Understanding Children's Ages and Stages

Parenting Skills

A 45-minute activity that involves teams of fathers competing to answer questions about child development. Designed to increase or reinforce participants’ knowledge of child development from birth through adolescence.


  • Index cards
  • Paper clips
  • Flipchart
  • Trainer Resource

Time: 45 minutes.

Planning Notes:

If you have any concerns about reading levels, you can either ensure that there are 1-2 strong readers on each team or use the variation described at the end of the Procedure. You won’t need the ages and behaviors cards if you use the variation.

Use the following process to make the Age and Behaviors cards:

  1. Write each of the behavior statements listed on the Trainer Resource on a separate index card.
  2. Bind the statements for each age together with a paper clip. You will end up with 6 clipped stacks of behavior cards because there are 6 ages that they need to be matched with.
  3. Write each of the age cards on a separate index card. Bind all of the age cards together with a paper clip.
  4. Make 2-3 sets of the ages and behaviors cards so that you have a set of cards for each team. Make sure the teams have no more than 8 people.

Make the following chart on flipchart paper:


  • Birth-14 Months (Newborn & Infant)
  • 14-36 Months (Toddler)
  • 3-5 Years (Preschool)
  • 6-8 Years (School Age)
  • 9-12 Years (Preteen)
  • Teens


  1. Divide participants into 2-3 teams depending on the size of your group. Make sure each team is sitting around a table and that they are composed of no more than 8 people.
  2. Distribute a set of ages & behaviors cards to each team and give the following instructions:
    • This is going to be a friendly competition. You will identify common behaviors or issues for children at 6 different ages/stages of development. (Review the chart you made.)
    • Each team has gotten a set of age cards and behavior cards. Your mission is to match each set of behavior cards with the appropriate age card.
    • Lay out your age cards on the table. Someone needs to volunteer to be the reader. Start reading the sets of behavior cards. Decide as a group what age you typically see these behaviors. Match the behavior cards with the right age card.
    • The team that finishes first and matches all the cards correctly wins. So, let me know as soon as you finish. This is going to be a friendly competition. You will identify common behaviors or issues for children at 6 different ages/stages of development. (Review the chart you made.)
  3. Circulate throughout the room to make sure the teams are on track. Provide assistance only if absolutely necessary. When the first team finishes, quickly check their matches to see if they are correct. If they are correct, stop all the groups and announce the winning team. Have the team that finished first, read the first age—Newborn and Infant—and matching behaviors. Ask these processing questions:
    • Other teams, did you get this right?
    • What stands out in your mind about your own children at this stage?
  4. During the discussion, make it clear that guidelines about child development are general and not set in stone. Some children might be a little ahead, some a little behind. Keep the processing brief because you have to discuss each of the ages/stages. Limit the conversation to 2-3 brief comments. Let participants know that they will continue to discuss these issues for the entire session. Go on to the next age—Toddler—and follow the same process for this and the remaining ages.
  5. When you have discussed all of the stages, ask these final processing questions:
    • How easy was it to match the age and behavior cards?
    • What’s one new thing you learned today about child development?


  1. Review the 6 ages/stages on your chart. Divide the group into teams. Use this process:
    • Identify 2-3 behaviors from each of the age/stage categories on the Trainer Resource.
    • Take turns reading a behavior to each team. Give them 1 minute to confer and then ask for their final answer about which age the behavior fits into.
    • If they get the answer right, they get one point.
    • If they get the answer wrong, one of the other teams can answer the question for a bonus point.
    • The team with the most points wins.
  2. After the game, go back and give an overview of each stage. Ask participants to offer comments and memories from their time with their child during that stage of development. Ask fathers to compare and contrast experiences if they were absent from their children’s lives for certain developmental stages. 

*Activity created by Pamela M. Wilson, MSW, Consultant and Trainer.