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Learning Challenges Faced in Early Childhood Development

by Erica Loop

The early childhood period is a tumultuous time in which your little learner is growing and developing new skills constantly. From the major movement milestones of the first year that lead to the ability to explore the world independently to the rapid language development of toddler-hood and beyond to the more sophisticated skill refinement of the preschool and early elementary time, your child will face age-based learning challenges as she moves through each stage.

Infant Challenges

During your child's first year, he will face a variety of challenges that primarily include meeting new movement goals. Between gross, or large, and fine, or small, motor development, infancy is a period in which young children build the basic abilities for moving from place to place and interacting with objects. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics's Healthy Children website, by 7 months, your baby should have the ability to roll from both back to front and front to back, sit (possibly without support) and move objects from one hand to the other. By 12 months, your child can crawl, possibly stand alone or walk and use a pincer grasp. While developing these skills is a challenge enough for the infant, these basic motor abilities can impact learning in other areas. The inability to crawl or move from place to place will limit the child's ability to explore his environment and engage with new objects and experiences.

The Toddler Years

The toddler time period, typically between ages 1 and 3, comes with its own set of learning challenges. While refining motor skills is certainly one obstacle that your child will face, developing self-control and emotional regulation both present major challenges. The child development experts at the Healthy Children website note that the now-mobile toddler is beginning to explore and test limits. This means that she is learning new concepts and skills, but may often feel frustration (or other strong emotions) when trying out new things. Although your toddler is slowly building her emotional abilities, her lack of maturity in this area may lead to problems when recognizing, processing and expressing feelings. Coupled with your toddler's still-growing verbal abilities, emotional immaturity may lead to tantrums or outbursts in the face of challenges and new situations.

Preschool and Early Elementary Development

The preschool and early elementary periods usher in a time of skill refinement and growing cognitive development. As your preschooler or early grade schooler develops more sophisticated physical and emotional regulation abilities, he is also building mental skills that will serve him as he gets ready to become a student. Consequently, one of the primary challenges that children and parents face during this time is understanding the learning process. Keep in mind that different children often learn in different ways. This makes finding the right approach to learning that meshes with your child's style key to making it through these years. The PBS Parents website suggests that adults give young children choices to help them build decision-making skills, nurture creativity by giving them a variety of materials and experiences to explore, and provide praise to help children overcome learning challenges.

Major Challenges and Issues

Beyond the typical day-to-day challenges that your young child may face when learning new tasks, some kids may also encounter more major types of issues. It is perfectly normal for one child to progress on a slightly different path than another, as developmental milestones aren't set in stone. There is often a window of development in which it is acceptable for a child to meet new learning challenges. Some infants walk at 12 months, while other won't until month 15. That said, if you notice that your child is completely missing certain marks or it seems that she is falling far behind, consult her pediatrician.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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