It is rightly said that the early years are learning years and early care is education. According to early years learning framework, childhood is about:
- Belonging – being connected to family, culture, community and place
- Being – to be, to seek and make meaning if the world
- Becoming – shaping new understanding, identities, capacities and relationship
According to Copple and Bredekamp (2008) “young children are born learners. Although individual differences are present at birth, most set out to explore their world with unbridles eagerness and curiosity. Perhaps, more than any other time life, early childhood is a period of never ending possibilities.” It means at early childhood stage, the children explore the world with unlimited eagerness and curiosity.
During the phase of early childhood, there are four main types of development that take place in a child. They are in physical aspects, emotional aspects, social aspect and cognitive aspect. As a parent, it is very important for you to understand each of these aspects and how they can be an important figure in shaping a child’s life.
In early childhood, developmental changes occur in relatively slower pace as compared to infancy. During this time child loses his baby fat, legs grow longer and the relation of head size to body size becomes more adult like. The brain and the nervous system grow rapidly and important parts of the brain attain their mature form. The manner of walking, running and jumping becomes smoother gradually. A child’s loco motor and fine motor skills improve. The child can perform tasks such as writing letters with an adult like grip, cutting with blunt scissors, opening screw top containers, etc.
What is advised?
To help improve a child’s physical development, experts suggest some activities:
- Vigorous exercise for 60 minutes each day for all the children.
- Activities within the family like biking, hiking, swimming, going for short strolls, marketing, etc. to help gain stamina gradually.
- The children should be given more activities like crafts, drawing, coloring, etc.
- They should also be encouraged to play with peers as it provides opportunity for social, language and cognitive development.
- Parents need to make efforts to reduce sedentary time e.g. Reduce using a computer, playing video games, watching TV by providing various physical activities and motor skills.
Cognitive development refers to the mental development of a child. During this period, the children are capable of using symbolic thoughts to perform mental tasks like use of blocks for simple mathematical operations, etc. Children at this age can talk in endless sentences, but are keen listeners when an interesting story is being told. Their span of attention is very small, hence a teacher or a parent need to change the activity every ten to fifteen minutes. The child is able to use language and art to represent his thoughts and symbols.
What is advised?
To help improve a child’s cognitive development, experts suggest some activities:
- Be careful of what you speak in front of your child as the child picks it up very soon.
- Talk to your child as much as possible. Tell him/her different stories each night before sleeping as it may help widen your child’s imagination.
- Avoid negativity in your house and your family.
- Avoid using lecture method to teach. Instead use learning aids to gain the child’s attention and help the child grasp faster.
Emotional development in a child’s life plays a major role. A child at this age has a fear of darkness. Children tend to be impatient and selfish when it comes to sharing toys or other belongings. He learns to express emotions. They express aggression through physical and verbal behavior without any inhibition. Their behavior shows signs of jealousy of siblings, especially aggressive behavior towards new infant which may be prolonged indefinitely.
Egocentrism at this stage results into failure to take others perspectives is often observed at this stage. Stranger anxiety develops by the age of 2 and continues for a couple of years depending on their socialization. The habit of thumb sucking becomes child’s safety valve to release emotional pressure like temporary separation from a parent.
What is advised?
To help improve a child’s emotional development, experts suggest some activities:
- Forcing a child into a dark place can hamper the emotional growth of the child.
- Don’t force a child to talk to people they don’t like.
- Don’t scold or beat the child for a little selfish or aggressive behavior. Rather use talking methods and explain to the child why it’s wrong.
- Don’t make your child habituated to thumb sucking.
This is also the age where the child begins to develop self-concept. The child can identify feelings of self & others and can also feel empathy. The child learns to establish relations with his immediate family members. His dependency of parents is reduced with age.
He can slowly tolerate short separation from parents especially when he goes to play or to the preschool. He learns to make new friends and becomes more cooperative with his playmates. He learns to take initiative like becoming the captain of the team etc. He also gets into a competitive spirit. They develop own theories about the world and the different concepts in their surroundings.
What is advised?
To help improve a child’s social development, experts suggest some activities:
- A child’s aggressive behavior with his peers needs to be controlled or else it can lead to bullying, teasing and physical fights like pulling hair, etc.
- A child needs to be taught to accept “No” for an answer.
- The child thrives for social approval in good boy/good girl form. So whenever the child does something good, appreciate his work.
Felicia N. is professionally a teacher but a blogger by choice. She blogs at Wedding Maniac and Confused Mango where, she blogs about her life’s journey and her passions. She has been teaching kids for the last 6 years and has also been involved in counselling activities. You can check out her blog to know more about her.