Physical and Cognitive Development in the Preschool Years

The pre-school serves as the practice period for the child before he or she enters his or her formal education. The development and maturation of the child from infancy attests his or her readiness for school. It is in this age range that the child begins to interact with other people, specifically children of his or her age. For the purpose of this paper, the preschool or early childhood years of a child has been set to age two to six years. Several points in terms of a child’s physical and cognitive development shall also be considered in this paper.

Some of the developmental theories and theorists that apply to the preschool years of a child will also be discussed. The physical and cognitive manifestations of a child’s development could be shown in his or her physical growth, motor skills, language, brain maturation, memory, and other changing factors. However, the most apparent changes that happen to the child in his or her developmental years occur in the physical aspect. During the preschool period, the physical growth of the child may be seen in the change in his or her height and weight.

Annually, the child grows about three inches in height and about four and a half pounds in weight (Cantu, 2009). The child’s physical growth may be attributed to either genetic or nutritional or both factors. Also, the contrast in the height and weight differences can be viewed in terms of the economic aspect, whereby a child belonging to a family below the poverty line has shorter and lighter physical attributes (Cantu, 2009). To add, a child changes his o her body structure as he or she reaches the preschool years.

Children grow stronger muscles and sturdier bones. They lose most of his baby fat and become more slender. Their limbs are longer. They also develop their sense organs more such that they could perceive clearer than when they were still a toddler (Lewis, 2009). The child’s brain and nervous system also mature and develop faster than any other parts of his or her body. In the first two years of the child, his or her brain already reaches 75 to 80 percent of an adult’s brain’s size and weight.

At the age of five, the child attains almost 90 percent of the adult weight of his or her brain (Cantu, 2009). The brain, having two cerebral hemispheres, undergoes lateralization or the process by which there is a “localization of assorted functions, competencies, and skills in either or both hemispheres” (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ). The right hemisphere houses the “creativity, fantasy, artistic, and musical skills” while the “language, writing, logic, and mathematical skills” are in the left hemisphere (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ).

The development of both hemispheres happen at differing paces, “with the left hemisphere developing more fully in early childhood (ages 2 to 6), and the right hemisphere developing more fully in middle childhood (ages 7 to 11)” (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ). It has been observed that the left hemisphere grows more rapidly, and such explains why most children acquire language more easily than the other skills. Furthermore, there were also observations saying that the males have greater lateralization of the left hemisphere, which means that usually, they are slanted to the logical-mathematical side (Cliff Notes, 2009, n.

p. ). Similarly, there is also an increase in the capability of the child’s motor skills. Two kinds of motor skills are attributed in this: the gross motor skills, wherein there are large body movements being done, and the fine motor skills, which include the small body movements. The child’s gross motor skills tend to be more improved. He or she is able to run, jump, hop, turn, skip, throw, balance, and dance. As these movements require larger bodily movements as compared to the fine motor skills, the child is able to master these activities better and quicker.

The fine motor skills, on the other hand, include writing, drawing, buttoning, tying shoelaces, pouring without spilling, and using knife and fork. In these kinds of activities, smaller bodily movements are required. The difficulty experienced in doing these fine motor skills lies in the fact that myelination is still incomplete and the child still has insufficient control over his or her muscles and fingers (Cantu, 2009). It has been noted then that since the fine motor skills are not yet very much enhanced, most preschool curricula include activities that help enhance these skills.

In addition, there are also several comparison and contrast events among the male and the female child. The boys, tending to have an increased strength of the muscle, prefer activities that require strength. The girls, conversely, surpass the boys in performing activities that require dexterity and coordination of some body parts (Lewis, 2009). On the other hand, the cognitive development of a child during preschool years is characterized by his ability to understand or comprehend, organize, explain, and make actions that require the use of the mind.

In Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory, there are several stages which a child undergoes. The pre-operational stage wherein the child is at age two to seven covers the development that occurs in his or her cognitive aspect. Here, the child makes use of symbolic thoughts. As opposed to logical thought, the symbolic thoughts perceived by the child account to the use of words, symbols, or images without their physical presence. The child is already able to identify, understand, and represent words and symbols with his or her own imagination.

He or she is also able to understand basic cause-and-effect relationships and basic number concepts. The child tends to ask about the processes of things and is able to answer with “because” and “so” sentences to explain himself. In this stage, the child also imitates adult behaviors. “Role playing becomes important during the preoperational stage” (Wagner, 2009, n. p. ). To illustrate, an example of a television commercial can be considered where a preschool girl wears her mother’s coat, shoes, and make-up. She pretends that she is “mommy.

” In terms of play, a child prefers “games of make-believe: using an empty box as a car, playing family with siblings, and nurturing imaginary friendships” (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ). In Piaget’s cognitive development theory, however, there are said and observed to be limitations to the child’s cognition. First is the child’s centration, where the child comes to an illogical conclusion by merely concentrating on only one limited aspect of a stimulus and ignoring the other connected aspects. Most children think that the things they see should be perceived as the truth.

He confuses the appearance of a thing to reality (Cantu, 2009). The child allows only the visual image of something to dominate over his or her way of thinking, thus creating mistake in judgment. Another limitation is that the child also does not understand conservation, or the knowledge that quantity is not solely related to the physical arrangement of objects. Also, the child is unable to reverse a process; that is, he or she may believe that “a cut or broken leg will not heal” (Cantu, 2009, n. p. ).

Likewise, a child in the preoperational stage is also limited with his transductive reasoning wherein he connects one aspect to be the reason or basis for another. Egocentrism, the “inability to distinguish between their own point of view and the point of view of others” is also a limitation of children particularly in the preoperational stage (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ). In this sense, the child is not aware that other people have different views and perspectives on things, and they hold feelings and emotions that may be different from his own.

The child also experiences difficulty in distinguishing between fantasy and reality; he or she is sometimes confused if what he or she was imagining was real. Conversely, language is considered as interdependent with thinking as it allows the child to represent actions. “As their brains develop and acquire the capacity for representational thinking, children also acquire and refine language skills” (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ). In the preschool years, the child’s language becomes more sophisticated.

He or she is able to construct longer sentences. Preschoolers are said to acquire new vocabulary through fast mapping, where the child is able to learn the new word and its meaning with only a brief encounter of that word. The way a child acquires new words is influenced mostly by social and cultural factors such as his or her immediate family, friends, teachers, and the media. Some children may even be bilingually capacitated, and research says that some could even speak two languages fluently at the age of four.

The aspect of memory comes as a measure in one’s “ability to encode, retain, and recall information over time” (Cliff Notes, 2009, n. p. ). A child’s autobiographical memory is not accurate before he or she reaches three years old. The child is not able to retain his or her memory well, has limited memory capacity, and has a short attention span as well, making them very susceptible to forgetting about memories.

Researchers suggest that the child’s inability to retain memory can be related to: lack of some necessary brain development aspects which adults have; not having a lot of experiences to relate to; inability to divide attention as he is easily gets distracted; and lack of the “same quality and quantity of effective mnemonic strategies as adults” (Cliff Notes, 2009). The early childhood education that a child must undergo is an effective means of increasing his or her cognitive and social development.

The child is able to enhance language and memory functions since most curricula are made to address the enhancement of these aspects. In preschool education, the child is also able to expand his or her inner circle by means of creating friends and knowing his or her teachers. The child is able to gain social development, and he or she learns to know more on what is outside his or her own self. He or she realizes that there are other persons whom he or she could relate with. In the process, the child is also capacitated such that his or her confidence in dealing with people and circumstances is increased.

The downside of getting an early childhood education could be that because the child learns to deal with other people, there is the tendency to become more aggressive and more competitive. This can be shown in the way a child reacts to the winner-loser groups in school games. Also, because of the bigger circle to which he or she now revolves in, he or she could be influenced by not-so-morally abiding languages and attitudes. It is up to the school or institution to provide a stimulating curriculum and good teachers who will help in the development of the child.

The quality in the early childhood education, be it political or social in dimension, must be accounted to (National Research Council (U. S. ). Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, et al. , 2001). References National Research Council (U. S. ). Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, Bowman, B. T. , Donovan, S. , & Burns, M. S. (2001). Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. U. S. : National Academies Press. Cantu, E. (2009). The Preschool Years: Physical & Cognitive Development. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from http://blue. utb. edu/ecantu/Psyc%202314/Notes/FeldmanNotes7. htm.

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