4 Child Development Theories That Can Help You Better Care for Children

By Dr. Alaina Desjardin

Have you ever wondered what motivates thoughts and behaviors in children? Our understanding of human nature and child development is continually advancing but all children are different, and no one has all the answers. However, a few recognized theories can provide useful insights on early development that will help you better care for children.

During our early years of infancy through childhood, we develop the basis of our intelligence, personality, social behavior, and capacity to learn. Four theories are worth reviewing and include attachment, psychosocial, cognitive development, and sociocultural theory.

1. Attachment Theory (Bowlby): This theory's centers around strong emotional and physical bonds that create a sense of security in a child. Bonds are established with caregivers who are available and responsive to an infant's needs. Thus, the infant knows the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to explore their surroundings.

Example: Six-month-old Jordan enjoys infant toys and interacting with others. Confident that crying brings help, Jordan responds to anyone and gets upset when someone stops interacting with him.

2. PsychoSocial Development Theory (Erikson): In this theory, social development occurs in stages based on turning points in a person's life including hope (birth to age 2), will (ages 2-4), purpose (ages 4-5), competence (ages 5-12), fidelity (ages 13-19), love (ages 20-39), care (ages 40-64), and wisdom (ages 65+).

Example: Two-year-old Jennifer has recently begun squirming and saying "no" when her Nanny tries to secure her in her car seat. Jennifer has begun to develop a sense of self, separate from her caregivers. Her Nanny must consistently set limits and follow through with Jennifer, to keep her safe and secure while riding in the car. The Nanny can increase Jennifer's willingness to comply by providing specific praise along with allowing Jennifer to pick a special toy to hold whenever she gets into her car seat without resistance. Selecting her own clothes will also help Jennifer gain more independence.

3. Cognitive Developmental Theory (Piaget): This theory is based on a four-stage model describing how the mind processes new information. The stages are sensorimotor (birth to age 2), preoperational (ages 2-7), concrete operational (ages 7-11), and formal operations (ages 12+).

Example: Five-year-old Zachary is still egocentric and struggles to see the perspective of others but is starting to think symbolically and use words to represent objects. Zachary loves reading and is building a foundation of language. As this stage, caregivers should continue to read books daily, encourage pretend play, share logical thinking. By explaining that it's winter time as grandma's house and thus, a coat is needed will help Zachary, who lives in Texas, understand why a coat is being packed in the suitcase.

4. Sociocultural Theory (Vygotsky): This developmental theory evolves from children's interactions with tools and other people in their social environment. Community, culture, and interactions are key to child development and learning.

Example: Seven-year-old Alex is struggling to solve a jigsaw puzzle. By interacting with an adult, Alex learns how to separate out the edge pieces, put together the border, and sort the interior pieces by color or design. By working with an adult, Alex develops skills that can be applied to future jigsaw puzzles.

There are other childhood theories that can help parents and other caregivers by teaching them how to spend more enjoyable time with their child, reinforce positive skills, monitor behavior and set limits, and reduce the use of harsh discipline methods. These essential caregiving skills help children develop pro-social behavior, self-regulation, and other skills they need to be successful in school and at home.

2019 Books

Helping Your Pre-Schooler With Math-Read Math With Your Child

By Shirley Slick 

We have already discussed the importance of developing a good math foundation for your preschoolers. The first, easiest, and best way to add math into your child's early life is to add math to the reading you already do with your child. It is never too early to begin reading to your child, and it is never too early to add math concepts to that reading.

It isn't necessary to run out and buy a bunch of preschool math books, although you might mention to friends and relatives that math related story books would be a good gift idea. You probably already have books with math concepts. For example, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a wonderful story for introducing math concepts. It allows for early counting. It has size comparisons with too little, too big, and just right. It has one-to-one matching with baby bear and the little bed. Certainly you won't use this terminology, but as you read you can point out these concepts. Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs, Three Little Kittens, and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed are other good examples you might already have.

Before spending lots of money on books, I suggest checking your local public library. You can check out books, read them with your child, and if the book seems to be one of those books your child wants you to read over and over, THEN you can buy it. Certainly use your library before buying anything you haven't read from online sources.

If you are interested in buying your own math related books, I have several suggestions. I am a big fan of Dr. Seuss books. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb introduces large numbers. Ten Apples Up On Top! is a good counting book. One fish two fish red fish blue fish is good for counting and colors. Horton Hears a Who! even introduces the concept of infinity. Many other Dr. Seuss books contain number concepts, colors, and shapes for reading with your child.

You may have read about or heard of Baby Einstein. If so, you need to know that having your young child watching the videos is a very bad idea! Research is showing that there should be NO SCREEN TIME for children under two and very limited time for the older child. However, the Baby Einstein My First Book of Numbers is a wonderful example of what a number picture book should be.

The Sesame Street book ABC and 1 2 3 is also an excellent math related picture book.

As you look into buying math picture books, there are some things you need to consider. The book should be colorful, interesting to you, and it needs to make sense--not just rhyme. Don't assume that because it is about numbers that it is a good book. For example, I came across a book called One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boyton. I actually got confused as I read! One line said "... and when you want to explore, the number you need is FOUR." WHY? What does four have to do with exploring? Another page said "Seven is perfect for a play." Again, I questioned what that even meant. Any book you pick needs to be something you can talk about with your child. Choose books that you can read with enthusiasm. If a book doesn't make sense to you, don't buy it. I want to reiterate that it is not necessary to buy lots of number related books because you can find number concepts like counting and making comparisons in virtually any book.

As you read to your child, you should work on what is called "the language of space." This refers to words like front, back, top, bottom, over, under, in front of, behind, first, last, in, on, corner, edge, surface, and so on. These are all important concepts for your child to understand when they start school. They can't line up behind the blue line if they don't know what 'behind' means.

When you are reading to your child, be sure to:

Hold your child in your lap.

Convey to your child how much you enjoy your reading time together.

Read everyday.

Get involved with the story. Read with lots of enthusiasm and expression. Use different voices. Be active by pointing out things on the pages. Ask questions.

Pay attention to your child's responses. Know when to put the book away. If your child loses interest, do something different.

Be prepared to read the same book over and over and be enthusiastic each time.

Above all else, make reading FUN!

Shirley Slick, "The Slick Tips Lady," is a retired math teacher who generally writes about mathematics education and animal welfare/rescues. Her education website is at Her animal welfare website is at She applies her psychology degree in all aspects of life, especially childhood education, mental illness, and LBGT issues. Contact information can be found at either website.

Parents Teach Your Kids Leadership Skills!

By Daniel Blanchard

Recently I was interviewed about bullying in our public schools, and the television interviewer asked me how writing a book on leadership for teens qualified me to speak on bullying. I told her that that was really quite simple because once kids learn how to become good leaders, they no longer have any interest in trying to make themselves feel better through making other kids feel worse. Quality People don't bully. Period!

In the wake of our recent national tragedies of Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook and countless other examples of cruelty and violence that our kids are facing today, which is causing them to wonder if our great big world is a friendly one or a cruel one, I'd say that teaching our kids skills in leading is more important than ever, wouldn't you?

Leaders lift others up. Good leaders don't tear others down. Good leaders encourage and praise others, even those who they may not entirely agree with or understand. Good leaders don't attack others physically or verbally. Cruelty and bullying are just not in the DNA of a good leader.

This world would be a much better place if we all taught our kids how to be good leaders. We CAN teach our kids how to be these kind of people. But, that teaching part begins and ends with everyone one of us as parents. If we all took the time and effort to teach our own children how to be good leaders, this world would change drastically, and it would be a lot less violent and cruel. Heck, if only half of us took the time and effort to teach our kids how to be high-quality people, the world would change drastically and be a lot less violent and cruel.

Now, as my Granddaddy always said, "Go learn, lead, and lay the way to a better world for all of us." Always remember how important it is to teach your children leadership skills because that kind of leaders doesn't tear down others. And once again parents, thanks in advance for all that you do, and all that you will do...

Father of five, bestselling author, speaker, educator, and TV Host, Dan Blanchard wants us all to teach our kids how to become better leaders. It's the path to a better world. For more great tips from Dan please visit his website at Thanks.

Are There Too Many Pressures on the Young These Days?

By Susan Leigh

Are you one of those people who say, 'I'd give anything to be young again?' But, on reflection, would you really? Maybe knowing what you know now and going back in time would be an enticing option, but I'm guessing that a reasonable percentage of us would dread having to face the many pressures on the young these days.

School teachers are noting that even the 'jocks', the sporty, super-fit boys, are experiencing a higher incidence of mental health related issues; food issues, body dysmorphia, depression and suicidal tendencies are increasingly prevalent.

- Peer pressure, whether real or perceived is everywhere and from an early age. Wearing the 'right' brands, having the latest technology, fitting in with the correct look, can make all the difference to being accepted by others or not. It's often only as we get older that we aspire to be different, relish having a quirky or eccentric look, but often younger people don't have the confidence or self-assurance to not care about fitting in as neatly as possible.

- Parental pressure can be self-imposed. There may be guilt about working hard enough and doing well after seeing the struggles that our parents went through, the sacrifices they made in order for us to have the opportunities they missed. Some parents may have worked long hours, or battled alone as a single parent so that their children didn't have to do without. Or there may be a 'golden' sibling and the pressure to match their results is an unspoken reminder of what could be achieved.

- Or there are those parents who live vicariously through their children, pushing them to live the life they never had, hot-housing their talents from a young age, dedicating themselves to ensuring their children achieved the success denied them. Finding the balance between encouraging your children to be active, motivated, make something of themselves, handle disappointments and failure rather than forcing them to do something they don't want to do can be a challenge. Even hobbies are often areas where there's added pressure, needing to excel at football, dancing rather than just having fun!

- Many young people have confusion about what they want to do with their lives, which career would suit them best and yet decisions influencing the rest of their lives have to be made at a very young age. Which subjects to study, which to drop, which interests to pursue can all have significant implications in later years.

- Studying and passing exams occupies a lot of time, thought and energy for young people, considerably adding to the many pressures they face. University is a focus for many and whilst university can be seen as a rite of passage it's not the only option or even the best one for everyone. Studying something you may be uncertain about, may never use, whilst running up massive amounts of debt can add to the pressure already being experienced by them.

Taking a gap year to consider your thoughts and dreams can be a viable use of some time and teach important life skills along the way. Another option can be to ease the pressure by going to college to learn a skill or trade or joining an apprenticeship scheme. Undertaking education in a more 'hands on', less academic way can feel more relevant to everyday life. It can help identify your specific skill sets, those talents and areas you could develop in the future and is an effective way to introduce young people to a real work situation.

It may initially feel like failure if you don't get into university but not going may be a blessing in disguise. Often when one door closes another one opens. That new door may offer a route into a satisfying career, starting your own business, following a path you may have never previously considered.

- When things don't work out as planned it can help to find someone to talk things through with. If you can't or won't talk to parents or family find a mentor, teacher or even a peer group where you feel comfortable sharing your fears, concerns and emotions. Keep those channels of communication open and discuss your feelings openly and honestly. Listen, share and learn.

Talk things through with people who understand what it's like to have once felt a failure, in despair, lost. Remind yourself of the many thousands of successful people who didn't attend university or even college, who were rejected countless times and yet went on to become award-winning writers, film directors, business people, superstars.

- You're not defined by your exam results. Failure happens when you fall and refuse to get up again. I'm guessing that when you were first learning to walk you fell over multiple times, but those falls didn't put you off persevering, and now you're able to walk and even run. A successful life is about taking some knocks and treating them as lessons along the way, a guide to trying a different direction, one that's better suited to you and where you want to go.

Have a fallback position in reserve. Establish a Plan B so that all your eggs aren't in the one basket. When you've other options, no matter how unlikely they seem, you'll feel that you've reclaimed some power, a sense of still being in control. And it's a relief, very liberating to feel somewhat in charge of your own life, not following a pre-determined path. It can be both scary and exhilarating at the same time! This way any pressure is genuinely your own!

Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit





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