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Understanding Development: Infants Through School-Agers

Understanding child development is a protective factor against child abuse and neglect. In this lesson, you will learn about typical development. You will also learn developmentally appropriate expectations for children’s behavior.

  • Describe typical child developmental milestones.
  • Identify developmentally appropriate expectations for children’s behavior.
  • Identify risk factors that make children more likely to experience abuse or neglect.



You have already learned that understanding how children develop and learn (i.e., child development) is a protective factor against child abuse and neglect. Why do you think this is true? What are the risks of not understanding child development? If we don’t understand child development, we are likely to think a child should act older than he or she is. We might put children in situations that are too challenging for them. We and the child might get frustrated. The child may not understand what we want, and we may not understand why the child won’t “behave.”

Understanding child development is a protective factor because it helps us recognize when a child needs extra help. If we do not understand child development, we might become frustrated instead of recognizing an opportunity to scaffold or strengthen a child’s experiences. When we get frustrated, we do not use our best thinking. We are less able to problem-solve, use new practices, think creatively, and be patient. We may be less able to support the children who need our help the most.

Let’s begin by thinking about some common behaviors you might see every day in programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-agers:

  • Solomon is a young infant. He cries for long portions of the day.
  • Flora has pulled every toy off the shelf and keeps going back for more. She is always right behind you every time you try to start cleaning up. She doesn’t seem to want to play with the toys. She’s just really interested in touching everything.
  • You told Hilary it was time to get a diaper change. She yelled, “No!” and ran away from you.
  • Zoe is having lunch in a highchair. She says, “All done” and starts throwing peas on the ground. She barely ate anything.
  • Carli and Claire only want to play with each other. They tell other children, “You can’t play with us.”
  • Clark does not nap. He never falls asleep and is always moving when asked to lie down.
  • Aylen comes running to you screaming, “He hit me!”
  • It’s time to go to elementary school, but Taylor is still eating breakfast and moving very slowly.
  • Two boys get in a fight over who deserves a foul in their pick-up basketball game.
  • Claire keeps getting the candy she got at school out of her backpack even though she has been asked several times to put it away.

Based on what you have seen, heard, or experienced in your work or in your community, do these scenarios ring true? Have you seen them happen? Have you experienced them? If you have spent time in family child care programs serving young children and youth, you have likely seen some or all of these behaviors. They are reflections of typical child development. We all go through stages as we grow, and certain behaviors can be expected at certain stages. This does not mean that all behaviors are easy for us as adults to deal with. It does mean that we can be prepared to recognize behaviors as reflections of growth and help children develop and mature. You will learn more about this in the Cognitive Development course.

Let’s take look at how children typically develop from birth to 12 years. The information on this table is compiled from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health ( You can find this same information in easy-to-use information sheets in the Apply section.

Development Milestones


Social / Emotional

  • Begins to smile at people
  • Can briefly calm himself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)
  • Tries to look at parent

Language / Communication

  • Coos, makes gurgling sounds
  • Turns head toward sounds

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Pays attention to faces
  • Begins to follow things with eyes and recognizes people at a distance
  • Begins to act bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn't change

Movement / Physical

  • Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy
  • Makes smoother movements with arms and legs

Social / Emotional

  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
  • Likes to play with people and might cry when playing stops
  • Copies some movements and facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning

Language / Communication

  • Begins to babble
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he or she hears
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Lets you know if she or he is happy or sad
  • Responds to affection
  • Reaches for toy with one hand
  • Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it
  • Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
  • Watches faces closely
  • Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance

Movement / Physical

  • Holds head steady, unsupported
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface
  • May be able to roll over from tummy to back
  • Can hold a toy and shake it and swing at dangling toys
  • Brings hand to mouth
  • When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows

Social / Emotional

  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
  • Likes to play with others, especially parents
  • Responds to other people's emotions and often seems happy
  • Likes to look at self in mirror

Language / Communication

  • Responds to sounds by making sounds
  • Strings vowels together when babbling and likes taking turns with parents while making sounds
  • Responds to own name
  • Language/Communication
  • Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure
  • Begins to say consonant sounds (jabbering with "m," "b")

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Looks around at things nearby
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to another

Movement / Physical

  • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
  • Begins to sit with support
  • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce
  • Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward

Social / Emotional

  • May be afraid of strangers
  • May be clingy with familiar adults
  • Has favorite toys

Language / Communication

  • Understands "no"
  • Makes a lot of different sounds like "mamamama" and "bababababa"
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others
  • Uses fingers to point at things

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Watches the path of something as it falls
  • Looks for things he or she sees you hide
  • Plays peek-a-boo
  • Puts things in her or his mouth
  • Moves things smoothly from one hand to the other
  • Picks up things like cereal o's between thumb and index finger

Movement / Physical

  • Stands, holding on
  • Can get into sitting position
  • Sits without support
  • Pulls to stand
  • Crawls

Social / Emotional

  • Is shy or nervous with strangers
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Has favorite things and people
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Hands you a book when he or she wants to hear a story
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Plays games such as "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake"

Language / Communication

  • Responds to simple spoken requests
  • Uses simple gestures, like shaking head "no" or waving "bye-bye"
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds more like speech)
  • Says "mama" and "dada" and exclaims "uh-oh!"
  • Tries to say words you say

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Explores things in different ways, like shaking, banging, throwing
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks at the right picture or thing when it's named
  • Copies gestures
  • Starts to use things correctly; for example, drinks from a cup, brushes hair
  • Bangs two things together
  • Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container
  • Lets things go without help
  • Pokes with index finger
  • Follows simple directions like "pick up the toy"

Movement / Physical

  • Gets to a sitting position without help
  • Pulls up to stand, walks holding onto furniture
  • Make take a few steps without holding on
  • May stand alone

Social / Emotional

  • Likes to hand things to others as play
  • May have temper tantrums
  • May be afraid of strangers
  • Shows affection to familiar people
  • Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • May cling to caregivers in new situations
  • Points to show others something interesting
  • Explores alone but with parent close by

Language / Communication

  • Says several single words
  • Says and shakes head "no"
  • Points to show someone what she or he wants

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Knows what ordinary things are for; for example, telephone, brush, spoon
  • Points to get the attention of others
  • Shows interest in a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed
  • Points to one body part
  • Scribbles on own
  • Can follow one-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say "sit down"

Movement / Physical

  • Walks alone
  • May walk up steps and run
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Can help undress
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Eats with a spoon

Social / Emotional

  • Copies others, especially adults and older children
  • Gets excited when with other children
  • Shows more and more independence
  • Shows defiant behavior (doing what he or she has been told not to do)
  • Plays mainly beside other children, but is beginning to include other children, such as in chase games

Language / Communication

  • Points to things or pictures when they are named
  • Knows names of familiar people and body parts
  • Says sentences with two to four words
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Points to things in a book

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Finds things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Builds towers of four or more blocks
  • Might use one hand more than the other
  • Follows two-step instructions such as "Pick up your shoes and put them in the closet"
  • Names items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog

Movement / Physical

  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Kicks a ball
  • Begins to run
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture without help
  • Walks up and down stairs holding on
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Makes or copies straight lines and circles

Social / Emotional

  • Copies adults and friends
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  • Shows concern for a crying friend
  • Understands the idea of "mine" and "his" or "hers"
  • Shows a wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from mom and dad

Language / Communication

  • Follows instructions with two or three steps
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands words like "in," "on," and "under"
  • Says first name, age, and sex
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like "I," "me," "we," and "you" and some plurals ("cars," "dogs," "cats")
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time
  • Carries on a conversation using two to three sentences

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts
  •  Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people
  • Does puzzles with three or four pieces
  • Understands what "two" means
  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than six blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle

Movement / Physical

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals a tricycle
  • Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

Social / Emotional

  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Plays "Mom" and "Dad"
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than alone
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Often can't tell what's real and what's make-believe
  • Talks about likes and interests
  • Shows increasing fears and imagination (monsters, fear of the dark)

Language / Communication

  • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using "he" and "she"
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or the "Wheels on the Bus"
  • Tells stories
  • Can say first and last name

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Names some colors and some numbers
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Starts to understand time
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Understands the idea of "same" and "different"
  • Draws a person with two to four body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Starts to copy some capital letters
  • Names four colors
  • Plays board or card games
  • Tells you what he or she thinks is going to happen next in a book

Movement / Physical

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food

Social / Emotional

  • Wants to please friends
  • Wants to be like friends
  • More likely to agree with rules
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell what's real and what's make-believe
  • Shows more independence (for example, may go on a play date)
  • Is sometimes demanding and sometimes very cooperative

Language / Communication

  • Speaks very clearly
  • Tells a simple story using full sentences
  • Uses future tense; for example, "Grandma will be here"
  • Says name and address

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can draw a person with at least six body parts
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food

Movement / Physical

  • Stands on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hops; may be able to skip
  • Can do a somersault
  • Uses a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Can use the toilet on her or his own
  • Swings and climbs

Social / Emotional

  • Shows more independence from parents and family
  • Starts to think about the future
  • Understands more about his or her place in the world
  • Pays more attention to friendships and teamwork
  • Wants to be liked and accepted by friends
  • Friendships tend to be with children of the same sex; may talk about members of the opposite sex as "gross" or "weird"

Language / Communication

  • Uses simple, complete sentences that average five to seven words
  • Can follow a series of three directions in a row

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Can focus attention on a task for at least 15 minutes

Movement / Physical

  • Strong motor skills, but balance and endurance can vary
  • Sense of body image begins to develop

Social / Emotional

  • Starts to form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships
  • Experiences more peer pressure
  • Peer acceptance is very important; may take part in certain behaviors to be part of "the group"
  • Becomes less negative about the opposite sex
  • May experiment with lying, cheating, or stealing

Language / Communication

  • Can follow a series of five directions in a row
  • Might be nervous about asking for help

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Can focus attention on a task for about an hour
  • Faces more academic challenges at school
  • Becomes more independent from the family
  • Begins to see the point of view of others more clearly

Movement / Physical

  • Becomes more aware of his or her body as puberty approaches; body image and eating problems sometimes start
  • Develops secondary sex characteristics like breasts and body hair

As you read the milestones, did you notice any behaviors that might frustrate or challenge adults? This table can help you remember that behaviors like biting, mouthing everything, tantrums, not following directions, talking back to adults, occasionally lying, and making demands can all be normal parts of development. As adults, we have to be prepared to respond positively and constructively. You’ll learn more about how to do that in the next two lessons.

Remember, these milestones tell us what children typically do at certain ages. They are not hard and fast rules. Individual children will vary a great deal in when and how they reach different milestones. If you have a concern about a child’s development, talk to your family child care administrator.

Understanding Temperament

Temperament influences how each of us interacts with the world and the people around us. If you reflect on your own personality and preferences, it becomes clear that we all have certain ways we interact. Understanding our own temperament and the temperaments of the children around us can be very helpful. We are born with certain temperament traits or styles, and temperament is thought to be consistent across a life span. There are nine temperament traits that you might see in yourself and the children around you, as identified by Thomas, Chess, and Birch in Temperament and Behavior Disorders in Children (1968). Read below to see the nine traits and examples of characteristics on the extreme of each trait. Remember, most children fall somewhere in the middle of each continuum.

Activity Level

Jared prefers to sit on the couch and read a book.

Sasha is always on the move. She plays with every toy and seeks out active play items much of the day.


Felicia has variable schedules. Some days she eats snack, and some days she doesn’t. She chooses different activities every day.

Lucas likes his routines. He gets up at the exact same time every morning and eats the same things for breakfast every day.


Micah moves from activity to activity. It is easy to shift his attention to a new idea or project.

Malia enjoys working on projects for long periods of time. She can spend an afternoon drawing careful pictures.

Approach to New Things

Abby prefers to watch other children participate in activities before she tries.

Clyde is the first one to volunteer during special activities.


Blair misses her friends from her old school. She talks about her old program every day and has not joined into activities in your program.

Juan joined right into the read-aloud group during his first library field trip with you and left with several new friends.

Intensity of Reactions

Jillian rarely shows emotions. She remains relatively calm.

Bryce’s parents love to film his reactions to special events and surprises: he gets so excited. When he is upset, it is best to give him space. When he is excited, upset, or surprised, everyone around him knows.

Threshold of Responsiveness

Summer is often described as “being in her own little world.”

Calvin gets upset if you give him a direction or correct him. He seems very sensitive.

Quality of Mood

Liv tends to worry about things and seems serious most of the time.

Talia is generally happy and cheerful.

Attention Span and Persistence

Foster is interested in many different things. He tends to dabble: he will start a project, get bored, and move onto a different project.

Malik does multi-day and multi-week projects. He has been working on a model car for two weeks. He wants to get every detail perfect.

Take a minute to reflect on your own temperament. How do you define your temperament traits? How does understanding temperament help you understand your own behaviors and the behaviors of children?

Thomas, Chess, and Birch also have identified three temperament types that summarize these traits. The three temperament types are:

  • Adaptable: These are “easy children.” They are open to new situations, have a moderate activity level, and are generally happy.
  • Feisty: These children have a high activity level and usually strong responses to new stimuli. They might be considered energetic, assertive, and full of emotion.
  • Cautious: These children need time and support to feel comfortable in new situations. They might be considered timid or serious.

Now take a minute to think about your own temperament type. Which of the three do you relate the most to? Do you find it easier to work with individuals (including children) who share your own temperament type? If you have a feisty temperament, you might find it harder to engage and connect with cautious children. You might think they move slowly or take too long to adjust. You might not understand why they need so much help or space. If you have a cautious temperament, you might find yourself challenged by the energy level of feisty children. You might think they are always moving or yelling. Knowing your own temperament lets you step back and recognize these challenges or tensions as part of your personal interaction style. This lets you take steps to prevent stressful interactions between yourself and children.

How can you use an understanding of temperament in your work to prevent child abuse and neglect? First, understanding temperament helps you remain calm and see frustrating situations as potential personality differences. Second, you can use your understanding of a child’s temperament to come up with solutions to problems that work for them. Here are a few ways you can use temperament in your work:

Tips for children with cautious temperaments:

  • Provide plenty of space and time for the child to get comfortable. Encourage families to stay as long as possible to help children transition into your program.
  • Avoid forcing eye contact or getting in the child’s face. Approach children slowly and give them time to warm up to you.
  • Minimize changes to schedules and routines.
  • Encourage children to bring comfort items, such as a favorite blanket or teddy bear.
  • Comfort children when they become upset. Spend time sitting together and watching others play.
  • Provide reminders when there will be changes in the schedule.
  • Provide consistent spaces for things like rest, calming spaces, or doing homework.

Tips for children with feisty temperaments:

  • Provide lots of opportunities for movement. Let them help turn the pages of stories. Give them extra time to relax before a nap. Take them outside or to parks to run and use their energy.
  • Provide opportunities for exploration. Stay close when introducing new or exciting objects. Help the child learn to explore safely.
  • Do not punish intense reactions. Rather comfort the child: give hugs, and help him or her work through emotions.
  • Step in when needed to help a child work through difficult interactions with other children.

Children at Risk for Abuse and Neglect

There are three categories of children more at risk for child abuse and neglect: young children, children with special needs, and children with challenging behavior. Why do you think these children are at an increased risk? Generally, these children might have a difficult time communicating, controlling their emotions, following directions, or getting along with others. The adults around them might get frustrated easily or not know how to help the child. This can put the child in a dangerous situation. We must be careful to remember this does not mean that the child causes the abuse and neglect. The child is never to blame. It also does not mean that only children in these categories are abused or neglected. Rather, we must remember to provide extra support to families whose children meet these characteristics.

Children under the age of 4 are at the greatest risk for child abuse and neglect. Can you think of reasons why this might be the case? When we think about the developmental milestones described above, we might see reasons. These children are least able to communicate their wants and needs to us. They are also not developmentally ready to solve complex social problems, regulate their behavior or emotions, and follow complicated directions. All of this leaves them vulnerable to negative interactions with adults who do not understand development.

When children do not meet the milestones described above in predictable ways and at predictable times, we can experience stress. We may not understand the child’s communication, we may not know how to meet the child’s physical needs, or we may doubt our competence. All of this can leave a person feeling helpless and confused. This stress puts children with developmental delays or disabilities at greater risk for child abuse or neglect.

Children with severe and persistent challenging behavior are also at a greater risk for abuse or neglect. When children demonstrate severe and persistent challenging behavior, adults often feel personally challenged. It’s not unusual to feel like a child is “pushing your buttons.” Adults may not know what to do and, in a moment of crisis, might resort to unacceptable punishment practices.

Always try to see a child’s behavior through the lens of their developmental age and abilities.  It is not the job of the provider to blame the child’s parents for unwanted behaviors, but instead to partner with families and, as educators help family members, understand their child's abilities.

Special Concerns for Infants and Toddlers: Prolonged Periods of Crying

Crying is a normal part of infancy. All babies cry. Between the first and fourth months of life, many infants become more fussy and crying increases. Some experts refer to this as the period of PURPLE Crying. This does not mean babies turn purple from crying. Rather, PURPLE is an acronym describing the characteristics of this stage. You can visit the PURPLE Crying website to learn more:  

Even healthy infants sometimes cry for hours during this stage. Sometimes, it can be hard to comfort the infants. They might seem inconsolable. Crying tends to be worse in the evenings, but you might experience prolonged periods of crying with infants in your program. This can be very frustrating, and it might make you doubt your ability to care for the infant. It’s not unusual to begin feeling stress and to need a break. The best thing you can do is to realize that this is a phase in the infant’s development, and it will end. Try offering comfort that may help both you and the crying infant. Can you play some soft, soothing music? If being held helps to calm the infant, can wearing them in some sort of carrier help provide them the comfort they need while also keeping your hands free to attend to other children and activities?  


Now let’s think about how knowledge of child development looks in a family child care program. Knowledge of child development comes across as realistic expectations for behavior. Having the right expectations for children of various ages ensures that we are providing appropriate interactions and responses based on their age and level. This can sometimes be more complicated in family child care programs, where there the children in your care may vary greatly in age and skill level. Watch this video to learn more about realistic expectations.

Understanding Development

Learn about realistic and unrealistic expectations for children.

Read the following statements from family child care providers. On the left, you see unrealistic expectations. On the right you see realistic expectations. Which programs do you think feel like better places for children? Which providers do you think feel less stressed at the end of the day?

Unrealistic Expectations

Realistic Expectations

Marchia cries all the time. She is spoiled rotten and thinks she needs to be held all the time.

When Marchia gets upset and cries, I know she’s trying to tell us something. I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong and help soothe her.

Decklen never listens! All the kids are supposed to go inside, wash their hands, sit on the carpet, and pick a book. What does he do? He stops and plays with dolls.

Decklen does best when I give him directions one step at a time. It’s hard to keep a long list of things to do in your head.

These kids need to sit cross-legged for the entire group time. Group time is 45 minutes in kindergarten, so they’ve got to start practicing sitting that long now.

We keep group times short and sweet. It’s a time for us to build community, but we really think of play, one-on-one, and small groups as major learning times.

Caldwell is bossy. I need to put him in his place.

Caldwell is learning to be a leader in the program. I need to find good channels for him to use those skills.

Julia and Cassidy talk and giggle nonstop. Those two need to be separated.

Julia and Cassidy’s friendship is really important to them.

Joseph lied to me about washing his hands. He is completely dishonest.

Joseph is testing the boundaries. I need to make sure I’m consistent but fair with him.


How can you make sure your expectations of children are appropriate?

  • Continue to learn all you can about child development throughout your career. The Virtual Lab School has courses that will help you learn more about cognitive, physical, and social development. You will also learn about how children develop communication skills and a healthy sense of self.
  • Gather information about child development to share with families. The handouts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Apply section are a good place to start, but your trainer, coach, family child care administrator or local resource and referral agency might have other resources you can share.
  • As a provider, spend time observing children in your program or in your wider community. This will help you begin to understand what is typical for each child in your care. You can also visit programs that serve children who are older or younger. This will help you take the long view on development. If you expect the same thing from 4-year-olds that you see happening in the school-age program, you are setting yourself up for frustration.
  • Remember what you have learned here when you get frustrated. It can be frustrating when a toddler says “No” or bites, or a preschooler refuses to hang up his coat, but this is a part of growing up. Many of the behaviors that challenge adults are very typical parts of normal child development. If you have a concern about a child’s behavior, talk to your trainer, coach or family child care administrator. He or she can help give you perspective on whether the behaviors are typical.
  • Ask for help when you need it. We all need new ideas and support. When you are feeling frustrated or unsure about what to do for a child, ask your trainer, coach or family child care administrator or a fellow family child care provider for ideas. This is a great way to build your own social connections and professional knowledge.


Read the Reframing Activity and review each of the scenarios in the table. Indicate whether you think the scenario represents a realistic expectation for the child’s behavior or an unrealistic expectation. Then write what you think a provider should say that reflects realistic expectations.


It is important to find resources that can help you understand child development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed excellent guides. These can be great resources to share with families, but they are also a nice tool for you to keep in your program and refer to regularly. Read and review the Milestone Checklists for the age groups of children with whom you work. These simple, one-page checklists are available in English and Spanish. They can also be useful reminders for you about realistic expectations for development across childhood.


Developmental milestone:
A skill or behavior that children typically develop around a certain age
Child development:
Changes that occur as children grow from birth through adolescence; the changes can be physical, mental, emotional, or social
An educational term that likens the process of building a skill in a child to the temporary structures used in building a house; in teaching, it can involve giving hints or prompts and gradually reducing these supports over time
Developmentally appropriate:
Knowledge and practice based on how young children develop and learn, what is known about an individual child, and what is culturally important


Clyde thinks 3-year-old Julian should put his toy away, go get his coat, line up, and wait at the door the first time she asks him. Is this a realistic expectation for behavior?
Lucia, a preschool family child care provider, begins her day with a large-group circle-time activity. She begins by going over the calendar, talking about the weather, and then reading a story. She expects the children to remain seated the entire 30-minute group time and to participate when she asks them to. Is this a realistic expectation for behavior?
Three-month-old Sydney is crying when her mother brings her in this morning. Her mom looks very tired. As Sydney is handed to her teacher, Sydney screams and cries more loudly. Read the following thoughts that Sydney’s family child care provider might have. Which of the thoughts shows Sydney’s provider has realistic expectations for Sydney’s behavior?
The children begin a game of pretending to be monsters as the provider prepares the room for rest time. One child gets scared and continues crying through nap time. The provider says, “Stop crying and go to sleep.” Is this a realistic expectation for behavior?
At pick up, Jadyn’s dad tells you his nine-year-old is having difficulty in math. You recall that yesterday, Jadyn got more and more frustrated with a math sheet, and instead of participating at snack time as usual, he sulked and stared at the wall. You comment to Jadyn’s dad, “Sometimes school-agers are nervous about asking for help. Jadyn might need to hear that it’s okay to ask for help.” Does your response express a realistic expectation for Jadyn’s behavior?
References & Resources

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