The Stages of Child Development: Parents Guide

Your parenting life is perfect until another parent tells you that her child can do something your child can’t. And you start to worry that your child isn’t growing and developing the way he should be. If you can relate to this issue, obviously you need to get to know more about children’s development stages. Not only does it help you understand developmental milestones, but it also gives some peace of mind.

Every child develops at their own pace. It’s less likely for the children to reach certain milestones at the same time. As a parent, you should know what usually happens at certain stages so you can help the child to reach their potential and develop new skills.

The 4 Cognitive Development Theory

How do children’s cognitive abilities develop? What are children’s capabilities at various stages? Jean Piaget, a French psychologist, had answered these questions by publishing a theory on children’s cognitive development. Even it becomes one of the most influential and popular theories to date.

The theory suggests that children move through 4 different stages of cognitive development which increases as they are growing.

Cognitive development refers to children’s capability that indicates their intellectual growth at certain ages, from birth to adult. There are many factors that determine the development like environment and biological maturation.

Children development stages won’t be missed out but every child has a different progress rate. Some children may experience a stage earlier or later than others, but some individuals may never reach the later stages.

Besides, Piaget didn’t claim that a specific stage was reached at a particular age—the age only indicates children at average.

But then again, every child develops at a different pace. Here are some milestones commonly found in certain age periods.

  • Sensory motor Stage (0 – 24 Months)

The first ages and stages of child development are sensory-motor that goes from birth to 24 months old. During this early stage, infants and toddlers use their senses and object manipulation to learn about the world.

They also use motor responses and basic reflexes to get experience at an early age. Children begin their interaction with the environment and make new discoveries.

In this early childhood stage, there are some major characteristics that distinguish sensorimotor from other development stages. During this period, children know that they can make things happen around them by doing basic actions.

Object permanence is the main achievement during this earliest stage, which is the knowledge that things remain to exist even if they can’t see them.

  • Preoperational Stage (2 – 7 Years)

Preoperational is the second stage of children’s development stages as suggested by Piaget. During this period, children begin to develop their imagination and memory.

They also become egocentric, which means they only think about themselves and are less likely to see things from other’s perspectives.

During this middle childhood development stages, some developmental changes can be seen. Children are able to use pictures or words to represent objects, which is the main achievement of this stage. Besides, their language skill is also developing significantly than the previous stages.

  • Concrete Operational Stage (7 – 11 Years)

The stage of children’s development for ages 7 to 11 years old is known as concrete preoperational. Children at this stage become less egocentric and begin to think about other’s feelings, which explains why Piaget considered this period a major turning point in cognitive development.

Despite children are still concrete in thinking, they have a better capability in using logic. As this stage marks the beginning of operational thought, children don’t need to try things out when thinking.

Instead, they can work internally in their head, which is the main goal of the concrete operational stage. This ability is called operational thought, allowing them to solve problems without bringing things to the real world.

  • Formal Operational Stage (11 – Older)

The final stage of the four children’s development stages initiated by Piaget is formal operational. During this period, children are able to solve problems using logical reasoning.

The main goal is to be able to think about and understand abstract concepts. Older children are also able to deal with hypotheses.

In psychology, children’s ability to think about abstract ideas and see potential solutions to solve problems become the key of this stage. There are some characteristics to keep in mind, such as children begin to think about moral, social, and ethical issues.

Additionally, children start to use deductive logic to process specific information.

Children’s Development Stages

Piaget’s theory about cognitive development stages gives you a clear insight on children’s intelligence development from birth to 19 years. But, this theory doesn’t tell you how the children are supposed to grow and what should change.

Besides, it also doesn’t involve development in other aspects such as physical, language, and social-emotional development.

Also Read: Signs of Child with Behavior Problems

Here, you’re about to find more information on children’s development stages across several key aspects including physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional.

These milestones help you identify if your child has any developmental delays so you take actions to deal with them.

So, what are children’s development stages as suggested by Piaget? Here’s a closer look.

1. Birth to 3 Months

baby development stage

During the early childhood development stages, infants don’t show significant growth, especially in physical aspects. But it’s important to stimulate them with your voices as they can turn toward sounds. They also follow objects with eyes so you can show something attractive and move left and right.

You can also notice social and emotional developments. Babies at this age begin to smile at people and try to look at someone they know. They start to make vowel sounds and coo when they’re happy.

2. 4 to 6 Months

Children’s development stages during this period are more complex. Infants begin to see and reach things around them, even some individuals are able to roll over.

They also can respond to facial expressions by laughing or babbling. Their cognitive also develops as the babies are able to recognize familiar faces.

3. 5 to 9 Months

During this stage, all aspects are developing rapidly. They start sitting up without help and bringing hands up to the mouth.

They also show social development such as respond differently when a stranger is coming. The infants start to respond when hearing their name or communicate with gestures. If you bring them mirrors, they will really enjoy it.

4. 9 to 12 Months

For cognitive aspect, children’s development stages at this period is still included to sensorimotor which main goal is object permanence. At this age, babies are able to look for hidden things.

That means the main goal is already achieved. They can point to something, imitate gestures and sounds, and understand the meaning of no. Some babies begin to crawl or pull up to a standing position.


7 Infant Activities for Language Development

5. 12 to 18 Months

Infants have learned many things from their surroundings like using spoon or drinking from a cup. Their emotional and social aspect is developing as they begin to have tantrums or cry around strangers.

They also know how to wave when someone leaves and say simple words like ‘no’. Some babies are able to stand alone and walk holding onto surfaces.

6. 18 Months to 24 Months

Children’s development stages during toddler years aren’t as significant as infant years but it can be overwhelming for some parents. Toddlers become more active as they begin to walk and talk.

Despite they’re no longer your red babies, they still need a lot of sleep, good nutrition, and affection from parents. It’s also necessary to ensure your home is toddler-proof so they can explore safely.

You can notice several changes across various development aspects. The common milestones in cognitive aspects include the ability to know common objects and identify them in pictures. They’re also able to follow simple instructions like ‘sit down or stand up’.

Young children can recognize themselves in the mirror and feel proud if they can accomplish simple tasks. They know several words, love to hear nursery rhymes or short stories, and may ask simple questions. Some individuals begin to run, jump, dance, throw balls or eat with a spoon.

7. 3 to 5 Years

child development stage

Pre-school years are a period of time when children become more independent. These children’s development stages involve more cognitive and social-emotional aspects than physical.

As their cognitive is growing, these children become more motivated and curious so they’ll be ready to begin new adventures and explore.

The cognitive milestones of children at this age include the ability to count, play simple games, name simple things like fruits or animals, and draw. They can say their name, copy numbers and letters, as well as predict what is going to happen in a short story.

For social and emotional aspects, these children can play with their peers and offer affection. They are already aware of gender and tell about things they like and don’t like. Some parents may be overwhelmed by children’s emotions as they can switch between defiant and compliant.

8. 6 to 9 Years

The next children’s development stages will be school years, in which children attain competence and independence. During this period of time, children are no longer attached to their parents. Instead, friends become important and influential to develop their confidence.

For parents, it becomes more challenging to maintain relationships, keep children safe, and at the same time give them enough space to grow.

Generally, children at these ages are able to complete instructions and use devices without help. They also have a longer span of attention that helps them focus on certain things.

Children can play with peers, some even find best friends at this age. They start to be able to see from other’s perspectives and become less egocentric. In the language aspect, these children can build opinions and understand speech. Additionally, they can draw logical conclusions based on what they read.

9. 10 to 14 Years

teenage development

As they’re growing older, children’s development stages show a less significant change in physical but more in cognitive, language, and emotion.

Physical development includes the emergence of secondary sex characteristics like voice changes or armpit hair. In females, they may have started a period.

Their cognitive also develops significantly as they can build opinions that are different from their parents.

Children at these ages realize that parents aren’t always correct and their logical thinking is improving. Not to mention they become more independent, require more privacy, and show moodiness.

In language aspect, children age 10 to 14 can use voice tone to communicate their intention. They’re also able to use speech that is not literal, in addition to the ability to speak fluently as well as listen easily.

10. 15 to 17 Years

Children’s development stages in teenagers are the most complicated, especially in cognitive and social emotions. Teenagers can explain their choices and position, so they’ll likely to argue a lot with parents.

Not to mention they don’t hesitate to differentiate from parents. They’re also more interested in art such as music or play.

Emotional aspects also develop as they have increased interest in sexuality and dating. They begin to have boyfriend or girlfriend and spend more time with them.

Teenagers want to figure out their self-identity and are willing to do anything for it. For the language aspect, they can speak persuasively, understand figurative language and speak with people from different groups.

Development Delay

What if some aspects of children’s development stages come late? When your child shows development delay, there are several options to take.

The first step to take is talking to a pediatrician and have your child a developmental screening. This procedure provides you with in-depth analysis and information related to the abilities of your child.

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You may also visit a child development center such as a pediatric neurologist, language therapist, or psychologist.

If your child is under 3 years old, the early intervention program can help you solve the problem. But if your child is older, it’s advised to ask for a developmental evaluation.

In short, understanding children’s development stages help ensure that your child is growing and developing at their pace. Some parents may have issues and worries in children’s development but it’s important to know that every individual has a different pace. But in case you find the signs of developmental delay, talking to a pediatrician is the best action to solve the issues.

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