The Preschool Years

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The Preschool Years

Two years ago he could barely lift his head, now he can move with confidence. The preschool years are an exciting time in a child's life. The preschool years are a time of tremendous change and growth, where physical, cognitive and social development precedes at a rapid pace. The preschool years are a time where the parent and teacher make the biggest difference in the child's development.

The preschool years are defined by some as the years between three and five years old, while other theorists describe the preschool years to be from the age of two to five years old. For the purpose of this research paper I will use the theory that the preschool years begin at two, because the child is officially not an infant any longer. While, most children do not begin actual preschool until the age of three or four I will consider the two year old to be in the beginning stage of preschool years.

The average two year old weighs twenty-five to thirty pounds and is close to thirty-six inches tall. By the end of the child's fifth year he weighs an average of forty-six pounds and is approximately forty-six inches tall; over half the size of an adult. The physical changes on the outside of the body are just the beginning of what the preschool body goes through physically. The child grows stronger as their muscle size increases and their bones become sturdier (Feldman, 2010).

The brain grows faster than any other body part. Two year olds that have received proper nutrition have brains that are about three-fourths the size of an adult brain. By the age of five, children's brains are ninety percent the weight of an average adult brain (Schuster & Ashburn, 1986; Nihart, 1993; House, 2007).

One reason the brain grows so rapidly is the increase in the number of interconnections among cells. The interconnections allow for more complex communications between neurons, and they permit the rapid growth of cognitive skills, and helps in the development of fine and gross motor skills (Dalton & Bergenn, 2007). During this time the amount of myelin-the protective insulation that surrounds parts of neurons-increases, which speeds the transmission of electrical impulses along brain cells (Feldman, 2010). By the age of five years the myelination of the reticular formation, and the hippocampus is complete. This may explain the preschoolers added attention span and improved memory (Rolls, 2000).

Attention is defined as the ability to focus on a specific aspect of the environment and ignore any other stimuli. Learning cannot take place unless the individual is able to focus attention (Cook, Klein & Tessier, 2008, p.294). The pathways of attention consist of alarm, orientation, identification and decision. Attention also flows in cycles from high to low throughout the day and night, with periods of inattention of great importance for processing time (Jensen, 2005).

When a teachers see a child standing and watching at circle time the most common response is, "pay attention". If teachers understood the processing of attention they would see those inactive moments in a new light. Everyone has experienced thought that come long after a discussion or experience, the brain just needed that inactive time to process the information and make sense and meaning (Jensen, 2005).

The caregiver and teacher of the preschool child should recognize and provide the kind of learning environment that fosters brain growth and development. Providing learning environments and activities that provide active involvement with real objects with sufficient, uninterrupted time to develop ideas and explore possibilities is one way the teacher can foster this development (Nilsen, 2010). Teachers should realize the process of learning is as important as the outcome. Settings that facilitate children's language, attentional skills, problem solving, flexible thinking, and self regulation with help prepare confident, eager, engaged,...
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