Thursday, August 27, 2009


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Child development is an orderly, sequential and predictable process. That’s why I brought up the name Arnold Gesell (1889-1961), who authored “Infant and Child in the Culture of Today.” Gesell believed that stages in any given behavior can be outlined in advance and, as early as infancy, parents may affirm their child’s future success in school and life by nurturing, not pushing, the spontaneous evolution of motor, cognitive (thinking), language and personal/social skills.

Research unveils that this developmental process is physiological in nature. True, parents have little control over how the central nervous system progresses, but they can follow their child’s internal lead by nurturing the external environment. The first major brain growth spurt comes and goes from around 1½ to four years of age.


Providing enrichment to a toddler is essential during this first explosive growth in neural pathways and a deprived environment may forever limit learning potential. I remember a neurologist once telling me that such deprivation at such a critical time is like a “meat cleaver lesion to the brain.” I pardon the extreme example, but he did make his point! The point is that knowing the developmental milestones children reach at certain times enables parents to know what stage of skill development comes next, thus making it easier to surround their children with enriching materials and activities.

Louise Bates Ames offers excellent reading for parents. Her “Child Behavior” is an excellent example. An idol of mine, she died at age 88 from thyroid cancer at her granddaughter’s home in Cincinnati. At age 19, Ames became a research assistant to Gesell in his Yale Clinic Of Child Development. Her theses described the crawling stages of infants.

In 1950, Ames founded the Gesell Institute, an organization devoted to the belief that the rapid and mystical developmental stages in the four domains, noted above, unfold like blossoming flowers, in an orderly, sequential, and predictable manner. The research of Gesell and Ames established techniques of developmental diagnosis for pediatricians and child-growth workers, and emphasized why children should be placed in school according to their developmental age, not chronological age.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of school psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership & Policy Studies at BGSU. Questions or comments about personal, educational, parenting or family concerns? Contact us on the secure Bpath Mail Form.

Video on infant milestones