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How a Child Develops from Birth to Five Years Old

by Stacey Chaloux, studioD

During the first five years of your child's life, he goes through a long list of developmental changes. The time seems to pass so quickly, and before you know it, your newborn baby has become a toddler, then a preschooler and finally he's ready for school. During the early years, it can be helpful to know which milestones you should watch for in your little one, but keep in mind that every child's development is unique.

Birth to 1 Year

During the first year of her life, your infant learns to roll over, sit up unassisted, pull up on furniture, crawl and possibly even walk. She experiments with using her voice to communicate first by crying and cooing, then by adding some consonant sounds to babble. By the time your baby has reached her first birthday, she's likely able to say a few single words and to understand many of the words you say. She should point to things that she wants and do some simple gestures like waving goodbye.

1 to 2 Years

Once your baby has turned 1, he begins to add to his speaking vocabulary and should be saying at least 50 words by the time he reaches his second birthday, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. During this year, he enjoys simple pretend play, imitating actions he has seen you do, like cooking or talking on the phone. He learns to point to several body parts when you name them and finds objects that are in a different room when you ask him to. He begins walking during this year, if he hasn't already, and begins running before he reaches age 2.

2 to 3 Years

After her second birthday, your toddler begins to combine some words to form simple sentences, although her pronunciation may still be developing. Your 2-year-old may learn to sing the alphabet, though she may not be able to identify the letters yet. She is probably able to sort objects by their color or size and complete some simple puzzles. During her time as a 2-year-old, your toddler is learning to assert her independence, even at times you'd rather she didn't. Just remember that those tantrums are a part of normal development, as she is learning to cope with strong emotions.

3 to 4 Years

When your child turns 3, he moves out of the "terrible twos" phase and begins to learn many preschool skills. His language develops further, and he may speak in sentences of five or six words. He learns to hold a pencil or crayon with a more adultlike grip and copy some simple shapes like circles or squares. As he nears the end of his time as a 3-year-old, he should be able to use scissors to cut a straight line across paper. He may become more imaginative and enjoy more fantasy play and is also able to engage in more cooperative play with his peers.

4 to 5 Years

Once your preschooler is a 4-year-old, she begins to develop more self-control and her attention span becomes longer. She wants to be more self-reliant and also has learned to manage her feelings better. She takes more of an interest in written language and may ask you to read words that she sees in her environment. She should be able to count 10 or more objects and recognize numerals as well. She may be able to stand on one foot for about 10 seconds and learn to skip during this year. Her fine motor skills are developing so that she should be able to dress and undress without any help, learning to work zippers and fasten buttons independently by the time she is 5.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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