Knowledge about child development, as well as learning, necessitates individuals to comprehend patterns and development. Knowledge of age-related characteristics assists in predicting whether the developing within their age range so that one can engage them in activities that not only interest them, but also challenge them to explore their environment. Children utilize processes, which include exploration, partnership, as well as problem solving, to develop dispositions. The elementary areas of appraisal in childhood development include physical, social, emotional, language, and cognitive development. Each area goes along with activities that sustain growth. Knowing the child well assists in recognizing the development of child’s growth path; thus, parents, caregivers, and educators are fundamental in supporting child’s development.
Developmental Areas of Early Childhood Development
Early childhood is usually a sensitive moment, which is characterized with significant changes in cognitive, language, as well as social-emotional environment. Children’s development path is usually predictable, regardless of the growth pace, as it follows sequences (Naeum, 2010). For instance, sitting comes before standing while walking precedes running. Children’s development is also holistic and cumulative, where each stage is built from the previous stage. Development patterns in children are observed in numerous areas, which include physical, cognitive, language, as well as emotional and social development (Naeum, 2010).
Physical development involves the process that children undergo in controlling their body. Naeum (2010) asserted that the progress in physical development is illustrated through improvement in skill and complexity in performance. Sleep patterns usually develop during early childhood while bed-wetting becomes a common habit, though it can be overcome without much help. Emotional and social development determines how children can control their feelings while dealing with other people. Emotional characteristics develop as children begin to understand themselves. Temper tantrums are common behavior among toddlers, as this is the stage where children develop self-concept attributes while sharing of things is quite difficult.
Cognitive development entails development of mental faculty. According to Piaget’s theory, children develop skills that they acquired during sensorimotor stage to advance their imagination (Slee & Shute, 2014). Cognitive development is quite unique in each child, as children progress in their own time and manner. Children begin to possess the ideas, as well as beliefs of their culture, through interactions and activities within their environment. Language development involves acquiring skills to think and to convey message. Language, and particularly the timing of linguistic objective, is usually linked to cognitive development, such as conceptualization of objects, recognition of numbers, and spatial relations (Kuhn, et al., 2014). Children’s communicative gestures indicate that they are moving towards true symbolic comprehension.
Theories of Child Development
Most of the studies of child development are based on developmental theories. For instance, the psychoanalytic theory, which was developed by Sigmund Freud purported that an individual’s personality began to take its shape and structure during the early period of childhood (Slee & Shute, 2014). According to Freud, the child’s personality developed based on how his/her parents handled the child’s basic sexual and insistent desires. Erik Erikson built his theory from Freud’s theory, but his theory developed through stages, hence opening up on the concept of lifespan development. Erikson’s theory of development emanated from conflicts within each psychosocial stage, where ego was perceived as an active supporter for development, based on cultural influence (Slee & Shute, 2014). During the development of psychological quality, children can either succeed or fail to gain experience, due to the level of exposure and conflict.
Slee and Shute (2014) also expounded on Jean Piaget’s theory, which is a cognitive development theory. Piaget’s theory of development proceeds through a fixed process, even though some children may reach a certain stage earlier than their age-mates. According to Piaget, the child is always learning, as well as unlearning ideas concerning the world through education, in his/her attempt to construct his/her own world view. Children usually learn through watching, listening, touching, and gestures. From his perspective, Piaget perceived child’s development as progressive and directional, where the child’s manner of thinks differs qualitatively from one stage to the other.
Activities that Support Children’s Growth
Children develop recognition of themselves, as well as of their world, through hands-on exploration. In physical development, children develop motor skills that include jumping, running, balancing, and throwing objects. Gross motor skills are essential for undertaking day-to-day functions. Physical activities facilitate physical coordination and allow children to release some of the energy through exercises. A supportive active learning is vital to encourage children to concentrate deeply on their interests. Consequently, children can bring out their being to their knowledge by expressing their ideal style of learning.
Children’s play is an ingredient in development process, which necessitates children to attain life skills even without realize it. Children’s play is part of cognitive development where children learn to interact with their environment. Play offers a chance to enhance creativity and imagination while strengthening emotions (Milteer, et al., 2012). From birth to around three years, children connect to their environment through gestures. They then graduate to use of words as they grow. Through play, children enhance their capability to interact with other children. Some of the activities that a child experiences between the age of three and four years include construction of towers, drawing shapes, and playing name-spelling games. At this stage, the child is already aware of how to open the buttons, and can at least construct a six-word sentence.
Emotional and social development promotes self-control and allows children to connect effectively with their peers, as well as their family (Milteer, et al., 2012). Emotional development encourages children to have feelings about others through listening and expressing their sentiments. When children play with other children, they develop social skills; improve their language; experiencing emotional growth; as well as developing physical coordination.
Pre-school children can engage in cooperative group work activities to enhance their social skills. Research has proved that cooperative group work activities are essential in the development of addition-subtraction, problem-solving, and other mathematical skills (Tarim, 2015). Cooperative group work encourages mutual group help, sharing of ideas, and fulfillment of various tasks to attain the group objectives. In addition to encouraging active participation in discussions, cooperative group activities also improves children’s pattern recognition skills. Teachers are also capable of recognizing children with social skill problems through the support of other active children.
Language development in children can be enhanced by talking to the child and responding to his/her words. The most appropriate way of encouraging children’s language development is through talking naturally and frequently to the child. Use of gestures can help to improve child’s language while reading around can assist the child in mastering simple, as well as complex worlds. Communication gestures include pointing at objects, giving out objects, and showing directions, and these gestures are essential in directing and maintaining caregivers’ attention towards the point or object of reference (Kuhn, et al., 2014).
Parents, caregivers, and educators must be aware of children’s development path so that they can offer their support at the right moment. Parents and educators’ accuracy in appraising children depend on the understanding of child’s development course, which is always predicable. Children’s development and appraising areas are observed through physical activities, emotional response, social interaction, language development, and cognitive improvement. Observing and appraising children assists in gaining information about their learning process. Development theories assert that children’s personalities depend on how their desires are met. The most suitable approach to support children’s development and learning is to guarantee the provision of planned, as well as child-initiated learning, which should match their needs (Neaum, 2010). Children will always have their preferred way of exploring their world; thus, parents and caretakers should be aware of individual child’s preferences.
Kuhn, L. J., Willoughby, M. T., Wilbourn, M. P., Vernon-Feagans, L., & Blair, C. B. (2014). Early Communicative Gestures Prospectively Predict Language Development and Executive Function in Early Childhood. Child Development, 85(5), 1898-1914.
Milteer, R. M., Ginsburg, K. R., Mulligan, D. A., Ameenuddin, N., Brown, A., Christakis, D. A., … & Levine, A. E. (2012). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty. Pediatrics, 129(1), e204-e213.
Neaum, S. (2010). Child development for early childhood studies. Exeter, Devon: Learning Matters.
Slee, P. T., & Shute, R. H. (2014). Child development: Thinking about theories. London: Arnold.
Tarım, K. (2015). Effects of Cooperative Group Work Activities on Pre-school Children’s Pattern Recognition Skills. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 15(6), 1597-1604. doi:10.12738/estp.2016.1.0086