Early childhood is the term given to the stage that begins at infancy and lasts till the age of six (Chaloux, 2014). This time period is one of learning, development and growth – and is referred to by some educational psychologists as the “preschool” years. Features of Cognitive Development
An infant’s brain begins to grow during the third month of their life (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). According to Yunus, Razali and Jantan (2011), at this stage, the baby or the infant begins to understand certain words. Similarly, Chaloux (2014) states that “babies are born ready to learn language”, and will be listening to the sounds they hear from the very beginning. And thus, they begin to identify the words most commonly used around them, or within their earshot. However, the infant child will not be able to articulate words – even though they recognize them – until the age of about 18 months (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). At this age, he or she will respond to their name, and say a few easy words of his own and follow simple instructions (Chaloux, 2014). By the age of two years, they will be able to articulate more than fifty words and will have started to chain some of those words together into simple sentences (Chaloux, 2014). At this point, the child will also be able to use word symbolically (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). According to Yunus, Razali and Jantan (2011) when children reach the age of five or six years, “their eyes are ready to read, and their brain are ready to store many words”. At this stage their vocabulary expands by leaps and bounds and they become increasingly more fluent in speech – especially in their native language. Thus, we can state that language and its acquisition is a powerful enhancement tool when it comes to a child’s cognitive development. Curiosity
At infancy, children consistently demonstrate a natural curiosity to learn more about their environment. It is this curiosity that prompts the unconscious learning process that infants and toddlers undergo (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). For instance, as an infant they will crawl towards whichever object in their line of sight interests them the most. They will touch, feel, push, pull, shake and throw objects around in order to explore their environment (Chaloux, 2014). As toddlers this curiosity shows itself in their frequent asking of “Why?” Concepts
According to Chaloux (2014), children develop the ability to understand simple concepts as a toddler. At this stage, they are able to recognize similarities as well as differences between objects – for example a toddler is capable of grouping objects or toys based on color or shape. According to HealthyChildren.org (as cited in Chaloux, 2014), at three years old, a child is able to name colors and begins to comprehend the concept of counting. They are also aware of gender differences and understand that male and female bodies are different (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). By the time a child is six – and nearly at the end of the Early Childhood stage – they are capable of doing the following: 1. Speak about themselves
2. Use symbolism to represent various environmental aspects (using the word “toy” to represent their own, very real toy even in its absence) 3. Learn to read simple comprehensions and children’s stories 4. Learn to do simple arithmetic (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). Nevertheless, children at this age are not capable of understanding and mastering the concept of permanence or transformation (Yunus, Razali, & Jantan, 2011). At the Early Childhood stage, children also undergo the sensori-motor stage and venture into the preoperational stage of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (McLeod, 2012). The sensori-motor stage stretches from birth to two years and according to McLeod (2012), this stage is “centered on the infant trying to make sense of the world… Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with (such as looking, sucking,...
References: Chaloux, S. (2014). Ten Characteristics of Early Childhood Development. Retrieved from Demand Media Web site: http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/ten-characteristics-early-childhood-development-5014.html
Cherry, K. (2014). Erikson 's Theory of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved from Psychology.About.com: http://psychology.about.com/od/psychosocialtheories/a/psychosocial.htm
Cherry, K. (2014). Piaget 's Stages of Cognitive Development. Retrieved from Psychology.About.com: http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/
McLeod, S. (2012). Jean Piaget. Retrieved from Simply Psychology: http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html
Yunus, K., Razali, M., & Jantan, R. (2011). Educational Psychology. Selangor Darul Ehsan: Open University Malaysia.
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