Key Facts About Child Development

10 Things That Are True For All Kids

Toddler girl learning how to walk
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There's nothing more fascinating than watching a child grow and develop. Especially to a parent, each milestone from infancy on can seem wondrous and amazing—and it is. Even though kids develop at their own pace, there are many ways in which a child's development follows the same patterns and is affected by the same types of things. Here are ten to know about.

Problems During the Prenatal Period Can Impact Later Childhood Development

Before pregnancy and during, there are many things a mom-to-be and her partner can do to help make sure their baby develops normally in the womb and after she's born. This includes staying away from teratogens (things that could harm a developing fetus) such as drugs and other toxins and taking care to avoid diseases that could put a child at risk of potential health problems. Genetic issues such as inherited diseases and chromosomal anomalies also can impact child development. There's little you can do about a condition that runs in your family, but knowing about it ahead of time can help you to plan if your child will need special help down the road.

The Interaction Between Genes and Certain Environmental Factors Can Influence How a Child Develops

Genes and environmental factors each exert their own influence, but they also can come together to affect a child's development. For example, a child's genes might dictate that he'll be quite tall, but if he doesn't get the right nutrients while he's growing he may not reach his full height.

Your Parenting Styles Can Have an Effect on How Your Child Grows and Develops

Researchers recognize four different styles of parenting, each with potentially different effects on children. For example, kids raised by authoritative parents tend to grow up to be happy and capable while those raised by permissive parents tend to have more problems with authority figures and are less successful in school.

There Are Clear Advantages to the Authoritative Parenting Style

This style is more likely to produce children who are competent, confident, and happy. Parents with this style of parenting listen to their children and provide warmth and support, but provide limits, expectations, and consequences for behavior.

A Child's Physical Growth Follows a Predictable Pattern 

You may have never thought about this but it's an interesting fact of life: The center of the body, the torso, develops before the arms and legs; large muscles develop before small ones, and physical development follows a top-down process starting at the head and moving down to the toes.

The Way Parents and Other Caregivers Talk to Children Plays an Important Role in Language Development

Baby talk, also known as infant-directed speech or motherese, has been shown to help kids learn to talk and use language. Simplified vocabulary, exaggerated vocalizations, and a high pitched helps babies learn words with greater speed and ease.

An Infant's Babbling Is One of the Earliest Stages of Language Development

The development of language occurs in four basic stages: the babbling stage, the single word stage, the two-word stage, and the multi-word stage. In other words, what sounds like gobbledygook coming from your baby's little mouth are actually the beginnings of real words.

Kids All Reach the Same Milestones, but at Their Own Pace

This is why doctors and child experts take note of a child's developmental milestones to make sure she's growing on track. Keep in mind though, that there can be a lot of variability in when kids do things like say their first words or take their first steps. If your friend's baby does one of these things well before yours does, for example, it means only that: Her child is a step ahead in the walking department—not that your little one is slow.

The More Quickly Parents Respond to Kids' Needs, the Healthier They'll Be Psychologically

Children with parents who respond quickly and who take time to play and interact with them are more securely attached to their caregivers. In the long run, they'll tend to be more empathetic, have a healthier sense of self-esteem, and be more mature than kids who grew up without responsive caregivers.

High-Quality Daycare Can Have a Positive Effect on a Child

While parents often worry about leaving their children at daycare or with a babysitter, developmental psychologists believe these arrangements actually can be a good thing for children, as long as the care they're getting is of high quality. When choosing a daycare center or hiring a sitter or nanny, be selective; ask questions; tour the center or have the person you're thinking of audition—spend some time caring for and interacting with your child on your watch. And trust your gut: If something doesn't feel right, even if you can't put your finger on what it is, move on until you find a place or person you're certain will be as attentive, loving, and careful with your child as you would be.

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