Learning and Development

Learning begins at birth, as the brain makes and strengthens connections. Children’s experiences in early childhood are critical for growth and development. Development includes several different, but interrelated, domains:

  • Physical: This domain includes growth of the child’s body, brain, and senses, as well as development of the muscles. Motor development includes building strength, control, and coordination of both large and small muscles. The large muscles of the arms, legs, and trunk are used for large movements like walking or bending. The small muscles of the hands, fingers, toes, lips and tongue are used for finer movements like pointing, picking up things, and talking.
  • Cognitive: This is the ability to think, reason, process information, and solve problems. The cognitive domain also includes language skills such as communicating, listening, processing and understanding others, and following directions.
  • Social/Emotional: This domain includes awareness of self, recognition and understanding of emotions, and skills in relating with other people.
  • Self-help: This domain includes the ability to take care of basic needs. Abilities such as dressing, bathing, feeding oneself, and using the toilet are examples of self-help skills.

Children’s knowledge and skills in each of these domains change with maturation, experience, and brain development. Development is an individual process, with a slightly different timeline for each child. Different children learn new skills at different ages, and some abilities develop more quickly than others.