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Have you ever wondered how much a little baby knows and thinks, or what kinds of problems a toddler can and can’t solve?  There are people who study these questions and more in order to find out what children need to develop normally and naturally.  What does it mean to ‘develop’?  In a very basic way, development in humans is a process that we all go through that allows us to do more complicated things and think about more and more complex ideas.

An American psychologist named Abraham Maslow believed that humans have different needs that can be organized into different levels.  He thought that these levels were like the floors in a building, so that you need to build up lower levels before higher ones, so that people need food, water, and shelter before they need love, respect, and chances for creative expression.

Other psychologists found that this might not be true even for very young children.  They found that children who had food and shelter and a safe environment to live in still didn’t develop as well or as quickly if they weren’t receiving loving touch and cuddling as really young babies.

So what do children really need to develop happy and healthy lives?  Here are some of the factors that psychologists think children need to grow up happy and healthy:

Health – good food and water, clean place to live, and good medical care when they are sick.

Education – instruction from more skilled people on how to do many of the tasks they will need to do in their lives.

Emotional Development – good role models and examples on how to build positive emotions and to deal successfully with negative feelings.

Identity – confidence, achieving goals, and self-esteem.

Family & Relationships – love and affection from relatives and friends.

Social Presentation – respect for and of others, and being included in groups.

Self-care Skills – ability to take care of one’s self, including hygiene, and managing time and activities.