the journey

The capacity to learn, remember and symbolize information and to solve problems exists at a simple level in young infants, who can perform cognitive tasks such as discriminating animate and inanimate beings or recognizing small number of objects. During childhood, learning and information-processing increase in speed, memory becomes increasingly longer, and symbol use and the capacity for abstraction develop until a near-adult level is reached by adolescence.

The journey of child development consists of the biological and psychological changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence. These changes are strongly influenced by genetic factors and events during prenatal life, genetically-controlled processes known as maturation, and as a result of environmental factors and learning, but most commonly involves an interaction between the two. Change and development also occur as a result of human nature and our ability to learn from our environment. Human beings have a keen sense to adapt to their surroundings and this is what child development is about.

The optimal development of children is considered vital to society and so it is important to understand the social, cognitive, emotional, and educational development of children. Thereby, the learning and growth span can broadly be divided into six categories, since the needs and characteristics of each are a guide to the framework of support required for their optimal development. These stages, their specific features and requirements, are as follows :

 

Newborn (ages 0-1 month):
An infant or baby is the very young offspring of humans. A newborn is an infant who is within hours, days, or up to a few weeks from birth. In medical contexts, newborn or neonate refers to an infant in the first 28 days after birth. Newborns are very sensitive, and parents must take utmost care to make their arrival into the world as comfortable as possible. Some common care issues for newborns are as follows-
  •  Baby colic /crib 
  •  Bathing 
  •  Cradle cap
  •  Day care
  •  Diaper rash
  •  Infant formula
  •  Infant massage
  •  Immunization 
  •  Pacifier
  •  Paternal bond 
  • Teething 
  • Umbilical cord 

Infant (ages 1 month - 1 year)

The term infant is derived from the Latin word infans, meaning "unable to speak" or "speechless." It is typically applied to children between the ages of 1 month and 12 months. Each infant is different from the other, just like adults, and yet they share some common characteristics. These are divided into three main areas: physical (body), social-emotional (getting along with others), and intellectual (thinking and language) development.

Physical Development:

At birth, infants cannot control their body movements. Most of their movements are reflexes. Their nervous system is not fully developed. During the first months, infants can see clearly objects that are about 10 inches away from their faces. By six months, their vision is more fully developed. By four months, most babies have some control of their muscles and nervous system. They can sit with support, hold their head up for short periods of time, and can roll from their side to their stomach. By five months, most babies can roll over. Infants still take a nap in the morning and afternoon. They start to eat and sleep at regular times. They eat three meals a day and drink from bottles at various times. They start using a cup and a spoon to feed themselves. Infants can sit alone. They crawl with their stomach touching the floor, and they creep on their hands and knees. By eight months, they can reach for and hold objects. They can pick up objects with their thumb and forefinger and let objects go (drop things). They start to throw things. They pull up to stand, they stand holding onto furniture, and they can walk when led. By the time they are 12 months old, most babies can weigh three times what they weighed at birth and gain about an inch per month in length. The average infant at one year may be between 26-30 inches long.

Social and Emotional Development  

They begin to develop trust as their parents meet their needs such as changing their diapers when needed, feeding them when they are hungry, and holding them when they cry. When frightened, infants cry and look surprised and afraid. They cry to express anger, pain and hunger. It is their way of communicating. They are easily excited or upset. They need to be cradled and comforted. It seems as if they cannot tell where their bodies end and someone else's begins. Infants smile in response to a pleasant sound or a full stomach. At about six weeks, they smile in response to someone else. By four months, they smile broadly, laugh when pleased, and learn to recognize faces and voices of parents. Infants respond when you say their name. They begin to fear strangers. They begin to fear being left by their parents. They get angry and frustrated when their needs are not met in a reasonable amount of time. Infants will talk to themselves in front of a mirror. They begin to learn what is and is not allowed. Eye contact begins to replace some of the physical contact that younger infants seek.

Intellectual Development 

Infants babble, coo and gurgle. They study their hands and feet. They turn to locate the source of sounds. Infants can focus on and follow moving objects with their eyes. They explore things with their mouths. They put anything they can hold into their mouths. They cry in different ways to express hunger, anger and pain. They forget about objects that they cannot see. Infants wave bye-bye and play pat-a-cake. They respond to simple directions. They look for things not in sight. Infants make sounds like "dada" and "mama." They begin to pretend by acting out familiar activities. They make sounds that can be understood by people who know them well. They repeat actions that cause a response such as when given a rattle, they will shake it and laugh. By 12 months, many infants speak their first understandable words.

Toddler (ages 1-3 years)

When children learn to walk, they are called toddlers. Usually this term is applied to one and two-year-old children. This is a stage in the growth of a child and not a specific age. The toddler stage is very important in a child's life. It is the time between infancy and childhood when a child learns and grows in many ways. Everything that happens to the toddler is meaningful. With each stage or skill the child masters, a new stage begins. This growth is unique to each child. Children have their own time-table. During the toddler stage, most children learn to walk, talk, solve problems, relate to others, and more. One major task for the toddler is to learn to be independent. That is why toddlers want to do things for themselves, have their own ideas about how things should happen and use "no" many times each day.
The toddler stage is characterized by much growth and change, mood swings, and some negativity. Toddlers are long on will and short on skill. This is why they are often frustrated and "misbehave." Some adults call the toddler stage "the terrible twos." Toddlers, bursting
with energy and ideas, need to explore their environment and begin defining themselves as separate people. They want to be independent and yet they are still very dependent. One of the family day care provider's greatest challenges is to balance toddlers' need for in-dependence with their need for discipline. Toddlers are very concerned with their own needs and ideas. This is why we cannot expect them to share.
Toddlers sometimes get frustrated because they do not have the language skills to express themselves. Often they have difficulty separating themselves from their parents and other people who are important to them. Adults who work with toddlers often find it helpful to appreciate toddlers' need to do things their way.
Usually between two and one half and three years of age, children begin to take an interest in being toilet trained, and by age three they are ready to be known as preschoolers. By this age, most children are toilet trained, have developed verbal
skills, are continuing to be more independent, and are taking an active interest in the world around them.
The toddler stage can be a difficult for adults and toddlers. An understanding of this stage of development can make it more fun for everyone. This fact sheet lists some of the characteristics of toddlers. These characteristics are listed for three main areas: physical (body), social (getting along with others) and emotional (feelings), and intellectual (thinking and language) development. Remember that all toddlers are different and reach the various stages at different time.

Preschooler (ages 4-6years)

Children are in the Preschool Years from 3 years old until they start school. These children are starting to show personality traits and more intellectual development, including:

  • Egotism. A preschooler is the center of the world. Your child believes that everything in the world revolves around her. 
  •  Independence. A preschooler will want to dress by himself and want to help you with the household chores. Be patient as your child practices these skills.  
  •  Creativity. Imaginations are constantly "on." Your child's world is full of magical things at this time. 
  •  "Why?" Preschoolers are trying to learn all about their environments; they will ask "why" constantly! Take the time to help your child learn about what causes the events happening around him. 
  •  Sociality. Preschoolers are learning to be a good companion or friend to other children their age. Preschool, day care, play dates or playgroups provide wonderful opportunities for your child to learn important social skills. 
  •  Listening. Preschoolers must also learn to listen to others with interest. Model appropriate listening behavior for your preschooler by actively listening when she tells 
  •  you about her day, her friends and her discoveries. 
  • Motor skills. Preschoolers are also learning complex movements such as hopping, climbing, and skipping. Let your child practice and make it fun! 
  •  Adventurous. Children can be very active during this time period. Make sure to provide helmets when riding tricycles and do regular safety checks on play equipment. 
  •  Language. Pronunciation improves during this time. Don't be alarmed if your child leaves out word sounds occasionally. 
  • Principles. Preschoolers are also learning the difference between right and wrong. You can help by setting firm and consistent limits for your child. 
  • Reality vs. fantasy. Preschoolers must learn the difference between reality and fantasy. By the end of the preschool years, your child will have a better understanding of past, present and future. 
  • Phobias. New fears, especially to unfamiliar sights and sounds are common at this age. Be supportive while trying to ease irrational fears. 
  • Poor sportsmanship. Preschoolers learn to follow simple rules in the games they play, but they will always want to win and be in "first place." Playing "fair" will come later in your child's development
  • Highly impressionable. Preschoolers are heavily influenced by what they see. It's important to actively supervise what your child is exposed to on television and in the real world. 
  • Sexual curiosity. It is normal for preschoolers to engage in sexual exploration. Help your child learn what is appropriate
School aged child(ages 6-13 years)

Often referred to as the middle childhood stage, it is characterized by a significant increase in intellectual, social, and personality development.
From an intellectual standpoint, the major development is that the child's thinking is becoming more orderly, more structured, and more logical. Therefore, the school-age child at play will be more realistic and more rule-oriented than was the preschooler. Play will thus reflect a developing need for order.
The school-age child is more socially involved with age-mates than ever before, and the peer group provides support that formerly was offered only within the family. Acceptance by one's peers is of great importance to children in this age group, and their play reflects a sometimes overwhelming need to belong.
Finally, in the realm of personality development a major challenge to the emerging self-concepts of school-age children is to demonstrate to themselves and others that they are competent, that they have talents, skills, and abilities that they can be proud of. In their play, there is reflected this need for industry.
One of the most pressing needs of elementary school children is the need for what psychoanalytic theorist Erik Erikson (1963) called a sense of industry. As children develop, Erikson wrote, they come to realize that there is no future for them "within the womb of the family", and so they begin to apply themselves to a variety of skills and tasks that are necessary for success in the larger world of adults. They become eager to be productive, to achieve a sense of mastery and a feeling of accomplishment. In more traditional cultures, children's feelings of accomplishment were acquired by their learning to use the tools that adults in their culture needed for survival; these "tools" are often acquired in the classroom and prove to be effective for their next stage of growth.

Adolescent (ages 13-20)

The Origin of the word Adolescence is from the Latin verb 'adolescere', which means, "to grow up." It can be defined as the transitional stage of development between childhood and full adulthood, representing the period of time during which a person is biologically adult but emotionally not at full maturity. It represents the period of time during which a juvenile matures into adulthood.

Major physiologic, cognitive, and behavioral changes take place during this period. During the period of adolescence, biological development and psychosocial development overlap. A person's body undergoes dramatic changes. 

Psychological issues of adolescents 

  • Maturity in body leads to an interest in sexual activities, sometimes leading to teenage pregnancy
  • Tendency and possibility of drug and alcohol use. 

In some cases mental problems such as schizophrenia, eating disorders and depression.

  •  The emotional instability among some adolescents also sometimes causes youth crime
  • Searching for a unique identity is one of the problems that adolescents often face. At this age, role models such as sports players, rock stars and movie and television performers are very popular, and adolescents often express a desire to be like their chosen role model.
  • Developmental tasks such as developing an identity, becoming independent are accomplished in adolescence. Sexual maturity is attained during this period As "Adolescence" is a cultural and social phenomenon, its endpoints are not easily tied to physical milestones. It varies by culture. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as the period of life between 10 and 20 years of age. 

The terms "adolescents," "youth," "young adults" and "young people" are used interchangeably. Change is the identification of adolescence. Growth of facial hair for boys and beginning of menstruation for girls, take place from ages nine to 14 for boys and ages eight to 13 for girls. Young people begin to establish new interests and relationships. They become independent of their parents.
From adolescent to adult people become adults at various ages of the teenage years. When an adolescent becomes adult, he considers sexual relations, marriage and parenthood. These are the signs of maturity. He seeks information and clues about sexual life from different sources such as parents, peers, religious leaders, health providers, teachers, magazines, books and mass media. But most of the information he obtained is incorrect, incomplete or misleading.

Sex Education and adolescents

Education on reproduction typically describes the process of a new human being coming into existence in stages including conception, the development of the embryo and fetus, and the birth of the new baby. It often includes topics such as sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and how to avoid them, as well as methods of contraception.
Sex education for adolescence is a controversial topic. But the existence of AIDS has given a new dimension to it. In many AIDS affected African nations, scientists consider sex education as a vital strategy for preserving the health of citizens.
Adolescents go through physical and emotional changes that can be distressing to them and their parents. Many times adolescents are afraid or embarrassed to ask their parents questions about these sensitive issues like pubertal changes and sex. We encourage the parents to speak to their children about these issues but the reality is that most parents are not sure how to even start the conversations. Unfortunately most teens get their information and misinformation from their friends and the Internet. There are many studies that show that if parents are more actively involved with their teens there would be less likelihood of drug use, high-risk sex, and pregnancy. As parents our children look to us for guidance and even though they appear to not listen, they really are paying attention.
Still many teens feel uncomfortable asking questions to their parents. Under such circumstances it is best to consult with an adolescent specialist. Here the parents and the teens have the confidence that the questions brought up are private and will not be shared. This helps build trust with the teens and gives them a chance to open up. Most of the time parents respect this rule but occasionally they ask what we discussed in private but we have to decline. When appropriate we discuss issues such as sex, abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases, STD prevention, and birth control. In addition to these issues, we discuss topics such as school, study habits, peers, food habits, sleeping pattern and future plans. We are surprised that many teens just “go through the motions” of school and really don't know what they want for their futures. Most of the Adolescent Pediatricians encourage the parents to discuss these issues with their children.

Parents who are actively involved in their children's lives and academics while giving them appropriate space often have high achieving students who finally go on to becoming successful adults.