Developmental Domains of Early Childhood

The Seven Domains of Early Childhood Development

First published July 2011. Updated 2018.



I’m going to sound a bit like a textbook right now. I’m sorry. Bear with me. You’ll be glad you did…I hope. :)

I was taught in my early childhood courses that there are 6 domains of early childhood development. I say there are 7, but we’ll get to that later…

All home school, preschools, and daycare programs should aim to address each of these developmental domains when teaching a young child.

This concept of developmental domains is the foundation for the content of I Can Teach My Child. Everything I post relates to one of the childhood development domains below. I try to make sure there is a variety of activities (not all alphabet activities, for example), but obviously the Social/Emotional and Self-Help/Adaptive domains won’t have the depth or breadth as the others.

The Developmental Domains of Early Childhood

Gross Motor Development

This involves learning to use all of the “big” muscles in our body. Crawling, walking, running, skipping, jumping, and climbing are all examples of gross motor activity.

Activities To Practice Gross Motor Development:

gross motor development
Rough-&-tumble play with Daddy is great for gross motor development!

Fine Motor Development

Fine motor activities teach hand-eye coordination. These type of activities require a child to learn to precisely control the muscles in the hands. Things like coloring, writing, cutting with scissors, using tweezers, tearing paper, etc. all help build fine motor skills.

Activities To Practice Fine Motor Skills:

fine motor development

Language Development

This developmental domain includes alphabetics, phonemic awareness, oral, and written language. Even though your little one won’t be able to read for several years, you can (and most definitely should) read to her. Talking about things throughout the day (even when it feels silly) is especially important as well. Learning the ABC’s (as well as the sounds each letter makes) is another example of a language activity.

Language Development Activities:

language development through reading

Cognitive Development

This includes cause-and-effect, reasoning, as well as early-math skills. Believe it or not, a baby who continually drops a spoon from his high-chair is exercising his cognitive ability. He learns that when he drops it, you will pick it up (cause-and-effect). Counting and patterning are also included in this domain for preschoolers.

Cognitive Development Activities for Preschoolers:

Cognitive Development Activities for Toddlers:

These Heart Breaker Number Puzzles are a great way to reinforce one one-to-one correspondence and number recognition.

Social and Emotional Development

Your child is a social being! Learning to “play” (especially with others) is a skill. “Teaching” in this domain also involves making sure a child feels safe and nurtured. Manners and using kind words might also be examples included in this domain.

Social & Emotional Development Activities:

social development
Little Brother and his baby friend learning to share

Self-Help or Adaptive Development

Activities in this developmental domain include learning to dress oneself, feed oneself, using the toilet, brushing teeth, bathing, tying shoes, etc. Everything that a child needs to know to start being more independent could be included in this domain.

Adaptive Development
Big Brother likes to help Little Brother get clean

Adaptive Development Resources:

Your Child’s Development

The main thing to know about the developmental domains is they are all equally important (hence the equal parts of the pie).
Running, jumping, and climbing are just important for a child as learning the ABC’s. Most of all, let your child be a child!!! After all, if they don’t have time to be a kid now, when will they?
Each of these domains are also interrelated.   For example; when your baby starts crawling (a gross motor milestone), he will also be enhancing his cognitive abilities by learning about the world around him. Learning new words will encourage him to participate more in social situations.
Just watch your child for a few minutes and you will see how each domain affects the others!

The 7th Developmental Domain: Spiritual & Moral

Finally, I told you earlier that I think that there are actually 7 domains. You won’t find this one in any textbooks! Unlike the others, I think that the spiritual domain is the most important and I will make no apologies for it.

Teaching your child to love and obey God is the most important thing you can ever do! Recognizing the difference between right and wrong will fall in place if you are simultaneously teaching and modeling God’s love. In my opinion, this is the area that is most lacking in our culture today. And if parents don’t teach it, who will???

spiritual development
These Advent Boxes helped us capture the true meaning of Christmas.

Spiritual & Moral Development Activities: