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Growth and Development: How Does the Growth of Children Evolve? Part II

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

You might find yourself asking why is all of this information important? Well, in learning more about the developmental phase from infancy to toddlerhood, you will start to see and understand how things that took place within your earliest developmental phase and how they have affected your personality and ways of looking at life. The evolution of growth is fascinating and it happens quickly with children. 

Amidst the developmental stage of early childhood, children grow steadily but less rapidly than they do from birth to age three. Muscular and skeletal growth enhances, which boosts the child’s overall strength as their cartilage turns to bone more quickly. As the brain and nervous systems develop, a vast range of motor skills are fostered. 

Physical Developments

In regards to physical developments, children are slenderer in their appearances as they lose their baby roundness and their torsos tighten. Their proportions become more adult like as their gross motor skills and general strength improve. Boys typically have more muscle per pound of body weight, while girls have more fatty tissue. Both sexes usually grow about two to three inches a year and gain four to six pounds annually during early childhood. As their bodies grow, their gross motor skills begin to increase because their bones and muscles are stronger than before. Also, their lung capacity is greater, enabling them to do things such as run, jump, and climb. Amidst play and their usage of gross motor skills, they are typically able to establish a preference of handedness by this age. 


Cognitively children start to understand other people’s perspectives, although they are very egocentric during this time. Their cognitive immaturity is evident due to their illogical views of the world. As their intelligence is more predictable, their memory and language also improve rapidly. During this phase there are many psychosocial advancements. Children’s autonomy increases as they gain a need and understanding for self-control. While they are mostly concerned with themselves, their understanding of self-concept and emotions are more complex than before. Some common themes of behavior and thought during this age are aggressiveness, fearfulness and altruism. During this time, family remains to be the focus of their social lives, although other children become more interesting and important. 

Piaget refers to this stage as preoperational as children tend to learn about the world in their development of symbolic thought. They begin to think about things without the sensory or motor cues. Children start to use symbols and attach meaning to them. Pretend play becomes very important as children use objects to represent other things. As children develop gender identity, their behavior and choice of toys during play are affected, which is more elaborate and social than before. Although children are not engaging in logical mental operations at this stage, language becomes very important. 

Making Sense of the World

Freud defines this stage as the phallic stage in which children begin to become aware of anatomical sex differences. This brings about conflicts of rivalry, resentment, attraction, jealousy and fear, which Freud refers to as the Oedipus complex in boys and the Electra complex in girls. Through the process of identification, children adopt the characteristics of the same sex parent. 

According to Erikson, during this phase, children begin psychologically understanding the difference between guilt versus initiative as their virtues are based around their need for purpose. Exploring, using tools and projects such as art or creative activities are popular among this age. Children are eager to complete their actions with a purpose as they make sense of the world around them. While children take on projects that they can readily accomplish, they also undertake things that are unrealistic. It is important for parents and teachers to support and encourage the child’s efforts. 

In learning and reading about the development of children, you might have some memories come back to you, or some personality traits that you exemplify might make more sense to you now. Check out part three to this two-part blog series to learn more about childhood development and explore how it may have affected you personally.

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