This chapter focuses on physical development, and specifically three aspects of this domain: prenatal development, physical growth in the body and weight and height, and changing motor skills. The prenatal period is a time of rapid progression in which the fetus is learning and preparing for life outside the womb. The fetus hears, engages in spontaneous movement, breathes, and makes what are considered some of the very first goal-directed actions of human development by about 19-35 weeks of age. the brain overproduces neurons in the first three years of growth to prune for specialization. There are standards for normative growth, or changes to the physical body and to weight and height that if children are below, we refer to as stunting or wasting that are caused by undernutrition and prenatal and postnatal care. Skin-to-skin contact can improve development, as can improved nutrition through breastfeeding for the first six months and sanitation. There are two categories of motor skills, fine and gross, and some of the earliest research on infant motor development can be traced to the work of Arnold Gesell who documented the development of motor skill milestones in babies. Depending on childrearing practices and cultures, motor development can either be sped up or slowed down.
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