Lifespan Development

When the baby is picked up, the head falls backwards. This is because the neck muscles are not strong and developed enough to support the head. This is why the head always needs to be supported when the baby is lifted.

When a newborn baby is held in a sitting position, they appear to roll up into a ball. The back curves over and the head falls forward because the muscles in the neck and back are not very strong. When a newborn baby is held upright with its feet on a flat surface, they automatically make walking movements. This is known as the walking reflex and will disappear after a few months.

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A newborn baby keeps its hands tightly closed for most of the time. The baby also shows a ‘grasp reflex’- if anything is put in the hand, it is automatically grasped tightly. This reflex disappears after a few weeks.

At such a young age, the baby is only aware of vague shapes, darkness, light and movement. Newborns are very short sighted because their eyes have a fixed focus of about 20-25 cm. They therefore see most clearly those things within this distance, with objects further away being blurred.

“Your baby will try to focus on anything which is moving, for instance a mobile which is brightly coloured. However, your face will be the most interesting object in his whole life, so make sure that he sees that often and close.”

Not only is their sight developing, but also their hearing. The bay will be startled by a sudden loud noise, e.g. a door slamming and blinks or open its eyes widely.

At 3 months, the baby is starting to control its head. The baby still has to be supported when in a sitting position but the back is much straighter. Although the head is rather wobbly, they can hold it for a short while.

When the baby is held in the standing position, the legs are beginning to be strong enough to take a little weight, though they tend to sag at the knee and hip.

The hands are held open for most of the time now that the grasp reflex has gone. If the baby is given a rattle, they hold it for a few moments only. If the hand accidentally touches the clothes, the baby pulls on them. This is the stage when the baby spends a long time looking at its hands.

Although still short sighted, the baby now has a greater focusing range and therefore can see further. There is also much more control over the movements of the eyes. The baby is very interested in looking at everything around them and is able to follow people who are moving nearby.

At 6 months, the baby now has complete head control. There is no head lag and the baby is able to raise its head when lying on their back. When in a sitting position, the baby can hold its head upright and turn it to look around.

The baby is now able to sit upright but still needs support from a chair or pram. They can also sit for a short while on the floor with its hands forward for support.

At this age, they are able to take weight on their legs when being held and enjoys bouncing up and down.

The baby can now grasp an object without it having to be put into the hands. They can pick up everything within reach with one hand or two, passes it from hand to hand, turns it over and takes it to its mouth. When lying on the back, they like to play with their toes.

The eyes now work together and the slight squint commonly shown in the early stages has disappeared. The baby turns immediately to its mothers’ voice across a room, or to very quiet things made on the other side of them.

At 12 months, the baby is able to pull herself into a sitting position and sit unsupported for a long while. At this age, the baby can walk with one hand held and walks with feet apart and with steps of varying length. The feet have a tendency to go in different directions.

They can use their hands to throw things, and can point with the index finger to objects they want. The baby is able to focus on objects that are quite a long way away, and they can easily recognise people at a distance. The eyes are also able to follow a rapidly moving object. They can also respond to their own name and familiar words, whilst looking around for very quiet sounds made out of their sight.

At 2 years old, the child has a relatively smooth, confident stride as her large muscles mature. They are able to round sharp corners and move backwards without their legs slipping out from under her. Now, as they walk, they shift their weight from heel to toe, just like an adult. Falling is less frequent as they develop the ability to coordinate movement between her left and right sides. Some 2-year-olds have learned how to hop or even gallop-a sure sign of improved coordination and balance. With these developments comes the ability to engage in other activities while walking.

Skills involved in such activities as grasping and pointing are also showing marked progress. Two-year-olds no longer clutch objects in their fists, but hold them in the well between their fingers and thumbs. They are now able to tackle such as skills as dressing himself and holding a crayon or large piece of chalk with some control. Feeding themselves with a spoon and fork is less of a hit-or-miss activity. They are able to begin to brush his teeth and take part in some other aspects of grooming.

At 3 years old, Movement and balance improve. Most children can run around obstacles, walk on a line and balance on one foot. This is due to their co-ordination and motor skills improving. With these developments, also comes the ability to push, pull and steer toys, ride a tricycle and use a slide without assistance. The child’s precision of motion improves significantly. Most are able to build a tall tower of blocks, drive pegs into holes, and draw crosses and circles. They can also manipulate clay by making balls, snakes, etc.

The child can walk upstairs with one foot to each stair, but still places both feet on the same stair when coming down, and will often jump off the bottom stair. At this age the child can also stand on one leg. They begin to dress themselves but still needs assistance with the buttons.

A child begins to show sense of colour from the age of about 2 1/2 years. From then onwards there is a gradual improvement in the ability to recognise different colours. Red and yellow are usually the first colours to be known, and blue and green are next.

At four years, children are now more confident, and most are able to walk backwards, jump forward many times without falling, jump on one foot, and walk up and down stairs without assistance, alternating feet. They have learnt basic hygiene, e.g. washing and brushing their hair. Also, they can eat skilfully with a knife and fork

Children over five years old can usually dress themselves, feed themselves, and manage without help in the toilet if the adults responsible for them have expected that they learn to do things this way. They can wash and bath themselves, but probably not to adult standards and therefore need help and some checking on teeth and hair.

At age 6-7, they have an increased ability for complex movements such as shooting basketballs, dancing and playing the piano. Able to ride a two wheel bike, Can give name and address, and can tie shoe laces.

Intellectual development

A newborn baby will have very limited speech. They will use their voice to cry for food, affection, or because they are uncomfortable. Along with these, the baby will also make burbling noises as a mark of pleasure and contentment.

One of the first kinds of words the baby learns is ‘label words’ which identify the names of things.

At three months, the baby will immediately see a toy held above them. He will smile when you speak and will make squeals and gurgles of pleasure. There will be obvious signs of curiosity and what is going on around them. At feeding times, the baby will show signs of excitement.

At 6 months, the baby will become very interested in mirrors and seeing themselves in one. He will begin to show preferences for certain foods that you offer him. A great variety of sounds can now be made such as ‘goo’, ‘der’, ‘adah’, and ‘ka’. Much time is spent practising these sounds. The baby also laughs and screams when annoyed.

At 12 months, the baby knows its name and understand the word ‘no’. they will show a will of their own and may try to stop you when you wash their face. The baby will do anything to make you laugh and will repeat it over and over again. They will enjoy ‘reading’ simple books with you and will help you to undress him by lifting up the arms. They begin to understand that some sounds have definite meanings. It is usual at this age to say two words with meaning, for example, ‘dad-dad’ ‘bye-bye’, etc. A child’s first words are nearly always labels for people, animals or objects. Simple words like bottle, bath, drink, etc may also be learnt.

At 15 months the baby will show you that he wants to brush his hair. They will know what kissing means and will give you a kiss if asked. The baby will be very thrilled by any new skill and will want to help you with household chores like dusting. Even though he doesn’t understand individual words he can understand quite complex sentences. At 20 months, the baby will point to things like a dog, ball, etc when reading together. They will know different parts of their body and will be able to point to parts like their nose, eyes, etc when you ask him. He will come to you, attract your attention, and take you to things that they are interested in, or have a problem with. They begin to understand and obey simple questions or requests.

When children are able to talk, they start to ask questions. At 2 1/2 years they ask ‘what?’ and ‘who?’ At 3 years they ask ‘where’?. At this age the child likes his own company and will play happily on his own. Instead of just scribbling with a pencil he will make up and down strokes in imitation of writing. They know the names of many familiar objects and toys and will use the words with meaning.

By age 4, most children have a more complicated understanding of time. They realize that the day is divided into morning, afternoon, and night. They can even appreciate the change in seasons. By age 5, children are able to recite the alphabet and to recognize simple words in print. These skills are all fundamental to learning how to read simple words, phrases, and sentences. Depending on exposure to books and natural abilities, most children begin to read by age 7.

By age 7, a child’s intellectual capabilities have become more complex. By this time, a child becomes increasingly able to focus on more than one aspect of an event or situation at the same time. For example, a school-aged child can appreciate that a tall, thin container can hold the same amount of water as a short, broad one. He can appreciate that medicine can taste bad but can make him feel better, or that his mother can be mad at him but can still love him. The child is also increasingly able to reason using the powers of observation and multiple points of view.

Emotional and social development

Emotion and behaviour are based on the child’s developmental stage and on their temperament. Every child has an individual temperament, or mood. Some children may be cheerful and adaptable and easily develop regular routines of sleeping, waking, eating, and other daily activities; these children tend to respond positively to new situations. Other children are not very adaptable and may have great irregularities in their routine; these children tend to respond negatively to new situations. Still other children are in between. Other factors that have an impact on the child’s emotional development are the environment that surrounds them, their state of health and bonds of affection.

The environment includes the home conditions, the behaviour of the people in the house and the effects of the fortunes and misfortunes when growing up. The type of training children receive from adults will affect the amount of control they develop over their emotions. There is a strong link between a child’s state of health and their feelings. When a child is ill, he will have different feelings from when he is well. Long term illness can have a marked effect on a child’s emotional development. For example, some researchers claim that premature babies kept in incubators for long periods of time are not able to develop a ‘bond’ with the mother.

At 3 months, the baby will often cry when left alone. They will stop crying when an adult appears and will smile or turn his head when he hears human voices. They are able to recognise their mother and may show a dislike to strangers. At 6 months, he will show a different reaction to smiling and to a scolding sound of voice. Familiar people are greeted with a smile and strange people with recognisable expressions of fear. At 6 to 7 months, social behaviour becomes much more active so he may pull the hair of the person that is holding him and will socialise by imitating speech sounds and gestures. At about 9 months of age, infants normally become more anxious about being separated from their parents.

Separations at bedtime and at childcare may be difficult and can be marked by temper tantrums; this behaviour can last for many months. For many older children, a special blanket or stuffed animal serves at this time as a “transitional object” that acts as a symbol for the absent parent. At 2 to 3 years of age, a child begins to test his limits and do what he has been forbidden to do, simply to see what will happen. The frequent “nos” that children hear from parents reflect the struggle for independence at this age.

Although distressing to both the parent and child, tantrums are normal because they help children express their frustration during a time when they cannot verbalize their feelings well. Parents can help decrease the number of tantrums by not letting the child become overtired or frustrated, and by predicting the child’s behaviour and avoiding situations that are likely to bring on tantrums. Some young children have particular difficulty controlling their impulses and need their parents to set stricter limits around which there can be some safety and regularity in their world.

Between 2 and 3 years of age, children begin to play more interactively with other children. They may still be possessive about toys, but they may begin to share and even take turns in play. The child shows ‘ownership’ over a toy by saying, “That is mine!” which helps establish the sense of self. Although children of this age like independence, they still need their parents nearby for security and support; for example, they may walk away from their parents when they feel curious only to later hide behind their parents when they are scared.

At 3 to 5 years of age, many children become interested in fantasy play and imaginary friends. Fantasy play allows children to safely act out different roles and strong feelings in acceptable ways. Fantasy play also helps children grow socially; they learn to resolve conflicts with parents or other children in ways that will help them vent frustrations and maintain self-esteem.

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