage, children are up on their feet walking and running. By 24 months, most children can kick a ball, walk up and down stairs with help and carry objects while moving. Toddlers can also scribble, making marks that they see as real objects, build block towers and start to feed themselves. Language and communication skills sharply increase at this stage, with the typical 2 year old understanding between 500 and 700 words and speaking well over 500 words. Socially and emotionally, toddlers are immature, having little self-control and an unsophisticated style when "playing" with peers. For example, it isn't uncommon for a toddler to hit or yell when trying to share a toy with another child.


Even if your child doesn't attend a formal preschool program, the ages between 3 and 5 are typically known as the preschool stage. By age 4, most children can move well, hopping and standing on one foot, kicking a softball with ease and even throwing a ball overhand. By 5 years old, children may even climb on play equipment, somersault and skip. Additionally, the preschooler's growing fine motor and cognitive skills allow her to draw geometric shapes, patterns and human figures and write some letters of the alphabet. Emotionally, the preschooler is building greater self-regulation abilities and has the ability to verbally express what she is feeling instead of only using gestures or physical aggression. Socially, preschoolers are entering a new world where they are making their first true friends based on similar interests. They have the skills to share and take turns and can show empathy toward others.

Grade School Children

From approximately age 6 through early adolescence, children are most often known as grade schoolers. At this stage, like the name says, children enter grade school. During the early grade school years, children may rely more on parents for their emotional and social needs 7. As the child moves through these years toward adolescence, peers factor in more and play larger roles in the child's life. Physically, the grade schooler has the gross motor abilities to tackle new forms of movement, such as sports or dance lessons, as well as fine motor skills that allow for realistic drawing and writing of the alphabet. Grade school-aged children are also taking on more of an academic role and learn educational basics that they will use throughout their life, such as mathematics, language, writing and science.


The teen years mark the a major departure in development, as the child begins to look and act more like an adult than a little kid. During the beginning of adolescence, children will go through a set of physical changes known as puberty. This includes the onset on menstruation, developing body hair and -- in boys -- a voice change. Teens typically strive to become more independent and often focus more on friendships and romantic relationships than those with their immediate family. Additionally, adolescents may look toward their adult futures and investigate a potential profession through internships or after-school jobs.