Child development theories are an organized set of principles designed to explain and predict something.
Below are some major child development theorists and their theories.
Jean Piaget – (1896-1980) was originally a biologist before going on to study the development of children’s understanding. He studied children by observing them talking and listening to them whilst he set them tasks to carry out. He came up with the ‘Maturation Theory’ which means that a child simply grows up and as they grow they become able to understand more. He was said to have proposed that a child’s thinking doesn’t develop evenly, but it will ‘take off’ and move into new areas and abilities. He suggested that these changes normally occurred around the age of 18 months, 7 years and 11-12 years.
Piaget’s key ideas – Schema- The child makes up a theory from experiences from their environment.
Equilibrium – A child’s experiences seem to fit the schema. (Everything makes sense.)
Disequilibrium – A child experiences an event that makes them reconsider their schema. (Things don’t quite make sense.)
Accommodation – The child changes their original schema that now fits in with their new experiences.
Piaget’s stages of cognitive development:
Sensory – motor – 0-2 years
Pre- operation – 2-7 years
Concrete operational – 7-11 years
Formal operational – 11-15 years
Piaget’s influence today – Piaget’s work has led to early years settings and frameworks in the EYFS becoming more ’child Centred’ and providing more hands on work for children John Broadus Watson – (1878-1958) came up with the idea of behaviourism as a movement. He believed that differences in behaviour were due to children’s different experiences of learning. He took up the work of Ivan Pavlov who had previously worked with dogs. Pavlov noticed that dogs would salivate before their food arrived; they had associated other factors with their food being delivered (People’s footsteps and the noise of a bucket.)

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