Cognitive Development Ages 3 to 5

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Cognitive Development

Preschool children ages 3 - 5:

Cognitive development refers to the acquisition and use of thinking skills. It a child’s

increasing ability to think and reason, they are active participants in the learning process,

they are learning how to learn. Like scientists preschool children are curious about what

they observe, they ask questions, make predictions about what will happen and test their

ideas, they recall past experiences and apply what they know to new situations in order to

understand them. They are interested in cause and effect, sometimes they make

connections between what they have observed and what they have experienced even

though the ideas put together are not related. “ today we are having fish for lunch

because the teacher is late. Whenever the teacher is late we have fish”. According to

Jean Piaget, children this age are in what he called, preoperational stage and are

egocentric. It doesn’t mean they’re self fish or focused only on themselves, they believe

that everyone sees the world the way that they do, leaving no room for the perspectives of

others. For example, a child will sometimes cover their eyes so that they cannot see

someone and make the assumption that the other person now cannot see them either.

They believe your thoughts are just like theirs. Cognitive skills also include

mathematical thinking. For example, preschool children can sort objects and explain how

they classified them : “these are all red and the other pile is blue” Mathematics is a way

of thinking about and organizing information. It involves finding order, quantifying,

comparing objects recognizing patterns, seeing relationships, making predictions and

solving problems. It uses special language: more, less, equal the same and so on. One

might hear preschoolers often say things such as, “he has more cars than I do”, I can run faster than you”, “we have the same”. Children make sense of information by focusing

on one feature of an object at a time, they do not necessarily judge things by what is

logical to an adult. A major indicator of this stage is called conservation, or the ability to

understand that quantity does not change just because shape changes. For example, if you

were to pour the same quantity of liquid into two separate glasses, one short and wide and

the other tall and thin, younger children would insist that the taller glass holds more.

Children who have mastered the concept of conservation would be able to understand that

the quantities are identical. Piaget explained that the child's inability to yet grasp the

concept is due to their capacity to focus on only one aspect of a problem at a time

(centration), their tendency to take things at face value (appearance), and the fact that they

see something only in its current condition (state). They cannot yet understand that the

wider with of the short glass compensates for the height of the taller one. It is important

to understand that preschool children are literal thinkers. Preschool children think in

concrete terms, therefore, they need concrete experiences in the learning environment.

They have a special need to experiment and discover things that can be related to their

own experiences and the world around them. Expression through movement and music is

necessary for growth. Dramatic and rhythmic activities are especially appropriate for

these age group.

Activities I can include in my program to enhance Cognitive Development:

Stringing Beads

Beyond the ability to string beads or pasta, the activity is now about making jewelry.

Children can end up with a necklace and/or a bracelet to wear. These can be made out of

store-bought beads, the home equivalent of plain pasta, or pasta dipped in food coloring. Patterns can be part of this activity, either with...
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