Why is child development important?
Child development is the sequence of changes that occurs within a child’s physical, linguistic, thought and emotional processes from the time they are born until they reach adulthood. While child development is taking place, individuals steadily progress from a state of dependency on a parent or guardian to functional independence. This developmental process is affected by a variety of factors including the genes inherited from one’s parents, the events that occur during prenatal life, various environmental attributes and the child’s capacity for learning.
Given the number of factors involved, child development can be affected by many things and it is even possible to enhance the process using targeted therapeutic intervention and a particular “just right” home-based practice. This has been formulated and is recommended by Occupational and Speech therapists.
What is involved in child development?
Child development encompasses every skill that a child can learn and master during the course of their development including:
- Cognition: An individual’s learning and problem-solving ability.
- Social and emotional interaction: The way in which an individual interacts with others and their capability for self-control.
- Speech and language: An individual’s ability to understand and use language, to read and to communicate.
- Physical skills: An individual’s physical skills range from fine motor skills (controlling individual fingers) to gross motor skills (controlling one’s whole body).
- Sensory awareness: An individual’s registration of information delivered by their physical senses.
Why is child development important?
Child development is a useful tool for monitoring a child’s progress as they age and ensuring that they reach particular developmental milestones at an appropriate time. These milestones are a loose approximation of certain developmental skills that are thought to be mastered by children at roughly the same age. They are not a precise measure and should never be taken as gospel but they do function as a useful guideline for what is considered “ideal development”.
Certain stages of developmental progress have been set against particular age markers for children. Checking their own children’s progress against these time frames allows parents and guardians to check-in and find out whether or not their children are roughly speaking, developmentally ‘on track’. When a child is behind one of these developmental milestones, checking in serves as an early warning system and alerts those who care for it of any potential hiccups in development. These check-ins are best performed by professionals through child and mother services and by Paediatricians for infants and toddlers. Older children can have their developmental progress assessed during preschool and school assessments during term time.
Detecting these hiccups as early as possible helps with the process of compensating for them or even correcting them. Sometimes, intervention treatment is not appropriate but it is usually possible to alter things such that the impact of these issues can be minimised. This way, there will be little damage to a child’s skill development or other aspects like their confidence.
It is important to remember that developmental milestone checklists and charts only function as a guideline. While they serve to highlight particular areas in which a child’s development might be delayed, they do not provide the full picture. Each child is unique and so is their development. A child that is lagging behind in one area may excel in another and with a little extra focus on their weaker aspects, they may catch up quickly.
Jean Piaget was one of the most influential psychologists in the area of child development. He was the first psychologist to study the way in which children developed and pioneered the idea that the way in which children and adults think is fundamentally different, that children’s intelligence had to develop before it could function like that of an adult.
Piaget came up with the idea that children go through four stages of development and these occur during particular ages. He argues that as children ages, the sophistication of their thought processes increased in the following stages:
- Birth to 2 years: Sensorimotor stage.
- 2 to 7 years old: Preoperational stage.
- 7 to 11 years old: Concrete operational stage.
- 11 years and onwards: Formal operational stage.
Every child progresses through these stages in the same order. The way in which a child develops is determined by its biological maturation and the ways in which it interacts with its environment.
While it is impossible for a child to miss or skip a developmental stage, it takes children different lengths of time to proceed through these stages. It is even possible for certain individuals to never reach the final ones.
Piaget never claimed that children would hit particular developmental stages at certain ages. He simply noted the ages at which he judged children to have reached each stage and the above emerged over time as an average.
During this stage of development, children develop their sense of Object Permanence. This is the ability to understand that an object continues to exist when it is no longer visible. This only occurs when the ability to form a mental image of an object develops.
This is the point at which a child begins to understand the idea of symbols. They develop the sense that is is possible for a symbol to stand in for something other than itself. At this stage, a child still thinks almost entirely in terms of the self and does not understand how to take in the viewpoint of others.
Concrete Operational Stage
Piaget considered this stage to be a major milestone in a child’s cognitive development. This is the stage that marks the beginning of logical and operational thought. This means that once this stage is reached, a child becomes capable of working things out internally rather than requiring to test ideas in the physical world. This is the stage at which children can conserve ideas of number mass and weight in an object even when that object’s appearance changes.
Formal Operational Stage
The formal operational stage is the one that lasts into adulthood. It is during this stage that children, and people more generally, develop the abilities to think about abstract concepts and use logic to test hypotheses.
Shirley Mist has been involved in fashion and design for many years. She has also written extensively for many online publications. She currently writes for The Tribune World and is a valued member of our team.