Preparing For The Stages Of Early Childhood Development

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated April 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Childhood is a journey, not a race. As expectations and state standards change, the bar for raising children has been raised. There are specific developmental stages that all children go through that can be beneficial to pay attention to instead of being rushed or skipped. 

There are ways to prepare children to experience success in their early childhood education years. If you are the parent of a young child, it can be valuable to pick up on the signs of a developmental change and ensure your child’s well-being is supported in any challenges they may face.

This article explores children’s development, what stages you can expect during early childhood, and parenting tips that might help caregivers assist their children as the progress through these milestones. 

Getting ready to experience early childhood with a preschooler?

Developmental milestones: Early childhood developmental stages

Jean Piaget was a renowned theorist and psychologist who described and named the stages of cognitive development. His theory is one of the many developmental theories but is often the most widely accepted. 

These are often called growth and developmental milestones – below are the stages defined by Piaget.

Sensorimotor stage

The sensorimotor stage occurs from birth through 18 to 24 months. Newborn infants are conscious of objects and people directly in front of them. Infants begin to comprehend that stimuli exist between seven and nine months, even when they can't be seen. This concept is called object permanence, which is related to the concept of object constancy. By the end of this stage, early language skills begin.

Preoperational stage

The preoperational stage takes place from 18 to 24 months through age seven. During these years, young children can think about concepts representatively. Language skills become more established, and memory and imagination skills are developed and become the foundation for learning.

Concrete operational stage

The concrete operational stage covers ages 7 to 12. Children begin to use logic and concrete ways of thinking. They are more aware of events around them instead of concentrating on themselves. Abstract and hypothetical thinking is not yet developed.

Operational stage

The formal operational stage involves adolescence through adulthood. This stage involves multiple types of thinking and reasoning that can be understood and utilized.


Preparing for preschool success

Preschool can teach many skills to young children. However, some skills may be best introduced, taught, and practiced at home by parents and caregivers. Teaching skills at home can prepare your child for social and educational standards. Below are a few ways you can help your child prepare: 

Focus skills

Help them learn to sit in one spot for an extended period. For example, they might listen to an entire story without getting up or interrupting. 

Following directions

Give your child two or three directions and see if they can follow them. For instance, you can tell them to go to their room, get their socks, and put on the socks. 


Teach your child the alphabet song. 


Focus on saying please, thank you, and excuse me at the appropriate time. It can be beneficial for children to learn not to interrupt and to wait their turn in a conversation. At home, an adult may be able to drop their responsibilities to listen to the child. However, they may be asked to wait patiently for their turn when they are in a classroom of over ten children.

Bathroom skills

Bathroom skills include turning on the sink, wiping, flushing the toilet, and washing hands correctly.

Dressing independently

Placing a jacket upside down in front of them and having them slip their arms in and flip it over their heads may help teach a child to start dressing themselves. 

Taking turns

You can practice helping your child take turns by playing games, choosing snacks, or having conversations.


Have your children play with a toy for a set amount of time and then have them give it to another child to play with.


 Practicing patience and explaining that a child may have to wait quietly can help teachers and decrease your child's frustration if they don't get immediate attention.


Playing with brightly colored blocks, cleaning up toys, and other organizational activities can prepare your child for organization at preschool. 

Many of these skills are practiced in preschool, but parents and caregivers can benefit from not depending solely on teachers to teach these skills. Preschool children may find value in repeated exposure to these areas to internalize the lessons. If you encounter difficulty with these skills at home, approach your child's teacher for suggestions and support. 

Preparing for kindergarten success

All skills needed for preschool may also be needed for kindergarten. Kindergarten classes are often considerably more extensive than preschool ones, so the above skills can be essential. Practicing skills at home can help your child have success in school.

If you choose to homeschool, these are skills you can use while you teach your child other subjects. These skills can help prepare them for the adult world when they choose a career and interests. Below are a few skills you can start with. 

Using scissors 

Practice cutting coupons and straws at home. Using scissors strengthens young children's hands to use writing implements. It is also easier for children to succeed with cutting activities at school when they have had previous experience with scissors. Buy dull scissors made for children that cannot easily cut skin. In addition, supervise your cutting activities and teach scissor safety. 

Learning names 

Write your child's name on a strip of paper or labels, and show them what their name looks like. Teach them to write their name with an uppercase letter followed by lowercase letters. Kindergarten teachers often encourage students not to use all uppercase letters to write their names.

Using kind words 

Use kind language at home with your child. Even if you don't mind swear words or joking language at home, a child might experience challenges at school if they call someone a mean name or use swear words in class, as other parents might not be comfortable with their children hearing this language and bringing it home. 

Physical boundaries 

If physical boundaries are reinforced at home, they can carry over to school. Kids might want to get physical in a conflict, so discouraging this can keep them and other children safe. 

In addition, you can teach your child to respect the boundaries of others. If another child says "no" to a hug, kiss, or gesture of affection, your child can learn to respect their wishes. Saying "no" to other children and their parents regarding their bodies may also benefit them and keep them safe from unsafe adults that pressure them. 

Using a quiet voice 

Teach your child to use a quiet voice indoors. Let them know they can talk louder outside but that yelling or screaming might be difficult for others to hear. If they are excited, remind them that they can talk about their opinion more efficiently with an inside voice, because it helps others understand them better. 

Opening packages 

You can also teach your child to open snack bags, yogurts, juice boxes, Ziploc bags, and other containers. When only one teacher can help 20+ children, a child will be independent in many situations, including snack time and lunchtime. Opening these items independently offers fine motor practice, as well. 

Zippering, buttoning, snapping, and velcroing are other motor skills a child can learn. Teach them how to manipulate these fasteners. They might encounter these items on coats, mittens, winter clothing, and school items. 

Tying shoes 

Tying shoes and knots is often a higher-level skill, but there are online videos that teach how to tie shoes, which may help teachers who often must help multiple children learn this skill. If children cannot tie their shoes, purchasing Velcro or slip-on shoes until they master tying laces may be beneficial. 

How children develop: What to do if a child has a developmental delay

Some developmental delays may be expected, and each child learns skills differently. One child who begins reading and writing before age five may be ahead of others, but children who learn later are still learning a valuable skill, which can still be mastered with time. 

However, if you notice that your child is struggling to speak or is speaking uniquely, it might be a sign of a developmental delay. Other signs of a delay can include the following: 

  • Difficulty with motor skills

  • Not responding to cues 

  • Difficulty socializing

  • Not recognizing facial expressions

  • Refusing to make eye contact

  • Difficulty holding up one's head or rolling over as a baby or toddler 

  • A lower score on an IQ test

  • Slurred speech

  • Loose limbs 

  • Delays in walking

  • Delays in physical activity

If you notice these signs in your child, consider connecting with a child development specialist to discuss your child's behaviors. They may not be a cause for concern or could be a developmental roadblock, but they may also be a sign of an underlying condition. Developmental resources are available at many preschools, kindergartens, and schools to support your child as they learn. 

Getting ready to experience early childhood with a preschooler?

How to receive support as a caregiver overseeing a child’s development

It can be challenging to raise a child. You are responsible for raising them to be kind, independent, and able to operate in settings beyond your home. A support system is vital when teaching your child to prepare for school. However, practicing self-care and ensuring you're healthy is a part of mirroring healthy behaviors with your child. 

If you struggle with the challenges of raising a child, you might try online therapy. Online counseling through a platform like BetterHelp can help parents receive care without taking too much time out of their busy day. You can connect with a therapist over the phone, via video chat, or live messaging sessions from home. 

Online therapy can be effective for parents, whether they're worried about their child's development or feeling anxious about sending them to school. Studies have found that therapy improves parental psychological flexibility and emotional control with similar effectiveness to in-person counseling. Feeling more emotionally controlled may help you teach your children about their emotions. 


Children develop skills at various rates, but there are many skills you can teach early on to prepare them for school and later developmental stages. If you're struggling to work with your child, believe they might be experiencing a delay, or are stressed from parenting, consider contacting a therapist. You're not alone, and help is available. Therapy can also be valuable for children who might struggle to express themselves.
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