What to expect through the four major phases of childhood…
While every person is different, there are four crucial phases that every child must go through as they move from infanthood to adulthood.
For the purpose of this 4 part series, we’ve divided the span of childhood into four parts, and will look at each age group in a single article—focussing on what’s developmentally going on—all so that you know what to expect and how best to navigate each season!
Let’s start with infants just out the starting blocks: aged 1 – 3.
Having just reached their first birthday, your child has graduated from baby to toddler. As you’ve no doubt experienced already, explosive growth and development are happening on all fronts and will continue to over the next few years.
While every season in a child’s life is important – there’s something extra-important about this one. Like wet cement – young children are still very impressionable: mentally, physically, and emotionally.
What happens in this stage of life echoes throughout the rest of our lives… so let’s make it count!
Here are some key things to keep in mind about this age group:
Although this will hopefully have already begun earlier, it’s still really important that your child ‘attaches’ to one adult. This ability to know that there is one person who is ‘their’ person is fundamental to their ability to one day connect with others healthily and to even be able to learn and grow mentally.
So when your child is scared or hurt or just feeling otherwise, the fact that they run to you and seek comfort isn’t them being needy – it’s absolutely healthy and age-appropriate! If your child is lucky enough to have multiple caregivers and people around (like extended family and both parents), they might still prefer one person (commonly mom, but not always) when they are seeking comfort after a fall for example.
This is not to be discouraged. Even if it can be hard for the other parent or caregivers to witness, your child is doing and feeling and growing just right! Around this age, many children also seek comfort in an object – like a doll or special blanket. This is absolutely healthy and fine too – and an important part of them learning how to self-soothe.
“I do it!” Despite their obvious need for help, the toddler’s need to assert their will and need for independence is also a healthy developmental milestone… as any parent of a tot knows too well. Desiring to feed themselves, wash, put on their own clothes and push their boundaries… these are all necessary moments moms!
As much as is possible, celebrate this newfound need for independence, and let them struggle through some tasks before jumping in to help, or insisting they do it your way.
MAJOR MOOD SWINGS
After the first year of life, children are able to display complex emotions. For example, they may show signs of jealousy or can laugh at their own jokes, they can show compassion for others, and are very adept at showing you what they like and dislike! Unfortunately, due to the fact that their brains haven’t fully developed yet, they can’t always manage their big emotions as well as we can.
Enter: Temper tantrums! Tantrums are very common in children aged 1-3 years.
This is because children’s social and emotional skills are only just starting to develop at this age. Children often don’t have the words to express big emotions. They might be testing out their growing independence. And they’re discovering that the way they behave can influence the way other people behave.
To diffuse these testing times, start by modeling what it looks like to master big emotions by staying calm. Acknowledge their feelings, take charge, try to distract them or remove them from the situation, and be consistent… this too shall pass, we promise!
WHY? WHY? WHY?
Prepare to be asked this question hundreds of times! Toddlers are naturally curious and want to know about things you’ve never thought about in great detail! Again, this is a wonderfully healthy sign of a growing, curious mind!
To encourage and nurture their minds — especially early numeracy skilled — try to involve them in everyday activities, like cooking. Count out the potatoes in front of them so that they get a real-life picture of what a number like ‘8’ really means.
Ask them to put ‘1’ roll or ‘2’ slices of cucumber on each plate, and get them to point to which fruit is ‘bigger’ and which one is ‘smaller’… these concepts might seem simple, but they are the basic building blocks of maths literacy.
PLAY! PLAY! PLAY!
Toddlers learn through off-the-couch playing – not through sitting at a desk with a study book or staring at a screen. They learn so many very important lessons this way… their gross motor skills and fine motor skills get developed as they run, jump, climb and roll, as well as their sensory, language, and social skills – so let them play, play, play!
ROUTINE & READING
Tots also feel safe and grow best when they have some familiar routines. That doesn’t mean that every day has to be the same and run like clockwork, but try to have some consistency to their daily routine… for example; the time they go to bed, their nighttime routine, and what time they wake up.
Speaking of routines, add reading to your list of things to do on a daily. Reading aloud to you tot is one of the very best ways to strengthen and build up their language and literacy skills.
Other common developmental milestones in this age group include:
- Gross motor – walking, running, climbing
- Fine motor – feeding themselves, drawing
- Sensory – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling
- Language – saying single words, then sentences
- Social – playing with others, taking turns, doing fantasy play
That’s it for this season!
Be sure to check in next week, where we’ll be focussing on what to expect from kids between the ages of 4 and 9.
Mums, can you relate to these stages above? Do you have a child now aged between 1 and 3 or have you experienced this stage already?
Comment below to let us know x