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Early Childhood

Section 1 PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT
Growth From Age 3 to 6
Bodily growth Brain development and “infantile” amnesia Health and safety in early childhood

Motor Development
Gross and fine motor skills Handedness

Section 2 COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Theories of Cognitive Development
Piaget’s preoperational stage of cognitive development Understanding thinking: the development of “theory of mind” Cultural learning in early childhood

Early Childhood Education
The importance of preschool quality Cross-national variations Preschool as a cognitive intervention

Language Development
Advances in vocabulary and grammar Pragmatics: social and cultural rules of language

Section 3 EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Emotional Regulation and Gender Socialization
Emotional regulation Moral development Gender development

Parenting
Parenting “styles” Parenting in other cultures Discipline and punishment

The Child’s Expanding Social World
Siblings and “only children” Peers and friends Media use in early childhood

Summing Up

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It is midmorning in a day care center in Aalborg, Denmark, and Lars Olsen, age  4, is playing a game with his friend Pelle (pronounced Pell-Uh). “Look out!” he shouts to Pelle, holding up a toy airplane with a little pilot in it. “There’s gonna be a crash!” Pelle, with no airplane of his own, has taken a plastic banana from the kitchen play area and straddled a small stuffed bear on it. “You can’t catch me! I’m too fast!” he exclaims, and dashes away with Lars in pursuit. Lars catches up to him and hits his toy plane against Pelle’s banana airplane, and the airplanes crash to the ground along with the laughing boys. “Come, children!” calls the boys’ preschool teacher, Birgitte. “It’s story time.” The children, familiar with this daily ritual, sit on the floor in a semicircle in front of Birgitte as she begins to read the story of the day. Lars enjoys the story, and the “Letter Learning Time” that comes after it. He has learned most of his letters already, and looks forward to being able to read. In the afternoon his mother picks him up on the way from her job at an accounting firm, and the two of them go home. Soon his father arrives home from work, too, and Lars watches television while his parents prepare dinner.

In the afternoon and evening, Mari continues to work alongside her mother and take care of her little brother. There is water to be fetched and firewood to be gathered, and Roberto must be watched constantly. Her aunt and her cousin Gina come by, and she and Gina play with their dolls, pretending that the dolls are taking tortillas into the village square to sell. Mari’s older sister is currently the one who sells the tortillas in town, but Mari knows that within a few years this duty will fall to her. In the evening the family gathers around the ever-smoldering fire, and Mari sits on her father’s lap. Before long Mari is asleep, and the next morning she will have no memory of being passed from her father to her older sister, or of falling asleep by her sister’s side next to the fire. As we have seen in the previous two chapters, from birth onward children’s development can be very different depending on their culture. In early childhood the cultural contexts of development expand in several important ways, as the stories of Lars and Mari show. Children begin to learn culturally specific skills, through participation in daily tasks with their parents and siblings in some cultures, as in Mari’s case, or through participation in group care and preschool in other cultures, as for Lars. Their play comes to include pretend play, and the materials of their fantasy games are drawn from their cultural environment— airplanes for Lars, tortillas for Mari. They become increasingly aware of their culture’s differential gender expectations for boys and girls. And they develop an awareness of their culture’s values and moral order. By sleeping alone in his...
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