Preparing For The Stages Of Early Childhood Development

Updated January 6, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team


Childhood should be a journey, not a race. This has been the mantra of early childhood educators for years. It seems that now, as expectations and state standards change, the bar has been raised. There are specific developmental stages that all children go through, and they should not be rushed or skipped. There are ways to prepare children so that they experience success in their early childhood educational years.

If you are the parent of a young child, you may be curious about childhood development and the different stages a child goes through as they move through infancy into toddlerhood and then further into their preschool and school-aged years. There's a lot to learn—for both of you.

Getting Ready To Experience Early Childhood With A Preschooler?

Early Childhood Developmental Stages

Piaget was a famous theorist who described and named the stages of cognitive development. His age ranges and descriptors are listed below.

Sensorimotor Stage

Sensorimotor stage is birth through 18-24 months. Newborn infants are only conscious of things directly in front of them. Between 7 and 9 months, infants begin to comprehend that things exist even when they can't be seen. This 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

Preoperational stage takes place from 18-24 months through age 7. During these years, young children can think about things representatively. Language skills become more established. Memory and imagination skills are developed and become the foundation for learning.

Concrete Operational Stage

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

Operational Stage

The formal Operational stage is adolescence through adult. This is the stage where all types of thinking and reasoning can be understood and utilized.

Preparing For Pre-School Success

Pre-school will teach many skills to young children, but some skills need to be introduced, taught, and practiced at home. This is where parents and caregivers come in. The following skills are important for success in preschool:

  • Sitting in one spot for an extended period, i.e., listening to an entire story without getting up

  • Following multi-step directions: Give your child 2 or 3 directions and see if they can follow them. For instance, go to your room, get your socks, and put on your socks.

  • Knowing the alphabet song

  • Manners: Saying please, thank you, and excuse me at the appropriate time. It is very important that young children learn not to interrupt and to wait their turn in a conversation. At home, an adult may be able to drop everything to listen to the child, but when they are in a classroom of 10+ children, they will need to wait patiently for their turn.

  • Bathroom skills: These include turning on the sink, wiping themselves, flushing a toilet, and washing hands correctly.

  • Putting a jacket on independently: Placing the jacket upside down in front of them and having them slip their arms in and flip it over their heads is the best technique for young children.

  • Taking turns: You can practice this by playing games, choosing snacks, or having conversations.

  • Sharing: Have your children play with a toy for a while and then have them give it to another child to play with.

  • Patience: Children will have to wait their turn in a classroom with a large group of children. Practicing this skill and explaining that sometimes they may have to wait quietly can greatly help teachers and decrease your child's frustration if they don't get immediate attention.

All these skills are practiced in pre-school, but parents and caregivers should not depend solely on teachers to teach and practice these skills. They need to have repeated exposure to all of these areas to internalize the appropriate skills. If there is any difficulty with practicing any of these skills at home, approach your child's teacher to get suggestions and support. It takes a village to raise a child.

Getting Ready To Experience Early Childhood With A Preschooler?

Preparing For Kindergarten Success

All skills needed for preschool will also be needed for kindergarten. Kindergarten classes are often considerably larger than preschool ones, so the above skills are even more important. Again, practicing skills at home will help your child have success in school. School holds an important place in the lives of young children, and it teaches them many skills, but these skills need to be reinforced and practiced at home for children to succeed.

Here are a few skills which will help as a child moves into kindergarten:

  • Using scissors: Practice cutting coupons and straws at home. This strengthens young children's hands so that they can use writing implements. It is also easier for children to have success with cutting activities at school when they have had previous experience with scissors. There are great scissors that can be purchased specifically for young children.

  • Recognizing their names: Write your child's name on a strip of paper or labels, and show them what their name looks like.

  • Writing their name: Be sure to teach them to write their name with an uppercase letter followed by lowercase letters. That is the way that they are going to have to write it in school, so start teaching them the proper formation as soon as they are ready. Kindergarten teachers will encourage their students to not use all uppercase letters to write their name.

  • Use kind words/no potty language. It's helpful is you can model this language at home and reinforce how important it is.

  • Keep hands to self: If this is reinforced at home, it will better carry over to school. In a conflict, kids will often get physical, and this should be discouraged.

  • Use a quiet, inside voice; save loud voices for outside.

  • Teach them how to open snack bags, yogurts, juice boxes, Ziploc bags, etc. When only one teacher is available to help 20+ children, they are going to have to learn to be independent in many situations—snack time and lunch time being two of those. Opening these items on their own is great fine motor practice too.

  • Zippering, buttoning, snapping, velcroing: Teach them how to manipulate all of these fasteners. This will help them to operate more independently at school.

  • Tying shoes: This is a higher-level skill, but there are great online videos that teach how to tie shoes. This is such a huge help to teachers. If children cannot tie their shoes, purchasing Velcro or slip-on shoes until they master tying laces may be the best choice.

Being A Parent Or Caregiver Is Hard

It isn't easy parenting 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 you're trying to teach your child all the things you want them to know as they get ready for school.

Sometimes, it can be hard to remember yourself during the day-to-day of taking care of your children. However, the better you're feeling about yourself, the better you will be able to parent.

If you find yourself struggling with the constant challenges that can come with raising a small child, there's help available. Online therapy—such as that offered by BetterHelp—may be just the outlet you need.

You're busy and may have no time to leave the house for an in-person therapy session. With online therapy, you don't need to leave the house, and you can schedule your session when your child is asleep or another caregiver is taking care of them. As long as you have an internet connection, you're all set.

Online therapy can be very effective for helping parents work through their problems, whether they're worried about their child's development or feeling a great deal of anxiety about sending them to school. An online therapist can also meet with the whole family if everyone would benefit from discussing issues affecting the household.

It's worth noting that therapy can be beneficial for kids, too, if they are struggling with issues related to learning, school, or life in general.

Get The Help You Need

Just as your child is developing their skills, so, too, are you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Contact BetterHelp and get matched with a therapist who is an expert at helping parents and caregivers become the best parent or caregivers they can be.

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