EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT ECE 332 ROBERT GALLO FEBRUARY 20, 2012 Child development is a process involving developmental milestones during predictable time periods. Brain maturation lays the foundation for all other aspects of a child’s development. Growth and development of the brain is rapid, exceedingly complex, and influenced by a combination of maternal environment and genetics (Marotz, p28).

This paper will include the developmental characteristics/milestones of preschoolers, appropriate activities that will enhance their cognitive, motor, social, emotional, and language development, and how the activities will enhance their development. Child development is a process that every child must go through. Major markers or points of accomplishments are referred to as developmental milestones in tracking the emergence of motor, social, cognitive, and language skills. They represent behaviors that appear in somewhat orderly steps and within fairly predictable age ranges for typically developing children.

With developmental milestones, the child will need to develop a portion of skills before he/ she can establish new ones (Marotz, p. 26). Cognitive Development Jean Piaget called early childhood the preoperational stage of cognitive development because children this age are not yet ready to engage in logical mental operations, as they will be in the concrete operational stage in middle childhood. The preoperational stage, which lasts from approximately ages 2 to 7, is characterized by the use of symbols to represent objects and relationships among them (Rathus, p. 48). Advances in symbolic thought are accompanied by a growing understanding of causality, identities, categorization, and number. Some of these understandings have roots in infancy and toddlerhood; others begin to develop in early childhood but are not fully achieved until middle childhood (Papalia, p. 269). At this age, preschoolers: request stories with riddles, guessing, and suspense, plays realistically, experiment with things to see how they work; takes objects apart and reassembles them into “new interventions”, places eight to ten egs in a pegboard or six round and six square blocks in a form board, Attempts to draw; imperfectly copies circles, squares and some letters, sorts objects logically on the basis of one dimension; usually chooses color size as a basis for classification, identifies triangle, circle, square; can point to requested shape, listens attentively to age appropriate stories, and makes relevant comments during stories, especially those that relate to home and family events (Marotz, p. 39). Motor Development Children ages 3 to 6 make great advances in motor skills both gross motor skills, which involve the large muscles, such as running and jumping, and fine motor skills, manipulative skills involving eye-hand and small-muscle coordination, such as buttoning and drawing. They also begin to show a preference for using either the right or left hand. Motor skills do not develop in isolation.

The skills that emerge in early childhood build on the achievements of infancy and toddlerhood. Development of the sensory and motor areas of the cerebral cortex permits better coordination between what children want to do and what they can do. Their bones and muscles are stronger, and their lung capacity is greater, making it possible to run, jump, and climb farther, faster, and better (Papalia, p. 257).

Preschoolers are able to: walk up and down stairs unassisted, balance momentarily on one foot, kicks a large ball, feeds self, needs minimal assistance, jumps in place, pedals a small tricycle or riding toy, catches a large bounced ball with both arms extended, enjoys swinging, shows improved control of crayons or markers, uses vertical, horizontal, and circular strokes, holds crayons or marker between first two fingers and thumb(tripod grasp), turns pages of book one at a time, enjoys building with blocks, builds a tower of eight or more blocks, begins to show hand dominance, manipulates large buttons and zippers on clothing, achieves complete bladder control, for the most part, during this time (Marotz, p. 138). Language Development The development of vocabulary proceeds at an extraordinary pace. Preschoolers learn an average of nine new words a day (Rathus, p. 158). The preschooler can use their growing vocabulary and knowledge of grammar and syntax to communicate more effectively.

Children seem to form a quick hypothesis about the meaning of the word, which then is refined with further exposure and usage (Papalia, p. 269). Word learning does not occur gradually but is better characterized as a process of fast mapping in which the child quickly attaches a new word to its appropriate concept. There is a grammar explosion during the third year. Children’s sentence structure expands to include the word’s missing in telegraphic speech. Usually between the ages of 3 and 4, children show knowledge of rules for combining phrases and clauses into complex sentences and add an array of articles, conjunctions, adjectives, pronouns, and propositions to their vocabulary (Rathus, p. 159).

Preschoolers talk about objects, events, and people not present, talks about the actions of others, adds information to what has just been said, answers simple question appropriately, asks many questions, particularly about location and identity of objects and people, uses an increasing number of speech form that keep conversation going, calls attention to self, objects, or events in the environment, promotes the behavior of others, joins in social interaction rituals, comments about objects and ongoing events, recites nursery rhymes, sings songs, uses understandable speech most of the time, produces expanded noun phrases, answers questions dealing with familiar objects and events(Marotz, p. 141). Social and Emotional Development In early childhood, children’s sense of self develops and grows more complex. They begin to acquire a sense of their own and abilities and their increasing mastery of the environment. In the preschool years, children continue to develop their sense of self. Almost as soon as they speak, they describe themselves in terms of certain categories such as age grouping and sex. One category of self-concept is self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem are more likely to be securely attached and have parents who are attentive to their needs. They are more likely to show prosocial behavior9Rathus, p. 174).

Preschoolers express a wide range of emotions and are able to use appropriate labels such as mad, sad, happy, and just okay to differentiate their feelings. During this age, children’s emotional states are very situation-specific and can change as rapidly as they switch from one activity to another. As children develop from three-year-olds into five-year-olds, there is an increasing internalization and regulation over their emotions. As three-, four-, and five-year-olds acquire new cognitive and language skills, they learn to regulate their emotions and to use language to express how they and others feel. Their emotions are very connected to the events and feelings that are occurring at that moment (Seefeldt, Wasik, p. 46).

Preschoolers seem to understand taking turns but is not always willing to do so, laughs frequently; is friendly and eager to please, has occasional nightmares and fears about the dark, monsters or fire, joins in simple games and group activities, talks to self often, identifies self as boy or girl, uses objects symbolically in play, observes other children playing; might join in for a short time; often plays parallel to other children, defends toys and possessions; is becoming aggressive at times, engages in make believe play alone and with other children, shows affection toward children who are younger or children who get hurt, might continue to have a special blanket, stuffed animal, or toy for comfort (Marotz, p. 142). Activities that will enhance cognitive development is I Spy (colors, shapes, textures, and so on), board games such as Memory, candy land or connect four , and simple puzzles. Motor activities may include dancing, pretend play, or riding tricycles, scooters, and pulling wagons. Language activities are reading the child’s favorite books, letting child be the storyteller, or simply engaging in conversation while asking questions.

Musical activities, books or stories that deal with emotions, worries, and so on, and writing or drawing about what the child is feeling. Through music and movement young children express themselves, explore space, develop language and communication skills, increase sensory awareness, and express themselves through rhythm, gesture, time, and space. Recent neuropsychology research suggests that music and movement integrate the functions of both hemispheres of the brain and contribute to the language, social/emotional, cognitive, and physical development of young children. Music is one of the basic intelligences possessed by all humans and, as such, is an aspect of human potential.

There is a musical impulse in young children, and their potential and aptitude for music are nurtured by the musical environment provided to them during infancy and early childhood. Music activities require neither specific skills nor competence, and all children are able to participate at varying levels of involvement from listening, to singing, to active movement (Eliason, p. 353). Music skills such as rhythm, meter, pitch, and tone are introduced to young children through music. Music enhances a sense of belonging to and functioning within a group. When responding to music and movement, the whole child is involved with voice, body, and emotions: listening, singing, moving to the beat, playing instruments, and imitating simple movements of objects or concepts.

Learning music and words together, often accompanied by hand and body motions, is a wonderful way to wire brain connections for children’s learning. Reading and singing are closely connected; reading lyrics while singing also helps to develop reading and language skills. Additionally, it has long been recognized that music is a valuable memorization tool (Eliason, p. 353). Play promotes significant mental or cognitive skills. Research on brain growth and development supports the need for active and stimulating play for all children. Play gives the child opportunities to express thoughts and ideas. It provides occasions to organize, plan, solve problems, reason, try out solutions and skills, create and explore.

According to the work of Piaget, play allows children to construct knowledge through assimilation, acquiring information through experiences, as well as through accommodation or modification of an existing point of view because information cannot be integrated into a particular scheme of understanding. Play contributes to the child’s development of imaginative thinking. Play enables children to formulate ideas and then to test them. Much skill development occurs through play. During play, children have the opportunity to develop their senses of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight to assimilate new stimuli. In addition, their attention spans are expanded as they stay on task and remain attentive to activities in which they are involved (Eliason, p. 25). Play assists communication, language, and literacy development.

Many researchers think that communication skills are developed in part through peer play and the need for children to communicate with each other in their play. Play stretches the vocabulary and expands language development by providing opportunities to use new words, converse with playmates, listen to another’s language and point of view, learn new semantics (meanings of words), and hear and subsequently use new syntax (parts of speech). Play synthesizes previous experiences and thoughts, allowing children to piece them together. Because children plan, communicate, listen, read, and write in their play, it offers the right conditions for learning language and literacy skills.

Play also fosters creativity and aesthetic appreciation, which can influence the way children think and solve problems (Eliason, p. 26). Play promotes physical–motor development. Play is active; children are never passive recipients. Children use their bodies and increase large-muscle dexterity as they run, climb, skip, hop, jump, throw, and catch. Play, therefore, provides the exercise and physical activity needed to strengthen and coordinate children’s muscles and bodies. Children need play for health reasons. According to the American Heart Association, the U. S. obesity epidemic is currently affecting even young children, with more than 10% of 2- to 5-year-olds being overweight.

The physical activity of play facilitates release of stress and helps children manage feelings in a positive way. Through physical play, children can learn appropriate ways to display aggression and other assertive behaviors without hurting themselves or others (Eliason, p. 27). Play encourages positive emotional development. Play affects the child’s motivation. It is the means for fostering a healthy personality, and it provides the opportunity for each child to discover the self. Play lets children express thoughts and ideas and try out ways of behaving and feeling. Play experiences provide safe avenues for expressing both positive and negative emotions.

As they express thoughts and ideas, children can learn and be directed to the most positive ways of handling their emotions through support and reinforcement by both peers and teachers (Eliason, p. 27). There are many meaningful and remarkable benefits of stories in the lives of preschoolers; they open minds to understanding, touch hearts, and capture imaginations. Stories help children to make sense and meaning of the things that they are taught. When ideas and concepts are taught with stories, they are remembered. Stories have a powerful effect because they not only impart ideas, concepts, and information and describe people, events, and places, but they also engage emotions.

Through stories we exchange experiences and feelings. Stories clarify what is being taught and enable children to make sense and meaning of what the teacher is trying to teach (Eliason, p. 45). In conclusion, the developmental characteristics/milestones of preschoolers, appropriate activities that enhanced their cognitive, motor, social, emotional, and language development, and how the activities enhanced their development were discussed. Children in the stage of early childhood need a strong base of experiences that will provide a foundation for later learning. Children need experiences that encourage them to manipulate, explore, use their senses, uild, create, discover, construct, take apart, question, and ultimately understand the world in which they are living. They must be active, engaged, and involved in their learning. The larger the stock of experiences, the more meaning that they develop, the more elaborate is their map, and, ultimately, the clearer their thinking (Eliason, p. 41) REFERENCES: Allen, K. & Marotz, L. , (2010) Developmental Profiles: Pre-birth through Twelve Papalia, D. , Olds, S. & Feldman, R. (2010) A Childs World, Infancy through Adolescence, 11th Edition, McGraw Hill Rathus, S. A. (2011) CDEV 2010-2011 Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth CENGAGE Learning Seefeldt, C, Wasik, B. A. (2006) Early Education: Three, Four, and Five Year Olds Go to School