Keeping track of your child’s physical growth in measurements like height and weight can be useful, but there are other areas of child development you should look for as your child grows. Below are five commonly accepted domains that you can use to assess your child’s development.
This area of development can typically be divided into two categories: gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills refer to the ability to use larger muscles for motion and includes the ability to walk, run, and jump. Fine motor skills are smaller movements, largely dealing with hand-eye coordination and using the muscles in the hands. Being able to maintain balance, move freely, and navigate through obstacles are essential for optimal physical growth. The ability to effectively use one’s hands to conduct actions like writing, drawing, or assembling a puzzle are also important.
Encouraging a child to participate in a sports team or engage in regular exercise, especially through play which includes movements like jumping or dancing, can help foster strong gross motor skills. Artistic pursuits like painting as well as activities like constructing things with building blocks, can help develop fine motor skills.
The ability to think independent thoughts, draw conclusions, and solve problems is essential for an individual, and fostering these skills is imperative during childhood. Children should begin to understand the relationship between cause and effect (even if they can’t understand it in words), and once they are able to communicate, asking questions to further their understanding indicates they are growing and learning. Cognitive abilities like organizing and applying information stem from this domain.
Memory games and puzzles can facilitate strong cognitive skills, and encouraging children to identify patterns or count numbers can improve their abilities, as well.
Being able to begin and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships is key for child development. Relating to others, developing empathy, and learning how to resolve conflicts as they arise are important skills children should learn as they grow. Activities where children are able to express themselves to one another—as well as opportunities for social exposure and interaction such as going out to a restaurant—can help improve a child’s social skills. Encourage play dates with other children and lead by example; young children learn by copying, so teaching by demonstration is effective for learning social skills.
Children are not born with an implicit understanding of language, but learning to understand, replicate, and compose written and verbal statements is important for developing communication and social skills. Regularly speaking with and reading to children can help familiarize them with your native language, and once they are able to speak simple sentences, engaging them in conversation, singing, and immersing them in programs with dialogue can help expand their vocabulary and improve their ability to express themselves.
Put simply, adaptive skills are life skills, and they can differ greatly by age and experience. Things like dressing themselves, washing dishes, and using the bathroom without assistance can indicate children have developed sufficient adaptive skills. Encouraging these kind of skills facilitates independence and freedom, while also demonstrating that children are capable of doing some tasks to take care of themselves. Total independence comes much later, but little steps early on are important for the eventual development of integral life skills.
Assessing these domains is not always simple, and there are at times deviations due to developmental delays or cognitive impairments. Still, being mindful of the developmental categories should help tailor a child’s education and home life so as to best benefit their growth.