What Is Child Development?

Young Parents and Daughter Walking on TrailChild development describes the changes children experience as they grow older. As children grow physically, they also develop in their knowledge, skills, and behavior.

Parents and other adults, such as grandparents and child care providers, play important roles in children’s development. As a parent, you are the most important teacher in your child’s life. You also know your child best. Learning more about how children grow and develop is one way to build on what you already know and get new ideas about how to support your child’s learning and well-being.

The following table shows some of the main areas of child development.




How children think, learn, understand, solve problems, and remember.


How children learn to speak sounds, words, and sentences and use sign language and body language to communicate with others. This area also includes how children learn to understand these types of communication from others.

Social and emotional

Social development is how children learn to develop relationships and cooperate with family, friends, and teachers. Emotional development is how children learn to express, understand, and manage their own emotions, as well as respond to the emotions of others.


How children learn to move and use their muscles. This can be separated into large motor skills (such as using muscles to sit, stand, walk, run, keep balance, and change positions) and small motor skills (such as using hand muscles to eat, draw, dress, and write).

Approaches to Learning

How children are interested in learning and take part in learning activities. This also includes how they take the lead in activities and demonstrate confidence, curiosity, and creativity in interactions and play.

All these areas of development are connected. We should always think about the whole child. For example, once children learn to use words, it is much easier for them to express their emotions. And once they begin to crawl, they begin to explore more and learn about other parts of the world around them.

Children develop at their own pace, so you never know exactly when your child will learn a new skill. Developmental milestones are skills that children often learn at a certain age. Developmental milestones give you an idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older. It’s helpful to be familiar with these milestones, but remember that small variations are perfectly normal.

The following resources can help you keep track of your child’s development. They also include information about things you can do to help your child grow and develop.