Singapore Women's & Children's Medical Group

Understanding Your Child’s Development

child development
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Child development means the order of physical, verbal, mental and emotional changes that transpire in a child from their early years up until adulthood. It is during this process when a child progresses from reliance to eventual independence.

Genetics, childhood events and environment are factors can greatly influence a child’s learning capacity. It encompasses the skills and knowledge that a child acquires throughout their life, including:

  • Cognitive abilities: Problem solving and learning
  • Social skills and emotional interaction: Communication and understanding self-control
  • Speech and Language: Understanding and using language, reading and communicating
  • Motor skills: Physical movements of the body to perform tasks
  • Sensory awareness: to be mindful of sensory information

Did you know? Child development can be improved through targeted interventions and home-based practice.

Is child development important?

Tracking your child’s development is crucial to ensure he or she meets their ‘developmental milestones’. Developmental milestones encompass a list of general developmental skills that are thought to be acquired at a specified timeframe, acting as a benchmark for ideal development. Children walking their first step, first time smiling, or waving goodbyes are examples of developmental milestones.

As caregivers, you understand your child best. If your child has not met the milestones at the specified age, or if you are concerned with your child’s development, check in and share your concerns with a Paediatrician.

Common difficulties associated by children with developmental delay

  • Lack of hand-eye coordination, for example: problems when throwing and catching, or difficulty standing on one leg
  • Disorganised physical movements: for example: awkward postures and running styles
  • Requires significantly more time and effort to master new skills
  • Unable to retain skills, for example: child needing to relearn the skills because his or her swimming lessons ceased over school holidays
  • Slow reaction, for example: standing still when a ball is kicked in their direction
  • Lacking in athletic abilities in comparison to other children of the same age
  • Hand dexterity (fine motor control problems)

Available Tests

Developmental screening closely assesses your child’s development. A missed milestone could signal developmental delay, so don’t wait. During the initial appointment, you may be asked complete a questionnaire, or your child may be tasked to go through a brief test.

Should the test results detect areas of concern, a formal developmental evaluation may be scheduled, where a specialist takes an in-depth look at a child’s development.

If your child is diagnosed with developmental delay, it is imperative seek assistance as soon as possible. When untreated, it may contribute to future behavioural issues such as task avoidance, low self-esteem or depression. Early detection and intervention can be helpful in reducing the adverse effect of possible developmental setbacks on your child and their confidence.

While growth charts can be useful, it is also important for caregivers to be mindful children grow at their own pace and are unique in their developmental stages.

Problems in child development can arise from:

  • Genetics
  • Prenatal circumstances
  • Presence of a specific diagnosis or medical factors
  • Absence of exposure to helpful stimuli

Childhood developmental screening can offer a better understanding on the existing issues and areas for concern. Given the focus of child development involves concurrently developing various skills, it is advised to consult more than one professional.

Reviewed by Dr Tan Yean Swee Angelin on 17 June 2022. 
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Dr Tan Yean Swee Angelin
Paediatrician

Angelin’s Baby and Child Clinic
A wholly owned subsidiary of   Singapore Women’s & Children’s Medical Group
Blk 303 Woodlands Street 31
#01-177
Singapore 730303
Tel: +65 63661011

Dr Tan Yean Swee Angelin is a paediatrician with extensive experience looking after newborns, children and adolescents. She has published papers in medical journals including the British Medical Journal, European Journal of Paediatrics and The Journal of the Singapore Paediatric Society, on chickenpox and the varicella vaccine, chronic diarrhoea and chronic inflammatory bowel disease, parenteral nutritional support and nonneurological manifestations of intracranial tumours.

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