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PHYSICAL AND COGNITIVE GROWTH IN THE PRESCHOOL YEARS
Physical Growth
Growing Body
By age 2, 25 to 30 pounds and close to 36 inches tall (1/2 adult height)
By 6 years old, about 46 pounds and 46 inches tall
Individual Differences in Height and Weight
Averages mask individual differences in height and weight
10% 6-yr-olds weigh 55 lbs. or more
10% 6-yr-olds weigh 36 lbs. or less
Gender differences – boys start to become taller & heavier, on average
National and global economic differences
Changes in Body Shape and Structure
Bodies vary in height, weight, and shape
Toddler fat burns off
Less round, more slender
Arms & legs lengthen
Head size more adult-like
Internal physical changes occur
Muscle size increases, children are stronger
Bones become sturdier
Sense organs continue to develop (i.e. eustachian tube)
Nutrition: Eating the Right Foods
Slower growth = less caloric requirements
Children can maintain appropriate intake of food, if provided with nutritious meals
Inappropriate encouragement to increase food intake beyond an appropriate level may cause obesity
Obesity: body weight > 20% higher than average for age & height
Avoiding a Butter Battle
Good nutrition without adversarial situations occur by:
Providing a variety of foods, low in fat and high in nutritional and iron content
Iron deficiency anemia causes fatigue & is big problem in developed countries such as U.S,.
Allowing development of natural preferences
Exposing children to a wide variety of foods

Health and Illness
7 to 10 colds and other minor respiratory illnesses in each of years from age 3 to 5
Runny nose due to common cold is most frequent
Majority of US preschoolers are reasonably healthy
Pill-Popping Preschoolers?
Increasing number of children being treated with drugs for emotional disorders such as depression

Use of drugs such as antidepressants and stimulants has grown significantly
Injury During the Preschool Years
Accidents are greatest risk
2x risk of death from illness before age 10
1/3 chance every year of serious injury
Danger of injuries
High levels of physical activity
Curiosity
Lack of judgment
Individual differences (gender, culture, etc.)
Range of Preschool Dangers
Falls
Burns
Drowning
Suffocation
Auto accidents
Poisons
Silent Danger: Lead Poisoning
Some 14 million children are at risk for lead poisoning (Centers for Disease Control)

U.S. DHHS calls lead poisoning most hazardous health threat to children under the age of 6
Effects of Lead Poisoning
Children in poverty are more susceptible lead poisoning
Growing Brain
Grows at faster rate than any other part of the body
2YO brain 75% adult, 5YO brain 90% adult
Increased interconnections and myelin
Corpus callosum becomes thicker
Lateralization (process of locating functions more in one hemisphere) improves

Brain Growth and Cognitive Development
So…does brain development produce cognitive advances or do cognitive accomplishments fuel brain development?
Motor Development
Potty Training: American Academy of Pediatrics Current Guidelines
Dry at least 2 hours during day or after nap
Regular, predictable bowel movements
Indications that bowel movement or urination is about to occur
Ability to follow simple directions
Ability to get to bathroom and undress on time
Discomfort with soiled diapers
Asking to use toilet
Desire to wear underwear
Begin only when children are ready



Fine Motor Skills
Involve more delicate, smaller body movements
Require much practice
Show clear developmental pattern
Handedness
Preference by end of preschool years
90% right-handed
More boys left-handed

No scientific basis of myths that suggest there is something with being left-handed

Right-handers have left cerebral hemisphere larger than right, especially language areas
Becoming an Informed Consumer of Development
Keeping Preschoolers Healthy:
Eating well-balanced diet (1300 calories age 2, 1700 calories age 4-6)
Exercising
Getting enough sleep
Avoiding contact ill others
Appropriate schedule of immunizations

INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT
PIAGET- A Quick Review
Knowledge is product of direct motor behavior
All children pass through series of universal stages in a fixed order
Quantity and quality of knowledge changes
Focus on change in children’s understanding
Preoperational Thinking
Preoperational Stage: 2-7 years

Lack use of operations and organized, formal mental processes
Characterized by symbolic thinking, mental reasoning & use of concepts increase

Relationship Between Language and Thought
Symbolic function:
Ability to use symbols, words, or object to represent something that is not physically present
At heart of increasingly sophisticated use of language

Language allows preschoolers to:
Represent actions symbolically
Think beyond present to future
Consider several possibilities at same time
Centration
Concentrate on one aspect of a stimulus

Conservation
Knowledge that quantity is unrelated to physical appearance & arrangement

Incomplete Understanding of Transformation
Preoperational children
Unable to envision successive transformations
Ignore middle steps
Egocentrism
Preschoolers do not understand that others have different perspectives from their own
Egocentric thought takes two forms
Lack of awareness that others see things from a different physical perspective
Failure to realize that others may hold thoughts, feelings, and points of view that differ from theirs
Emergence of Intuitive Thought
Curiosity blossoms and answers to wide variety of questions sought

Intuitive thought: use of primitive reasoning

Leads preschoolers to believe that they know answers to all kinds of questions, but there is little or no logical basis for this confidence
Late Stages of Intuitive Thought
Slowly certain qualities prepare children for more sophisticated forms of reasoning
Begin to understand the notion of functionality (idea that actions, events, & outcomes are related in fixed patterns)
Begin to show an awareness of the concept of identity (understanding that certain things stay the same, regardless of changes in shape, size, & appearance)
Evaluating Piaget’s Approach
Positive
Masterful observer
Useful way to consider progressive advances in child cognition


Negative
More recent experimental work suggests higher child performance on tasks involving conservation, reversibility, transformation, and ability to count
Contentions about continuity of development as theorized in Piaget’s stages
Preschooler Memory
Recollections of events are sometimes, but not always, accurate
Typically accurate in responses to open-ended questions
Partly determined by how soon memories are assessed
Autobiographical memory
Largely inaccurate before age 3
Not all last into later life


Vygotsky’s View of Cognitive Development
Cognition result of social interactions in which children learn through guided participation
Children gradually grow intellectually and begin to function on their own because of assistance that adult and peer partners provide
Zone of Proximal Development
Cognition increases through exposure to information that is new enough to be intriguing, but not too difficult

Greater improvement with help = greater increases in zone of proximal development


One More Look at the ZPD
Scaffolding
Support for learning and problem solving that encourages independence and growth
Aids in development of overall cognitive abilities

So how does scaffolding look in action?
GROWTH OF LANGUAGE AND LEARNING
Language Development
During preschool years:
Sentence length increases at a steady pace
Syntax (combining words & phrases to form sentences) doubles each month
Enormous leaps in number of words used through fast mapping

What is fast mapping?
New words are associated with their meaning after only brief encounter
By age 6, the average child has a vocabulary of around 14,000 words
Vocabulary acquired at rate of nearly one new word every 2 hours, 24 hours a day
Preschool Language on the Grow
Use plurals and possessive forms of nouns
Employ the past tense
Use articles such as “the” and “a”
Ask, and answer, complex questions
Extend appropriate formation of words to new words
Figure 7-11: Appropriate Formation of Words
Learning what is not said…
Preschoolers also learn what cannot be said as they acquire principles of grammar (system of rules determining expression of thoughts)
Although they still make frequent mistakes, 3-year-olds
Follow principles of grammar most of time
Are correct in their grammatical constructions more than 90% of the time
I’m not talking to YOU…
Private Speech of Children
Speech by children that is spoken and directed to themselves
Performs important function.
Serves to try out ideas, acting as sounding board
Facilitates children’s thinking and helps them control their behavior
Serves an important social function
What about practical communication?
Pragmatics is the aspect of language relating to communicating effectively and appropriately with others
Helps children to understand the basics of conversations
Turn-taking
Sticking to a topic
What should and should not be said, according to the conventions of society
Use of different language in various settings

Social Speech
Before the age of 3:
Speak only for their own entertainment
Apparently unaware if anyone else can understand
During preschool years:
Begin to direct their speech to others
Want others to listen
Become frustrated when they cannot make themselves understood
Begin to adapt their speech to others through pragmatics
Poverty and Language Development
Heard home language has profound implications for future cognitive success
Hart and Todd Risley (1995) landmark study
Affluence of the parents = more speech to children
Professional parents spent almost twice as much time interacting
Children in families that received welfare assistance exposed to fewer words (by age 4, 13 million fewer)
Language used home differed among various types of families (i.e., number of prohibitions)
Figure 7.12
Learning from the Media
What do children learn from television?
Average preschooler watches > 21 hrs/wk
1/3 households w/ preschools say TV on “most of the time”
Preschoolers spend 45 min/day reading
What about computers?
70% preschoolers have used computer
25% use 1 hr/day
20% have sent email
Too early to know effects of computer usage & other media
Figure 7-13: Television Time
Saying No to the Show
American Academy of Pediatrics
Recommends that exposure to television should be limited
Suggests that until age of 2, children watch no television, and after that age, no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming each day
What are the limits of preschoolers’ “television literacy”?
Preschool children
Often do not fully understand plots
Unable to recall significant story details
Make limited and often erroneous inferences about motivations
Difficulty separating fantasy from reality
Not able to critically understand and evaluate advertising messages
Is Big Bird a Good Bird?
Sesame Street is most popular children’s US educational program (50% watch it)
Child viewers
Have significantly larger vocabularies
Read more books
Perform significantly higher on several measures of verbal and mathematics ability at ages 6 and 7
Or a Bad Bird?
Frenzied pace at makes viewers less receptive to traditional forms of teaching

BUT…careful evaluations of program find no evidence that viewing Sesame Street leads to declines in enjoyment of traditional schooling
Who cares for our children?
Taking the pre out of preschool
Increasing number of children in out-of-home care
Some benefits to educational activities before formal schooling
Cognitive and social benefits from high quality preschool experiences

Varieties of Early Education
Child care centers
Family child care programs (in home)
Often not licensed, quality can be uneven
Preschools
Designed for intellectual & social experiences
Typically only 3-5 hours/day
School-age child care
How effective are early education programs?
Children in EE programs
Are more verbally fluent, show memory and comprehension advantages, and achieve higher IQ scores than at-home children
Are more self-confident, independent, and knowledgeable about social world in which they live than those who do not participate
Especially good for at-risk children
Any downside?
Not all outcomes of outside-the-home care are positive
Children in child care:
Are found to be less polite, less compliant, less respectful of adults, and sometimes more competitive and aggressive than their peers
Have a slightly higher likelihood of being disruptive in class extending through the sixth grade (when spending 10+ weeks)
Poor programs actually may harm children
What makes a good program great?
Characteristics of Quality Child Care
Providers are well trained
Appropriate overall size and ratio of care providers to children.
Curriculum is carefully planned and coordinated among teachers
Language environment is rich
Caregivers are sensitive to children’s emotional and social needs
Materials and activities are age appropriate
Basic health and safety standards are followed
Why does the US lag behind?
No coordinated national policy on preschool education
Decisions about education have traditionally been left to states and local school districts
No tradition of teaching preschoolers
Status of preschools in United States is traditionally low
The Purpose of Preschool: An International View
What justification could you use to support preschool readiness programs with your tax dollars?
Graduates of high quality programs less likely to repeat grades and more likely to graduate
For every dollar spent on program, taxpayers saved seven dollars by time graduates reached age of 27
Head Start
Best-known program designed to promote future academic success
Born in the 1960s when US declared War on Poverty
Has served over 13 million children and their families
Stresses parental involvement
Designed to serve the “whole child,” including children’s physical health, self-confidence, social responsibility, & social/ emotional development
Head Start: Research
Graduates show immediate IQ gains, but increases do not last.
Graduates are better prepared for future schooling.
Graduates have better future school adjustment than their peers.
Graduates less likely to be in special education or retained in grade
Some research suggests that Head Start graduates even show higher academic performance at the end of high school.