The play years are very important in a child’s development and learning since they form the basis of its future. Two different children will never develop or learn in the same way. This paper follows the life of Kennedy who is 5 years old. I will use theories and concepts of child development during the Play Years from the Biosocial, Cognitive, and Psychosocial areas of development. I will look at areas of his physical growth, brain development, social learning, language, as well as empathy, antipathy and aggression will be explained as it pertains to Kennedy.
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I have observed Kennedy grow from a toddling 1-year-old to a playful 5 years old with profound changes in his body weight and the pattern of growth. At age 5, Kennedy is slimmer, taller, and more muscular when compared to how he was at age one. He no longer has the protruding belly, the round face, or even the short limbs and a large head he used to have between 1 and 2 years. Kennedy’s weighs 21 kilograms at age five and is now 46 inches tall. The increase in height and weight is now proportional unlike in earlier years. His eating habits are however peculiar. Because he is less active, he tends to have a very low appetite mainly because he only needs fewer calories per pound of body weight. He insists on eating certain foods that are prepared and placed in a certain way which I have learned to be normal for any modern child. This behavior is now fading as he advances in age. The appetite for certain foods is also very high with Kennedy. This is making him have several unhealthy snacks each day, a trend which is worrying about his parents.
When Kennedy attained 5 years, I noticed that he was quicker, was more coordinated, and had a more reflective thought. He is more attentive and can listen and answer. He can catch the ball and throw it back while writing the alphabet has become very easy for him. His parents are coming in handy at this age helping him in dressing, and assisting him to write his name. As a result of increased brain development in the frontal lobe, Kennedy’s sleep has become more regular, his emotions more nuanced and responsive to specific stimuli, his temper tantrums have subsided and he is now able to control his laughter and crying. He can sort out objects and can comfortably think before acting. Kennedy has shifted from the inattentive 3-year-old to an attentive five-year-old and can now concentrate on a single activity for quite some time without losing interest. This perseverance is especially shown in Kennedy’s tendency to repeat one phrase or question over and over. When his favorite TV program is interrupted, he becomes quite angry and may cry and gets stuck in that emotion.
Because the maturation of the prefrontal cortex improves impulse control and leads to better coordination, children at six years move with greater speed and grace. I have noticed this change in Kennedy as he turns six next month. He is now able to do things in a more refined manner and his actions are more skillful. This new development can be attributed to the acquisition of motor skills. Kennedy can ride a tricycle, climb a ladder, pump a swing, and play football. Other activities that Kennedy is getting engaged in are as a result of motivation. Several psychologists and behaviorists have always tended to want to unveil what drives our doings. According to early psychologists, various motivations act together to influence the way people behave. These internal motivations interact with cultures and individual upbringing to shape our behavior. The time and how much a child eats also interact with the body’s physiological mechanisms. Kennedy learned when, how, and the amount to eat from his friends and family members. According to Freud, sexual libido is a major motivation for how a child behaves. As Ken engages in play with fellow playmates, survival, and sex completely motivate him. He is also motivated by curiosity that acts as an encouragement for him to learn about various potential problems and how to avoid mistakes. Ken’s sexual drive, according to Freud, becomes his desire to explore and discover. Social motivation depends on our reliance on each other for maintenance and enhancement. Ken’s parent’s show of affection, acceptance, and respect translates into a matter of physical survival for ken.
Kennedy experienced several emotional changes from what could be termed as basic to very complex self-conscious responses. Kennedy, at the age of five, was influenced by various things that he interacted with. This ranged from his home, who he knew, where he went when he left the house, and those children that he played with both at home and in the nursery school that he attended. Kennedy’s home had a great impact on the way he interacted with people. As their home was located in a close and was clustered among several other homes, this enabled families in this close tie to observe what each family was doing either when they come out or through windows. This home set up helped Kennedy understand the meaning of social life and the cultural context in which his family lived. Although ken was a firstborn in his family, this did not deter him from learning current trends in games and the latest fashions in clothing. This he learned from outdoor friends whom he interacts with. His listening skills greatly increased and were able to follow simple instructions. At this stage, Kennedy knows several people including his dad and mum, his grandparents, and other close friends who lived in the compounds. He had a very close relationship with his mum and dad and Paul who was a close playmate. This close attachment means security to Ken.
According to research, children are high on sociability. An important factor is what sociologists call ‘the goodness of fit’ which acts between a child’s temperament and the context of the child’s environment. Ken is very sociable and reacted positively towards peers and other family members, this in turn affects his development and learning. It is from those people that he interacts with that Ken now knows about the world around him. This has enabled Ken to understand himself and other people. At age 5, ken has learned how to express himself, his thought, and his feelings. It is a time that Ken is learning how to take control of the world he lives in.
Ken’s emotional world is under the influence of other aspects other than his friends whom he loves and whom he participate in football games with; it is also influenced by experiences.
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An important aspect of Kennedy’s development is the feeling towards others in society. As stated earlier, Kennedy tends to cry when his friend cries and also to laugh with him. This feeling that their pain is his is stimulated by mirror neurons and is termed empathy. Kennedy can read tones in words and interpret it as either being sadness or happiness, a thing he couldn’t do at four years. He too strongly disagrees (empathize) with fellow playmates by either confusing their intentions or desires. This behavior has been making him aggressive and may resort to action in most cases. However, Kennedy has been showing control over aggression and is submitting to his mother’s demands, clear evidence that he is maturing.
Jean Piaget (1951) postulated that a young child has a ‘general schema’ about those people he interacts with. Everyone else is assimilated into this schema. Because Kennedy highly interacts with children who are his seniors, he tends to take every other person who is older as being more powerful than he is. Ken’s practice of power escalates when he joins nursery at the age of 3 years and nine months. At school during play, he participates in family play roles, he chooses a different role when an older playmate is absent from school and starts to choose what to wear to school (Arnold 1999).
The theory put forward by Jean Piaget focuses on the development of perception, memory, and problem-solving. Though Kennedy’s parent’s lived in a poor neighborhood, this did not make any sense to him, the problems seemed isolated from real existence. During this stage of development, ken was interested in distinguishing categories and in particular object sizes, shapes, and gender differences. His memory capacity grew considerably and he could talk a few sentences by the age of two. He seemed to enjoy the company of next-door children and would be taken out to play with them. This way, Kennedy got to know about people and they also got to know about him. When Kennedy learned to talk, he spelled names differently. He for example called aunt Trizer ‘Tiza’ and Cousin Geoffrey ‘Fure’. Children the age of ken use words that are connected to what they are interested in. At first, Kennedy did a lot of private talks, talking to himself in a bid to review, discuss, and discuss events to himself. This private talk progressed as he joined nursery school although this time, Kennedy would do it in a whisper and times without audible sound. Kennedy also learned numbers and to memorize the alphabet guided by his nursery school teacher. As he advances, Kennedy can now count objects, a sign that he on the right path of development and learning. Kennedy’s acquisition of vocabulary has developed as a result of the development of the continued interconnection of sets of categories for words.
Kennedy is not egocentric but is very sociable, he cries when his friend Paul cries and thus is very sensitive to the wishes and emotions of others just like any other child of his age according to Vygotsky. He asks a lot of questions about almost everything ranging from machines, weather, and anything else believing that anyone his senior knows everything. His interaction with other children and other skilled members of society is doing well in his intellectual growth. He is also using his parents as teachers more so because they seem to be presenting challenges to him, offering assistance, instruction, and motivation. From his parents and other members of the extended family, Kennedy is learning to think using guided participation in social experiences like gardening and in exploring the universe. When his age mates copy his written work, Kennedy does not seem to be resentful but is rather appreciative and recognizes that he is better and should help others. His ability to learn from fellow playmates is an indication that Kennedy is an intelligent child.
It is interesting to observe and note the changes through which Kennedy has underwent during his play years. During this period, I have noted that he was not different from other children in the general pattern. Several theories have been put forth that try to shed light on the stages through which a child develops and learns. A child’s development is influenced by various factors that can be narrowed down into psychosocial, biosocial, and cognitive domains. Psychosocial factors influence emotions and personality, biosocial factors influence physical development while cognitive factors motivate mind development. Language has come out as a very important aspect of development during the play years with children at this age behaving as a language sponge and learning a new word every day.
Arnold, C. (1999). Child Development and Learning 2-5 Years: Georgia’s Story. London: SAGE.
Berger, K. (2008). The Developing Person: Through the Life Span. New York: Worth Publishers.