Children learn in a variety of different ways. Over the course of time there have been many different theories as to what it is that launches a child into a world full of knowledge and development. Such theorist like Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Lev Semenovich Vygotsky, Jean Piaget, along with many other have long speculated on the how children’s brains develop. The study of how children learn is ever evolving. While some of today’s newest findings may not correspond to these early theories, many of the basic concepts remain the same. Through the work of these early theorists five major theoretical perspectives have been the study of how children learn. Behavioral, cognitive, evolutionary perspectives, contextual, and the psychodynamic perspective.
Researchers are interested in finding out how an organ, such as the brain, can be the most immature organ at birth, but over time, grow and continue to mature. According to an article by the Arizona State Department of Education, the brains “growth had been thought to be determined primarily by genetics, scientists now believe that it is also highly dependent upon the child’s experiences.” (Education.com) As a child matures the experiences they encounter help develop their language, and social skills, among other abilities. Negative experiences, such as abuse, or neglect can hinder a child’s ability to properly develop. This can easily lead to learning disabilities, and emotional issues, thus stunting the child’s brain development. It is important that a child had a stable and loving environment to be able to fully thrive and develop. Parents play a key part in their child’s learning process. Early childhood interactions and experiences such as hearing speech also help shape a child’s brain.”When an infant is 3 months old, his brain can distinguish several hundred different spoken sounds, many more than are present in his native language. Over the next several months, however, his brain will organize itself more efficiently so that it only recognizes those spoken sounds that are part of the language that he regularly
hears.”(Education.com). In order for a child to gain a vocabulary his or hers parents, teachers, and loves ones must engage the child in regular conversation so as they begin to mature, they are gaining the skills and word they need. Over the first year of their life, these social experiences will begin to become the building blocks to successful cognitive development.
The intellectual, and cognitive growth of a child is affected by their age as well as with adult interactions. According to the NY Times and National Institutes of Mental Health by the age of “4 primary senses and basic motor skills are developed.” While the child is aging, he or she is continuing to mature. By the age of 6, while the child will still have an immature sense of vocabulary, however, it will continue to mature with age. Also while the brain matures the child will begin to have a better understanding of reason. Some children throw tantrums as a way of learning their own emotional boundaries.
The way that their parent responds to their tantrum is a learned behavior by that child. If not handled properly, the child will realize that their behavior often gives them the power to control what they want and when they want it. If the parent deals with it appropriately then the child should be able to walk away from the tantrum with more understanding or their emotional vulnerability. Over time their emotional maturity will strengthen. The older children are, the more skills they’re retain. By age 9, children have a well developed set of motor skills, among other things being able to write more neatly. Research show that children age 9-13 learn well by using study skills, and flashcards. (Dr. Jay Giedd, NY Times) While the brain continues to develop into teen years, the brain will continue to develop until the early twenties.
Another psychologist, Howard Gardner, came up with the multiple intelligence theory. This theory elaborates on the fact that children earn in more ways than one. The multiple intelligence theory says that there are seven ways in which we are smart. These are known as
word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, person smart, and self smart. Each one of these “intelligences” are demonstrated by certain professions as children grow to adults. People who are known to be word smart are often talented writers, while those who are person smart are great with working with people and understanding social situations. Children
who take the time to explore their own intelligences are often “ well-rounded individuals who are successful in many aspects of life. Parents and early childhood professionals must recognize these different strengths in children as they emerge.” (National Association for the Education of Young. Armstrong, T.) Gardener felt that if children are able to study in the areas in which they’re interested the most, they will be able to focus on strengthening their weaknesses, in turn making them intelligent in multiple ways.
One popular way children learn is through imitation. What is so interesting about imitation is that at an early age, there is no gender exclusion to it. If a one year old girl sees her father shaving, she is also likely to pretend to do as she sees. The same can be said about a young boy imitating his mother applying makeup. “A 1-year-old understands that the actions he’s copying have a significance,” says Howard Klein, M.D., director of behavioral pediatrics at Sinai Hospital, in Baltimore. While learning these habits of their parents, children will spend a lot of time observing their elders. By the age of 3, gender recognition will have been asserted and during this time there is usually a shift in how boys will imitate their fathers and little girls, their mothers. Through imitation children learn many skills imperative to their development. From simple tasks such as walking to feeding themselves, imitation is a constant learning process. It is important to make sure during ages 0-3 while a child is heavily in the imitation stage that they’re taught proper rules, and guidelines, or else bad traits are something they will be dealing with for some time. Another reason why how a parent interacts, or treats their child is so important. They
are always learning from us. Most children pick up the skills to imitate while at home, in their own environment. When a little girl is playing with a baby doll, or is sweeping up a “mess” she is more than likely imitating a behavior she has witnessed from her mother on many occasions. The same goes for a boy who wants to play with tools and flashlights.
One other vital step in a child’s growth process is imaginative play. “Actual
studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits such as increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives.”(Psychology Today) While exploring play through their imaginations, children are able to express all sorts of different emotional feelings and thoughts. They are able to tune into what they are feeling, and express it through their play. Through imaginative play, children are able to allow their creativity to flow. Research has supported that children who have parents who are avid storytellers, and who read to their them at night often have a better sense of adventure, and imagination, therefore provoking more ideal environments for the child to learn and play with their imagination. When boys and girls play together, there is often the traditional male and female roles exhibited, which ties back into imitation as well. They boys usually play the role of the fathers, and the girls, the mothers.
Children are always growing, evolving, and learning. While many different types of learning have been discussed there are still so many more ways in which children grasp the traits, and information they need to be a successful adult. Parents have a heavy hand in the way that their child develops, from the way they are affectionate with the child, to how they treat other people, they are always being observed. Early theorist, and psychologists had many of the right ideas while doing their research. However, modern day research continues to supply more information daily on just what it is that teaches our children.