Growth Stages 1: Infancy and Early Childhood

What You Need

Growth Stages 1: Infancy and Early Childhood Photo Credit: clipart.com


To introduce students to the stages of human growth and development that take place during infancy and early childhood.


This lesson is the first of a two-part series aimed at introducing students to the different stages of physical growth and development in human beings from birth to 18 years of age. In these lessons, students become familiar with the four key periods of growth and human development: infancy (birth to 2 years old), early childhood (3 to 8 years old), middle childhood (9 to 11 years old), and adolescence (12 to 18 years old). For each stage of development, they learn about key physical stages or milestones, which are research and science-supported indicators that help to track the progress of a child's physical development at different stages of life. Conversely, they also learn that it is very natural and normal for children to reach these markers at different times.

Growth Stages 1: Infancy and Early Childhood helps students become better aware of all of the natural physical stages of growth children experience in the first five years of life. In Growth Stages 2: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence, students focus on the kinds of physical changes that children in their age range begin to undergo during puberty.

Research shows that films and stories about early stages of human development fascinate children and they are particularly intrigued by comparisons of themselves now and earlier. It may be helpful at this level to inform students about changes that will take place in them during adolescence, since when they reach puberty, they may be too embarrassed to talk to adults about it. The importance for growth of adequate rest, proper food, regular checkups, and shots to prevent disease should be supported by some science behind the advice. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p.132.)

For more background information and research, see the Growth 1: Human Development teacher sheet.

Ideas in this lesson are also related to concepts found in the following benchmark:

  • 5B The Living Environment: Heredity (3-5) #1

Planning Ahead

The Major Physical Growth Stages student sheet was adapted and made level appropriate from PBS Online's The ABC's of Child Development.


As a way to get students to begin thinking about growth and development, start the lesson by asking a few thought-provoking questions like these:

  • Does anyone here have a baby brother or sister?
  • In general, do babies or little children grow quickly or slowly?
  • What kinds of things cause babies and little kids to grow quickly?
  • Does everyone grow at the same speed? Why or why not?

    (Accept all reasonable answers, encouraging students to elaborate on their responses.)

Then, to answer these and other related questions, students should use the How My Body Grows student esheet to view the slide show. When they are finished viewing the slide show, or during it, hold a general discussion and then, when finished, reinforce that children (and teenagers) grow at different rates and to different extents based on how much their parents grew (genetics) and good food, good health, exercise, and regular checkups.


Much of this lesson will be focused on the information highlighted in the class handout, Major Physical Growth Stages, which is based on PBS's ABC's of Child Care. The student sheet covers key physical milestones from birth to five years.

After passing out the materials, take time to read over the physical milestones. It may be important to emphasize again that not all people grow at the same rate nor do they reach these milestones at the same time (i.e., people come in all shapes and sizes and have different kinds of skills and abilities, which makes every human being unique and interesting).

After reading the student sheet, review questions may include:

  • At what age are most children first able to walk? (14 months.) Run? (Age 3.)
  • At what age can most children catch and throw a ball? (Age 4.)
  • When can they balance on one foot without help? (Age 4.)

Then emphasize that the physical abilities of a one-year-old are much different than the abilities of a five-year-old. Ask students to describe some of the differences using a comparison chart like the one below (you can either draw this chart on the blackboard or on newsprint).

  One-year-old Five-year-old
Movement can roll over, crawl, sit and stand-up can run, walk backwards, jump on one foot, walk up and down stairs
Playing ball    
Pick up objects    

It will be important to remind students that five-year-olds can also do everything that four-year-olds can do. A child doesn't forget how to do what he/she has learned to do.


As a way to further their understanding of the material, divide the students into pairs where they can either create a visual comparison chart, a human development web, or some other visual approach for the various physical growth stages. The purpose of this activity is to help students make connections between the milestones and how they gradually build on each other. They should be able to visually show the milestones that build on each other. When finished, they can present their work before the class for discussion, review, and reflection.


Follow this lesson with the second lesson in the human development series: Growth Stages 2: Middle Childhood and Early Adolescence.

Inside the Human Body: The Respiratory System is an excellent resource for both elementary- and high-school students. Early elementary students can enjoy a storybook, a coloring book, games, worksheets, and articles that provide basic material on air pollution, smoking, lung health, and the respiratory system.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Type Project 2061 Benchmarks

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