Contributors:Elizabeth Nixon-Shapiro, MSMI, CMI, Tina Collins, Sam Gillespie, BSc, Evode Iradufasha, MD
Growth involves physical changes in height and weight and appearance of the body, while development refers to a change in functional ability, such as cognitive, motor, and psychological aspects of the individual.
Okay, growth and development start from the time of conception and progress until a person dies. The progress happens in several stages, and each one of them has its characteristics and particular milestones that must be completed before moving to the next one.
Milestones of earlier stages are simpler compared to those of the later stages. For example, crawling is achieved before walking because it requires less coordination and effort.
This growth and development happens in a cephalocaudal fashion, meaning it starts at the head and moves downwards. An example would be an infant first learns to hold their head up before learning to sit.
Another pattern is proximodistal meaning from the center of the body outwards. An example is that control of the arms develops before control of the fingers.
It’s also important to note that growth and development occur at different rates in different individuals, which is why you will find people reaching the same milestones at different times. For example, one child may walk at 8 months and speak, while a sibling didn’t walk until the age of 14 months.
Now, let’s have a look at the major stages of growth and development that humans go through during their lifespan. The stage that goes from birth to 1 year of age is called infancy.
Infancy is a very fast stage in which a person grows up quickly and accomplishes new milestones on a monthly basis. Generally, by the first year of age, the newborn has tripled their birth weight, started eating solid foods, and started to walk.
Social skills also develop remarkably during the first year. An infant learns to smile, recognize parents and siblings, and say simple words. The next stage goes from year 1 to year 3 of age and is called toddlerhood.
Children in this stage are called toddlers. During this stage, there’s remarkable development of the muscular and nervous systems, which enables a child to perform activities requiring more physical coordination, such as running, jumping, climbing, and pedaling a tricycle.
In addition, toddlers become capable of controlling the bowels and the bladder, making it a good time for toilet training. Verbal communication also improves, and toddlers can use short, complete sentences when speaking. Toddlers will start developing some sense of independence from their caretakers, so they might have trouble following rules.
The next stage goes through age 3 to 5 years, and it’s the preschool-age. During this time, physical coordination improves even more, and as a result, a preschooler can perform activities like getting dressed and tying shoes without help.
Also, imagination develops during this stage, which enables preschoolers to create detailed play stories and start asking many questions. In addition, preschoolers become aware of gender differences.
The next stage starts at the age of 5 and ends around the age of 10 to 12 years; it’s called the school-age stage. During this stage, children finetune their motor skills, thus becoming able to write and draw.
Intellectual capacity also develops more during the school-age, which enables children to learn basic sciences and maths. Socially, children in this stage become more obedient to the rules of society and morals and are more concerned about being right or wrong.