Characteristics of Children

Characteristics of Children at Different Ages and What They Need from Their Child Care At These Stages

Care giver with group of childrenYoung Infants (Six weeks – 12 months)

Mobile Young Toddlers (13 months – 23 months)

Older Active Toddlers (24 months – 35 months)

Preschoolers (36 months – 5 years, 11 months)

Early Elementary (Kindergarten – Third Grade)

Middle Elementary (Fourth - Sixth Grade)

Young Teens (Seventh – Ninth Grade)

Young Infants Not Yet Pulling up Can Be Described As:

  • Unique individuals, with their own rhythms and strategies.
  • Building on reflexes and sensory-motor experience to develop as a person.
  • Rapidly changing and growing.Experiencing the environment through their senses, seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting.
  • Social dependent, developing trust.
  • Responds interactively to faces, talking, cooing.
  • Is reaching out, searching for a response, evoking responses in others.
  • Express feelings though crying, facial expressions, body language.
  • Falling in love with particular adults.
  • May withdraw into sleep from over stimulation; or may express distress by crying.

From Their Child Care, Young Infants Need:

  • Attention, social contact with adults who tune in on their uniqueness.
  • Sense of well being.
  • Warm quick response: physical contact, eye contact.
  • To touch and be touched.Safety secure space to move, master new body skills.
  • Variety of color, texture, sound to stimulate their exploration.
  • Movement and stimulation; an adult who will carry them to interesting things and happenings.
  • Objects to observe and touch, some that respond to their action on them.
  • Response from people (the dance, ping-pong interaction).
  • Dependents on adults, vulnerable.Caregiver who can read their cures.
  • People who talk to them and make other sounds.
  • Rest and food at the time they need them.
  • Constant one-on-one care for feeding, changing nurturing, during which they get cause-and effect response and interaction.
  • Twice daily communication between parents and caregivers.
  • Basic trust and security.

Mobile Young Toddlers Can Be Described As:

  • Curious.
  • Energetic.
  • Exploratory, moving, seeking stimulation, response and mastery.
  • Babbling; beginning to develop language.
  • Judgment based on perception, rather than logic.
  • Recognizes parents and special people, attaches to special toys, objects.
  • Motor skills advancing rapidly; bangs on objects, manipulates them.
  • Interested in peers.
  • Expresses feelings though crying, facial expressions, body language, sounds.
  • Understands words; communicates via sounds, gestures.
  • Dependent on particular necessary adults.
  • Playful.
  • Doesn't understand limits.
  • Not yet enough control for toilet training.

From Their Child Care, Mobile Young Toddlers Need:

  • Gradual introduction when they start, and help with separation.
  • Applause.
  • Respect.
  • Patient warm adults.
  • Lots of time, space and equipment in which to practice gross motor skills (running, pushing and pulling objects, climbing) and fine motor skill (dolls, blocks, books, balls, puzzles with knobs, plastic hammers, nesting boxes).
  • Tolerance of their favorite toy or object (teddy bear, blanket).
  • Protection from injury; child-proofed environment.
  • Continuity; consistent dependable caregivers, who are not interchangeable, who know the toddler's unique style.
  • Right amount of stimulating experiences; ways to retreat from over-stimulation.
  • Supportive adults who encourage competence and appropriate social behavior.
  • People who talk to them and listen.
  • Help with need for rest, feeding self, toileting, fresh air.
  • Frequent communication between parents and caregivers.
  • Basic trust and security.

Older Active Toddlers Can Be Describe As:

  • Highly self-absorbed and egocentric.
  • Working on physical skills, less clumsy, and con balance objects.
  • Playful; discovering; exploratory.
  • Verbal, rapidly learning words and inventing syntax.
  • Can accept limits some of the time.
  • Dependent on adults but also militantly independent; resistant to authority of others.
  • Sense of self; learning meaning of me, my, mine.
  • Working on social skills; not yet skilled.
  • Empathetic if other are hurt.
  • Use symbols in play.
  • Make jokes.

From Their Child Care, Older Active Toddlers Need:

  • Continuity of adults.
  • People who can read their behavior and understand their language.
  • People who talk to them, hear them, and laugh with them.
  • Limits, applied with good humor.
  • People who grant them authority.
  • Safe environment with challenges to explore.
  • A lot of things to play with.
  • Alert adults who can head off danger every minute.
  • Opportunity for parallel play and interaction with other children.
  • Rest, good nutrition, fresh air.
  • Frequent communication between parents and caregivers.

Preschoolers Older than Toddlers Can Be Described As:

  • Increasingly independent; still egocentric.
  • Cooperative; working on conflict resolution problems.
  • Highly verbal; good vocabulary; application of linguistic rules (often with incorrect results).
  • Quite well coordinated, can balance on one foot, stand on toes, learns to hop and skip later in this period.
  • Can play with others; negotiate roles-like to help.
  • Inquisitive at a scientific/philosophic level; trying to find reasons and meaning; forming concepts based on their perceptions.
  • Use symbols expertly at a concrete level: thins that "stand for" other things.
  • Has formed identity as a person, member of family and extended family.
  • Enjoy routines and the power that comes from knowing the predictable, hate transitions and the loss of power when adults control the pace of change.

From Their Child Care, Preschoolers Need:

  • Respect and negotiation from adults.
  • Validations of their feelings.
  • Safe environment with challenges to explore in play.

To learn by doing:

  • Opportunity and props for dramatic play.
  • Hands-on opportunities for repetitive activities.
  • Opportunity to talk and be heard; verbal interaction with children and adults.
  • Materials and time for exploration and learning on their own, with a friend, and in small, frequently shifting groups.
  • Chance to experiment with roles and social skills through dramatic play; experiment with concepts and principles through repetitive play, experiment with expressions through creative activities.
  • Opportunity to be physically active; indoor/outdoor space to run, jump, kick, throw balls, ride tricycles; climb.
  • Books, print environment, and adults who enjoy reading; new technology such as computers with software that puts child in control (not drill and practice).
  • Little or no time in large groups.
  • A caregiver who knows each child well.
  • A supportive social community of children and adults.
  • Parents and caregivers who communicate with each other.
  • Caregivers who think well of their family and cultural group; and express this good feeling.Friends.
  • Holistic learning opportunities, not divided into subject matter topics.

Early Elementary Years to Third grade Can Be Described As:

  • Active.
  • Verbal.
  • Enjoy humor.
  • Acquiring skills, physical as well as reading and numbers.
  • Becoming socially competent.
  • Sense of justice (especially if younger siblings).
  • Peers very important.
  • Judgments based on reasoning not just perception; but thinking is still concretely focused on known things and events, known personally or through media.
  • Able to carry out complex directions.
  • Able to give long attention span to a challenging project over time.
  • Mastery of basic scholastic skills; self-esteem will be affected if these skills are not appropriately taught.

From Their Child Care, Young School-age Children Need:

  • Recognition for their status as older than preschool children.
  • Encouragement (not praise) for their work and play.
  • Approval of their family, community, and culture.
  • Enjoyable group activities, and non-sedentary ones, such as sports, etc.
  • Sustained projects from which they can learn.
  • Books, music, access to library.
  • Adults who know how to determine whether they are acquiring basic skills; and how to help by offering new avenues if they are not learning in the way they are being taught.
  • Adults who know them and can tie skill mastery to their unique interests.
  • Small group and one-on-one relationships with adults part of the time.
  • Fairness of rules; preferable rules invented by the group.
  • Adult supervision to keep them safe, but redefined to recognize their growing autonomy and need for independence and privacy Identity with the group.

Middle Elementary Years to Sixth Grade Can Be Described As:

  • Increasingly independent and autonomous.
  • Mature and sane.
  • Adventurous.Sense of justice.
  • Team and group oriented; needing peer group identity.
  • Competent in certain areas, often unique talents and interests that need special encouragement.
  • Physically active.
  • Able to give long attention span to a challenging project over time.
  • Can use some abstract ideas, and generalize from their experience; still focused primarily on the concrete.
  • Ready to be helpful in community, ready to be valued outside the family.
  • Girls and boys become more separate, recognize and express negative feelings toward the other gender.

From Their Child Care, Older Elementary School-age Children Need:

  • Opportunities to form clubs; be on teams.
  • Fair rules, participation in forming them.
  • Recognition of their autonomy.
  • Development of their unique talents and interest (often by connecting them with other groups, even adult groups).
  • De-emphasize traditional gender roles.

Young Teens to Ninth Grade Can Be Described As:

  • Potentially having strong skills, talents and interests, interested in connecting with others with these interests.
  • Boisterous.
  • Can think symbolically and hypothetically.
  • Self-conscious; beginning to be emotional, adolescent, aware of and uncertain about their physical development as young men and women, and how to relate to other gender; intensely interested in peer acceptance and attractiveness to the opposite sex.
  • Beginning to challenge authority.
  • Want to separate themselves from children.
  • Interested in future career; opportunities to volunteer in work settings and community service.
  • Becoming aware of social class distinctions.

From Their Child Care, Young Teens Need:

  • Same sex activities and opportunities to engage in activities that are comfortable for groups of both sexes.
  • Dialogue with adults who take them seriously.
  • A lot of physical activities; sports, dancing, etc.
  • Volunteer opportunities.
  • Connections to groups that share their interests and talents, even adult groups.
  • Recognition of their independence; a voice in planning activities.