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.
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.
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.
What are the stages of childhood?
Stages of child development refer to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional phases of growth a child typically experiences before adulthood.
When evaluating your child's developmental abilities, it's essential to remember that each child grows at their own pace. The activities in each child's development stage listed here are simply estimates and don't necessarily reflect every child's experience. Cultural and environmental factors may also influence how a child develops.
There are several different models of child development characterized by unique age ranges and development milestones. The six-stage method includes:
Infancy (0-1 years)
During this stage, babies may begin to react to external stimuli and focus on familiar faces, sometimes mirroring expressions like smiling or frowning. This phase is characterized by rapid physical growth and cognitive development. Throughout the year, caregivers may observe motor skill development through physical activity such as sitting, rolling, crawling, and standing. Babies in this stage may begin verbalizing, interacting socially, and displaying attachment to caregivers.
It's important to note that infant milestones often vary widely between babies depending on specific circumstances. For example, babies born early or later than their due date may reach these milestones later or sooner than others. If you're concerned about your infant's development, speak to your child's doctor.
Toddler Years (1-3 years)
As they continue to grow, toddlers will begin to develop better coordination and motor skills. This is a time of walking, language acquisition, imaginative play, and basic problem-solving. At this phase, children begin to walk independently, drink from a cup, use a spoon, and climb on stairs and furniture.
Children develop social skills like sharing and cooperation in the later stages of toddlerhood. They may learn to pedal a tricycle, dress themselves, and turn book pages one at a time. Interactive play with other children may help prompt the exploration of self-identity.
Preschool Years (3-5 years)
In the preschool years, children can string words to make sentences, carry on more complex conversations, and play "make-believe." They may be able to use safety scissors, help with small chores around the house, and understand basic problem-solving.
Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
Middle childhood is marked by greater independence from family and closer friendships with peers. Children develop a more profound sense of identity and their place in the world at this stage. They might think about the future and have a greater concern for how they are viewed by others. Kids of this age may be ready for more significant academic challenges as they develop a greater capacity for focus and complex problem-solving skills.
"Tween" Years (12-14)
Young teens experience dramatic physical, emotional, and mental changes. The onset of puberty brings noticeable bodily changes, sometimes creating a greater sense of self-consciousness about body image and looks. This age group may exhibit "moodiness" and become less affectionate with parents.
With this stage often comes more challenging schoolwork, sometimes leading to greater feelings of stress. Kids in this stage might have a greater capacity to express emotions and complex thoughts verbally. They may establish a more robust moral framework and sense of right and wrong.
Mid to late teens is a time of greater independence as kids look forward to young adulthood. Romantic relationships and sexuality are of greater interest, and many kids at this age develop a more profound capacity for caring and more emotional relationships. Teenagers typically show more independence from their parents and spend more time with friends.
Kids in their teens may develop a more defined work ethic and begin focusing more on future goals with a general idea of the career or academic path they prefer. Independent reasoning, problem-solving, and the ability to make solid life choices are vital for future growth and development.
What are the stages of early childhood and late childhood?
Early childhood stages include the toddler (1-3) and the preschool years (3-5). Late childhood extends from six to 12 or 13 years, depending on the age of sexual maturity.
What is the stage from 7 to 12 years called?
This stage of a child's growth is typically referred to as middle childhood. It's a stage characterized by increased independence from the family with a more significant focus on friendships with peers. Kids in this phase also typically experience rapid physical growth and are often more interested in physical activities such as playing a sport.
Why is childhood the best stage of life?
While not everyone agrees, some people feel that childhood is the most enjoyable time of life because there is less responsibility and greater possibilities for the future. Learning, play, and friendships are often the focus of childhood.
What is the meaning of the seven stages?
There are a couple of references to the seven stages of human development in literature.
The seven stages of man are explained by the character Jaques during the "all the world's a stage" monologue in act two, scene seven of the Shakespearean play "As You Like It." In the monologue, Jaques describes the seven stages of life as:
- Schoolboy (young child)
- Young Man
- Old Man
- Dotage and Death (or second childhood)
A similar allegory is present in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" in the form of different colored rooms. Each room's color correlates with each of the seven stages— blue, purple, green, orange, white, violet, and black.
What is stage 7 of the family life cycle?
Stage seven is often referred to as the "empty nest" phase, where children leave their parents behind to pursue their own goals. This phase usually occurs differently for each family, as every family's experience and timing for when the children "leave the nest" is unique.
What are the stages of development for 5-7 years old?
Between five and seven, children typically start gaining more independence from parents as they form relationships with their peers at school. It's also a stage of significant physical growth, and children often become more coordinated and physically active during this time.
In which stage is a child beginning at age 7?
The middle childhood phase typically begins at six or seven years old.
How many family stages are there?
There are several models for family stages that range between four and seven. The five-stage model is as follows:
- Parenting Babies-Adolescents
- Launching Adult Children
- Retirement/Senior Years
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