Early Childhood Development

Early childhood development is the development that takes place during preschool years. Optimal development during this phase accomplishes children to cope with the oncoming demands of the outside world, the school. Preschool development depends on stable, responsive, nurturing relationships associated rich learning experiences.

Most children, by the age of 5, accomplish the ability to learn in a school setting, as long as the school settings are sufficiently flexible to support the normal variations of childhood development.

Under 6, is the most critical phase of childhood for neurological development. The most significant brain growth occurs in these years. The concept of neurological development is explained under " Neuronal Plasticity".

The healthy and happy experiences of early childhood add to the overall physical and mental well being of individuals throughout their lifetime. On the other hand, any major adversity, such as extreme poverty, abuse or neglect experienced during this phase can jeopardize personality development in children.

For a better understanding, the childhood development in the earliest years of life is further divided in to two stages:

  • Early development of children: Conception to 2 years of age.

  • Early childhood development: 2 years to 6 years of age.
    This prepares children for the oncoming demand on their cognitive skills. Mastery of the elementary school curriculum requires that a large number of perceptual, cognitive, and language processes work efficiently.

Early childhood development is the preschool development that accomplishes children with all the abilities essential for school readiness.

What does school readiness involve?

Refining already learnt motor skills .

  • Physical activities of children expand.
    They are able to participate in outdoor games that include throwing, catching, kicking balls, riding a bicycle, climbing on playground structures and dancing.

  • The fine motor skills get polished.
    The ability to use hands and fingers effectively is achieved. As a result during preschool years children learn to feed themselves with a spoon, write with pencil and paint with crayons.
  • Coordination improves.
    Eyes-hand coordination and coordinated movements of two sides of the body are needed for almost all the activities; dressing, playing, eating, writing, drawing, arranging books and so on.

    Bilateral coordinated movements of hands and fingers maneuvered by good eyes-hand coordination help children perform day to day tasks efficiently.

Playing games

Being at school involves group activities. Playing organised games in a group of same age children is a noted feature of early childhood development.

Playing is not just fun, but it is a full process of mastering all developmental domains of childhood development.

Play enhances children's learning process:

  • Teaches socialization.

  • Improves physical activity.

  • Refines coordination.

  • Gives opportunity to act out adult role model.

  • Recognize and learn rules.

  • Understand rapidly changing demands of situations.

  • Group games instill discipline.

  • Helps resolve conflicts.

  • Cope with anxiety and anger, which sometimes could be through creative outlets.

  • Enforces self-regulation.

  • Develops abstract thinking; imagination and its correlation with reality.


Handedness is defined as unequal distribution of fine motor skills between the left and right hands. Preference of the dominant side for the use of hand, is usually established by the third year of life.

Though right-handedness is common, the reason for the preference of one over the other is not yet clear.

Parents should not interfere with child’s own hand preference; it leads to frustration in the child and poor refinement of fine motor skills.

Language development

Development of receptive and expressive language is crucial for school readiness. Communicative skills develop most rapidly in interactive language-rich environment.

Consequently, during preschool development phase vocabulary increases from 50-100 words before 2 years to 2000 words by 5 years of age.

Dealing with peer pressure

Peer pressure is part of very existence and it starts with start of schooling. Interactive experiences of early childhood development help children deal with the expanding peer group at school.

The challenges met under the caring, supportive and responsive parenting during this phase prepares them for on coming peer pressure. Consequently, children enjoy the friendships formed at school, rather than experiencing the stress associated with peer pressure.

Emotional stability

Children begin to experiment emotional separation from early days of early childhood development phase:

  • Often attempt bold exploration to experience various challenges.

  • The daring attitude to take up unrealistic challenges comes from preschool children's thinking being dominated by perception rather than by logic.

  • At this age children demonstrate stubborn opposition followed by quick cheerful compliance.

Potty training

Potty training is accomplished by most children of 5 years of age.

Children during the phase of early childhood development, despite of the milestones achieved, are well aware of their own limitations and the limitations imposed on them by the adults.

A balanced approach to emotional, social, language and
cognitive development during early childhood development
prepares children for overall scholastic and social success.

For children experiencing toxic stress during the phase of early childhood development, specialized interventions as early as possible is indicated to target the cause of the stress and protect the child from its long term consequences.

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