What Are The Stages Of Childhood?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated November 16, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Children go through many significant changes through each stage of life. If you're caring for a child as a parent, caregiver, nanny, or teacher, it can be helpful to have a sense of the various stages a child may go through to prepare for what lies ahead and to understand what developmental milestones may be common at different ages.

There are several different theories on the exact number of stages of development children may go through, and these stages can be divided in different ways. However, this article discusses six different stages, including infants, toddlers, preschoolers, middle childhood, young teens, and teenagers.
Caring For Children Can Be Confusing

The Six Stages Of Childhood

Below are the six stages of childhood defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

Infancy (Birth To One Year)

During the first stage of a child's development, an infant may start to react to external stimuli like touch and sound, discern objects close to them, and communicate using different sounds. Throughout their first year, a child may begin to develop more complex responses to the world around them. Some of the most notable developments include an infant's ability to control the way that their head moves, their ability to sit up without the support of their parent, and their ability to recognize and respond to their name.

They may also start making babbling or squealing sounds, often occurring around six months. At around the nine-month mark or up to around the twelve-month mark, an infant may begin to crawl and stand up on their own and grasp objects with their hands.

Toddler Years (One Year To Three Years)

During the toddler stage, children learn more about their surroundings and themselves. Toddlers may be able to walk independently, jump around, climb on objects, follow directions, construct sentences, and eat with a spoon. They may also follow routines when told to, like cleaning up toys or going to bed at a particular time. 


Preschool Age (Three To Five Years)

In the preschool stage, children start to improve their motor skills as well as their vocabulary and conversational skills. A child at this stage may begin forming sentences with four or more words, serve themselves food or water with supervision, count to ten, write some letters, and button specific button formats.  

Middle Childhood (Six To Eleven Years)

By the middle stage of childhood, a child may gain independence. They can often tie their shoes, dress themselves, and catch a ball more easily by around six to eight years, for example. Attending school may bring opportunities for more connections with others. 

During this stage, children may pay greater attention to friendships, form stronger bonds with others, become more aware of their existence, have an increased attention span, and start understanding their bodies. They may better grasp the motor skills they developed in the previous stages, and their conversational skills may also improve as they attend school and learn more about the world around them.

Young Teenage Years (Twelve To Fourteen Years)

Young adolescence can be a major and sometimes confusing or demanding change. In this stage, puberty typically begins, which can bring many changes. During this time, a child may also experience more peer pressure. A child of this age is also able to make more of their own choices, and they continue to become more independent. Individuality is often a significant theme during these years, and you may notice your child starting to develop their personality and form their thoughts and opinions. 

As they grow older, they may focus more on their friends and relationships and less on their family to develop their independent lifestyle. It is not necessarily a difficult time, but young teens often face pressure and may benefit from adult support while going through this stage.

Adolescence (Fifteen To Seventeen Years)

When a child reaches the older adolescence stage, they may show increased independence from their parents. Some teenagers start working and prepare to leave the house. In this stage, a teen may develop more interest in romantic relationships and sexuality, spend more time with friends and less with parents, have more concern about the future, and develop clearer work habits. Some teens may experience challenges during this time, like eating disorders, depression, or substance use. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

Caring For Children Can Be Confusing

Support Options For Parents And Caregivers 

Taking care of a child can be rewarding and confusing at any stage. A therapist may be a beneficial resource if you would like additional guidance as you try to support a child in navigating these different stages.

Being a parent or guardian can often mean a busy schedule, and taking time for yourself can feel challenging. If you're too busy for in-person therapy, you can also try an online platform like BetterHelp. With an online platform, you can meet from home outside of business hours or when you have a moment for therapy. The convenience of this format can mean less waiting time, no parking fees, and reduced costs for service, often with 24/7 messaging options with your therapist.  

Research has shown that online therapy can effectively address various concerns, including parenting challenges. For example, one study explored the effectiveness of an online therapy program for parents. It found that the online program had "positive effects" on parents' psychological flexibility and emotion control. 


If you are caring for a child, understanding the various stages they may go through can be helpful as you try to support their development. Note that the above details for each stage capture the common developments at those stages, but these may not be accurate for all children. If you're concerned about developmental delays, speak with your child's pediatrician. If you'd like to further navigate parenting or caring for a child, consider contacting a licensed counselor for guidance and support.

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