Physical Development Stages

by Erica Loop

    As your child grows, she will gradually go through a remarkable set of physical changes. By the time that your child reaches the teen years, you may even have difficulty recalling just how tiny your tyke was as a toddler or how much difficulty she had reaching the top shelf on her bureau as a preschooler. Children's physical development, although somewhat unique for each individual, typically progresses in a set series of changes beginning at birth and continuing into adulthood.


    During the first year of your baby's life, he will make great strides in terms of his physical development. According to the American Pregnancy Association, infants go from newborns who can only life their heads momentarily to almost-toddlers who may stand or even walk by 12 months. Throughout the first year, your child will reach an array of motor milestones that include rolling over around the age of 4 months, sitting without assistance by 7 months and possibly crawling by 9 months. Your child will also have a fairly impressive growth spurt between birth and toddlerhood. The average infant's length will increase by 50 percent by 12 months and her weight will triple during the same time frame, according to the Merck Manual. Keep in mind that every child's rate of growth will vary. If you feel that your infant's physical development is lagging, consult your pediatrician for an expert opinion.


    The toddler stage -- around 12 months, depending on when your child begins to walk -- directly follows infancy. By the time that your child is considered a toddler, he will have the ability to walk by himself. As he progresses through the toddler period -- roughly from 12 to 36 months -- he will show a vast improvement in physical and motor skills such as jumping, rolling, climbing and even moving through obstacles on a playground. Although your toddler's motor skills are much more improved than they were as an infant, the child development pros at PBS Parents note that toddlers still have immature physical abilities and are prone to falling during activities such as running or hopping. During this time, the Merck Manual states that your child is also continue to grow at a rapid pace, and will get to half of his adult height around age 2.

    Preschoolers and Children

    After age 3, your child is working on refining her physical motor skills. The experts at PBS Parents note that during the preschool years, most kids can walk, run, hop, jump, gallop, skip and balance in a fairly mature way. Although your preschooler or grade-school child can move well enough to begin playing sports such as T-ball, baseball or soccer, she may still lose balance or lack coordination, especially during the younger years. Physical growth will continue in a fairly steady pattern, with most children gaining 2 1/2 inches each year until they reach adolescence, according to the pediatric professionals at the KidsHealth website.


    During adolescence, your child will go through pronounced physical changes as he transforms from a child into a young adult. As your teen or preteen begins puberty, his body will go through hormonal changes that are extremely evident outwardly. According to the KidsHealth website, puberty typically begins for boys anytime between the ages of 9 to 15 and for girls between the ages of 7 and 13. Boys will begin to grow facial hair, become taller and look more like men than little kids. Likewise, girls will also grow taller and look more adult-like, developing breasts and curvier hips. Other noticeable physical changes that teens go through also include developing body hair -- under the armpits, on the legs and on the pubic region -- and possibly hormone-induced acne on the face or chest and back.

    About the Author

    Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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