Menu Close

Part One: An Overview of Child Development

As part of CalTrin’s Nurturing Parent and Child Development training, we will explore the stages of child development and share practical tips for parents and caregivers.

Childhood development is a process that every child goes through. It involves learning and mastering skills like walking, talking, skipping, and tying shoes. Children learn these skills, called developmental milestones, during predictable time periods. According to Dr. Pradeep Gidwani, MD, MPH, every child is born with the capacity to learn and it’s the quality of the child’s relationship with their caretaker that nourishes that capacity. With secure attachment, quality emotional regulation, and a supportive environment, each generation can surpass the previous one in development and learning.

In part one of this blog series, CalTrin provides an overview of the four domains of child development and standard stages and milestones for development. Child- and family-serving professionals can help parents and caregivers navigate the free developmental resources highlighted in this post.


Four Domains of Child Development


There are four major domains of child development:  Cognitive, Language, Physical, and Social-Emotional. While each domain is unique, they are all intertwined in a child’s development. This chart from Yale Baby School provides a quick overview of each domain. 

In the article, Major Domains in Child Development, the author notes that a child’s development is a multi-faceted process comprised of growth, regression, and change in different domains. Parents and caregivers may notice development in certain domains appears more prominent during specific stages of life, yet kids virtually always experience some degree of change in all domains (Fraser-Thill, 2021).

Developmental Milestones and Screening

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move (CDC). Milestones typically develop in a sequential fashion and each milestone builds on the last one developed. According to the Yale Baby School, an emphasis should be placed on how milestones matched with specific time periods are not meant to be a rule book each child needs to follow. Rather, the milestones give parents and caregivers a broader idea of when their child is reaching the next step in development.

In February 2022, the CDC released an update to the developmental milestones for infants and toddlers—this is the first update since the milestones were published in 2004. But what does this mean for parents, caregivers, early childhood professionals? In this ZERO TO THREE video series, parenting expert Rebecca Parlakian answered common questions that came following the updates, including when/if parents and caregivers should be concerned about their child not meeting milestones.

There are actions parents and caregivers can take to identify potential problems sooner through screening. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. In addition, AAP recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during regular well-child visits at 18 months and 24 months.

Screening is effective and efficient and can help identify potential problems sooner.

Child- and family-serving professionals can use screening as an educational tool to show parents and caregivers how important they are in a child’s development. Get started with these developmental milestone guides and screening tools:

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University 

Explore the Center’s Resource Library, including resources that have been translated into a variety of languages.

Center for Disease Control (CDC)


First 5 California

The Science of Parenting

Sesame Street in Communities


To simplify, support, and strengthen sometimes challenging conversations about developmental concerns and screening results, the Brazelton Touchpoints Center has created the Development is a Journey Conversation Roadmap for family-facing providers. The Conversation Roadmap is designed to facilitate these conversations with seven short and simple steps to actively engage parents and other caregivers in planning for their child’s developmental needs and enhance the provider-parent partnership. There are four versions of the Conversation Roadmap: one for pediatric primary care providers, another for home visitors, and a third for early care and education providers; as well as a version for staff who utilize Developmental Monitoring checklists. Each version is accompanied by an Implementation Guide that describes how to use the Roadmap in your conversations with parents and other caregivers. Click here to download the Conversation Roadmap that works best for you! 


Early Intervention

Per the CDC’s website, early intervention is the term used to describe services and support that help babies and toddlers (age birth to 3 years old in most states/territories) with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. Services may include speech therapy, physical therapy, and other types of services based on the needs of the child and family. Programs are available in every state and territory and are provided for free or at a reduced cost for any child who meets the state’s criteria for developmental delay. Some examples of California services and support resources include:

Studies show that early intervention can have a significant impact on a child’s ability to learn new skills and overcome challenges and can increase success in school and life (NECTAC, 2011). For child- and family-serving professionals outside of California, click here to view the CDC’s Early Intervention Contact Information by State (En Español).


Up Next: Social-Emotional Development + Extended Learning Opportunities

In part two of this blog series, we dive deeper into how social-emotional development occurs in the context of relationships and the important role parents and caregivers play in nurturing this domain. Read Part Two: Social-Emotional Development now! This post highlights information and resources shared by Dr. Gidwani in the CalTrin-hosted webinar, Nurturing Parent and Child Development. Missed this training? No worries! You can watch the webinar recording and access materials in CalTrin’s Training Archive.

Interested in additional training on child development and social-emotional development? CalTrin’s Protective Factor of the Month training series kicks off in January 2023.  Each month, CalTrin will present a Protective Factor in two training styles: webinar and workshop. Choose the option that works best for your learning preferences, including how much you enjoy high-interactive learning opportunities versus lecture-style presentations. This training series is facilitated by CalTrin Training Coordinator, Jessica M., who will share everyday strategies for building Protective Factors.

Click here to view all webinar and workshop dates in the Protective Factor of the Month series and register for sessions that best fit your schedule!


To be notified of new blog posts and to stay informed about upcoming all learning opportunities, subscribe to the CalTrin Connect newsletter. Sign up here!

*Last updated March 23, 2023