Key child development milestones

Thursday 15th November

Key child development milestones

By Dr Amanda Gummer

All children are different, so will grow and learn at their own pace, but they all tend to follow a similar pattern of development – all children learn to walk before they can jump. Here are a few milestones to look out for, but please keep in mind that they are guidelines only – it’s important to avoid comparing your child to other children of a similar age and not to worry if your child does not perfectly ‘tick all the boxes’.

Four to five years

Four to five years - Electro Dough Kit

Social development is considered to be the most important area of development for pre-school children so toys that encourage social interaction and skills such as sharing, turn-taking and communication are really good for this age group.

Children starting school can start to develop new separation and anxiety fears as they find themselves in a new environment and having to find their feet again. Consistency and comforters can be beneficial where needed to help them through this scary stage.

Language will be rapidly developing and changing as they pick up new words at school and through making new friends. Writing will also become exciting and their ‘new challenge’.  Any activities that encourage this are great to start honing their fine motor skills.

Attention spans have increased a lot since toddlerhood, so children can also take part in and master memory games – although try to keep these short and exciting to ensure you keep their attention. The length and complexity can be increased gradually to improve attention spans.

Children are in a lot of control now over their body’s movements, and running and playing is a huge part of their entertainment whilst being great exercise and promotion of a healthy lifestyle from a young age. Sleep plays a huge role in learning and development, so early nights are essential to keep their brain attentive and ready to participate in the day ahead.

Six to seven years

Six to seven years - Electro Hero kit

Fine motor skills are becoming honed around this age so handwriting can be legible and precise. Learning to write and spell at this time can cause confusion in their speech, however this will correct itself over time and with practice.

Although speech is probably the widest form of communication children are using at present, they will be starting to write stories, read a variety of texts and create pictures through art – all of which are valuable forms of expression as the child matures. Children will be able to start using their own individuality, personal experiences and imagination when creating pieces of work.

Their friendship circles are starting to evolve and are becoming more defined. Peers will help them develop a sense of belonging and of their own identity. Being liked and accepted by friends is very important to them.

Children are starting to become more familiar with the rules around them and know when rules apply and when they don’t. They like following rules and can even start enforcing them when others decide to break them.

Eight to nine years

Eight to nine years - Light Racer Kit

Learning is starting to move on, into the unknown. Trial and error is being complimented with predictions, expectations and experimenting to find out new answers. Their attention span is getting more advanced and children can spend prolonged periods absorbed in activities that are of interest to him or her. Reading in depth to learn more about a particular topic is common, and they can start to express their thoughts and opinions with others on these.

Relationships with peers are becoming more intense and although they know right from wrong and that “we don’t hit because we’re not allowed to”, now is a good time to start introducing them to “we don’t hit because it hurts and can make someone unhappy” – helping them understand the morality of rules and consequences. Children will need support and help to understand friendship issues and the influences peers can create. Positioning themselves in existing stereotypes such as arty, sporty or clever may be starting.

As hormones are starting to kick in, or preparing to kick in, at this age it is not uncommon for children to start showing signs of early puberty, including longer sleeping patterns or a growth spurt.

Ten to eleven years

Ten to eleven years - Micro:bit football goal

Puberty is starting to make many changes to this young adult’s body and mind. Thought patterns are adjusting to adulthood and the brain is allowing them to start thinking about intangible ideas such as love, faith and the meaning of life. A positive outlook on adulthood can help to make this transition an exciting and less scary one.

Secondary school may pose fears and anxiety within your child and they may require additional support or a confidence boost to help with their concerns. Playing lots of sport or having active interests can help to burn off energy and help with the stresses.

Having much more control over their body, strength is rapidly increasing, sports and active play are becoming easier and less tiring. If they are showing signs of having a particular sporting talent they will excel fast at this age.

As brains are absorbing a variety of information at a rapid pace, children are able to expand their reasoning with predictions and accuracy. Children will start developing an understanding of hypothetical situations and will be showing a more adult way of thinking and expressing themselves.

Playing is the perfect opportunity for children to learn and test their abilities, so it’s really important to encourage this with family activities and a few well-chosen toys. Find out more about the ages and stages of child development and search independent toy reviews to support a playful childhood over on our website, fundamentallychildren.com.