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Stages of Development from Birth to 19 Years

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 2064 words Published: 22nd Jul 2021

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Explain the sequence and rate of each aspect of development from birth – 19 years.

The sequence of development refers to the expected pattern of development of a child from birth through to 19 years. Child development, in turn, refers to the biological, the physical and the emotional or psychological changes which take place within a time-frame as the individual passes through various stages or phases from (complete) dependency to (increasing) autonomy. The term development incorporates the skills and knowledge that children and young people are developing.

Children and young people follow a pattern or sequence or order of development, and knowledge about expectations at the different ages and stages, helps practitioners to support development, as well as to identify those individuals who may need additional support or those who may require extension, for example, through a gifted and talented programme.

Skills and knowledge and physical growth are all interconnected and therefore cannot be viewed in isolation. Instead a ‘holistic’ approach to development needs to be adopted as these areas are co-dependent. Children and young people need to be able to develop properly in order to reach their full potential. Practitioners should remain aware of the fact that although each area of development is important as an entity in its own right, each area is as important as any other, and also that they all impact upon each other. The areas can be ‘separated out’ as such, but they are reliant upon each other and so if a child does not have the physical skills to turn pages in a book or the language to decode words, then that child will not be able to read.

Developmental changes may be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, events during prenatal development, the delivery and birth itself as well as post natal influences. Developmental change can be due to maturation – genetically controlled processes or as a result of environmental factors, although mostly, there is an interaction between the two.

The development of children and young people is a continuous process and can be measured in a variety of ways. Children and young people tend to develop at different rates but the sequence or order in which they develop will be more or less the same. For example, a child will acquire one skill – walking, before developing the next skill in the sequence – running.

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As development tends to be more rapid in the early years, the milestones are initially quite close together. As a baby becomes a toddler / child and the toddler / child becomes a young person, the milestones can be further apart. It is important to bear in mind that children and young people are individuals, so their rate of development may be different and also development may not progress across all the required areas with the same degree of equality. Sometimes the rate of development can present cause for concern. However, it is essential to remember that each person is unique and this must be borne in mind, especially when examining the rate and development of a child or young person.

Generally speaking, development is said to progress from head to toe, from the inner self to the outer self, from simple to complex and finally from general to specific.

The aspects of development by which children and young people are measured against are:

Physical Development

Physical development can be sub-divided into:

Fine motor skills (manipulation) involve the coordination and control of small muscles, for example, tying a shoe lace or using pincer grip to pick up crumbs or hold a pencil and mark make with it.

Gross motor skills involve the coordination and the control of large muscles and the acquiring of skills such as running and walking, throwing a ball or pedalling a bicycle. These skills require the use of the entire body or at least several parts of the body. Muscle tone and muscle strength are important, for example, if a body has ‘high tone’, the movements may be jerky or appear disconnected and if the muscle strength is poor, the child or young person may not be able to exert much pressure with his hands or legs. The quality and range of movement is also important – does a child or young person move noticeably slowly or too quickly and is the child or young person able to make movements that go from one side of the body to the other (‘crossing the midline’).

Physical development is about learning to master movements and this allows a child or young person to become independent. They master the ability to explore and interact the world and environment around them. The muscles in the body need to develop and gain strength and as they do, the body is able to coordinate better.

Cognitive / Intellectual Development

This encompasses the way in which the brain processes information (remembering names or colours or numbers and information). Imagination (for example in role-play), is also a cognitive skill and cognitive development is strongly linked to communication and language.

Communication and Language

This is about learning to communicate with other people and understanding their communication in return. Talking, reading, writing and using gestures/body language or a sign language, are all examples of communication and it is essential that children and young people acquire language and a range of vocabulary or sign language skills in order to be able to communicate effectively. Receptive and expressive language are effective tools for communication. As stated above, communication and language are linked to cognitive development (thinking about what others are trying to convey as well as what you are trying to express).

Social and Emotional Development

This area is about forming and maintaining relationships, understanding oneself, becoming self-reliant, having the ability to make decisions, feeling sympathy and empathy, knowing what behaviour is acceptable, and having the ability to control emotions appropriately. This area is closely linked to cognitive language development.

Intellectual or Moral Development

This has strong links with cognitive development and is a sub-set of social and emotional development. Intellectual or moral development is about decisions that children and young people take, principles they adopt and their behaviour towards others. It includes a child or young person’s attention span, ability to understand information and to reason, the developing of memory, logical thinking and questioning. For example, Piaget advocated that group games promoted and advanced the moral and intellectual development of children and young people. An adult explains the rules of a game and gradually reduces his or her involvement, allowing the child or young person to regulate the game - this allows room for a child to take risks, to make errors and to learn and develop moral understanding and autonomy.

Table detailing the sequence and rate of each aspect of development from birth to 19 years plus





Gross Motor

Fine Motor Skills

Infant –

Birth to 12 months

Learns by experimenting with hands and putting objects in mouth.

Attaches to the mother and father and begins to recognise faces; smiles.

At about six months begins to recognise parents and expresses a fear of strangers. Responds to and participates in simple interactive games.

Vocalises a lot more and imitates some sounds, says 2 syllable words like ‘mama’, ‘dada’, ‘baba’.

Lifts head, pulls chest up, rolls over, pulls to sit up and crawls or stands either with some or no support.

Is able to reach for objects and picks up finger food or toys, like rattles or keys. Picks up small objects like crumbs.


1 – 2 years

Is able to learn words for people and objects and to name some items when prompted.

Learns that self and parents are separate, imitates sounds, is able to indicate needs or wants without crying.

Is able to say more words and follow simple instructions.

Can walk, kick, stop, jump, throw a ball and drop items.

Unbutton clothing, build tower with few bricks, mark make, use spoon to feed self.

Preschool 2 – 5 years

Knows when is tired or hungry, cold/wet or soiled and recognises some colours, numbers, shapes and objects.

Able to separate from carer with ease, un/dress with assistance, wash / dry hands, play games. Increasingly independent in toileting and self-care.

Follows simple or complex instructions, speaks in simple sentences. Good range of vocabulary.

Runs, hops, squats and jumps, pedals a tricycle, balances and co-ordinates well. Pulls self onto play equipment.

Builds tower of 7/8 cubes, forms letters and some alphabet and is able to pedal a bicycle. Feeds self.


5 – 12 years

Understands numeracy and literacy concepts, relationships between objects and feelings, acquires knowledge and skill.

Increasingly independent, emotionally still attached to its parents, dresses/undresses mostly without assistance, joins clubs and social groups, make friendships.

Has an increasing bank of vocabulary, is able to describe his / her feelings, or objects, or materials, is able to school independently.

Improved balance, may overestimate physical capabilities, joins in different physically demanding activities.

Able to sketch/draw people, copy detail in figures and objects, sew, knit, paint and craft with control.

12 – 18 years

Understands some abstract concepts like death or illness or God and religion, and develops an understanding of complex ideas.

Experiences mood swings and changes in behaviour, highly influenced by peer group, distances from parents emotionally, engrossed by self-image, may have sexual relationship.

Uses increased vocabulary and understands abstract concepts such as grief.

These are now fully developed.

These are now fully developed.

19 years plus

Continues to develop ability to make sound decisions, understands complexity of relationships with others.

Becomes independent and develops own lifestyle, chooses career path, develops a social and economic status, may have a partner, become a parent,

Continues to develop knowledge, uses increased vocabulary and different styles of language.

These are now fully developed.

These are now fully developed.


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