Understanding Children’s Growth and Development Back »

This article was written by Marilyn Rasmussen, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Specialist.


Have you ever watched a five year-old trying to master the art of tying his shoelaces?  The child may become frustrated and give up, at least for a time. But, he will usually come back to it in the next few days and accomplish it. Children “master” skills such as learning consistently throughout their developmental years – in all domains: physical, social, emotional and intellectual. Children’s growth and development is a continuous process in which all children participate, but it is also unique to each child.

While adults need to be aware of an individual child’s developmental stage, there are certain characteristics that are considered common to children within a given age range.  In future posts about the common developmental characteristics of children, we will refer to these stages as:

  • Early childhood, ages 5-8
  • Middle childhood, ages 9-11
  • Early adolescence, ages 12-14
  • Middle adolescence, ages 14-18
  • Late adolescence, ages 19-21

To work successfully with youth, it is important to recognize and understand children’s developmental stages. In addition, adults must be aware of the universal needs of children of all ages.  Children need to:

  • Experience a positive self-concept
  • Experience success or mastery
  • Become increasingly independent
  • Give and receive attention from caring adults and peers
  • Be accepted for who they are
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