You may have heard the following statement before, but it’s worth repeating:
A hundred years from now it will not matter the sort of house you lived in, what your bank account was, or the kind of car you drove, but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child.
Working with children is important and far easier if we understand what children are like at different ages. For example, children may appear to be naughty or disrespectful when, in fact, their behavior is perfectly normal for their age.
Taking care of children is one of life’s most delightful and challenging experiences. It draws on all our reserves of knowledge. Yet, no matter how much we already know or how sound our instincts may be, occasions will arise when more information or a different point of view is all we need to do the right thing.
In order to be a good care giver and teacher, you need to know about children’s patterns of growth and development in general. You will be more effective if you use this information to serve the children in your group. You need to know what they can do, what their interests are, their languages and cultural heritages, their strengths and weaknesses, how they think, and what new skills they are learning. If you know the range of behaviors to expect, you can help children make the most of each stage.
I want to help you learn the fundamental traits specific to every stage of the child’s development, from infancy to early adolescence. It’s important to have solid grasp of all the key issues in a child’s physical, psychological, and social development. The importance of being “in-tune” with a child’s own rhythm and pace can not be overestimated. Observing and being sensitive to what a child needs and desires will go a long way toward providing him or her with the very best of care.
In years past, when a young child differed physically or emotionally from other children, adults would shake their heads and say that the child would probably “outgrow it.” It was also taken for granted that some children just grew up “different” or “strange.” Today, we know a great deal more about child development, and fortunately these older attitudes are less widespread. In fact, if ignored, a child’s problem may not go away. Unless parents and educators pay proper attention, a negative social situation may only make matters worse.
Most of all, children need lots of time, lots of experiences, and a lot of skilled people like you to become their best selves. Respect each stage of development and enjoy it.