Understanding Child Development

Child development covers the full scope of skills that a child masters over their life span.

There are five domains of child development that include the following:

  • Physical well-being & motor development: include skills that are essential to healthy growth and development including large (or gross) motor skills, such as rolling over, crawling and learning to walk and run. Fine motor skills, such as the ability to pick up and eat small pieces of food or hold a pencil and draw or write.
  • Social & emotional development: including how a child interacts with parents and caregivers, and then with others, including siblings, extended family and strangers.
  • Cognition & general knowledge: including how a child’s attention, memory, and thinking and learning skills in math, science and social studies develops and grows. It is the ability to learn to problem solve.
  • Approaches toward learning: includes skills and behaviors that children use to engage in learning. It incorporates emotional, behavioral, and cognitive self-regulation as well as initiative, curiosity, and creativity. Including how a child uses the senses (taste, smell, touch, sound and sight) to learn about the environment.
  • Language & literacy: includes skills children use to understand and communicate with others. Language development helps the child communicate what they want and how they feel. It is crucial to their thought process, problem solving and forming relationships with others.

In the early years, play is one of the most vital ways to assist in developing the five domains of a child’s development. Play, gives a child an opportunity to explore, observe, experiment and solve problems.

It is important to balance between supporting a child and letting them try things on their own. Allowing a child to make mistakes and find out for themselves how the world works, is a big part of a child’s development. What better way to nurture this growth, then through play!

Developmental Milestones

Children develop at different rates in different areas; however, developmental milestones give us a general idea of what to look for as a child gets older. Early care and education professionals can track a child’s developmental milestones, over time so there is a greater understanding of the child’s development and a better basis to know if there is potential concern.

To learn more about the developmental milestone resources for early care and education professionals visit the CDC’s Learn the Signs Act Early.


Visit CDC Learn the Signs Act Early

Developmental Monitoring and Screening

Developmental monitoring and screening can be delivered by a doctor or nurse and by other professionals in the healthcare, early childhood education, community, or school settings in collaboration with parents and caregivers.

Early care and education professionals play a vital role in developmental monitoring by observing how a child grows and changes over time to meet developmental milestones.

Early care and education professionals also assist in developmental screenings by taking a closer look at how a child is developing in a more formal process by using a developmental screening instrument to identify possible developmental delays that may need further evaluation.

To learn more about how early care and education professionals can assist with developmental monitoring and screening visit the CDC Developmental Monitoring and Screening for Health Professionals.


Visit CDC Developmental Monitoring and Screening for Health Professionals


What is Child Development?

To learn more about child development visit the Kid Sense website.


Visit Kid Sense


Principles of Child Development and Learning

To learn more about the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) position statement on the principles of development visit NAEYC. 




8 Things to Remember about Child Development

To learn more about the 8 things to remember about child development visit Center on the Developing Child-Harvard University.


Visit Center on the Developing Child-Harvard University