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Understanding Child Development

As a new parent, it's easy to constantly measure your child's development against other children and to fear that your child doesn't match up or is lagging behind. Take a deep breath and stop worrying. Just as children have different personalities, they develop differently as well.

Child development relies on noticeable milestones a child reaches as they grow in four main areas:

  • Physically
  • Socially
  • Emotionally
  • Mentally (cognitive development)

You can help children develop physically and socially by playing with them each day. During play, your child learns how toys work, how to share and how to cooperate with others. By reading to your child daily, or at night before bed, you help your child develop mentally. Praise accomplishments like sitting up, walking or stacking blocks to help your child develop emotional confidence and security.

Different Kids, Different Paces
Don't panic if your child reaches milestones a few months later than a neighbor's child, or later than your other children did. Remember, each child develops at a different rate.

Walking is a perfect example of this principle. In general, most children take their first steps when they are about 11 months old. However, many children don't walk until they're nearly 17 months, while some start at 9 months. Children typically use whatever method of movement gets them from point A to point B the fastest. Unless your child is 6 months past the typical age for a developmental milestone, you don't need to be concerned that something's wrong.

Many pediatricians give developmental summaries to parents at check-ups from 2 months through 2 years of age. Review these summaries, or ask your doctor for more information to refresh your memory about the highlights or what developmental sign to note as your child grows.

And most importantly, relax and realize your child isn't going to wear diapers to his high school graduation or crawl down the aisle in her wedding dress. Give your child, and yourself, the freedom to develop at a realistic pace.