Ages and Stages

    From the baby years through adolescence, kids grow in amazing ways. Along with physical transformations, children go through complex cognitive and social changes, too. There will be exciting positive developments, like new skills and knowledge, but probably some defiant and emotional periods, too. It's all part of nature's way of preparing kids for adulthood.

    Here, find what to expect during each unique developmental stage. You can also learn more about ways to keep children healthy, happy, and motivated as they grow and change.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What are the stages of child development?

      Early childhood (birth to age 5), middle childhood (ages 6 to 12), and adolescence (ages 13 to 18) are three major stages of child development. Children may hit milestones associated with these stages a little faster or slower than others, and that's OK. Annual check-ups with a pediatrician can help you understand your child's unique physical and intellectual development track.

    • What is the most important stage of child development?

      The early childhood years are especially important to set the stage for success and wellness. Between birth and age 3, your child's brain grows to 90 percent of its adult size. By providing children with healthy food, mental stimulation, and plenty of love during this tremendous period of growth, children are better able to develop important physical, emotional, and intellectual skills they'll lean on for a lifetime.

    • How can I improve my child's brain?

      Simply speaking to a young child often, whether you're chatting during a diaper change or pointing out things on a walk, can boost brain growth. Taking turns during interactions and playtime develops social and language skills. But perhaps the most powerful way to nurture children's brain development is to show care and love. Research shows that the brain regions critical to learning and memory grow more quickly in children of emotionally supportive parents.

    • Why does my child forget what he learns?

      It can take a lot of repetition for big, hard facts or skills—from shoe tying to long division—to sink in. If your child seems to be forgetting things more than usual, they could be stressed or short on sleep. If it's a problem that's been going on for a while, check in with a developmental pediatrician. They can explore whether your child might have a learning disability that might affect their working memory.

    • Does a child's IQ increase with age?

      Your IQ (intelligence quotient) remains somewhat consistent throughout life, but it's not fixed. Studies have shown that IQ scores can fluctuate up (or sometimes down) in children, especially during the teenage years. Researchers point to natural developmental leaps rather than any particular mental exercises as a possible explanation.

    • Which food is good for a kid’s brain?

      Breastfeeding when they're babies is a great start (as is formula-feeding, or a combination of both!). As they grow, feed them a variety of foods that include plenty of nutrients including protein (meat, nuts, beans), choline (eggs), and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, fish oils). Include green leafy vegetables whenever possible; they include brain-building folate, iron, and vitamin A.

    Key Terms

    Page Sources
    Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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    2. Zero to Three. Early Development & Well-Being.

    3. Romeo RR, Leonard JA, Grotzinger HM, et al. Neuroplasticity associated with changes in conversational turn-taking following a family-based interventionDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 2021;49:100967. doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2021.100967

    4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early Brain Development and Health.

    5. Luby JL, Belden A, Harms MP, Tillman R, Barch DM. Preschool is a sensitive period for the influence of maternal support on the trajectory of hippocampal developmentProc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2016;113(20):5742-5747. doi:10.1073/pnas.1601443113

    6. Understood. Why Some Kids Are So Forgetful.

    7. Ramsden, S., Richardson, F., Josse, G. et al. Verbal and non-verbal intelligence changes in the teenage brainNature 479, 113–116 (2011). doi:10.1038/nature10514

    8. Harvard Health Publishing. The Crucial Brain Foods All Children Need.

    9. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Children’s Emotional Development Is Built into theArchitecture of Their Brains: Working Paper No. 2.

    10. Nemours Foundation. Growth Charts.