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The postnatal developments of glial cells and myelin sheaths help to explain why older children may perform behaviors that younger children are not capable of. Motor skills. Motor skills are physical abilities or capacities. Gross motor skills, which include running, jumping, hopping, turning, skipping, throwing, balancing, and dancing, involve the use of large bodily movements. Fine motor skills, which include drawing, writing, and tying shoelaces, involve the use of small bodily movements. Both gross and fine motor skills develop and are refined during early childhood; however, fine motor skills develop more slowly in preschoolers.

Albert Bandura's theory of observational learning is applicable to preschoolers' learning gross and fine motor skills. Bandura states that once children are biologically capable of learning certain behaviors, children must do the following in order to develop new skills:. In other words, children must be ready, have adequate opportunities, and be interested in developing motor skills to become competent at those skills.

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Preschoolers are generally quite healthy, but may develop medical problems. Typical minor illnesses, which usually last no more than 14 days, include colds, coughs, and stomachaches. Respiratory ailments are the most common illnesses among children at this age because preschoolers' lungs have not yet fully developed.

Most childhood illnesses usually do not require a physician's or nurse's attention. Additionally, minor illnesses may help children to learn coping skills, particularly how to deal with physical discomfort and distress. Minor illnesses may also help children learn empathy, or how to understand someone else's discomfort and distress. In contrast, major illnesses of early childhood, which are severe and last longer than 14 days, include influenza, pneumonia, cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS.

Moreover, children afflicted by AIDS may also have parents with AIDS and must learn to cope with household stress, depression, and the potential loss of their caregivers. Certain children experience more illnesses than their peers. Poverty, family stress, being in daycare, or being from a large family more family members increase the risk that someone may get sick and pass along the illness to other family members is correlated with increased risk of illness in the preschooler age group. The majority of deaths during early childhood are due to accidental injuries rather than illnesses.

The most common source of deadly accidents for preschoolers is the automobile. Other causes of childhood death include drowning, suffocating, being burned, being poisoned, and falling from heights.

Ages and Stages of Development - Child Development (CA Dept of Education)

Young children's sense of adventure often outweighs their understanding of the dangers inherent in various activities and situations. Therefore, adequate adult supervision is necessary at all times whether at home, in daycare, or on the playground. Removing book from your Reading List will also remove any bookmarked pages associated with this title. Are you sure you want to remove bookConfirmation and any corresponding bookmarks?

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Sign In. Physical Development: Age 2—6. For example, infants engage in an intuitive analysis of the statistical regularities in the speech sounds they hear en route to constructing language Saffran, Infants and toddlers derive implicit theories to explain the actions of objects and the behavior of people; these theories form the foundation for causal learning and more sophisticated understanding of the physical and social worlds. Infants and young children also are keenly responsive to what they can learn from the actions and words directed to them by other people.

This capacity for joint attention may be the foundation that enables humans to benefit from culturally transmitted knowledge Tomasello et al. Infants respond to cues conveying the communicative intentions of an adult such as eye contact and infant-directed speech and tune in to what the adult is referring to and what can be learned about it. Young children rely so much on what they learn from others that they become astute, by the preschool years, in distinguishing adult speakers who are likely to provide them with reliable information from those who are not Harris, ; Jaswal, ; Koenig and Doebel, This connection of relationships and social interactions to cognitive development is consistent with how the brain develops and how the mind grows, and is a theme throughout this chapter.

Infants and young children may not show what they know because of competing demands on their attention, limitations in what they can do, and immature self-regulation. This is one of the reasons why developmental scientists use carefully designed experiments for elucidating what young children know and understand about the world.

By designing research procedures that eliminate competing distractions and rely on simple responses such as looking time and expressions of surprise , researchers seek to uncover cognitive processes that might otherwise be more difficult to see.

Developmental Psychology

One of the most important discoveries about the developing mind is how early and significantly very young children, even starting in infancy, are uniting disparate observations or discrete facts into coherent conceptual systems Carey, ; Gopnik and Wellman, ; Spelke and Kinzler, From very early on, children are not simply passive observers, registering the superficial appearance of things. Rather, they are building explanatory systems—implicit theories—that organize their knowledge.

Such implicit theories contain causal principles and causal relations; these theories enable children to predict, explain, and reason about relevant phenomena and, in some cases, intervene to change them. As early as the first year of life, babies are developing incipient theories about how the world of people, other living things, objects, and numbers operates. This example is discussed in detail below. Some additional illustrative examples of the development of implicit theories are provided in Box Infants first have a relatively simple theory of mind.

They are aware of some basic characteristics: what people are looking at is a sign of what they are paying attention to; people act intentionally and are goal directed; people have positive and negative feelings in response to things around them; and people have different perceptions, goals, and feelings. Children add to this mental map as their awareness grows. From infancy on, developing. Even babies hold some fundamental principles about how objects move about in space and time Baillargeon et al. For example, babies are surprised as measured by their increased looking time if an object in one location pops up in another location when they did not see it traverse the space between.

Even babies seem capable of intuitively understanding something that approximates addition and subtraction, and they are surprised when something counter to these principles occurs Wynn, a. For example, when babies witness one object that is then screened from view and they see that another object is placed behind the screen, they are surprised when the screen is lowered if there is still only one object there. There has been a recent explosion of research on quantitative abilities of infants and toddlers.

These very early developing capacities in these two numerical systems lay the foundation for later mathematical abilities that will be taught explicitly to children.

What is Social & Emotional Development?

Young children also understand some fundamental characteristics of living things. They distinguish between living and nonliving things; they know living things grow and inanimate objects do not; they know sick or injured people can heal while broken objects do not repair themselves; they attribute life, growth, and biological processes to some sort of vital force or energy, and they know that food is necessary to nourish this vital force Inagaki and Hatano, Infants also detect when an adult makes eye contact, speaks in an infant-directed.

In contrast, babies who see an inanimate rod move on the same trajectory toward an object are surprised if the rod changes its trajectory to pursue the object but not if it continues on the old trajectory toward a new object.

The Growth of Knowledge: Crash Course Psychology #18

An example of building on intuitive understanding to develop a more elaborate understanding of biology comes from a study on teaching preschool through early elementary school children about nutrition. Children at this age have an understanding that people need food to survive, but their implicit theory provides no causal mechanism for how food accomplishes its vital functions.

The approach in this study was to move beyond very simplified, nonexplanatory teaching material and instead to teach children in age-appropriate ways that different foods contain different nutrients that are too small to see, which in turn have different functions that are required to support diverse biological processes.

The core concepts and causal principles provided a coherent conceptual framework that explains why it is important to eat a variety of healthy foods. Children became able to explain why it is not healthy to eat only broccoli; they could pick a healthier snack based on the variety of foods included; they understood why people need blood to carry nutrients to all parts of the body. Moreover, when assessed at snack time, the children who received this intuitive theory-based training increased their vegetable consumption Gripshover and Markman, In another example of intentionally contributing to a more elaborate biological theory for children at the older end of the birth-to-8 age range, third- and fourth-grade students during the severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS epidemic in Hong Kong increased their hand-washing behaviors after receiving lessons that germs are living things that thrive under some circumstances and die in others, and that reproduce quickly under some conditions and very slowly or not at all in others.

It is well established that babies and young children imitate the actions of others. Children as young as 14 to 18 months are often imitating not the literal observed action but the action they thought the actor intended—the goal or the rationale behind the action Gergely et al. Only when babies have evidence that the speaker intended to refer to a particular object with a label will they learn that word Baldwin, ; Baldwin and Moses, ; Baldwin and Tomasello, By the time they are 18 months old, shared intentionality enables toddlers to act helpfully in a variety of situations; for example, they pick up dropped objects for adults who indicate that they need assistance but not for adults who dropped the object intentionally Warneken and Tomasello, Bloom, ; Hamlin et al.

The research on the development of implicit theories in children has important implications for how adults work with and educate young children. Failure to recognize the extent to which they are construing information in terms of their lay theories can result in educational strategies that oversimplify material for children.


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Designing effective materials in a given domain or subject matter requires knowing what implicit theories children hold, what core causal principles they use, and what misconceptions and gaps in knowledge they have, and then using empirically validated steps to help lead them to a more accurate, more advanced conceptual framework. Statistical learning refers to the range of ways in which children, even babies, are implicitly sensitive to the statistical regularities in their environment, although they are not explicitly learning or applying statistics.

Like the development of implicit theories, this concept of statistical learning counters the possible misconception of babies as passive learners and bears on the vital importance of their having opportunities to observe and interact with the environment. Several examples of statistical learning are provided in Box Young children, although not explicitly or consciously experimenting with causality, can experience observations and learning that allow them to conclude that a particular variable X causes or prevents an effect Y.

Recent advances in the field have documented the ways young children can implicitly use the statistics of how events covary to infer causal relations, make predictions, generate explanations, guide their exploration, and enable them to intervene in the environment. The understanding of causal inference also provides an example of how different cognitive abilities—such as a sensitivity to statistical regularities and the development of implicit theories based on observation and learning discussed in the two preceding sections and Box —interact with and can mutually support each other.

Several examples of young children developing the ability to understand causal inference are provided in Box Csibra and Gergely argue that humans are equipped with a capacity to realize when someone is communicating something for their benefit and that they construe that information differently than when they merely witness it. As noted previously in the discussion of developing theory of mind, children as early as infancy devote special attention to social situations that are likely to represent learning opportunities because adults communicate that intention.

Information learned in such communicative contexts is treated as more generalizable and robust than that learned in a noncommunicative context. Infants can use information about the statistics of syllables in the speech they hear to help them parse words. How do we know from hearing prettybaby that baby is more likely to be a word than tyba? One way is that the conditional probability of by following ba is higher than that of ba following ty.

Babies can use such conditional probabilities of syllables following each other to detect word boundaries, that is, to distinguish between clusters of syllables that form a word and clusters that could be different words strung together. In a pioneering study to test this notion, Saffran and colleagues exposed 8-month-old babies to recordings of trios of syllables that followed each other more frequently and syllables that were at the junctions between these trios and followed each other less frequently. The latter had a lower conditional probability, representing how words compared with nonwords have syllable combinations that occur more frequently.

After a period of exposure to the recording, the time the babies spent looking toward a sound source varied depending on whether they heard a trio of syllables that had appeared together more frequently or one that had appeared together less frequently.