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Reading a Book



  • Writer's pictureCherry Blossom

Ten facts that you didn't know about cognitive development in children.

Young children naturally wonder about cause and effect, and are motivated to find out all the "hows" or "whys" of the universe.

Playing with dolls, looking through a box of toys, or banging together blocks in an haphazard fashion, they are actually engaged in a rational process of making hypotheses and evaluating statistical data. They also dismiss prior beliefs when presented stronger evidence. They have remarkable psychological intuition, which can be used to determine the motivations, desires and preferences of others by watching their actions.

Statistics help children learn about people and they then help their peers to evaluate the evidence in light of this knowledge. This is a continuous, strengthening cycle.

1. Even as infants, they learn.

All the major types of learning are present in children, even when they are babies. This includes the ability to recognize the relationship between sounds and concepts, as well as the visual features that identify natural categories such as bird, tree or car.

2. Social media can influence learning in young children.

All are important: teachers, parents, caregivers, siblings, and peers. The quality of learning environments, whether they are in schools, families, or the wider culture, is crucial for children's growth. Social interaction is essential for basic perceptual learning. This limit the usefulness of e-learning, especially in the early years.

3. The brain of a young child has the same structure as an adult's.

They perform the same functions through the same mechanisms. A concept in science might depend on neurons simultaneously being active in the visual, spatial and memory regions. This is true in both brain hemispheres. Ideas such as left-brain/right-brain learning, or unisensory 'learning styles' (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic) are not supported by the brain science of learning.

4. Children reason and think in much the same way as adults.

They lack experience, and they are still learning to think and learn about themselves (metacognition), and to manage their behavior and interactions. To develop their self-reflective skills and self-regulation, they need to have diverse classroom experiences.

5. To make sense of their experience, children create causal frameworks.

For children to develop their causal explanatory systems, it is important to have knowledge from language, pretend play, active experience, and teaching. Teachers should recognize and work with the biases that children explain, as they reflect a human tendency to seek confirmation of one's theories.

6. Children learn new words quickly as young children. The median vocabulary at 16 months is 55 words, while at 23 months it is 225 words. By age six, the vocabulary has grown to more than 6000 words. Impaired language skills in children entering school require immediate support.

7. Learning and knowledge building can only be achieved through incremental experience.

Although the brain learns from each experience, cognitive representations are distributed over many neurons. This makes cumulative learning crucial. The brain can better represent what is common across learning experiences. There are also multiple representations of experience (e.g. Motor and visual representations. This is a strong argument for multi-sensory teaching.

8. Differential exposure leads to differential learning.

For example, reading fluency can be determined by how much text the child reads outside of school.

9. Genetic differences between children influence development.

But, because genes have an influence on development, it is even more important that all children receive optimal early learning environments so that genetic and environmental differences do not add up.

10. Cognitive development is possible through pretend play and imagination.

Pretend play is a great way for children to learn how to regulate their cognitive behavior and help them to gain a better understanding of themselves. When performed with other children, pretend play is more effective.


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