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What are the different stages of child development?

Children develop sequentially from prenatal to adolescence. During these stages, the areas of development include physical, emotional, social and intellectual. This article describes some of the main stages of child development.

Prenatal development

The prenatal period of baby development is divided into three trimesters. Each is about three months long. Each trimester includes a distinct phase of prenatal growth and development. The first three months of the developing human is referred to as an embryo, the second as a foetus and the third as a baby which is capable of independent life.

Infancy and toddlerhood

Between birth and three years, children achieve important milestones which set the foundation for growth and development in their later years. By three months, babies are able to recognise human faces and to respond with cooing and smiles. By nine months, they usually are able to crawl and respond to verbal commands. By toddler age, they learn to feed themselves and can use simple sentences to communicate their feelings. Toddlers have a better understanding of themselves and of their surroundings. However, during the early years, children's personality and social growth are shaped by the family.

Early childhood and school age

Early childhood is sometimes called the preschool years. It generally refers to two to six years. This is a time of significant changes in all areas of development, including language and personality. Physical development in early childhood is rapid and the child's coordination improves. Children exercise greater autonomy and are less attached to their parents. School age refers to the period between 6 and 12 years. Physical growth is slower than in infancy and early childhood. At this stage of kids' development, motor skills continue to develop and children become more active. Cognitive abilities also continue to expand and children's social interactions and peer relationships become more important.


Adolescence is the period between childhood and adulthood. Children pass through puberty as they move to adolescence. Puberty is the stage of physical development where primary and secondary sex characteristics mature and humans are capable of reproduction. The peer group is an important agent of socialisation during adolescence. There are also intellectual changes which occur. These affect how the children see themselves, the family, their peers and the world. At this stage, adolescents become more interested in the future and develop abstract thinking skills. Final note As children move through the different stages, they need the necessary support to stimulate and enhance their growth and development at each stage. Sources - Halliburton, A. (2004). Infant and Toddler Basics: development during the first three years. (Downloaded from and accessed on 01.08.11). - Rice, F. P & Dolgin, K. M. (2008). The Adolescent: Development, Relationships, and Culture. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

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