Discuss The Physical Development of the Young Child
1- What do you see as the most important things that parents can do to help their children at this point in their lives?
2- Next, classify those things from question one into operant or classical conditioning, habituation and recovery, or
imitation. Then describe how those activities support the child’s development?
The Physical Development of the Young Child
Take a moment and think about a newborn infant–at birth, human infants are, essentially, completely vulnerable and helpless. Unlike many animals, they cannot walk, consume solid food, or manage even the most basic tasks for their own survival. This is the price we pay for our brains–we are born far less developed than many creatures. Over the course of a very short time, around two years, that helpless newborn learns to walk and talk, to manipulate objects, to engage and participate in the world around her.
This transition from a helpless newborn to a toddler or preschooler requires massive amounts of learning, fueled by rapid brain growth, sensorimotor development, and physical growth. The infant, from birth, uses his ability to perceive to learn and develop an understanding of the world around him.
TOPICS COVERED WILL INCLUDE:
- Brain development during infancy and toddlerhood at the larger level of the cerebral cortex.
- Learning through classical conditioning, operant conditioning, habituation and recovery, and imitation.
- Dynamic Systems theory of motor development, highlighting cultural variations in motor development.
- Gibsons’ Differentiation Theory of perceptual development.
The Development of the Brain
Brain development in the first two years of life is fascinating and awe-inspiring. Most of the physical growth of the brain occurs during the first two years of life. Neuroscience has shed light on the development of neurons and the cerebral cortex in particular. At birth, infants have approximately one hundred billion neurons. Relatively few neurons will be produced after birth. The newborn’s neurons are connected only tentatively. In the first years, essential connections between neurons form. Combined with understanding sensitive periods and the role of the environment, we have a much clearer picture of what is happening in the infant and toddler brain today than ever before.
Development of Neurons
Neurons are nerve cells in the brain that store and transmit information. In total, the human brain has between 100 to 200 billion of these neurons.
- Neurons send messages from one to another through tiny gaps, called synapses. These messages travel on chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Development of the Cerebral Cortex
The cerebral cortex is the portion of the brain we think of when we hear the word brain. The other parts of the brain are the cerebellum and the brain stem. These parts of the brain are responsible for a number of physical functions, but not for thought, learning and memory. It accounts for approximately 85 percent of the total weight of the brain. In appearance, it looks like a wrinkled half walnut. The cerebral cortex is the last part of the brain to stop growing and it is significantly more sensitive to environmental conditions than other parts of the brain.
The cerebral cortex is divided into four parts, called lobes. Each of the brain’s lobes is associated with particular functions.
- Frontal lobe
- Parietal lobe
- Temporal lobe
- Occipital lobe
RIGHT VERSUS LEFT BRAIN
Sensitive Periods in Brain Development
Brain development in children is often quite sensitive to a variety of factors. In some cases, trauma, lack of care or the absence of appropriate support may limit the child’s abilities to grow and develop properly. While scientific studies on children pose a number of ethical questions, animal studies and observation of children have confirmed the existence of periods of increased sensitivity for proper brain development. During these periods, the physical, cognitive and social or emotional development of children can be slowed or damaged.
- A lack of adequate environmental stimulation is the most likely cause of damage in these situations. Inadequate environmental stimulation stalls the proper development of the prefrontal cortex. This will reduce the child’s impulse control, cognition and emotional control, both positive and negative. In today’s world, these situations are often associated with abusive or neglectful parenting, or, in some cases, with orphanage care.
Physical Aspects of Brain Development
- PHYSICAL ASPECTS
- SLEEP-WAKE CYCLE
Brain development is not just a social and cognitive process, but also a physical one. This is evidenced in a number of ways, including the changing states of arousal, or sleep-wake cycle, associated with infancy and toddlerhood.