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Facts for Life

Child Development and Early Learning

Supporting Information


All children grow and develop in similar patterns, but each child develops at her or his own pace. Every child has her or his own interests, temperament, style of social interaction and approach to learning.

Understanding the ages and stages of child development helps parents understand the changes to expect as a child grows and develops (refer to the the following chart). Parents or other caregivers should be able to seek help when they feel their child is not developing as expected.

By observing how young children respond to touch, sound and sight, parents can identify signs of possible developmental problems or disabilities. If a young child is developing slowly, parents and other caregivers can help by spending extra time with the child, playing and talking with the child, and massaging the child's body.

If the child does not respond to attention and stimulation, parents and other caregivers need to seek help from a trained health worker. Taking early action is very important in helping children who have delays and disabilities reach their full potential. Parents and other caregivers need to encourage the greatest possible development of the child's abilities.

A girl or boy with a disability needs lots of love and extra protection. She or he needs all the same attention, care and support every other child needs: birth registration, breastfeeding, immunizations, nutritious food, and protection from abuse and violence. Like all children, children with disabilities should be encouraged to play and interact with other children.

A child who is unhappy or experiencing emotional difficulties may exhibit unusual behaviour. Examples include:

  • suddenly becoming emotional, unfriendly, sad, lazy or unhelpful
  • consistently acting out or misbehaving
  • crying often
  • having sleep difficulties
  • becoming violent with other children
  • sitting alone instead of playing with family or friends
  • suddenly having no interest in usual activities or schoolwork
  • losing appetite.

The child's parents or other caregivers should be encouraged to talk with and listen to the child. If the problem persists, they should seek help from a trained health worker or teacher.

If a child has mental or emotional difficulties or has been abused, she or he needs mental health or counselling services. The child should be assessed to determine what support and treatment are needed.