2.4. Principles of Normal Growth and Development

2.4. Principles of Normal Growth and Development

A child's growth and development can be divided into four periods:

  • Infancy
  • Preschool years
  • Middle childhood years
  • Adolescence

Immediately after birth, an infant normally loses about 5 - 10% of his or her birth weight. However, by about age 2 weeks, an infant should start to gain weight and grow quickly. By age 4 - 6 months, an infant's weight should be double the birth weight. During the second half of the first year of life, growth is not as rapid. Between ages 1 and 2, a toddler will gain only about 5 pounds. Weight gain will remain at about 5 pounds per year between ages 2 - 5. Between ages 2 - 10 years, a child will continue to grow at a steady pace. A final growth spurt begins at the start of puberty, sometime between ages 9 and 15.

Educational Significance

Education is not only a process and a product of growing; it means growing. Teachers and parents must know what children are capable of, what children are capable of, and what potentialities they possess. By knowing this, they can provide congenial environment, which are conducive to the maximum growth of children. Besides the teacher and parents must be helpful, sympathetic and encouraging to the students.

Bearing in mind the individual variations in growth, the school programmes must be adjusted accordingly. Good physical growth, through the provision of play, games and sports is conducive to effective intellectual development. On the other hand, malnutrition retards development. Therefore, teachers and parents help in cultivating among pupils habits of balanced eating. Because of ‘individual differences’ diversified development of specific talents, abilities and interests and varied co-curricular activities must be introduced in school curriculum.

Moreover, teachers and parents should not demand of pupils what is beyond their stage of growth.

Some common principles of growth and development are described below.

  1. Development follows a pattern: Development occurs in orderly manner and follows a certain sequence. For example, the human baby can stand before he walks and can draw a circle before he can draw a square. He babbles before he talks, he is dependent on others before he becomes self-dependent.
  2. Development proceeds from general to specific responses:  It moves from a generalized to localized behavior. The newborn infant moves its whole body at one time instead of moving only one part of it. It makes random kicking with its legs before it can coordinate the leg muscles well enough to crawl or to walk.
  3.  Development is a continuous process: Development does not occur in spurts. Growth continues from the moments of conception until the individual reaches maturity. It takes place at slow regular pace rather than by ‘leaps and bounds’.

Although development is a continuous process, yet the tempo of growth is not even during infancy and early years, growth moves swiftly. Later on, it slackens.

  1.  Different aspects of growth develop at different rates: Neither all parts of the body grow at the same rate nor do all aspects of mental growth proceed equally. They reach maturity at different times.
  2. Most traits are correlated in development: Generally, it is seen that the child whose intellectual development is above average is so in health size, sociability and special aptitudes.
  3.  Growth is complex: All of its aspects are closely interrelated. The child’s mental development is intimately related to his physical growth and its needs.
  4. Growth is a product of the interaction of the organism and environment: Among the environmental factors one can mention nutrition, climate the conditions in the home, the type of social organization in which individual moves and lives.
  5. There are wide individual differences in growth: Individual differences in growth are caused by differences in heredity and environment.
  6.  Growth is both quantitative and qualitative: These two aspects are inseparable. The child not only grows in ‘size’; he grows up or matures in structure and function too.
  7. Development is predictable: It is possible for us to predict at an early age the range within which the mature development of the child is likely to fall. But mental development cannot be predicted with the same degree of accuracy.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has defined 12 Principles of Child Development and Learning         

  1. All areas of development and learning are important.
  2. Learning and development follow sequences.
  3. Development and learning proceed at varying rates.
  4. Development and learning result from an interaction of maturation and experience.
  5. Early experiences have profound effects on development and learning.
  6. Development proceeds toward greater complexity, self-regulation, and symbolic or representational capacities.
  7. Children develop best when they have secure relationships.
  8. Development and learning occur in and are influenced by multiple social and cultural contexts.
  9. Children learn in a variety of ways.
  10. Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation and promoting language, cognition, and social competence.
  11. Development and learning advance when children are challenged.
  12. Children’s experiences shape their motivation and approaches to learning.