Is your child exactly like, "Sugar and spice and everything nice?"; or, is he more like, "Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails"? Upon further examination, there is a reason that these descriptions may seem to sum up the developmental differences between boys and girls quite accurately. Boys and girls present behaviors and development unique to their gender throughout every age and stage of childhood.
Birth to Age 2
Psychologist and family physician Leonard Sax discusses the differences of brain development in boys and girls on Education.com, saying that different regions of the brain develop in a different order and at a different speed in boys and girls. The website Zero to Three explains that the differences in infancy are subtle, but that girls are slightly more advanced in sensory and cognitive ways -- with memory, smell, vision and hearing developing more quickly and acutely. According to CNNHealth.com, infant boys prefer looking at groups of faces while infant girls prefer looking at just one face. Boys also express fear later than girls, who startle easily during their first year of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics gives boys a slight edge when it comes to height and weight -- with the average boy being one-half inch taller and weighing one pound more than the average girl by the end of the second year. Though infant and toddler boys are more wiggly and squirmy than their female counterparts, boys and girls tend to reach physical milestones -- such as crawling and walking -- at about the same age.
Age 3 to 5
By the age of 3, boys are able to outperform girls in visual and spatial awareness and may have an easier time putting together a jigsaw puzzle. In "Boys and Girls Learn Differently", author Michael Gurian explains that preschool-aged girls are stronger in verbal and communication skills. Boys enjoy taking up more space in a room or playground with large groups of their peers, and engage in activities involving action and running, whereas girls prefer to hang with a small group in a small space. Because boys enjoy being active, their gross-motor skills are often better developed than girls during the preschool years. Girls -- who are able to sit and focus for longer periods of time -- have stronger fine motor skills and are better able to manipulate small objects such as a pencil or scissors.
Age 5 to 12
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that -- generally speaking -- girls tend to have the academic advantage over boys during the school years. Boys have difficulty focusing on one task for very long, but continue to outperform girls with visual tasks -- perhaps one of the reasons that boys enjoy video games -- a gap which continues to widen through the years. The AAP also states that boys need more opportunities to physically express themselves than do girls, which is why many boys enjoy roughhousing and outdoor play. Girls in their middle years prefer to socialize with other girls who have similar personalities, and much of their identity and sense of self-worth comes from those friendships. Boys often pick friends who have similar interests, and often enjoy having a large group of friends while their female counterparts prefer one or two "best" friends.
Age 12 to 18
In an excerpt from "Educational Psychology Developing Learning Partners", J.E. Omrod compares boys and girls during their teen years. After puberty -- typically around age 16 or 17 -- boys have a physical advantage over girls in height and muscular strength, due to increased levels of the male sex hormone testosterone. Academically, girls tend to have larger vocabularies and to be more articulate at expressing their thoughts, but boys continue to do better with visual-spatial skills, giving them the upper hand in mathematics. Teenage boys often have a more positive view of themselves, likely because they overestimate their abilities whereas teenage girls have a tendency to underestimate their abilities. Boys remain physically aggressive, while girls often engage in relational aggression -- gossiping about their peers or spreading rumors. Boys enjoy competition, and -- as they grow -- prefer to keep even close friends at a distance in an effort to appear tough and powerful. Girls prefer cooperation, and having close friends with whom they can share their intimate thoughts and feelings.
- Education.com: Gender Differences in the Sequence of Brain Development
- Zero to Three: Brain FAQ
- Education.com: Similarities and Differences Between Boys and Girls
- HealthyChildren.org: Sons
- HealthyChildren.org: Daughters
- CNNHealth.com: Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Girls from Birth
- HealthyChildren.org: Physical Appearance and Growth - Your 1 Year Old
- Education.com: gender Differences: Research Findings
- Early Childhod News: Gender in Preschoolers: How to Make the Preschool Experience Better for Both Boys and Girls
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images