Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Cradles of Child Development

The frame work of child development encompasses:
  • Family
  • Culture
  • Community 
As Teresa M. Mcdevitt and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod wrote, 
"A happy and healthy childhood depends on a loving relationship with families, regular exposure to the traditions of a culture, and participation in a responsive community.”
Family, culture, and the community provide vital foundations for child development.  They show children who they are, how to relate to others, and what they can aspire. 

Family can be defined as two or more people living together and can be related by birth, marriage, adoption, or long-term mutual commitment.  There are many different types of family structures; for instance there are children who live with their mothers and fathers, single parents, step parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, and even foster care.  Family structure refers to the makeup of the family- the people who live with the child at home.  

Here is a link with some information regarding family structures:
Family Process:The family process is the frequent interchanges that family members have with one another.  There are strong influences within families.

Ø  Family influence on children:  Parents and other heads of family are powerful agents of socialization. That is by encouraging certain beliefs and behaviors, as well as discouraging others, parents and other heads of family help the children to act and to think in certain ways in which their society considers appropriate and responsible. There are at least three influential practices:

1.      Parenting styles: the distinct approaches to care giving that blend affection with discipline.  Here are a few types of parenting styles:
  •  Authoritative: This is characterized by emotional warmth, high expectations and standards for behavior, consistent enforcement of rules, explanations regarding the reasons behind the rules, and the inclusion of children in decision making.  
  •  Authoritarian: This parenting style is characterized by strict expectations for behavior and rigid rules that children are expected to obey without question.  
  •   Permissive: This style is characterized by emotional warmth but few expectations or standards for children’s behavior. 
  • Uninvolved: Parenting style characterized by a lack of emotional support and a lack of standards regarding appropriate behavior. 

2.      Daily activities and preparation for school: encouraging children to participate in everyday routines. Parents and other heads of family informally teach their children essential skills during shared activities

  • Guided participation: This is an active engagement in adult activities, typically with considerable direction and structure from an adult; children are given increasing responsibility and independence as they gain experience and proficiency.  
3.   Parents employment: providing children with resources and experiences related to parents’ own employment. 

Ø  Childrens influences on families:  Children are constantly expressing their wants and needs, often quite insistently while they are under parent’s guidance and control.  Through children’s request, demands, and actions, children influence parents, head of family, and siblings

1.      Children’s effects on parents/ head of family:  Children and their parents concurrently affect one another’s behaviors and they create an environment in which they live; this is known as reciprocal influences. 

2.      Siblings response to one another:  Children also impact their siblings.  Siblings have a relationship that is characterized by familiarity and emotion.  As siblings interact with one another, they express emotions.  Siblings serve many purposes for children:

  • Presence of brothers and sisters creates the possibility that close sibling relationships will supplement parent-child bonds.
  • Older siblings serve as role models, tutors, and playmates.
  • Birth order: older siblings have a slight advantage academically; younger siblings show greater skills in interacting with peers.
  • Only children: often stereotyped as lonely, spoiled, and egotistical.
 3.   Risk factors in families: the typically “good family” is one that fosters children’s physical, cognitive, and social emotional development.  Sadly, not all families are “good.” 

Child Maltreatment: this is the most serious outcome of an unhealthy family environment.

Click on this link to watch a short video on Child Abuse:

Children in a diverse society: Due to immigrations patterns over the past centuries, the US has become highly diverse.  Here are some statistics:
-          1 in 5 children live with at least one foreign born parent
-          1 in 5 children speak a language other than English at home
-          1 in 20 have limited mastery of English
-          10 to 15% of English language learners in urban school districts have had interrupted formal schooling

Children experiences in diverse groups

  • Ethnicity: membership in a group of people with a common heritage and shared values, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Ethnicity and socialization: families beliefs and practices
  • Gender and diversity: Cultures socialize girls and boys differently.  An example would be engaging children (boys or girls) in stereotypical behaviors.  
  •   Immigration and social change: When people move from one environment to another, like one state to another or country, cultural and ethnic differences become salient.  When different culture groups live in the same region, they tend to interact with each other and learn about one another.  As they engage and take on the values of the new culture, acculturation occurs.  Here are the four types of acculturation:
    1. Assimilation:  when a person totally embraces a culture, abandoning a previous culture in the process.
    2. Selective adoption:  When a person assumes some customs of a new culture while also retaining some customs of a previous culture.
    3. Rejection:  When a person fails to learn or accept any customs and values from a new cultural environment.
    4. Bicultural orientation: When a person is familiar with two cultures and selectively draws from the values and traditions of one or both cultures depending on the content.
Children from minority backgrounds face many challenges.  Some of the challenges include mastering language and learning the physical world, discrimination, racism and segregation.  Its im
portant to develop a strong ethnic identity, which is an awareness of being a member of a particular group and the commitment to adopting certain values and behaviors characteristics of that group. 

The community offers social and material resources that sustain children and their families.  Children are also influenced greatly by their community’s character and the incomes. The following are some factors that can affect child development. 
  •   Type of community: Communities vary in population and geographic features which affect the development of children.
  • Family income
  • Children living in economic poverty: About 17% of U.S> children live in poverty. These children face various and numerous of problems:
§  Poor nutrition and health care
§  Inadequate housing and material goods
§  Toxic environment
§  Gaps in background knowledge
§  Increased probability of disabling conditions
§  Emotional stress
§  Lower quality schools
§  Public misconceptions

Thursday, June 23, 2011


The following are great websites for parents and educators that provides a tremendous amount of information, articles, and activities relating to child development
         ZERO TO THREE is a national, nonprofit organization that informs, trains, and supports professionals, policymakers, and parents in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers.

How important is the role of family in child development?
Children need the presence, guidance of fathers in family life:
The Changing Face of the United States: The Influence of Culture on Early Child Development

Develop Your Child's Social Skills- relates to adopted children outside ethnic group

Monday, June 20, 2011

Biological Beginings

Genetic Foundations of Child Development

  • Genes are the basic unit of heredity in a living cell; genes are made up of DNA and contained chromosomes.
  • Chromosomes- The 25,000 or so genes in the human body are called chromosomes.
  • Genes are made up of DNA. Humans have 23 pairs.

  • Mitosis- the process in which each chromosome in the cell’s nucleus duplicates itself.
  • Meiosis- the process where each pair of chromosomes separates; one member going to each gamete. 
  • Fertilization- the process in which a sperm fertilizes an egg to form a zygote.

Genetic Basis of Individual Traits

  • Allele- Genes located at the same point on corresponding chromosomes and related to the same physical characteristic.
  • Dominant gene- A gene that overrides any competing instructions in an allele pair.
  • Recessive gene- A gene that influences growth and development primarily when the other gene in the allele pair is identical to it.

Chromosome and Gene-Linked Abnormalities

Often times problems occur in the genetic instructions that children receive. There are two primary types of genetic disorders, chromosome abnormalities and single-gene defects.  Chromosome abnormalities occur in 4% of births.

  • Down syndrome- caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. It is associated specific physical characteristics and mental limitations.
  • Klinefelter syndrome- a sex-linked abnormality found in males who have an extra X-chromosome. It affects both primary and secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Turner syndrome- a disorder in which females are missing either an X-chromosome or part of one of their X-chromosome. It can be associated with possible infertility.

Prenatal Development

 The period of growth between conception and birth. It is divided into three phases: the periods of the zygote, embryo, and fetus.
  • Zygote- a one celled being, divides multiple times and becomes a ball of cells that burrows into the uterus. 
  • Embryo- from week 2 through 6 after conception, the embryo grows rapidly, forming structures needed to sustain future growth and developing organs and body parts .
  • Fetus- between week 9 and birth, the fetus continues to grow quickly; puts the finishing touches on the body and brain and becoming sufficientyl heavy and strong to live in the outside world. 

Development of Academic Domains

   Children are often referred to as sponges because of their ability to absorb information.  Although children are thought to be such efficient learners, without the proper tools and frequent exposure to different academic domains they may never reach their full potential.  Presenting children with opportunities for academic growth and development is the role of both the child's parents, as well as, teachers.  In fact, children begin the learning process long before they enter formal schooling.  It is important for parents to be educated not only in how to introduce children to the basics, but also promote a positive attitude toward learning in their children.  Parents and teachers need to make learning fun and interactive.  If an effort is not made to cater educational instruction to the age of the child, children may have difficulty paying attention and relating to the subject.

To advance in reading children need to recognize letters and eventually words.  Fine tuning their phonological awareness, or their ability to hear distinct sounds in a word, will allow them to read words correctly.  Being able to sound out syllables can help children figure out what word they are reading.  Of course, reading is more than sounding out a word correctly.  The reason we read is to understand the message that is being conveyed.

To promote reading development teachers and parents should...

  • Read to children interactively.  Take time to point out and talk about the pictures or about what they believe may happen next.
  • Children should be encouraged to read the words they recognize as they are being read to.  
  • Age appropriate literature.  A toddler is going to benefit more from a colorful storybook, while an adolescent may crave the challenge of a poem.
  • Reading outside of school.  Planning library visits that are not required by school will allow children to read something they enjoy, expose them to different subjects and promote a positive attitude about reading.
Writing entails a physical aspect, known as handwriting and the meaning of what is written.  Writing, spelling and grammar improves with age and practice.  Composition skills become more complex and advanced with proper instruction and age as well.

Promoting writing development...
  • Make writing utensils available.  Even if an infant does not really understand what he is doing by scribbling, becoming familiar with different writing tools will help the development motor skills necessary for legible writing.  
  • Challenge children with writing activities they can relate to, like writing a letter. 
  • Correct children when they make grammatical errors.
  • As children get older, ask them to consider their audience.
  • Editing.  Adolescents should be required to write several drafts before turning a paper in.  Also, students should revise each others paper and offer constructive criticism.
Mathematics entails several domains, that may in some cases appear to be completely different from one another, such as geometry and statistics.  To ever understand any of the more advanced math domains basics concepts must be mastered first.  Addition, subtraction, multiplication and ratios are just to name a few. 

Promoting mathematical development...
  • Expose children to numbers and counting before they enter school.  While reading a parent can stop and count how many flowers, for instance, are in a picture. 
  • By using pictures or candy to materialize counting, children will have a better understanding of what is meant by a specific number.  For example, the number "3" can be better understood by showing the child three apples.
  • To improve on visual- spatial thinking allow children to play with puzzles and building blocks.
Nativists believe that we are born with some basic knowledge of the world, while the theory theory approach states that children construct their beliefs about the surrounding world.  Children need to learn that science is how we strive to better understand how both living and non-living things interact.  In addition, science continuously evolves. 

Scientific development...
  • Exposing young children to animals by taking them to the zoo or reading simple nonfiction books about animals will give them a better understanding of natural phenomena.
  • Assigning age appropriate experiments will show them how to utilize the scientific method.
  • Allow children to choose what they wish to investigate to keep them interested.
Although the previously mentioned domains are more heavily focused on throughout a child's academic career, other domains prove to be just as important.  All children are different.  Some may find math to come naturally to them, while others may demonstrate extraordinary artistic abilities.  Unfortunately, if a child is not given the opportunity and tools to explore different subjects they may never development their talents.  In addition, all domains can be related to each other.  For example, a child who finds visual-spatial tasks easy or fun, may also be a talented artist.

Promoting history...
  • Read fictional books that accurately depicts certain times and places.
  • Have students discuss decisions made in critical times in the past.
  • Role-play.  Have students research and act out important historical figures.
  • Such activities helps students relate and understand history.

  • Most children and adolescents have an over-simplified understanding of how symbols are used in maps.
  • Have students create their own maps.
  • Have students figure out why certain patterns occur in maps, such as a dense population near a body of water.

Art and music...
  • Providing tools and opportunities for children to paint and enjoy music.
  • When children are not encouraged to draw or be artistic, they develop their artistic abilities very slowly and some never do. 
  • Although, there are cases where even without any formal instruction a person demonstrates exceptional talents in music and art, for the most part skills in these areas require training and practice. 
Content Area standards

  • These are guidelines for teachers to follow to make sure that all students are learning at least the concepts required.
  • Standardized tests are used to measure the overall effectiveness.
  • Although used with good intentions, content area standards only concentrate on reading, writing, math and science leaving out other areas.  This may cause teachers to only teach the minimum requirements and not deviate from them.

The following website provides over 500 free educational games for children.  The site is different from others in that it provides games in all academic domains, even history.


Language Development

Language has been called the symbolization of thought. It is a learned code, or system of rules that allows us to communicate ideas and express wants and needs. Reading, writing, gesturing and speaking are all forms of language. Language falls into two main divisions: receptive language which is understanding what is said, written or signed; and, expressive language which is speaking, writing or signing.  
Acquiring the language of one’s culture is an extremely difficult and challenging task. To understand and use a language effectively, children must master four basic components of the language. First, they must master phonology: They must know how words sound and be able to produce the sequence of sounds that make up any given word. Second, they must master semantics, the meanings of a large number of words combined to form understandable phrases and sentences. Lastly, children must master the pragmatics of language, the use of social conventions and speaking strategies that enable effective communication with others.
Pragmatic skills begin to develop in the early weeks of life, with tiny babies "turn taking", and initiating communicative interchanges, and "talking" (non-verbally, of course) to their caregivers. Pragmatic skills include: 1.knowing that you have to answer when a question has been asked; 2. being able to participate in a conversation by taking it in turns with the other speaker; 3. the ability to notice and respond to the non-verbal aspects of language; 4. awareness that you have to introduce a topic of conversation in order for the listener to fully understand; 5. knowing which words or what sort of sentence-type to use when initiating a conversation or responding to something another person has said; 6. the ability to maintain a topic; 7. the ability to maintain appropriate eye contact, with not too much staring, and not too much looking away during a conversation; and, 8. the ability to distinguish how to talk and behave towards different communicative partners.
By age 3 or 4, most children have acquired sufficient proficiency in language that they are able to carry on productive conversations with the people around them.

"Ages and Stages" charts for speech and language development and speech intelligibility criteria can be worrying if they are interpreted too strictly.  Remember that children vary quite considerably with regard to the rate at which they reach the various speech and language "milestones". So there is no need to put out an SOS for a speech pathologist if your child does not do the things listed at exactly the ages stated! When you see language ages and stages and read an age like '12 months' say to yourself, 'twelve months or so'.

What Music Got To Do… Got To Do With It?
                Music can influence children as early as their infancy. Traditionally, music has been used to teach language and math. Memorizing lyrics to songs in early childhood helps a young brain learn to store and recall information. Learning musical scales helps supports the teaching of math. Since music is so influential to a child, it can sometimes have negative input in a child's life as well. The types of music that they are exposed to are very crucial. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), too much exposure to particular kinds of music and media can be harmful to a child. Exposure to violence, including violent lyrics, can cause physical and mental health problems for children and adolescents. Some of the behaviors that could come from exposure to violent media are aggression, nightmares, fear and depression. Listening to explicit music lyrics can effect schoolwork, social interactions and produce significant changes in mood and behavior. How children listen to music also influences them and can impact their hearing. Children and adolescents frequently listen to music on personal devices with headphones. Keeping the volume up too high for extended periods can easily do damage to their eardrums and hearing.

Useful Resources

Physical Development

The physical development of children consists of systematic changes which take place in physical size, bodily proportions, and neurological structures.  It is important to understand that children grow and mature at different rates; even though there are certain milestones that are used as a guide to indicate healthy and timely growth, each child may reach these milestones at different times.  All children follow their own unique growth curve.   It is also important to keep in mind that children’s physical development can be positively or negatively impacted by their environment.  Keeping this in mind, it is important to provide children with plenty of opportunities and resources to aid in their discovering of the world around them and to keep them developing physically.
Following we will take a look at some important areas in the physical development of children.

The Brain
The brain is an extremely important organ which regulates many systems of the body as well as guiding a child’s movement.  A child’s brain is continuously growing from about 25 days after conception and by the 7th month of prenatal development the vast majority of neurons that will ever be used by a person are formed (McDevitt and Ormond, 2010).  Following are the major roles of the brain during infancy, childhood and adolescence.
Infancy:  The brain activates circuits for reflexes, other basic physiological processes, and learning about the world.   
Childhood:  The brain strengthens frequently used neurological circuits and allows underutilized connections to shrivel.
Adolescence:  The brain ignites new interests and passions, expands intellectual abilities, and fortifies emotional skills and long-term planning.

Physical Development
In the next section, physical development is explained in segments:  Infancy (Birth – Age 2), early childhood (Ages 2-6), Middle Childhood (Ages 6-10), and Early Adolescence (Ages 10-14).

Infancy:  Babies go through a rapid spurt of growth from the time they are born until they are 2 years old.  The first reflex an infant exhibits is breathing.  Reflexes are referred to as involuntary movements that are usually triggered by an external stimulus.   Normal physical growth can be indicated as an infant outgrows reflexes and in turn starts to produce controlled voluntary movements.   An infant’s motor skills develop following cephalocaudal and proximidistal trends.  Cephalocaudal refers to the vertical ordering of motor skills and physical development; in other words, infants first learn to control their heads and move downward to their feet.  Proximidistal refers to the inside-out ordering of motor skills and physical development; in other words, infants will first learn to control their arms, then their hands, and finally their fingers.

The video provided below was put together by a student and it is a great tool to help us understand this very important period in a child’s life:

Early Childhood:  Children in this stage develop and show dramatic changes in gross motor skills and fine motor skills.  Gross motor skills refer to large movements of the body that permit movement through and within the environment (McDevitt and Ormond, 2010).  Some examples of gross motor skills include running, hopping, tumbling, climbing, and swinging.  As children develop and master these skills they are better capable to explore and learn about their surroundings.  On the other hand, fine motor skills refer to small, precise movements of particular parts of the body, especially the hands (McDevitt and Ormond, 2010).  Some examples of fine motor skills include drawing, writing, cutting with scissors, and manipulating small objects.

Chart courtesy of:

Middle Childhood:  During the years of middle childhood, children will experience steady but slow gains in height and weight.  One of the major milestones at this age is the loss of the child’s baby teeth.  Fine motor skills are also refined during this time and many children will exhibit a desire to participate in organized sports.  In order to successfully aid children during this time, parents and educators should provide plenty of opportunities for children to engage in self-organized activities, teach them about the basics of sports, and integrate physical movement into academic activities.

Early Adolescence:  Puberty is the most dramatic and obvious part during this part of a child’s physical development.  Children will also exhibit a rapid growth spurt in which their height and weight will increase.  Additionally, they will also experience sex-specific characteristics which might seem frightening if they are not properly prepared for them, especially young girls.  At around this time, girls will experience menarche, the term used for their first menstrual period.  If a young girl is not exposed to knowledge about menarche, they might feel scared when they first experience it.  In boys, puberty takes place by the enlargement of their testes and the changes in their scrotum.  At about 13-14, boys will experience spermarche, the term used for a boy's first ejaculation experience.  It has been noted that boys receive less information about spermarche than girls do about menarche; therefore, parents should be aware that talking to their children about these significant milestones is very important.  Talking with children will help them express their ideas about their changing bodies and parents can take the opportunity to clarify any misconceptions they might have.

To conclude this section of children's physical development, we would like to share a chart with the milestones for normal physical development.  Again, it is important to keep in mind that these are only approximations and that each child will reach the milestone at their own pace.

Physical Development Milestones

Birth to 3 months
Most infants begin to:
·  Raise head slightly when lying on stomach
·  Hold head up for a few seconds, when supported
·  Hold hand in a fist
·  Lift head and chest, while lying on stomach
·  Use sucking, grasping, and rooting (holding tongue to the roof of the mouth) reflexes
·  Touch, pull, and tug own hands with fascination
·  Repeat body movements, and enjoy doing so
3 to 6 months
Babies are quickly becoming stronger and more agile. Most begin to:
·  Roll over
·  Push body forward and pull body up by grabbing the edge of a crib
·  Reach for and touch objects
·  Reach, grasp, and put objects in mouth
·  Make discoveries with objects (for example, a rattle makes noise when it is moved)
6 to 9 months
"Child-proofing" becomes important as babies get more mobile. During this time most begin to:
·  Crawl
·  Grasp and pull things toward self
·  Transfer objects between hands
9 to 12 months
By this time, most babies can:
·  Sit without support
·  Stand unaided
·  Walk with aid
·  Roll a ball
·  Throw objects
·  Pick things up with thumb and one finger
·  Drop and pick up toys
1 year to 2 years
Walking and self-initiated movement become easier. Most children can:
·  Walk alone
·  Walk backwards
·  Pick up toys from a standing position
·  Push and pull objects
·  Seat self in a child's chair
·  Walk up and down stairs with aid
·  Move to music
·  Paint with whole arm movement

Balance improves and eye-hand coordination becomes more precise. Most children can:
·  Put rings on a peg
·  Turn two or three pages at a time
·  Scribble
·  Turn knobs
·  Grasp and hold a small ball; can use in combination with large motor skills to throw the ball
·  Shift marker or any drawing or painting tool from hand to hand and draw strokes
2 to 3 years
Children become more comfortable with motion, increasing speed, and coordination. Most begin to:
·  Run forward
·  Jump in place with both feet together
·  Stand on one foot, with aid
·  Walk on tiptoe
·  Kick ball forward

Children are able to manipulate small objects with increased control. Most can:
·  String large beads
·  Turn pages one by one
·  Hold crayon with thumb and fingers instead of fist
·  Draw a circle
·  Paint with wrist action, making dots and lines
·  Roll, pound, squeeze, and pull clay
3 to 4 years
Movement and balance improve. Most children can:
·  Run around obstacles
·  Walk on a line           
·  Balance on one foot
·  Push, pull, and steer toys
·  Ride a tricycle
·  Use a slide without help
·  Throw and catch a ball

Children's precision of motion improves significantly. Most are able to:
·  Build a tall tower of blocks
·  Drive pegs into holes
·  Draw crosses and circles
·  Manipulate clay by making balls, snakes, etc.
4 to 5 years
Children are now more confident, and most are able to:
·  Walk backwards
·  Jump forward many times without falling
·  Jump on one foot
·  Walk up and down stairs without assistance, alternating feet
·  Turn somersaults

Children develop skills that will help them as they enter school and begin writing. Most can:
·  Use safety scissors
·  Cut on a line continuously
·  Copy squares and crosses
·  Print a few capital letters

Note to Parents/Educators:  The following websites are wonderful additional sources to assist you with any questions you might have regarding how children develop physically and the things that can be done to enhance their growth.