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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 1, Lesson 1

Developmental Domains & Typical Sequences of Development

As previously stated, when looking at child development, several domains or developmental areas are considered: motor/physical, cognitive, social/emotional, communication/language, and self-help. Each domain and a brief description of the typical developmental sequences for each are noted below.

Motor/Physical Domain

Toddler walkingThe motor/physical domain involves both gross motor and fine motor skills as well as physical growth. Since muscle and bone tissue grows very rapidly during the first two years, infant growth is very rapid and increases in strength, coordination, and stamina occur. Typical infant growth and development proceed from the head downward and from the center of the body outward. At birth, the newborn's head is about 70 percent of its eventual adult size - creating an infant that is top-heavy. The same developmental sequence occurs for muscle control with infants gaining control over muscles that support their head and neck first, then the trunk, and eventually developing muscle control needed for reaching. Muscle control needed for walking is the last to develop. During infancy, motor abilities evolve in a specific sequential order. However, it is important to note that the rate of motor development differs among children (e.g., standing, walking).

Developmental Period Motor Domain Milestones
Birth - 4 months The typical sequence of motor development begins with raising head and chest, sitting up with adult support, rolling over and batting at objects
4 - 8 months Infants begin to gain control of head, trunk, and arm movements, and sit up alone.
8 -12 months Infants begin to reach for and grasp objects, begin to creep, and stand up holding on. Pincer grasp has evolved which allows a child to pick up objects bringing together the thumb and index finger
12 - 24 months Toddlers begin to creep, stand alone, and then walk alone. Toddlers begin to creep up stairs, run, draw on paper, and kick a ball.
24 - 36 months Child can use crayons, ride a tricycle, and jump off a step. Children are typically not ready for toilet training until the end of their second year or beginning of their third year. Prior to this time, muscles that retain and release urine and bowel movements cannot be controlled.

Cognitive Domain

The cognitive domain refers to intellect or mental abilities. Cognition involves receiving, processing, and organizing information that has been perceived through the senses and using the information appropriately. Cognition entails interaction between the individual child and his/her environment or events in the environment. Survival and primitive learning in infants begin with reflexive behaviors.

Developmental Period Cognitive Domain Milestones
Birth - 4 months During the first few months of life, babies track objects, begin to study their hands, distinguish some tastes, begin to mouth objects, imitate gestures that are modeled, and look in the direction of a sound source.
4 - 8 months Cause and effect is developed. Babies begin to realize that they can cause interesting reactions. Another concept learned at this age is object permanence - the world is more permanent than previously thought. The toy that was hidden under the box did not actually vanish but is still there under the box. Depth perception is also evident.
8 -12 months Babies can follow simple instructions, reach for toys that are out of reach but within sight, and show appropriate use of everyday items by pretending.
12 - 24 months Children enjoy object-hiding activities, use three to four objects in combination, name many everyday objects, and move objects across the midline (passes something from one hand to another).
24 - 36 months By age 3, children say on average, 272 words, understand simple pictures, like to look at books, and say phrases and simple sentences.

Social/Emotional Domain

The social/emotional domain encompasses feelings and emotions, behaviors, attachments and relationships with others, independence, self-esteem, and temperament. Infants like to be held and cuddled when awake and begin to establish a bond or emotional attachment with parents and caregivers which evolve into a sense of trust and security.

Developmental Period Social/Emotional Domain Milestones
Birth - 4 months Infants can react differently to changes in adult voices (frown, smile), coo and squeal when awake, stop crying when parent/caregiver nears, and recognize and reach out to familiar faces and objects.
4 - 8 months Infants develop a beginning awareness of self, become more outgoing, laugh out loud, and begin to exhibit stranger anxiety.
8 -12 months Babies want parent/caregiver to be in constant sight, offer toys and objects to others, repeat behaviors that get attention, and begin to exhibit assertiveness.
12 - 24 months Babies become less wary of strangers, play alone for short periods, begin to assert independence, enjoy adult attention, and often imitate adults in play.
24 - 36 months Children begin to show signs of empathy and caring, become impatient, often become defiant, increase temper tantrums, and use physical aggression if frustrated or angry.

Communication/Language Domain

The communication/language domain refers to perceiving, understanding and producing communication/language. Communication abilities will vary on age ranging from crying and fussing to eventually communicating with spoken sounds and words.

Developmental Period Communication/Language Domain Milestones
Birth - 4 months The infant communicates both directly and indirectly through crying, fussing, blinking, shifting eyes, showing preferences for certain sounds, turning head toward voice/sound and making sounds other than crying.
4 - 8 months Babies respond appropriately to their own name and simple requests (i.e. Bye-bye). Babbling begins such as "ba, ba, ba" at this age and imitates nonspeech sounds (i.e. cough, lip smacking).
8 -12 months Babies begin to shake head for "no" and nod for "yes" and say "da-da" and "ma-ma."
12 - 24 months Children follow simple directions. Speech is intelligible around 40 percent of the time and typically uses five to 50 words. Children also respond to simple questions with "yes" and "no" and appropriate head movement.
24 - 36 months At 2 years of age, children use from 50 to 300 different words with vocabulary increasing constantly. Speech becomes as much as 75 percent intelligible and repeatedly ask, "What's that" Receptive language is more developed than expressive language (know more than they can talk about).

Self-Help/Adaptive Domain

The self-help or adaptive domain involves adapting to the environment and ability to do things for oneself. Some skills associated with this domain include feeding, dressing, toileting, and drinking independently.

Developmental Period Self-Help/Adaptive Domain Milestones
Birth - 4 months Babies express the need for food by crying. They also signal the need for diaper changes and express pleasure when placed in warm water (bathing).
Eventually during this time, they begin to help by using their own hands to guide the nipple.
4 - 8 months Babies show interest in feeding activities. Also during this time, babies can pull off own socks, and Velcro closures on clothing.
8 -12 months Children begin to hold their own cup and drink, and begin to eat finger foods. They also begin to pull off soiled or wet diaper. Generally, children during this age begin to sleep until 6 or 8 am.
12 - 24 months Children use a spoon to some degree to feed themselves and have good control of a cup. They also begin to try and wash themselves, help with dressing, and by age 2 they may begin to gain control of bowels and bladder.
24 - 36 months Children are increasingly able to feed self and use cup/glass. They can generally undress themselves and show signs of being ready for toilet training.


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