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Physical & Cognitive Development in Childhood
Early childhood: first phase of childhood, from about age 3 to age 5 (up to kindergarten)
Piaget’s Preoperational Stage

Middle childhood: second phase of childhood, from about age 6 to 11 (elementary school years)
Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage
Two Major Learning Challenges
Special Social Learning Tasks
We need to learn the rules of our society.
We need to build on the knowledge that has been passed down before.
We need to understand the intentions of others.
Slow Growing Frontal Lobes
Frontal lobes responsible for reasoning and planning.
Growth of neural connections and pruning of unused neurons occurs in the frontal lobes on a delayed timetable.
Myelin sheath also continues to grow into our twenties.

Principles of Growth
Physical Development
Cephalocaudal growth
Growth occurs from top to bottom.
Larger heads, squat bodies
Mass to specific growth
Gross motor skills precede fine motor skills.
In younger years - girls out-perform boys in precision (fine motor skills) but, boys out-perform girls in power (gross motor skills). However, the differences are quite small.
Motor Skill Milestones
Growth Threats
Threats to Development and Health
can lead to reduction in height
can also bring on puberty faster
Undernutrition (top global health threat to development)
less developed muscles, bones, and brain tissue
compromises both gross and fine motor development
produces apathy
Childhood Obesity
BMI = ratio of weight to height;
Obesity: at or above the 95th percentile of the BMI norm
15% of children today are obese.
Dramatic increase in childhood obesity last 25 years:
Two times as many obese children in the U.S. since 1970s
Two times as many obese children in England since 1990
Four times as many obese children in Egypt since 1988
Socioeconomic factors:
Developed nations show overweight in low income kids
Underdeveloped nations show it in upper incomes
Obesity rates in U.S. highest among African-American and Hispanic boys and girls

Factors Influencing Obesity
Not more calories than in the past, but do consume more carbs, sugar
Oversized portions in restaurants
Sedentary lifestyle
Eating fast
Parental obsession can backfire
Self-esteem vs. Obesity
Self-esteem is more associated with parental anxiety than actual body mass.

Diseases of Obesity
Type 2 diabetes and hypertension on the rise in children
Typically diseases of aging, related to being heavy
Cognitive Development
Piaget’s Preoperational Stage (age 2-7)
Defined by an inability to step back and think – to perceive differently. Children are locked into immediate appearances.
Preoperational stage begins at 2 years of age.
They already have object permanence.
They are using language as a means to an end.
They understand intentions of others.
Until about age 8, they can only see what meets the eye.

Pre-op: Strange Ideas About Substances
Conservation tasks
A variety of tasks involving changing the shape of a substance to see if children can look beyond the appearance of the substance.

Conservation of liquid – fail

Conservation of liquid – pass

Conservation of number

Pre-op: Strange Ideas About Substances
Why can’t they understand conservation?
They do not understand reversibility.
They are centered – stuck on most visually striking feature of a substance.

Children also lack abstraction skills to understand the concept of a category or classification.
They do not understand class inclusion.
They have trouble with seriation tasks.
Bigger=more; taller=older
Pre-op: Peculiar Perceptions about People

Pre-op children lack identity constancy
A scary mask turns a person into a monster
Giving life to inanimate objects
Giving human characteristics to non-humans
Humans make everything, including natural phenomenon
The inability to see another’s point of view
Cognitive Development
Piaget’s Concrete Operational Stage
Concrete operations are defined by the ability to reason and think; more adult-like
Concrete stages begins at around age 5, and major shifts start to occur around age 8.
Can reason conceptually about concrete objects
Can decenter, reverse operations, conserve
Cannot think abstractly in a scientific way
Full development may not occur until age 10 or 11.

Using Piaget
How can we use Piaget’s ideas?
It will happen when a child is ready.
Children must have the ability to do a particular operation before you try to use it.
Give preschoolers the same size cup.
Understand fear of clowns and dreams.
Don’t expect them to understand rules of a game.
“Academic school” begins between 6 and 7.
Using Piaget
Critically Evaluating Piaget
Since concrete operations appear gradually, is it right to call the two distinct stages?
Piaget derived his theory from a small biased sample of children (his own).
Piaget overestimated egocentrism.
Societal factors and scaffolding can influence the timetable for the emergence of concrete operations.
The Zone of Proximal Development
The gap between a child’s ability to solve a problem alone and potential ability if aided by a more accomplished person
Scaffolding is providing the proper support for learning –tailoring to the child.
How to do it:
Break a larger task into smaller steps
Instruct and give clear but nonthreatening feedback about failure
Continue helping until the child masters the task
The Information-Processing Perspective
Development is continuous rather than distinct.
They use the computer as a metaphor for the mind.

An example of how IPP is used...
We know there are three areas of memory:
Sensory memory
Working (short term) memory
Long term memory
Working memory holds about 7 items (+-2)
Tests using phone numbers show that an unknown area code can disrupt retention of a new number.
How much can we recall?
Toddlers: 2 numbers
Seven-year-olds: 5 numbers
As the frontal lobes activate, we get new abilities:
Executive functions
Selective attention
Inhibiting responses

Information Processing
Executive functions
Ability to inhibit responses
Giving time to reflect, plan and direct behavior
Development of heuristic strategies for problem solving
Repeat information to embed it into memory – major way to learn new information; older children use more than younger
Selective attention develops
Young children tend not to focus.
Older children learn to focus.
Inhibiting responses
Young children and adults with frontal lobe damage have trouble inhibiting.
Information Processing
How can we use the IP Theory?
Teach rehearsal strategies
Help children to focus on the topic
Expect to regularly remind children to do a task
Use scaffolding to create organization

What about children out of sync with the norm?
What happens when a child cannot concentrate?
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
A disorder predominant among boys
Excessive restlessness
Easily distracted
Difficulties focusing
Difficulties with selective attention
Usually found in elementary school
Competing stimuli produces problems
Multi-tasking is nearly impossible
Inner Speech
According to Vygotsky: learning to regulate behavior and master cognitive challenges; “talking to oneself”
Vygotsky believed all childhood intellectual skills came from language development.
Founded by scaffolders and repetition
Developing Speech
Phonemes are the sound units of words
First speech in infancy – single phonemes (mama)
At the age of 3, children have trouble with multi-syllable words, but by elementary school, this problem is largely resolved.
Children learn grammar in stages:
When they start putting three words together, they begin to show an understanding of grammar. “Me want milk” makes grammatical sense, but “milk want me” does not.
At age 2, words “Me out” shows grammatical sense
Semantics – the meaning of words
increases astronomically in the first 6 years, but never ceases
Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device (LAD) is a supposed brain mechanism that prepares us for learning semantics.
Overregularization – is the use of the regular tense with irregular words:
I have two hands, therefore, I have two feets.
If I have two cats, I must have two mouses.
If I walked, I must have runned and swimmed.

Overextensions – is the extension of a word meaning to a broadly incorrect use:
If children have a dog at home, they may determine that all four legged creatures are dogs.
Or, children may decide that their animal is a dog and every other animal must be something else (an underextension).
The Enduring Self
Constructing our personal past
Studies of autobiographical memories indicate that scaffolding with past talk conversations helps children build a personal past.
Scaffolding seems to work well by talking about shared experiences.
An adult’s leading questions create richer autobiographical selves in the children.
Cultural differences in autobiographical talk occur:
Experiments show differences between individualistic and collectivistic societies.
Theory of Mind
Making sense of other minds
By age four, children really begin to relate to each other.
They develop a theory of mind
Other people have other thoughts and perspectives.
At age four, children know their thoughts are not another person’s thoughts.
At age four, they can use this information to manipulate their world (Can I Daddy? Mommy said it was OK.).
Four-year-olds know how to lie.