Preemie Development - a quick look

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Keeping an eye on your preemies development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary.


Preemies aren't just small...

Sometimes preterm children can develop at different rates to a child born full term. In this way it is important to know the key developmental milestones and timeline so that you are able to give your preemie any help if required.

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Cognitive Development in Childhood and Adolescence

Keeping an eye on your preemies development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary

It’s amazing how quickly babies grow and develop! The table below highlights some important milestones. Although the table gives an average age at which milestones are achieved it is important to realize that even babies born at term achieve these milestones at varying ages. For preemies, you should always correct for their prematurity. 

General Cognitive development in childhood & adolescence

Have a look at the following information for typical development of these skills. You should talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your preemie's development.

children born preterm general cognitive developmental milestones

Age Cognitive Achievement
2 - 4 years
  • A large increase in creative activities such as, make-believe play, drawings, and understanding spatial symbols (e.g. photographs, simple maps, and models)
  • Are able to tell the difference between living beings from non-living objects
  • Are able to group items based on common functions and behavior
  • Can make sub-groups (e.g. fruit and vegetables are sub-groups of food)
4 - 7 years
  • Shows complex social dramatisations in play
  • Produces more realistic drawings
  • Magical beliefs about fairies, goblins, and other events that violate expectations with plausible explanations are replaced with more rational and realistic explanations
  • Recognizes the consequences of changes in familiar situations
7 - 11 years
  • Mental states and beliefs of others
  • Able to suppress inappropriate responses
  • Participate in pretend play
7-8 years
  • Thinks in a more organized and logical way about tangible information
  • Shows improved understanding of relationships of objects in space, such as understanding distance, give clear directions, and navigate familiar environments
11 - 20 years
  • Can reason abstractly in many different situations
  • Displays the “imaginary audience” concept (i.e. where an individual thinks people are listening and watching them all the time), which is strongest in early adolescence and gradually declines
These milestones represent overall age trends. There are individual differences in the exact age at which each milestone is attained (Berk, 2008).


Want More Information?

  • You can read about this topic in more detail and learn all about preemies and development from our book: "The Complete Preemie Guide to: Preemie Development." Available Here
  • Click here to visit the solutions section of the site Strategies: Recommendations for Behavioral & Cognitive Difficulties
  • Extra resources about the NICU can also be purchased here.

AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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