Areas of Development

Early childhood is a time of immense growth. Children develop the abilities to communicate, move their bodies, express themselves creatively, and SO MUCH MORE! Learn more about the different areas of child development, and how to put them to use in your home or classroom. Check it out at TaylorMichelle.com today!

Areas of Development

Did you know: the brain development that occurs between birth and age three is the most significant period of growth the brain will ever experience? That’s CRAZY. It just goes to show how important early development is…

Did you know: the brain development that occurs between birth and age three is the most significant period of growth the brain will ever experience? That's CRAZY. It just goes to show how important early development is. Learn more at TaylorMichelle.com!

There are dozens of developmental theories out there, each with different “types” or “areas” of development. While they may appear very different, each theory normally contains the same important areas. They may be categorized differently, but the core concept remains the same.

In this post, I address what I consider to be the five areas of development: cognitive, social/emotional, language/literacy, creative, and physical. Other educators or theorists may break those categories further (for example, many break cognitive development into math, science, sensory, problem solving, and etc). For simplicity’s sake, I stuck to the main five. I’ll go into further detail below…

Cognitive Development

What is it?

Cognitive development is considered the ability to think and reason. As such, nearly everything we do helps us to develop cognitively. When pertaining to early childhood, I’ve divided cognition into science, math, and problem-solving. Each requires immense amounts of thought and reasoning.

Jean Piaget, the leading theorist and creator of the cognitive theory, divided childhood into four major stages.

  • The sensorimotor stage (birth-24 months) occurs as infants explore their surroundings through the use of their senses. Children develop a general sense of self, object permanence, and cause/effect during this stage.
  • The preoperational stage (age 2-7) allows children to think of things symbolically. For example, using a wooden block as a phone during dramatic play. Children tend to be egocentric, and struggle to adopt other viewpoints.
  • The concrete operational stage (age 7-11) marks the beginning of logical thought. Children can now figure things out in their heads, rather than physically trying it out.
  • The formal operational stage (age 11-adulthood) creates the ability to think about abstract concepts, and to logically test hypotheses.
How do I include it?

As I mentioned above, cognition is required in just about everything we do. That makes it pretty easy to incorporate it into our curriculum, huh? Science and math are important subjects that help further develop cognition.

Infants and toddlers should be working on cause and effect (for example, “What will happen if I dump this bucket out”). Dumping toy buckets is a pet peeve for a lot of toddler teachers, but it is truly part of development. Children need to learn the effects their actions have. The main focus at this age is to explore the world through the senses, so infants and toddlers must be allowed to explore their play spaces on their own.

Preschoolers need to develop the abilities to do basic math (recognize patterns, count, match, and sort) and to fully understand their effect on the objects in their world (cause and effect). They will begin to understand conservation, and may desire to conduct their own investigations and experiments. All of this is part of normal child development. To learn more about all of the areas of development, visit TaylorMichelle.com today!

Preschoolers need to develop the abilities to do basic math (recognize patterns, count, match, and sort) and to fully understand their effect on the objects in their world (cause and effect). They will begin to understand conservation, and may desire to conduct their own investigations and experiments.

School-age children will begin to add and subtract, predict outcomes, and base their actions on prior knowledge.

Make sure to provide plenty of open-ending materials, and encourage your students to ask questions. Get them thinking about the world around them, and how things work and happen.

Physical Development

What is it?

 Physical development pertains not only to fine (small movements, such as in the hands and fingers) and gross (large movements, such as walking and running) motor movements. Children also learn to care for themselves (hand-washing, nutrition, dressing themselves, and etc.). It is SO important to instill these healthy habits and values to young children, in hopes that they will translate into their adult lives. Learn how at TaylorMichelle.com.

Like cognitive development, physical development takes place across all developmental/learning domains. When working on writing (what most people would consider “Language and Literacy development), for example, young children are also developing their fine motor skills.

Physical development pertains not only to fine (small movements, such as in the hands and fingers) and gross (large movements, such as walking and running) motor movements. Children also learn to care for themselves (hand-washing, nutrition, dressing themselves, and etc.). It is SO important to instill these healthy habits and values to children when they’re young, in hopes that they will translate into their adult lives.

How do I include it?

Infants and toddlers have a ton of things to work on: sitting up, crawling, walking, climbing stairs, grasping objects–I could go on and on. On top of all the motions they need to accomplish, toddlers also need to learn how to properly wash their hands, put their own shoes on, and feed themselves.

Preschoolers’ main physical goals are to develop the abilities to fully dress themselves, skip and jump, grasp a pencil properly, and use scissors. As they get older, their independence will grow, and they will attempt to accomplish those tasks on their own.

School-age children will begin to finesse all of the skills they’ve previously learned. They will become more proficient at using scissors, drawing and writing, dressing themselves, and eventually playing organized sports.

Make sure you provide plenty of outdoor time for your students. Encourage them to race and play games to build up their gross motor abilities. Work on drawing and writing in the classroom to enhance finger dexterity and fine motor skills. Remind children to keep themselves clean, and to take care of their bodies through healthy eating and exercise.

Social/Emotional Development

What is it?

Children must be provided with the opportunity to develop relationships with other children and adults. As they grow, they’ll begin to develop a sense of self (identity), and will learn to identify and control their own emotions.

Children need to have strong emotional bonds with the adults in their lives in order to develop confidence. Those relationships allow kids to explore the world around them from a safe base. Adults need to set good examples for young children and encourage them to express themselves and how they’re feeling.

How do I include it?

Children must be provided with the opportunity to develop relationships with other children and adults. As they grow, they'll begin to develop a sense of self (identity), and will learn to identify and control their own emotions. Learn more about the importance of social/emotional development at TaylorMichelle.com.

Infants and toddlers need to understand that their caregivers will always provide for their needs. Because their development is entirely based on exploring the world through their senses, children this age need to feel confident enough to venture away from their caregiver, and trust that their needs will still be met. This means making sure diapers are changed in a timely manner, mealtimes stick to a consistent schedule, and of course, plenty of cuddles!

Preschoolers need to develop the abilities to control their emotions and to play and communicate with their peers. Children will begin to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with tough emotions. It’s important that caregivers show kids safe and appropriate coping methods. Yelling when you’re mad isn’t okay for children, so make sure you (as an adult) don’t do it either.

School-age children will begin to experience peer pressure for the first time. Their caregivers need to encourage a sense of personal identity, to ensure that children don’t get lost in all that social pressure. Remember that at this age, kids need to feel independent. They don’t want to be told what to do. Instead, try showing them the proper way to treat others and handle emotions by example. Encourage kindness and empathy, and make sure to stress that everyone is different, and that’s okay.

Language & Literacy

What is it?

Language and literacy development is pretty self explanatory. Children learn to develop a way to communicate with others through writing, speaking, gestures, and body language. Literacy pertains to the reading and writing part of communication.

How do I include it?

Learning to read and write is so vital to a child's development! Learn how to encourage early reading and writing at TaylorMichelle.com.

Gosh, I love this picture! Huge Harry Potter fan, just so ya’ know…

As infants and toddlers begin to develop relationships with familiar adults, they will also naturally start to communicate. First, it will be through crying. As they grow, children will begin using body language, such as smiling or frowning, to communicate their wants and needs. Make sure to encourage “conversations” with your infants (when they give you a physical cue like a smile, respond with a hug or tickle). In the toddler years, the first couple words may pop out! Reading to infants and toddlers is SUPER important. It may feel silly, but children need to develop a relationship with books, even at that young age.

Preschoolers will begin to form full sentences when communicating with others. They’ll become much better at interpreting other’s body language and the corresponding emotions. As they approach reading-readiness, be sure to encourage reading, reading reading! Read before naptime, while waiting for the bus, before bed. The more you read to your child, the more excited they will be to learn.

School-age children will begin to master reading and writing. This can be so challenging for kids, so make sure to be encouraging (without becoming overbearing!). It is so easy to get frustrated during the literacy learning process. Be there to help, to hug, to encourage your students during this important developmental milestone. Include reading and writing opportunities in every single thing you do in your classroom.

Creative Development

What is it?

Creative development contributes to children's need for identity, independence, and self-expression. They must be provided with opportunities to express themselves and their feelings through art, music, movement, dance, and imaginary play. Many schools have limited their arts and music programs, but it's important to remember that in order to learn, kids also need to have some sort of outlet for their emotions. Explore the importance of creative development at TaylorMichelle.com!

Creative development contributes to children’s need for identity, independence, and self-expression. They must be provided with opportunities to express themselves and their feelings through art, music, movement, dance, and imaginary play. Many schools have limited their arts, theater, and music programs, but it’s important to remember that in order to learn, kids also need to have some sort of outlet for their emotions.

How do I include it?

Infants and toddlers may seem too young to really express themselves creatively, but that’s so not the case! Infants often explore texture and sound, both important aspects of art and music. Babbling becomes the precursor to singing, and exploring textures becomes the precursor to art and finger painting! Try to keep that in mind when creating activities for infant and toddler classrooms. Paint, play music, use costumes, go crazy! They are completely developmentally prepared to experience and participate in art, dramatic play, movement, and music.

Preschoolers begin learning how to properly hold pencils and other writing utensils, opening up a whole new world of creative possibilities. Now your students can paint, draw, and so much more! As they gain more control over their bodies and how they move, children will be able to express themselves through dance, movement, and imaginary play. Provide plenty of new materials for them such as markers, paintbrushes, and even a variety of natural materials to use in their artwork.

School-age children typically take a major interest in the creative arts. They’ll begin using role-play to express problems they’ve experienced, as well as using symbolic props to represent important objects in their lives. Colors in their artwork may clue into their emotions and struggles (e.g. black for scary or angry emotions). Art will have much more detail, and students may begin to sing and dance in response to music. Remember just how importantly school-age children view their artwork. You may be accumulating a collection of hundreds of nearly identical dinosaur drawings, but you best not throw them away! Display them. All of them. Show your students just how proud you are of their accomplishments. Allow them to be proud of themselves too.

Make sure to keep an eye out for new and upcoming posts (subscribe to my email list to stay updated!). In-depth content detailing each individual area of development and their milestones will be shared soon…

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