|MadSci Network: Development|
Hi Marianne :) Physical Children of about 3 ½ years of age have mastered basic motor skills like walking and climbing and so on. At this stage their brains and bodies are in the process of refining and consolidating what they can already do, so they spend a lot of time doing things over and over again while they play. They can ride a tricycle, run and jump. They can feed themselves (although it can still be a messy experience!) and can use the toilet (with some help). They've got most or all of their baby teeth by now and are learning to brush them. They may be able to dress by themselves although adults will need to help with fiddly things like fastening buttons and shoelaces. Children at this age are usually around 3-3½ feet tall, weighing between 25-45lbs. Their limbs are growing longer as they outgrow the 'squat-looking' toddler stage. Intellectual Children at this stage in their development have learned to speak quite well and most of what they say makes sense. They probably know over 600 words (they're learning more every day!) and can talk in short sentences. That said, they're still a long way from getting it right. At this age children are in search of rules to help them make sense of the world and you will quite often hear a child say something like "I throwed the ball". This is in fact pretty smart because they have heard adults using sentences like "you dropped it", so they assume that the rule for describing something you've already done is to add "-ed" to the end of the 'doing word' (verb). In this case it's wrong (the verb 'to throw' is irregular), but the rule will help them learn much more quickly than if they had to learn each example separately. At this age, children enjoy listening to stories and can follow a simple storyline through pictures. They can name colours and objects and may be able to count up to three things. They enjoy singing and repeating simple rhymes. A child will understand the difference between doing something 'now' and 'later' although more complicated things like 'tomorrow' and 'yesterday' don't make much sense to them yet and they don't usually remember things that have happened in the past. They are still gaining a 'sense of self' but already know whether they are a boy or a girl and, often, how old they are. They enjoy figuring out differences and similarities between things like pictures or people. Emotional and Social Children of around 3½ are learning that their actions can affect their environment, and regularly seek attention and/or approval from adults/caregivers. They love to make adults laugh, especially by being silly. They often copy the behaviour of adults around them, especially when this is centred on a particular activity like cooking or gardening. Although they are only playing at it, the activity is helping to improve the child's understanding of how the world functions. A three and a half-year-old will probably have a million questions about what the caregiver is doing, and many of these questions will almost certainly be "why?", but they will also enjoy the activity for its own sake. Children of this age don't yet play cooperatively with other children of a similar age although they seem to be happy playing near them. They are still too young to understand that other people do not see the world the same way that they do (a stage the famous child psychologist Piaget referred to as 'egocentrism'). While in principle they will understand requests from an adult to "play nice", they are not yet good at sharing because they don't understand yet why they can't have all of the stuff all of the time. This is a great source of arguments between children at this age ;) Some more emotionally insecure children 3-4 years of age will experience 'separation anxiety' when left at a crèche or kindergarten for the first time. However most children soon accept this state of affairs - as their reasoning abilities grow, they come to realise that although the caregiver has gone, they will return again soon. I think that one of the most important things to remember with all of this is that children develop in their own time - some children learn to walk later, or to talk later, than others, and this hardly ever slows them down in later life. All children are unique and develop at their own pace. If you have serious doubts about a child's development it would probably be best to discuss it with your GP - don't get scared by some of the stuff out there on the Web, particularly on commercial sites where there is money to be made by exploiting your fears that your child will not mature properly if you do not buy product X! A lot of the guidelines in books or on web sites are just that - guidelines. I hope this has answered your questions but many psychology texts give an excellent introduction to how children develop - I would recommend Vogel's "Developmental Psychology" which I had when I was an undergraduate and which is fairly easy going. If you're looking for websites, a good place to start might be this site, which rates online articles about developmental milestones by how helpful/informative they are: ht tp://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/pages/preschoolers.growth.html You might also want to visit the National Network for Child Care (a U.S. organisation) site, which has a lot of information about developmental milestones for each age group: http://www.nncc.or g/Child.Dev/child.dev.page.html There are a million online tests you can do - but probably best stick to those by reputable organisations such as the American Academy of Paediatrics: http://www.aap.org/family/devm ile.htm
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Development.