Training│Mentoring│Consultancy

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How Children Develop:

Understanding the ages and stages of child development helps parents understand the changes to expect as a child grows and develops. Parents or other care givers should be able to seek help when they feel their child is not developing as expected.

The following chart gives parents an idea of how young children (0-8 years old) develop. Each stage of development is part of a continuum, building on the previous stage and affecting the next. Not all children grow and develop at the same pace. Slow progress may be normal or may be due to inadequate nutrition, poor health, lack of stimulation or a more serious problem.

By the age of 1 MONTH  
A baby should be able to:

turn her or his head towards a hand that is stroking the child’s cheek or mouth

bring both hands towards her or his mouth

turn towards familiar voices and sounds

suckle the breast and touch it with her or his hands.

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

make skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed within one hour of birth

support the baby’s head when you hold the baby upright

massage and cuddle the baby often

always handle the baby gently, even when you are tired or upset

breastfeed frequently and on demand

always safely dispose of the baby’s faeces and wash hands with soap and water or a substitute, such as ash and water, after changing the baby

talk, read and sing to the child as much as possible

give consistent love and affection

visit a trained health worker with the infant during the first week and again six weeks after birth.

Warning signs to watch for:

poor suckling at the breast or refusing to suckle

little movement of arms and legs

little or no reaction to loud sounds or bright lights

crying for long periods for no apparent reason

vomiting and diarrhoea, which can lead to dehydration.

By the age of 6 MONTHS  
A baby should be able to:

raise the head and chest when lying on her or his stomach

reach for dangling objects

grasp and shake objects

roll both ways

sit with support

explore objects with hands and mouth

begin to imitate sounds and facial expressions

respond to her or his own name and to familiar faces.    

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

lay the baby on a clean, flat, safe surface so she or he can move freely and reach for objects

continue to hold and cuddle the baby every day, giving consistent love and affection

prop or hold the baby in a secure position so she or he can see what is happening nearby

continue to breastfeed on demand day and night, and start adding other foods (two to three meals a day starting at 6 months; three to four meals a day from 9 months)

talk, read or sing to the child as often as possible, not only when she or he is hungry or getting ready to sleep.

Warning signs to watch for:

stiffness or difficulty moving limbs

constant moving of the head (this might indicate an ear infection, which could lead to deafness if not treated)

little or no response to sounds, familiar faces or the breast

refusing the breast or other foods.


By the age of 12 MONTHS  
A baby should be able to:

sit without support

crawl on hands and knees and pull herself or himself up to stand

take steps holding on to support

try to imitate words and sounds and respond to simple requests

enjoy playing and clapping

repeat sounds and gestures for attention

pick things up with thumb and one finger

start holding objects such as a spoon and cup and attempt self-feeding.

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

point to objects and name them; play with, talk, sing and read to the child frequently

use mealtimes and other family activities to encourage interaction with all family members

give consistent affection and be responsive both when the child is happy and when upset

if the child is developing slowly or has a physical disability, focus on the child’s abilities and give extra stimulation and interaction

do not leave a child in one position for many hours

make the area as safe as possible to prevent accidents, and keep dangerous objects, such as sharp objects, plastic bags and small items a child can choke on, out of the child’s reach

continue to breastfeed and ensure that the child has enough food and a variety of family foods

help the child experiment with spoon and cup feeding  

make sure the child’s immunizations are up to date and that she or he receives all recommended doses of nutrient supplements

keep the child’s hands clean and begin teaching the child to wash them with soap.

Warning signs to watch for:

does not make sounds in response to others

does not look at objects that move

listlessness and lack of response to the caregiver

lack of appetite or refusal of food.    

By the age of 2 YEARS  
A child should be able to:

walk, climb and run

point to objects or pictures when they are named (e.g., nose, eyes, ears)

say several words together (from about 15 months)

follow simple instructions

scribble if given a pencil or crayon

enjoy simple stories and songs

imitate the behaviour of others

begin to eat by herself or himself.

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

read to and sing or play games with the child

teach the child to avoid dangerous objects

talk to the child normally – do not use baby talk

continue to breastfeed and ensure the child has enough food and a variety of family foods

make sure the child is fully immunized

encourage, but do not force, the child to eat

provide simple rules and set reasonable expectations

praise the child’s achievements, provide reassurance when the child is afraid and continue to give consistent affection every day.

Warning signs to watch for:

lack of response to others

difficulty keeping balance while walking

injuries and unexplained changes in behaviour (especially if the child has been cared for by others)

lack of appetite.

By the age of 3 YEARS
A child should be able to:

walk, run, climb, kick and jump easily

recognize and identify common objects and pictures by pointing

make sentences of two or three words

say her or his own name and age

name colours

understand numbers

use make-believe objects in play

feed herself or himself

express affection.

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

read and look at books with the child and talk about the pictures

tell the child stories and teach rhymes and songs

give the child her or his own bowl or plate of food

continue to encourage the child to eat, giving the child as much time as she or he needs

help the child learn to dress, use the toilet or latrine and wash her or his hands with soap and water or a substitute, such as ash and water, after defecating and before touching food and eating

listen to and answer all the child’s questions

encourage creative play, building and drawing

give the child simple tasks, such as putting toys back in their place, to build responsibility

limit television watching and ensure that violent shows are not viewed

acknowledge and encourage positive behaviour and set clear limits

provide consistent affection every day

if available, enroll the child in an early learning (play) activity with other children.

Warning signs to watch for:

loss of interest in playing

frequent falling

difficulty manipulating small objects

failure to understand simple messages

inability to speak using several words

little or no interest in food.  

By the age of 5 YEARS  
A child should be able to:

move in a coordinated way

speak in sentences and use many different words

understand opposites (e.g., fat and thin, tall and short)

play with other children

dress without help

answer simple questions

count 5–10 objects

wash her or his own hands.

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

listen to the child

interact frequently with the child

read and tell stories

encourage the child (both girls and boys) to play and explore

listen to and answer all the child’s questions, have conversations (with both girls and boys)

encourage creative play, building and drawing

limit television watching and ensure that violent shows are not viewed

acknowledge and encourage positive behaviour and set clear and consistent limits

provide consistent affection every day

enroll the child (both girls and boys) in an early learning (play) programme that helps to prepare the child for school.      

Warning signs to watch for: Fear, anger or violence when playing with other children, which could be signs of emotional problems or abuse.
By the age of 8 YEARS  
A child’s:

physical development proceeds more gradually and steadily than in the early years

muscle mass increases, and small and large motor skills improve

ability to understand and communicate abstract concepts and complex ideas has begun to develop

span of attention increases, and she or he can focus on the past and future as well as the present

learning capacity is expanding, and she or he is learning to read, write and do problem solving in a school environment

friends and interactions with her or his peer group are increasingly important

interest in friendships includes enjoying time with her or his peer group and turning to peers for information

Self-control improves, and understanding of more complex emotions increases.

Advice for parents and other caregivers:

be a good role model, equally for girls and boys

encourage your child to express feelings and beliefs and to solve problems

recognize and support your child’s strengths and skills as well as limitations

spend time with your child, and talk and listen to her or him

find activities you can do together that will make your child feel successful, secure and loved

facilitate and support your child’s playtime with friends and in extra-curricular school activities

acknowledge and encourage positive behaviour and set clear and consistent limits

show interest and become involved in your child’s school – remember that the mother, father and/or other caregiver(s) are a child’s first and most important teachers.  

Warning signs to watch for:

difficulties making and keeping friends and participating in group activities

avoiding a task or challenge without trying, or showing signs of helplessness

trouble communicating needs, thoughts and emotions

trouble focusing on tasks, understanding and completing schoolwork

Excessive aggression or shyness with friends and family.

             

 

 

 

SOURCE: UNICEF (2010), Facts for Life – 4th Edition. (Facts for life)