Child Development Theories
As we learned from the video, “The History of Parenting Practice,” Child development
theories came into existence in the early 20th century. Little attention was paid before
that to children’s cognitive abilities, language development and physical growth.
Researchers eventually became interested in child development and the influences on
development. What made kids think, act, speak and grow the way that they do? That
was the question to be answered.
Child Development theories help us to understand how a child grows and develops in
the three following areas:
Cognitive (intellectual development)
Physical
Social/ Emotional
Child development theories can help us create a structure and environment that helps
children be more successful at reaching their full potential. They can be used as
practical guides to early care and education of children.
Development refers to change or growth that occurs in children
Some child developmental theories focus on every aspect of development. Some focus
on a more limited view. Most recent theories outline the developmental stages of
children and identify typical ages at which these occur.
To help different children you need to understand the sequence of their development
Healthy brain development results from healthy human interaction. Children thrive in
environments that are predictable and nurturing.
Understanding theories about how people develop helps form your knowledge base in
caring for young children.
Physical Development
Changes in bone thickness, vision, hearing, gross motor (large muscles, running,
skipping, bike riding), fine motor (hand, finger muscles, grasping, holding, cutting)
Cognitive
Process used to gain knowledge. Identify colours, one vs. many, language and thoughtboth needed for planning, remembering and problem solving
As children grow and mature these skills develop
Social-Emotional
These are grouped because they are inter-related
Social- learning to relate to others
Emotional- feelings and expression of Trust, fear confidence, pride, friendship and
humor, humidity, interest and pleasure
Learning to express emotions in appropriate ways starts early in life. Self-concept, selfesteem are linked to social/emotional development.
Different Types of Child Development theories and an example of the Theorist
Psychoanalytical Theorists: Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson
Cognitive Child Development Theories: Jean Piaget
Behavioural Child Development Theorist: John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B.F. Skinner
Social Development Theories: John Bowlby, Albert Bandura, Lev Vygotsky
Ages/Stages
Birth-1 year-Infant
1 year-3 year old-Toddlers
3 years-6 years old-Pre-schooler
2 year olds like to run and should be provided with lots of open space.
Infants explore with their mouths so all toys should be kept clean and safe.
Development
Follows key patterns or principals, these might influence how you care for children
Principals of Development
Cephalous caudalprincipal; head --> down
Proximodistal principal; center of body outwards
Maturation; sequence of biological changes
A child must mature to a certain point before they gain some skills.
E.g. 4 months they can’t talk
Brain Development
Most rapid growth 1st 3 years of life, therefore it heads into infancy, may have more
information development than mouths in middle age.
Child development, principals and theories
A theory is a principal or idea that is proposed, researched and generally accepted as
explanation, Dev. theories provide insights into how children grow and learn.
Theories can be used to help make decisions. Theories are based on observations and
experiences with children
Although each theory looks at development from a different angle, each offers a wealth
of insight into how children develop. All theorists agree, children learn but in a caring
environment rich in learning.
**Drama Activity**
Erik Erikson’s theory, Page 77 explanation
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Child Development Theories note