What do we mean by growth and development? Growth is the increase in size of the body – in height, weight and other measurable areas.
Development is the gaining of skills in all aspects of the child’s life. The different types of development are often split into four areas:
Physical development: this refers to the body increasing in skill and performance and includes: gross motor development (using large muscles), for example legs and arms fine motor development (precise use of muscles), for example hands and fingers.
Social and emotional development: this is the development of a child’s identity and self-image, the development of relationships and feelings about him or herself and learning the skills to live in society with other people.
Intellectual development: this is learning the skills of understanding, memory and concentration.
Communication and speech development: this is learning to communicate with friends, family and all others. However, it is important to realise that all the areas of development link together. Just stop and think about the changes that take place in the developing child.
At birth there have already been huge changes from two tiny cells as the egg and sperm joined at conception to a complex new baby at birth. Then from being a tiny helpless being at birth, by the age of 16 years the child changes to a highly complex young person who has all the basic skills for life, including talking, running, writing and the ability to think in abstract ways.
Weight increases from 3–4 kg at birth to an average of 65 kg for a young man. From a length at birth of about 35 cm, height changes to more than 155 cm. From being a relatively immobile baby, the child is able to walk, run, skip and climb. From not being able to talk, the child becomes an able communicator. From being fully dependent, the child learns to dress, feed and think for him or herself.
From wide arm movements and automatically grasping everything that is put into the hand, the child learns to pick up and use a pencil developing to pens, computers and other technical equipment. Growth and development are connected, but are very different. Growth is the very visible increase in size of a child. It can be seen in many ways, including weight gain, increase in height and increase in head circumference. Children grow very quickly; ask your parents if they have kept a record of your weight and height gain.
Principles of development
There are three basic principles of human development that apply to everyone from birth.
Development starts from the head and works down the
A new baby cannot hold up his or her head alone. Yet, within a few months, the baby will be able to sit alone. This is because control of the spine and central nervous system develops from the top of the head down to the base of the spine. You can see this control developing in a baby as he or she starts to hold the head without support. Similarly, a new-born baby waves his or her arms around vaguely, yet in nine months’ time will find the tiniest crumb or piece of Lego easy to pick up with the thumb and finger. This is because the nervous system also develops from the spinal cord out to the extremities (hands and feet).
All development happens in the same order, but can occurat different rates.
A baby has to hold his or her head up, learn to sit with support, and then without support, before he or she can stand by holding on to furniture and then eventually walk alone. No baby can learn to walk before sitting up. But it is perfectly normal for one baby to walk at ten months and another not to learn this skill until the age of 18 months.
All areas of development are linked together.
A baby cannot start to finger feed until he or she can sit up and is developing the ability to pick things up between the fingers and thumb. The speech development of a child is affected if the child has difficulties in hearing...