Understanding the Pre-School Child : a Multi-Method Approach

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UNDERSTANDING THE PRESCHOOL CHILD:
A MULTIMETHOD APPROACH

What is the pre-school child really like? It is not possible to find an adequate answer to this question by relying on any one theory of child development. The main reason for this is that most theorists usually concentrate on only that facet of child development which they consider important. Gesell therefore, concentrates on physical and physiological development since he feels that it is the main pre-requisite for all other forms of development. Freud tells us about the kinds of things that go on in the child's mind; especially at the sub-conscious level; and how they affect the personality, and emotional development of the child. Piaget, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the emerging intelligence structures in the child's mind, and studies various aspects of cognitive and perceptual development to gather clues about the mind's underlying structures of intelligence. The behaviorists provide us with explanations about the observable of the child in terms of stimulus and response.

To comprehensively understand the pre-school child therefore, it becomes necessary to look at child development across its various aspects, along with the contribution of the various theorists to each particular aspect.

Child development takes place across four basic areas:

i) Physical Development, which includes the development of the child's body as well as nervous system, and their combined effect on the child's motor skills, day to day activities etc.

ii) Perceptual Development, dealing with the child's ability to gather information and its mechanisms

iii) Cognitive Development, giving an insight into how the child understands and analyses information gathered by his perceptual skills, or, in other words, `how the child thinks' ; his reasoning, language and thought etc.

iv) Emotional Development, wherein various aspects of the child's personality, like `self-concept', morality, and the resolution of inner conflicts is studied.

The following pages consider just such a Multi Method Approach to child development, dealing in greater depth and detail, with each of the aspects outlined above.

2.1.0 PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

The normal pre-school child grows from about 85cm/12kg at two years to 110cm/19kg at five years of age during this period. There are of course individual variations; the girl- child tends to be shorter and lighter as compared to the boy-child. By about two years, girls reach half their adult height, while boys do so only at about two and a half years. During the pre-school years, body proportions change dramatically because the legs and trunk grow rapidly, but cranial growth is comparatively slow. As a result, by six years, the legs are about half the size of the body, a ratio that con -continues through adulthood. Also, during this period, fatty tissue, which is dominant in the early years of life, is gradually replaced by muscle tissue, though to a lesser extent in the case of girls.

Muscular development accounts for most of the weight gained during the pre-school years by both boys as well as girls. Since the large muscles develop more rapidly than the smaller ones, motor abilities progress from the global to the specific. Thus a two year old can perform actions involving the larger muscles, picking up large objects, kicking a ball etc. as adroitly as five year old, but is not equally adept at actions involving the smaller muscles, such as threading needles, cutting with scissors etc.

Simultaneously with the skeleton and muscles, the nervous system of the pre-school child is also developing. By age five, the brain has reached 75% of its adult weight, and a year later, 90%. Myelinisation, a sheathing of the nerve fibers of the brain by a white insulating material called Myelin, is also completed by five years age. This insulating sheath helps speed up the transmission of nerve impulses, allowing for more efficient and...
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