Ages & Stages: Infants Through 4 Years Old

For parents, their number one priority for their children is choosing quality care that is provided in a healthy, safe environment. They typically seek out childcare that will stimulate and encourage their child’s social, physical, and intellectual growth. As a teacher, you must realize what it is that makes children feel secure and know which activities they enjoy and are most likely to learn from.

Consider The Child’s Personality

Teachers must bear in mind that each child has his or her own personality and will respond to caregivers and experiences very differently. Children are much like adults in that they may be even-tempered, shy, or outgoing. As a teacher, you have to be tuned into each child’s personality and treat them in a way that agrees with that personality. This is critical to making sure that healthy emotional growth is nurtured. When you understand each child’s personality, you can help him or her be successful by offering discipline, care, and activities that fit their needs.

Developmental Stages

As children grow, parents and caregivers often start looking for clues to his or her behavior. Experts use the term “developmental stages” which is just another way to say that a child moves through various time periods during the process of growing up. At one point, he or she will be fascinated by his or her hands, feet, and mouth. As the child gets older and more mobile, he or she will be getting into everything- lock everything up and enjoy the exploration years. Then, at some point, the child will become completely independent. No matter what stage a child is in, he or she simply needs love, time, and understanding.

Learning Styles

As a preschool teacher, you know that children learn in a variety of different ways- all children have their own unique way of learning. Some of them will learn through visual stimuli, some through sound, some through taste, and some through touch. Pay attention to a group of them and you can better understand this. In addition, the child’s developmental stage determines how they learn. One thing that is clear is that children love to learn through discovery and exploration. They love to solve problems while playing.

As a childcare provider, it’s critical that you understand the different learning styles of children and include plenty of different activities to facilitate all learning.

Ages and stages

Depending upon the age of the child, his or her learning style, and personality they will have different needs. The first few years of their lives are especially critical for development in social/emotional, physical, and intellectual domains. When creating your lesson plans and activites, you need to keep all of this in mind. Following is a little more information on the developmental stages of a child from birth to four.

An Overview of Birth to Eighteen Months

During the first eighteen months of a child’s life, they make some amazing progress. Infants see the world through his or her senses. They gather information about the world around them through sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. In order to assist them with maturation and learning, the caregiver must offer stimulation, but be careful not to overwhelm the child. The goal is to help the infant to interact and explore the world instead of trying to “teach” him or her. Older infants are more mobile and are very excited about learning what they can do with their voice, toes, feet, and hands. They start practicing skills such as rolling, crawling, walking, and much more. Following, you will see what you can expect within the first eighteen months:

Month 1

One month old infants are unable to support their own head and are typically awake for about one hour for every 10- though it may seem like they never sleep! They need plenty of milk, a warm place to sleep, kisses, hugs, to hear voices of their parents and primary caregivers, and a smoke-free environment. You can sing and read to them- it’s never too early to start. The more you talk to and interact with an infant, the more they will be able to learn.

Month 3

By three months old, infants have discovered their hands and feet- and are fascinated. A three-month-old is starting to laugh and coo. Typically, he or she will be alert for about 15 minutes at a time. They love listening to adults talk and read to them. They need to be talked to/interacted with- they typically love lullabies. They love fresh air and riding in a stroller. They need to get plenty of cuddles and have toys they can pull and teethe on.

Month 5

By the time an infant is five months old, they are typically able to roll over and even sit up with support. They are holding their own toys. They are usually alert for about 2 hours at a time and babble a lot. They are able to eat most baby food and will reach for toys when they are placed just beyond their reach. They like to look at themselves in a mirror and see what they are doing. Since they are beginning to crawl, they need caregivers that will make sure they are safe. They need to hear things that are happy and like to be around adults. They love to be danced with, tickled, and talked to about the world around them.

Month 9

By 9 months, infants are very busy and love to explore. They are crawling, sitting, pulling up on furniture, grasping objects, and they do have a basic understanding of simple commands. They enjoy being around other babies and react to their emotions.

As a caregiver, you need to make sure that you have locks on cabinets with dangerous things such as medications and cleaners. You must make sure that sharp objects are out of their reach. They need to be touched, plenty of nutritious food, and educational toys that will maintain their interest and keep them busy.

Month 12

Once a baby has reached 12 months- or 1 year of age- they are able to pull themselves up and start to “cruise” around furniture. They might be starting to walk and make lots of sounds including words like “Dada” and “Mama.” They are very curious about the world around them and tend to get pretty messy because that’s how they learn. They want to touch everything and like to play near others their age, but not typically WITH them. If they are walking, make sure you walk at their pace so they don’t feel rushed.

At this age, they need plenty of encouragement and cuddles. They need to be provided with an environment that allows them to move around because they will be getting into anything and everything they can. They love to be read and sang to. You should give them the freedom and independence to do things, until they need your help, so always stay close by.

Month 12 through 18

By the time they’re a year to a year and a half, they should be eating with a spoon. However, keep in mind that they are going to spill. They’re starting to explore more, so make sure that you keep them safe. They don’t have the capacity to express their feelings and/or frustrations yet, so temper tantrums will most likely abound. At times, they will be afraid and clingy. They love routines, especially in the evenings: reading, singing, and bath. Sometimes, they will say “no”- and they mean it. They are most likely walking fairly well on their own, but they will fall a lot. They might try to jump. They are saying lots of words- especially “mine” because in their eyes, everything does belong to them.

They need to be given the opportunity to touch things. They need to try new things, with help from an adult (if they need it). You must have limits and be consistent with them. They thrive on praise. The more caregivers talk to them, the earlier they will express how they are feeling and what they need. They need routine- and for adults not to get upset with them for making a mess. If you make a mistake, say “I’m sorry” to them. They still love to be read to.

An Overview: Eighteen Months to Two Years

This is when they are moving into the toddler stage and are beginning to define themselves. They need activities that will spur their vocabulary and imagination. During these years, they are going to be getting into everything they can- so make sure you do what you can to keep them safe. However, accidents do happen, so don’t be too hard on yourself when they do.

Age 2

Two-year olds are very loving, responsive, and affectionate to others. They often feel sorry for others or sad when their peers are upset. They try to please the adults in their lives. They don’t need you to hover, but they don’t want you to get too far away either. Since they are learning to express themselves more, they are likely to do the opposite of what you want them to do. They don’t want to give in or wait and are often bossy. They love the word “me”. They seem fearless, but they do have some fears: sounds, being separated from their parents/caregivers, household objects that move/make noise, or even big dogs.

As a caregiver, you need to allow them to keep exploring the world around them. They need routine and if they must be changed, it should be done slowly. They need adults around them to pay attention to what they are doing well and praise them for it. When they start to say “no”, give them two choices that you know they will say “OK” to. When they can’t make a decision, they need you to be there. They need you to be firm with the rules and calm if they forget/disagree. Above all, be patient- they really are trying to please you.

An Overview: Three to Four Years

During these years, children are very busy. They are singing, painting, cutting and pasting. They start kindergarten at the age of five, so activities need to include numbers, simple directions, and letters.

Age 3

By the age of 3, children are a bundle of energy. They do things their way. They soak everything in. They should be reading and socializing to get ready for kindergarten. They enjoy playing pretend and scribble on everything. They are full of questions, most of them “Why?” and are usually pretty good at using the potty. They learn through play and trying new things. Sometimes they share, sometimes not. They are starting to listen more and will try to solve problems on their own.

As a caregiver, you must understand that children this age want to learn and understand everything. When you encourage them, they will use their words to tell you what they want. They love to be played with and sang to. Don’t forget to pretend with them!

Age 4

Just when you think they can’t be any busier, they turn four. They are very active: hopping, climbing, and running. They love to ask “Why?” and “How?” They are very interested in the world around them and numbers. They play with their peers. They love to be creative during art and want their pictures to be completely different from the others.

Caregivers need to give them room to explore and test the limits. They need to be given room to grow- but that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do it all. They still need to be protected. You must give them clear expectations. They need to learn how to give/take and play with others. You need to read to them, talk to them, and listen to them. They need to be provided with choices. During an activity, describe to them what is going on so that they can learn new words/things.

As you can see, children go through many changes during the preschool years. They need to be kept safe and secure above all. When that is provided, everything else will fall into place.

Published by

Dil Ahdan

Father, Entrepreneur and Software Developer, I help Preschools Owners and Teachers make a positive impact on the lives of children and families.

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