The following is from an article written by Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert printed in Newsweek ~
Each youngster proceeds at his own pace, but the learning curve of a child is fairly predictable. The drive to learn is awesome and careful adults can nourish it. The biggest mistake is pushing a child too hard, too soon.
Infants and Toddlers - born to learn. The first important lesson is trust, and they learn that from relationships with parents and caring adults. Babies will begin to explore the world around them and experiment with independence. As they mature, infants slowly develop gross motor (sitting, crawling, walking) and fine motor (picking up tiny objects) skills. Generally they remain egocentric and are unable to share or wait their turn. New skills are perfected through repetition, such as the babbling that leads to speaking.
18 months - 3 years - Usually toilet training becomes the prime learning activity. Children tend to concentrate on language development and large-muscle control through activities like climbing on jungle gyms. Attention span lengthens enough to listen to uncomplicated stories and carry on conversations. Vocabulary expants to about 200 words (!)!. They enjoy playing with one other child, or a small group, for short periods, and learn that others have feelings too. They continue to look to parents for encouragement and protection, while beginning to accept limits on their behavior.
3 year olds - generally are interested in doing things for themselves and trying to keep up with older children. Their ability to quietly listen to stories and music remains limited. They begin to tell stories and jokes. Physical growth slows, but large muscle development continues as children run, jump and ride tricycles. They begn to deal with cause and effect; it's time to plant seeds and watch them grow.
4 year olds - they develop better small motor skills, such as cutting with scissors, painting, working with puzzles and building things. They can master colors, sizes and shapes. They should be read to and should be encouraged to watch others write; let them scribble on paper but try ot keep them away from the walls!
5 year olds - begin to understand counting as a one-to-one correlation. Improved memory makes it easier for them to recognize meaningful words, and with sharper motor skills, some children will be able to write their own names.
Both 4 and 5's - learn best by interacting with people and concrete objects and by trying to solve real problems. They can learn from stories and books, but only in ways that relate to their own experience. Socially, these children are increasingly interested in activities outside their immediate family. They can play in groups for longer periods, learning lessons in cooperation and negotiation. Physically, large-muscle development continues, and skills such as balancing emerge.
6 year olds - interest in peers continues to increase and they become acutely aware of comparisons between themselves and others. It's a taste of adolescence: does the group accept them? Speech is usually well developed, and children are able to joke and tease. They have a strong sense of true and false and are eager for clear rules and definitions. However, they have difficulty differentiating between minor and major infractions. Generally, children this age are more mature mentally than physically and unable to sit still for long periods. They learn better by firsthand experience. Learning by doing also encourages children's 'disposition' to use the knowledge and skills they are acquiring.
7-8 year olds - children begin developing the ability to think about and solve problems in their heads, but some will continue to rely on fingers and toes to help them find the right answer. Not until they are 11 are most kids capable of thinking purely symbolically; they still use real objects to give the symbols - such as numbers - meaning. They listen better and engage in give and take. Physical growth continues to slow, while athletic abilities improve. Sitting for long periods is still more tiring than running and jumping.
Have you found these milestones to be true with your children?