How to Write Children
The other day I started writing something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The first chapter starts with the characters at age 7 and, for the sake of accuracy, I pulled out my notebook from the Child Development course I took over the summer. I know that not everyone has access to a course like that or even notes from one, so I thought I could share some tips I picked up on writing children.
Age: Infancy (birth to ~2)
Infants don’t really do much besides eat and sleep. The only way they know how to communicate is through crying; however, they do start making noises that sound like talking as they get older, which can be noted as cooing or babbling. First words are usually short, brief words that are nouns or actions. Language develops quickly at 50 words by 8-18 months, and 300 by 18-22 months.
Fresh babies can only see about 7-9 inches away from their face and without much peripheral vision. Basically, things need to be right in front of them. Infants respond to sound much easier, though, responding more to the mother’s voice, and sounds and rhythms of speech rather than nonsensical noises. Babies are sensitive to smell, taste, and pain, being able to determine good and pleasant from the bad.
They spend about 2/3 of their time sleeping (16 hours a day).
Around 2-3 months, the infant starts being able to hold up their head, and around 3-4 months they can start grabbing things voluntarily.
Age: Early Childhood (2-6)
At this stage, children are developing their gross motor skills, which is the large muscles. They are learning to balance, throw, catch, push, pull, etc. At this point, males and females are generally equal in terms of development and abilities. Children can begin to develop fine motor skills at this stage, but not unless they have mastered gross motor skills.
Children at this stage usually develop patterns of erratic and unpredictable eating habits. They can develop strong or strange preferences, and often are influenced by parental food preferences.
These ages need about 10-11 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period which is usually accomplished with 9-10 hours at night and a 1-2 hour nap during the day.
Children at this stage begin “symbolic” or pretend play. They have one-dimensional thinking, and see themselves as the center of all situations, and this is completely normal development. These children do not understand the laws of causality. An example of this is that highways make cars go fast, or when I wake up the sun comes out (rather than people make highways fast or the sun will always come out whether you wake up or not).
Preschoolers learn an average of 9 words per day. They also apply the concept of overregulation, which is applying grammar to words that are an exception to the rule (a child learn that you put -s on plurals and makes the word “mouses”).
Preschoolers start to identify and respond differently to their friends than other children. They identify friends not by qualities, but rather the toys and activities they share.
Age: Middle Childhood (7-12)
This is the stage when children usually begin losing teeth. They start going in for regular vision, hearing, and dental checks. This is also the stage when hormonal differences begin to occur, not until puberty however. Children begin to develop “executive functions” of thinking, such as goal setting, information processing, and self-regulation.
During middle childhood, children are increasing their speed, strength, agility, and balance. They are developing hand-eye coordination, faster reaction time, and flexibility. Their fine motor skills have increased to tie shoes, fasten buttons, zip zippers, etc.
Children at this stage begin to understand the law of conservation, which is the idea that properties of an object remain the same when superficial characteristics are rearranged or changed. They can also begin to uses class inclusion, or understand that one category or class can include subcategories (**Note: This is Piaget’s theory and has since been proven that the development in this paragraph happens earlier than he accounted).
Children begin to develop a moral conscious that is usually dependent on the world around them. Basically, children learn that they must conform to an authority or set of rules, and misbehavior results in automatic retribution. Children at this age may also begin to lie as a way out of retribution, but do not fully grasp the concept of deception (develops around 9-10), so lies will be short, one-word answers rather than elaborate tales.
By age 6, children will have learned 7000-13000 words. By ages 7-9, they will understand that words have different meanings and enjoy jokes.
Children will start to develop self esteem around this age, and is usually higher in children with close relationships with their parents, and social acceptance by their peers. Peers become powerful during middle childhood, and there becomes a lot of pressure to conform due to acceptance or rejection.
Age: Adolescence (13-17)
Puberty may have already happened before this age, but it usually marks the beginning of adolescence. In males, early maturation is not usually seen any one way or another; however, late maturation in males can make them feel dominated an insecure. This is reversed in females. Early maturation can make them feel awkward and conspicuous.
Teenagers are at the peak of physical health, strength, and mental capacity (in general terms), yet this is a very hazardous age. Rates of death by injury between ages 15-19 are about 6 times greater than the rate between ages 10-14 because of an egocentric feeling of invincibility.
Teenagers bodies have sexually matured, but they have limited executive functions and tend to be impulsive. They may end up reacting to peer pressure. Sexually-active adolescents have a higher risk for Sexually Transmitted Infections (estimated 2.5 million teenagers).
Many teenagers experience sleep deprivation (<6 hours), which can lead to poor performance. Adolescents experience what is called phase delay. This concept is the teenagers body shifting its sleeping schedule, making them fall asleep later and waking up later. It is natural for teenagers to have difficulty falling asleep before 11pm.
At this stage, teenagers have a great capacity for abstract thinking and use of symbols. They are categorized by hypothetical thinking (what might be rather than what is), Utopian thinking (the future’s possibilities), and symbolic thinking (how a symbol can represent something greater).
Teenagers still experience a sense of egocentrism. Adolescents are overly concerned about what others think of them, and feel under scrutiny or on stage (”imaginary audience”). They also believe that their own thoughts and beliefs are special and unique, which can lead to them feeling alone and isolated.
The differences between genders (I’m sorry I don’t have any notes on trans youth we didn’t cover that) is now much more obvious due to cultural experiences. Girls tend to be better in verbal skills such as reading, and expressive language, whereas boys tend to be better at visual-spatial abilities because of sports. In a study of 7 million teenagers, they found no difference between boys and girls in mathematics.
*** Please note that this is a very simplified and edited version of my notes. There are entire sections of the science behind development, and also disorders and diseases. If you want a deeper explanation on anything, or posts about the two subjects I skipped over, please feel free to ask! ***