Theories of conceptual development in children abound in psychology. From Freud's pschosexual development to Piaget's stages of cognitive development, each has attempted to establish a picture of how a child grows and changes. They try to give us a measuring stick to see whether a child is developing correctly or if you need to intervene to redirect the way the child is growing. As a parent, you are always on the look out for ways to help your child be the best person he can be.
Getting a Good Start
The theorists all agree on one thing: a rich environment gives children a good start on learning. Babies who are exposed to a wide variety of positive experiences have larger vocabularies and are more flexible in adapting to new situations. Think of it as the difference between giving an auto mechanic a tire iron and a pair of pliers to work on your car, or giving him a full tool box and a garage in which to work.
Reading Aloud Opens Windows
Piaget postulated that children in the concrete operational stage, between age 7 and 11, focused primarily on real things. But other studies indicate that children can and do understand some abstract concepts. Listening to fairy tales and other fiction stories gives young children a framework for their own emotions and feelings. It helps older children safely explore concepts without having to actually experience them. Bruno Bettelheim, in his book, The Uses of Enchantment, explains how even young children can use stories to help map their inner landscape.
One of the primary tenets of Montessori teaching is that children learn by doing. Montessori schools provide young children with child-sized tools that actually work. It should be noted here, that the youngsters should be supervised while they are using their small-sized, but real, tools. It avoids problems such as enterprising young carpenters sawing through the legs of the kitchen table. With that said, baking cookies, growing plants and practicing driving nails into wood can be entertaining and educational.
Circle and singing games complement fairy tales in boosting cognitive development. Many of the older games involve memorizing ritual words that help drive the games. Learning to play by the rules when racing, playing catch, or more complex team games develops a sense of fair play and an understanding of how to get along with others. Playing nicely with others is as important to a child's development as learning the times tables or parts of speech.
Music and Conceptual Development In Children
Music is a vital part of conceptual development in children. From lullabies to background music for computer games, music is an integral part of any society. Children who study music have an easier time learning math concepts, as well as learning discipline from the practice essential to playing an instrument. Music expresses emotion; and when it is combined with fairy tales or play, it helps children to express feelings and ideas for which they might have no other outlet.
- The Uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim. Vintage Books Edition, May 2010.
- Conceptual and Experiential Cognition in Music, Bruce Torff. Journal of Aesthetic Education, Winter 1999.
- Dialogue on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, Susan A. Gelman.
- Useful Charts: Piaget's Stages of Development
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