Select one of the following age groups: infants, toddlers or young children. Focus on two developmental domains (select from: physical, social and emotional, language and/or cognitive development) of the child. Describe how these two domains develop within your chosen age group with the support of human development theories and concepts studied in this course. Identify a range of teaching strategies that promote a child’s development in each of the two selected domains.
Development describes the growth of humans throughout the lifespan, from conception to death. The study of human development helps to understand how and why people change throughout life. This includes all aspects of human growth, including physical, intellectual, language, social and emotional and spiritual development. Papalia and Olds (1998) define lifespan development as “a lifelong process of development” (p.10).
This essay describes the physical and cognitive development of infants (birth-12 months) and also discuss about some teaching strategies that promote physical and cognitive development of infants in the early childcare centres.
Physical development refers to progressively gaining control over large and small muscles. Gross motor (large muscle) skills allow a child to do things like roll over, sit, crawl, walk, and throw a ball. Fine motor (small muscle) skills enable children to do things like draw, and eat with spoon. The development of new motor skills allows children to make new discoveries. As they explore, they begin to make sense of their environment (Berger, 2001).
The physical development of infants is very important. Although children develop at different rates, they learn to control their bodies in the same progression (Berk, 2006). Arnold Gesell, an American psychologist, is one of the first theorists who approached to determine developmental measure for children. He developed his theory by studying a number of children (Terry, 2008).
Newborn babies have very few motor skills. Their muscles are not strong enough to control their body, while their sense of hearing and smell are keen. Infants move by reflex when they are newborns. They move automatically in response to various stimuli. Some reflexes help parents to make sure that infants will get what they need to survive (Berk, 2006). For instance, when the mother touches the cheek of a newborn, the baby starts moving his/her mouth in search of a nipple. When the mother touches his/her mouth or when his/her mouth touches the nipple, the baby starts sucking. Also, infants have other reflexes such as reciprocal kicking (Terry, 2008).
In five months, most babies gain control of their arms and head. Gesell considered this process of physical growth “a genetically determines series of events that unfolds automatically” (Berk, 2006, p.14). He believed that physical development occurs to each child in a fixed order, and a certain development happens when an individual’s inner system is prepared. Gesell also suggested head-to-tail and centre-to-edge sequence (Berk, 2006). In other words, control develops from head to toe, and from the centre of children’s bodies out through their arms and legs to their fingers and toes. For example, a child learns to lift his/her head first and then sit, crawl, walk and run (Terry, 2008).
Gesell also stated that an infant gains control of the head before arms, and masters moving arms before fingers. According to milestones of motor development, infants can lift their upper body by using their arms two months after their birth, and sit by themselves a few months later. Then, infants become able to control their lower body to do things like walking and jumping (Berk, 2006).
When the children are of nearly one year, they are gradually developing their fine motor skills like grabbing objects. They begin to stack blocks or other toys. Also they can pick up small pieces of cereal, open and close small boxes, and turn knobs on toys because their pincer grasp becomes more coordinated (Berk, 2006).
Another aspect of physical development is shaping senses. A child’s sense of taste, smell and hearing are more developed than sense of sight. Infants can recognize the difference of flavors, people’s smell and tones of voice, while their vision is unclear. In addition to these four senses (taste, smell, hear and vision), infants develop their sense of touch (Berk, 2006).
Teachers play an important role in promoting children’s physical development. They should provide safe indoor and outdoor spaces for children to move their bodies. Educators should provide materials and equipments according to the age and developmental level of infants (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991).
Educators can promote physical development of infants by reinforcing and encouraging them. Educators should help and encourage children when they are learning new skills (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991). For example, when an infant is taking the feed from his/her bottle, educator should encourage him/her for holding the milk bottle (Terry, 2008). Educators should provide the opportunities for children to use their senses to explore, shape, volume and other characteristics of objects (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991).
Educators can promote physical development of infants by providing equipments and opportunities for gross motor skills. To do this, educators should set up the room in a way that infants have the freedom to explore in a range of safe spaces (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991). For instance, some infants have started crawling, so teachers should divide the space so that the infants, who do not crawl, won’t get hurt. Educators should provide a range of materials and equipments that helps children to use their large muscles. For example, push bikes, tunnels and so on (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991).
Educators can promote physical development of infants by providing equipments and opportunities for fine motor skills. To do this, educators should provide opportunities for infants that help them to develop small muscles by grasping, dropping, pulling and fingering (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991). Treasure basket is a good resource that teachers can use to develop fine motor skills of infants (Terry, 2008).
As human beings grow, they gain knowledge and produce different thoughts, and also their ability of memorizing develops. This change of intelligence is called cognitive development. The early years of a child’s life are crucial for cognitive development (Berger, 2001). Cognitive development of the baby means the learning process of memory, language, thinking and reasoning. Babies develop at their own pace. So, it is impossible to tell exactly when every child will learn a given skill. Jean piaget and Lev Vygotsky are two of the famous cognitive theorists (Tesar, 2008).
After birth of a baby, their intelligence develops rapidly during the first two years. According to Piaget’s cognitive theory, infants explore and understand their world by using their senses. For example, smelling, sucking, throwing, and mouthing and so on. Piaget proposed four stages of cognitive development, which he believed occur in a certain order to everyone at individual’s own rate (Berk, 2006).
The first stage of development is called sensor motor stage that applies to children from birth to two year. During this stage, an infant’s knowledge of the world is limited, but developing, to their sensory perceptions and motor activities. Behaviors are limited to simple motor responses caused by sensory stimuli. Children utilize skills and abilities they born with, such as looking, sucking, grasping and listening, to learn more about the environment. This stage has further six sub-stages (Berk, 2006).
During first sub-stage, which is reflexive schemes (0-1 month), the child understands the world through inborn reflexes such as sucking and looking. The second sub-stage, which is primary circular reactions (1-4 months), involves coordinating sensation and new schemes (Berk, 2006). For instance, if a child accidentally puts his/her finger in mouth and has started sucking it, then later on, that child intentionally repeat this action. By repeating these actions, infants find them pleasurable (Tesar, 2008).
During third sub-stage, which is secondary circular reactions (4-8 months), infants start paying attention on the world around them and begins to intentionally repeat an action in order to trigger a response in the environment (Berk, 2006). For example, a child intentionally picks up a toy from the floor to put that toy in his/her mouth (Tesar, 2008).
In the fourth sub-stage, which is coordination of secondary circular reactions (8-12 months), object permanence occurs, demonstrating that memory is developing. Infants realize that an object exists and they begin to recognize certain objects as having specific qualities (Berk, 2006). For example, if the mother shows the baby an attractive toy and then hides that toy under the blanket. The child in this sub-stage can find the toy (Tesar, 2008).
According to Piaget, infants develop their memory and imitation skills through these sub-stages. New born babies respond to what they feel through senses and also imitate facial expressions. As children grow, they enjoy repeating actions as well as becoming able to remember familiar people and objects (Berk, 2006).
The ways children adapt to situations were described by Piaget as assimilation and accommodation. Children organize their own experience when they encounter the similar events during assimilation, whereas in accommodation, the children adjust old knowledge to new understandings when unfamiliar situations come (Bruce& Meggitt, 2005).
According to Vygotsky, children’s learning is influenced by people in their society. His idea of zone of proximal development is that children’s intelligence expands more when they are supported by adults or older children than when they are working by themselves. Infants gain knowledge not only from their own discoveries but also from what other people illustrate to them (Nixon & Gould, 2003).
According to Piaget, the teacher should provide an environment where children can explore themselves. Teachers play an important role in the development of children. Teachers should create an environment where they can interact with the children and observe them closely (Tesar, 2008).
Teachers should provide opportunities for infants to use all senses to explore the world around them. For example, providing treasure basket is a good example to promote infant’s cognitive development. By doing this, educators can help children develop new concepts and gain thinking and reasoning skills (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991).
By providing musical instruments, teachers can help children to acquire knowledge of different sounds and children know the difference of high and low volume (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991). Teachers should provide finger food to the infants. By doing this, children can smell, taste or squish the food. This helps infants to get familiar with the taste, hardness, softness and smell of the provided food (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991).
Teachers can promote infant’s cognitive development by interacting with them in different ways. This helps children to promote their confidence and curiousity. Educators can promote infant’s confidence and curiosity by praising their successess. For example, if a child roll over or hold a toy for the very first time, then the teacher should praise that child. By doing this, teachers can help children in buliding their self confidence and inceases their curiosity for achieving success for next time (Dodge, Dombro & Koralek, 1991).
In conclusion, physical development occurs to infants automatically according to genes in the fixed sequence. Also, babies gain control of their upper body before lower body. Infants gain knowledge of world through explorations by using their senses as well as organizing previous experiences when they face unfamiliar situations. According to Vygotsky’s point of view, an infant’s cognition expands with the support from people around them. Educators play a prominent role for the physical and cognitive development of infants.
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