Development Skills

Five Primary Areas of Development In a Child's First Few Years

Children learn and develop skills in five main areas as they grow.  These skills have various levels that build upon each other as your child progresses.

While there is a general timeline when children reach various levels of each of the primary areas of development, each child is unique and may meet certain milestones sooner or later than other children at the same age. Therefore, timeframes for development milestones are not carved in stone.

The primary skill development areas are:

  • Social/Emotional Development
  • Cognitive Development
  • Fine Motor Skills Development
  • Gross Motor Skills Development
  • Speech and Language Development

Social & Emotional Development


A child’s ability to help themselves, control their emotions and interact with others falls under the social and emotional development area.  As part of these skills they learn to take turns, recognize their own emotions and those of others, learn to play with others, help and cooperate with others.

As an infant they go from smiling to waving bye to using sounds and facial expressions to communicate their feelings.

Little ones don’t show much interest in other children till they are about two to three years old.  Prior to this, they may actually be jealous of other children or appear to prefer the company of adults.

Once they start playing simple games with other toddlers, they will benefit from having a daily routine.  This is a time of considerable change and the more routine their days are the better.  This is a stressful time full of strong emotions that they are struggling to learn how to express.

Cognitive Development


Learning the skills needed to understand and solve probems falls under their cognitive development.  Children start with exploring and understanding their environment.

Simple problem solving can start young, like hiding their favorite toy or bottle, even playing hide and seek when a little older.

Recognizing colors, shapes, starting to count, recognizing letters and spelling their own name are milestones as they prepare for school.

Fine Motor Skills Development

Fine motor skills are the ability to use one’s smaller muscles especially their fingers and hands.  Learning to pick up and hold onto objects like their toys, cups, spoon or fork.  

These skills progress as they use crayons to color, learn to turn pages in a book, stack  blocks and arrange items.

Gross Motor Skills Development


While fine motor skills deals with using small muscles, gross motor skills are learning to use large muscles.  Infants learn to sit up on their own and eventually crawl.  Toddlers take that to the next step with learning to stand and walk.

These skills continue with running, skipping, dancing and skating as they get older and learn how to control these larger muscles.

Speech and Language Development

Learning to both understand and use language falls under their speech and language development.

Children start with recognizing the meaning of early words they hear from their parents or siblings.  They then move to speaking their own first words.  Eventually they learn the names of object, animals, even people.

They eventually learn the difference between singlular and plural words and may even correct others if they think they are using words incorrectly.

Concerns With Development Milestones

Each child will meet their developent milestones on their own timeline.  With that said, there are general timeframes when children meet these development milestones.  

If you ever are concerned that your child is not meeting their milestones, check to see what the latest target timeline is for a specific skill.  For example, children learn to walk between 9 and 15 months old.  Don’t let someone cause you concern if your 12 month old isn’t walking yet.  However, if your child is 15 months old and not walking, talk with your pediatrician.  

What You Can Do To Help Meet Milestones


Parents want to ensure their child is successful in every way.  There are a some things you can do with your child to encourage their growth and skills.   Simple everyday activities that cncourage, teach, share with your child are the best.

  • Nothing beats love and attention.  Listening to them, letting them know how special, important and precious they are.  Lots of hugs, snuggles, holding them tight.
  • Talk, sing and play with them.  Interaction with them daily shows them how much they are loved, how important they are, how special they are to you.  Observing them, learning about their likes and dislikes encourages them to learn and grow.
  • Be consistent in setting boundaries and household rules.  Reward good behavior and be prepared with consequences for inappropriate behavior.  Be sure they understand consequences so they are prepared for them when they continue with inappropriate behavior.
  • Read to them from the time they are born.  Reading to them is one of the most ipmportant things you can do with your child.  This helps them with developing a strong and large vocabulary, learn new perspectives, problem solving and how other people live.

In today’s world there often is the thought that we need our children to have the latest toy or game to stimulate their development.  But quite the opposite is true.  They need us to have consistent parenting skills, to listen, to guide them.  But most importantly, they need us to love, cherish, play and encourage them every day.

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