Stages of Child Development: Development of Children During Ages Three to Six Years

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Development of Children During Ages Three to Six Years

Cognitive Development

  • Preschoolers are often filled with questions about the world around them. They may sometimes apply rudimentary logic and at times may look confused about particular situations. The preschooler’s growing awareness about the world around them, their logics and insights present to us the gateway to their minds.

  • The complexity of children’s thoughts increase considerably by the end of infancy and at the beginning of pre-school. According to Jean Piaget, the period between two and seven years of age is termed as pre-operational stage.

  • At this stage, their thinking is illogical, rigid and unsystematic. One of the abilities that develop is their ability to engage in symbolic thought i.e. they no more need to be in actual contact with an object, person or event in order to think about it.

In fact, they can imagine about an object or person and use their representational abilities to remember and conclude about the properties of that object or person.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive Development

  • Symbolic Function: Preschoolers make and register an image of an item in their mind and even in the absence of any sensory cues from their environment, and they can still remember about them. They have an ability to name these objects using symbols such as words and numbers.

  • Spatial Thinking: Children in this age group become better at understanding spatial relationships. They can understand that a picture represents something that is not present but may exist. However, they may not be able to correctly understand the relationship between the picture and the actual object.

  • Causality: Children at this stage are able to think about causes of familiar events. They can comprehend that all living things grow in size when they receive nutrition. They reach such reasoning by their observation of the natural environment coupled with what they hear from their parents and others about such events. However, they cannot yet reason logically about the cause and effect. They may link two events that occur close together in time or space to be related as cause and effect. For example, just because the preschooler had a bad thought just before the sibling fell sick, a preschooler may relate the negative thoughts with sibling falling ill.

  • Categorization and Identities: Categorization refers to the children’s ability to identify similarities and differences in objects. Children at this stage have not yet fully mastered this but they may classify objects as good, bad, friend, nonfriend, edible, inedible, utensil, furniture and so forth.

    • In addition to that, they may attribute life-like characteristics to non-living objects and assume them to be living. This cognitive limitation was termed animism by Piaget.

    • Preschoolers’ understanding of identities is not fully developed. They lack the ability to conserve. They may believe that out of two rows of coins, a longer looking row of coins has more coins (conservation of number); when a stick is placed ahead of the other, even when the two stick are of same length, preschool children may believe that one is longer than the other. They also focus their thought on only one aspect of a situation and are not able to take into account three to four aspects of a situation simultaneously.

  • Egocentrism: According to Piaget, preschool children center on their own viewpoint and cannot understand another person’s perspective. To study this, Piaget designed a Three Mountain task, where a doll was placed opposite to where the child was sitting, and the child was asked questions about how the things would appear or look to the doll. Piaget found that the children did not respond as to how the things would appear to the doll. Instead, they answered from their own perspective and imagined things from their own viewpoint. This is called egocentrism. With age, children’s cognitive abilities expand further, and they are able to overcome the cognitive limitations to this stage.

Language Development, Communication and Emergent Literacy

  • Pre-schoolers are full of questions. Asking questions is not merely a function of growing cognitive abilities but is also made possible by growing language competencies that children acquire. Vocabularies of preschool children expand in this age and they are able to understand and use words in everyday talk much easily.

  • Preschoolers also quickly understand the meaning of any difficult word that they hear for the first time. This is called fast mapping. It helps them to learn new words rather quickly. They also have a natural tendency to understand how words can be combined to form meaningful sentences.

  • By pre-school age, most children are able to combine two to three words into sentences. Children at this stage also become competent in pragmatics, i.e. the practical usage of language. They know how to speak with whom. They become skilled with the social side of language.

  • They also become proficient in understanding social rules and practically using long sentences to make demands, tell a story and so forth. They become receptive to social cues while communicating. If they seem to feel that other people cannot understand what they are saying, then they tend to repeat themselves or explain themselves differently. All children do not follow a regular developmental trajectory. Some children may have delayed language development. Adequate language inputs in the early years of life help children achieve milestones of language development.

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