Play through the ages: An introduction

All children develop at their own pace, but there are very important expectations for each age range.

Each and every child goes through development at their own pace and in their own time. No two children develop in the exact same timeframe. In fact, no two children will look alike in the time they take to grow and develop. However, development does have a consistent order for things and there are expectations for the paths all children will take.

For example, a child will not run before they can walk and will not walk before they can crawl. Children will not say four-to-five word sentences before developing two-word phrases. One child may crawl at 6 months, walk at 12 months and run at 18 months. Another child may crawl at 5 months, walk at 9 months and begin running at 16 months.

There are definitely unique patterns to watch for and to be mindful of as a child grows. This article series will touch on important developmental milestones and offer some play ideas designed to help aid in child development throughout multiple age ranges.

Within this article series, you will learn about five specific developmental domains including: gross motor, fine motor, language, social and emotional development. Each domain will be defined with examples of important expectations and characteristics for each separate age range. Along with defining each developmental domain by age, there will also be suggestions for activities and play strategies to increase child development.

Gross motor development refers to a child’s large muscle movements. Examples include crawling, sitting alone, walking, climbing onto furniture, throwing a ball, kicking a ball, running, standing on one foot, walking up and down stairs and riding a bike.

Fine motor development refers to a child’s small muscle movements. Examples include holding a rattle, playing with hands, reaching and grabbing a toy, holding a small object such as a cheerio, stacking blocks, scribbling, stringing beads and using scissors to cut paper.

Language development refers to a child’s ability to communicate with others verbally and nonverbally. Examples include cooing and chuckling, laughing, saying the “m-m-m” sound, responding to names, saying “mama” and “dada,” imitating words, showing what they want by pointing, pointing to body parts, using words to make wants known, following directions, naming pictures, combining two words, increasing vocabulary to over 50 words, asking questions and talking about their environment.

Social development refers to a child’s ability to interact with their environment and other people. Examples include having a social smile, distinguishing parents from others, reacting to strangers, clinging to familiar adults, expressing affection, expressing anger, imitating the actions of others, giving hugs to family, using words to make wants known, helping with chores, playing cooperatively and understanding how to take turns.

Emotional development refers to a child’s ability to express how they are feeling. Examples include showing and expressing pleasure, reacting to strangers, expressing anxiety, expressing affection, showing anger and oppositional feelings, having pride, showing a large range of feelings and using words to describe feelings (happy, mad, sad).

This article series will focus on the important stages and developmental domains in incremental ages of six months at a time (0-6, 6-12, 12-18, 18-24, etc.) from birth to age 3. The article series will also focus on the important expectations for each developmental domain and suggest fun activities associated with increasing a child’s developmental skills.

For more information on child development, parenting and school readiness, please visit the Family Section on the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Reports: “Preparing young children to success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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