On MY Way

A Balanced and Wholistic View of Development

This resource provides an overview of the core skills, competencies and developmental milestones that children typically attain during middle childhood. Development can be seen through five domains (see Figure A):


Development is interdependent

Development does not occur along a straight line. We have identified five domains or areas of development —cognitive, emotional, social, physical, and communication— that are constantly at work influencing and building upon one another. Developmental domains are interdependent, and progress in one supports progress in others. Promoting optimal development involves encouragement and support to achieve balance and growth across all of these domains.

A way of looking at this is to consider how a child’s brain development may begin to enable them to recognize others, and become aware of others’ perspectives. This in turn, enables them to have more connected social interactions, and as a result further develop their social skills, as well as practice their growing communication skills.

Similarly, when a child experiences challenges across one developmental domain, this will impact other aspects of their development.

If this is the case, why do we break child development into different domains? The answer is that they are an entry point.

Thinking in terms of the different domains allows us to break down and understand all of the different changes that are taking place. This is useful in understanding developmental "events" or what is happening in children, their influences, and how we support optimal outcomes as children develop through their middle years.

Influences and context are key

Children in the middle years are seeking independence, exploring a dynamic and influential new world of friends, teachers, school staff, coaches and traditional knowledge keepers, and establishing new social identities in what is to them an increasingly broad community.

At the same time, middle years children are dependent on the care and support they receive at home, in their schools and in their communities. From giving children a sense of comfort and safety to guiding their emotional and cognitive development, parents and caregivers and other caring adults in the community have a very important role to play. The positive influence of caring adults on the development of children is an essential component of Ontario’s Middle Years Strategy.

The best way for children to grow and develop successfully is for all of the significant influencers in their lives to be working together to support them. This includes families and extended families, schools, after-school programs, service providers and other caring adults in the community.

Every child is unique and develops at their own pace

Children of all abilities and from all backgrounds develop physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively, and they all develop communication skills. However, the ways that children develop across these domains differs widely. Each child is unique and develops at their own pace. A child’s developmental journey occurs along a path shaped by their own experience, context, social and environmental factors.

Children's Artwork

Because of these differences, it is important to avoid the concept of "normal" development. No one developmental pathway can be generalized to include all children.

Valuing all children equally means respecting the diversity of their developmental journeys. This resource takes an inclusive view of child development, so that all children can see themselves reflected in it.