What Are the 5 Stages of Child Development and How to Foster Your Child’s Growth

The first five years of a child’s life lay a foundation for a child’s learning, behavior, and health. Early childhood experiences shape a child’s brain and capacity to learn, develop social skills, and navigate daily challenges and stressors. The emotional, social, and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their behavior, social skills, school readiness, and overall child development, influencing habits that extend into adulthood. But, what are the 5 stages of child development, and how can you support your child’s development? 

4 Domains of the 5 Stages of Child Development

little boy playing with number train activity

Each stage of development surrounds progressions across four different domains. These various developmental domains are interdependent, and a child is unable to advance in one sphere without progressing in the other. And remember – your child will grow at their own pace!

1. Communication Domain

Children have to learn to be able to communicate effectively with their family, peers, teachers, and more. Communication is the first step that develops across the five stages of child development, which will progress into conversation skills and navigating relationships as they grow older. 

2. Physical Domain

Across the 5 stages of child development, the body develops in both gross and fine motor development. The gross motor development that takes place allows your child to move in the world with balance, coordination, ease, and confidence. Here at KCC, we guide children’s gross motor development from an infant’s first attempts at reaching for a caregiver, through a toddler’s walking and unsteady running, and into the active play of preschoolers and beyond – jumping, kicking, climbing, and dancing!

3. Social-Emotional Domain 

A child’s social and emotional development helps children understand who they are, what they are feeling, and how to interact with others. The social and emotional health of preschoolers helps children to form positive relationships, as well as manage and express their emotions in a wide range of scenarios.  

4. Cognitive Domain 

Cognitive development in children involves all of the processes of how children think, understand, and navigate the world around them. Developmental milestones in the cognitive domain include mathematical and scientific concepts such as quantity, classification, and cause and effect. The first 5 years shape how children approach learning. This cognitive development includes elements like curiosity, an initiative in seeking information, and adapting behavior in response to new knowledge.

toddlers playing

5 Stages of Child Development

What are the 5 Stages of Child Development? These are Newborn Development, Infant Development, Toddler Development, Preschooler Development, and School-Age Development. Here at KCC, we divide our various classes based on similar stages of child development.

1. Newborn (0-3 Months)

Newborns can join our program at six weeks old in our infant classroom. Our nurturing teachers always create a personalized environment that fosters child development across multiple domains through play-based activities. 

  • Communication: Newborns primarily communicate through crying for various needs, and may become calm when spoken to. Babies will begin to coo at around two months, as well as make vowel sounds. 
  • Physical: Newborns can turn toward sounds, and can follow objects with their eyes. They can grasp objects, and begin to lift their head for longer periods. 
  • Social-Emotional: Newborns try to look at you and other people, and will begin to start smiling at people. 
  • Cognitive: Newborns are interested in and recognize familiar objects and people at a distance. They may even begin to get bored with repeated activities!

Encourage your child’s growth across the four domains by providing adequate stimulation for your baby through books, eye contact, play, toys, toys, and more toys! It’s important to help strengthen their muscles by placing babies on the stomach for short periods for stronger back and neck muscles, as well as time on their back to kick their arms. Support parent bonding and attachment through plenty of talking, body contact, eye contact, and proper early communication efforts. Every bit helps your child grow!

2. Infant (3-12 Months): 

Older infants will be in our infant classroom in one of two groups that are best aligned with their current developmental stage. Our teachers always create a personalized environment that fosters child development across multiple domains through play-based activities. 

  • Communication: Infants begin babbling from months 3-6. After this developmental milestone is met, infants will begin to imitate various sounds and start laughing around months 6-9. Around months 9-12, infants can imitate various sounds, communicate with gestures, and say a few simple words. 
  • Physical: By ages 3-6 months, infants can start to control their head movements, as well as bring their hands together. Infants aged 6-9 months can begin sitting without support and can bounce in a standing position. From months 9-12, children can begin picking up objects, crawling, and standing without assistance. 
  • Social-Emotional: From 3-6 months, infants begin responding to facial expressions, as well as different tones of voice. From 6-9 months, infants will respond to various gestures (such as clapping hands), and understand various emotions of others. Around this time frame, infants will also begin feeling comfortable around faces familiar to them, and anxious around strangers. Around months 9-12, infants will begin to express themselves and their emotions, as well as establish connections and relationships with those around them. 
  • Cognitive: Months 3-6 are when infants begin recognizing familiar faces (such as a parent), noticing music, and responding to signs of love and affection. Months 6-9 are when receptive language development occurs, where infants begin understanding and processing the words that they hear. Months 9-12 are when infants begin to imitate gestures, understand the word “no”, and explore cause and effect, such as throwing objects. 

Encourage development in your infant through opportunities for physical development, like supervised exploration, encouraging sitting up, and reaching for objects that may be a little further out of reach. Encourage language development by having fun together, making different sounds with rattlers or bells, and keep on talking! Across the board, using positive reinforcement in early childhood (hugs, kisses, etc.) helps encourage your child’s development. 

3. Toddler (1-3 Years)

Here at Kids’ Care Club, Toddlers are divided into our toddler’s classroom, our two-year-old classroom, and our early preschool classrooms depending on their age. We’re so excited to see your child reach new developmental milestones in the toddler age group. 

  • Communication: Your child’s toddler years is when they will expand their language skills greatly. From the first year, children will say their first word and build a vocabulary of up to 5-10 different words. By 18 months, they will use up to 50 words, and start to be able to name objects and pictures, with speech primarily being telegraphic (main words are there but connecting words are not). Between 2 and 3 years old, children will begin to start saying their first full sentences, with sentences beginning as combinations of three words. Children will be able to discuss what they are doing, and their communication skills continuously improve. 
  • Physical: Starting at one year, children will begin to use a preferred hand (right or left), can make marks on paper, and reach movement milestones. They can crawl fast, sit up easily, and can stand and walk a few steps on their own. Around two years old, confidence allows them to improve their walking, and gain the motor skills to feed themself, and maybe drink from a cup! By 3 years old, children can typically dress and undress themselves, use the toilet alone, and can play more – running, jumping, hopping, and riding tricycles.
  • Social-Emotional: At one year, children will develop object permanence, or the understanding that objects still exist even if they can’t be seen or heard. From 2 to 3 years, emotions are clear, and your child will want to do what they want. Accompanying this growing independence is a rollercoaster of feelings and tantrums as children begin to work out who they are.Otherwise known affectionately as the “Terrible Twos.” This child development stage marks the beginning of playing alongside other children, increased confidence with strangers, and an understanding that others have feelings too. 
  • Cognitive: As a 1 year old, your child’s cognitive development allows them to  name certain body parts and recognize familiar objects in books. During this time, they are much better at solving puzzles. From 2 to 3 years, they can name colors, recognize letters, and count numbers aloud. Children still have difficulty understanding the difference between reality and make-believe. 

Encourage your toddler’s early childhood development by setting and maintaining predictable routines, reading to them, limiting screen time, responding to tantrums or extreme emotions with calmness, and encouraging and allowing them to experiment with independence. 

4. Preschool (3-5 Years) 

The preschool age group at Kids’ Care Club is broken down into our Preschool and Pre-K classrooms. We love to see the milestones reached across the four domains of your child’s development in their last years at Kids’ Care Club. It is a joy to send your children off to Kindergarten prepared for the classroom and ready to learn. 

  • Communication: Beginning at 3 years old, your child will begin to master certain difficult sounds, and can speak more clearly though they still make grammatical tense errors. Your child will start  to ask a lot more questions – What? Why? How? 
  • Physical: At three years old, your child’s gross motor skills are strengthened everyday, and we see evidence of this everyday on the KCC playground! Your child has increased confidence using tricycles, walking up and down play structures, and catching balls. In the classroom, children are refining their fine motor skills using scissors, writing letters, drawing shapes, and using forks and spoons. 
  • Social-Emotional: At three years old, children begin to feel more comfortable around others in their life, and participate in dramatic play in the classroom. This allows your child to express imagination, and participate in various games in small groups. Children continue to understand their  feelings, body, and understand when they have done something wrong. 
  • Cognitive: Your child has a much better memory, is able to sing songs, tell stories, know numbers, and their full name and gender. They are much better at concentrating, and start reading books on their own.


Encourage your child’s development in this stage by allowing them to express their feelings with reassurement, encourage being social, and equip them with a sense of responsibility through simple chores. 

5. School Age (5-17 Years)

The school-age age group consists of our Pre-K classroom at the beginning, extends into middle childhood, and ends at high school. It’s a bittersweet moment when Kids’ Care Club celebrates your child’s first five years with graduation, and sends them off to their next stage of life!

  • Communication: At five years old, children begin to use more complex sentences, tell stories, answer questions, recite nursery rhymes or sing songs. Your child will develop more advanced language skills as they progress through this age period. 
  • Physical: At five years old, children are largely independent across all of their gross and fine motor movements. They can dress, eat, and wash mostly independently. At KCC, they can hold their pencils properly and walk along straight lines.
  • Social-Emotional: At five years old, children become increasingly socially aware. They have conversations with one another, enjoy making new friends, have fewer arguments, take turns, can be bossy, and show their anger through actions or words. They enjoy their independence but still need comfort and reassurance. As they progress to the end of this age group, they are largely shaped by the dynamic social environments and experiences they are exposed to. 
  • Cognitive: Beginning at four years old, children have a stronger sense of what is wrong and how to lie. They can understand contextual words (in front of, behind, etc.), comparisons, and grasp numbers, colors, size, and time with increased understanding. Complexity of the various subjects increase as they progress through childhood. 

Encourage your school-age child by having fun through learning (think games, fun books, and following their interests!), modeling healthy habits, and always leaving enough time for play.

If it’s not clear by now – the early years truly are learning years. There are so many countless developmental milestones met, and we are so excited for you to see your child progress. Above all else, building strong parent-child bonds, encouraging healthy habits, and maintaining a safe, nurturing environment will encourage your child to grow at their own pace. Concerned your child isn’t reaching their developmental milestones? Reach out to us and we can work together to find the best path forward.

Additional Resources

Find more information and tools on our.  Parent Resources page »

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