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Children: Tomorrow’s Future

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Children: Tomorrow’s Future

Introduction

Let children be children, is not only a popular phrase heard in education, but it is also my motto. Yes, it is true, today’s children are tomorrow’s future; but how we choose to raise our children determines the outcome of our future. Many believe academics should be stressed more in schools, taking away from children’s playtime. I feel that play is what molds a child. Play allows not only a child’s imagination to run freely, but builds and strengthens children’s motor, language, cognitive, and social emotional development skills. I believe that play; along with parental involvement forms a child’s identity. Play is what makes children: tomorrow’s future.

Body
Motor Development

Motor Development is defined as “the development of skill in the use of the body and its parts” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.12). Motor development can be even further defined by dividing it into two main categories: (1) Gross Motor and (2) Fine Motor skills. Gross motor skills involve many different physical motives and activities. The ability to run, jump, build muscle strength, gain a sense of gravity, and a sense of balance all fall under the gross motor category (Woolfolk, 2001a). Fine motor skills involve all of the little small-muscle movements (Woolfolk, 2001b). Motor development is greatly used and emphasized during the early childhood years because this is the time of a child’s life when their brain is like a sponge absorbing all information they come in contact with, and developing the most in order to form a path to their future.

The early childhood years demonstrate many ways in which the motor skills are used and the many means of importance these skills display during these stages of development. For example, through gross motor skills, children learn to throw a ball, skip, and ride a bike; each of these skills involves hand-eye coordination and a sense of balance. However, it is important to remember that according to Melina in Charlesworth’s book, “motor development is influenced by a number of factors: genetics, status at birth, size, build and composition, nutrition, rearing and birth order, social class, ethnicity, and culture” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.151). Therefore, these factors help to explain the story of life, and why every child learns how to do things at their own pace, rather than at the same time as every other child their age.

A few examples of Fine Motor activities displayed during the early years include handwriting skills, drawing pictures, making objects out of clay, and even cutting with scissors. Each of these activities is characterized by including the small-muscle developments that involve finger-thumb coordination, hand-eye coordination, and the development of muscle strength in the hand and arm. All in all, motor skills are an important part of the learning process, and as these “fundamental motor skills are learned...[they] serve as the foundation for more specialized motor skills that will be
learned later” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.157).

Implications for Teaching

One of the most important things to remember when dealing with children is that no one is alike, they learn at their own pace and on their own time. Some of the different teaching techniques that can be used to help strengthen children’s motor development are as follows: (1) Patience - definitely a key in allowing children to work and learn to the best of their ability. (2) Provide the students with several different learning centers where they can practice building muscle strength in their hands through coloring, drawing pictures, painting, and building objects out of clay, play dough, etc.
(3) Provide children with understanding and encouragement if they are unable to complete a task on the first try. (4) Play and organize instructional games with the children that may involve the use of their body parts and their sense of balance, such as games like ‘Simon Says’, ‘Duck-Duck-Goose’, ‘Ring Toss’, and the ‘Hokey Pokey’.

Language Development

“Language is a well-ordered system of rules that each adult member of the language community tacitly comprehends in speaking, listening, and writing” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.344). Language is a form of communication that is used by everyone in everyday situations, as a means of getting the message across of our wants and needs. Babies form of language or communication tends to be through crying and making different sounds and expressions that adults are expected to learn and read. As people get older they learn to speak in words in order to relay their message. It may be hard to believe, but, even people with exceptionalities or learning disabilities who are unable to speak, have their own language by use of their eyes, hands, or mouths; they too are able to communicate.

There are many different theories associated with language development. There are the Behaviorism Theory by B.F. Skinner, the Nativist Perspective by Noam Chomsky, the Interactionist Perspective, and the Learning Theory View, to name a few. The behaviorism theory believes in being taught and learned through operant conditioning and imitation (“Theories of Language Development”). The nativist perspective which can be classified as the structural-innativist view as well, puts a major emphasis on hereditary factors, and they believe that people are born with a set of rules common to all languages of every ethnicity (“Theories of Language Development”). “The Interactionist view language acquisition as an interaction between heredity and environment” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.345). By definition the Learning Theory view basically says that language is not only acquired by operant conditioning, classical conditioning, and imitation, but that the environment itself has a great influence on Language skills (Charlesworth, 2000a). No matter which theory is stressed the most in each particular situation that is encountered, it is important to remember that both heredity and environment has a great influence on a person’s learning capabilities.

Early childhood children use their language skills in every day occurrences. Play is one of the biggest examples in which they are used. For example, children are constantly talking and interacting with each other in different games that they play. They introduce each other to different words and concepts, sometimes making up their own language and jargon. “Play situations have proven to be a rich source of information on
language use during early childhood” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.376). Play not only promotes the spoken form of language, but it also provides opportunities for the written and listening forms of language. For instance, children listen intently to what another person is saying so they can either understand their role, or so they can disagree with their point of view. If by chance they are playing doctor or school, they may practice their writing skills in fulfilling their roles of imitating teachers/students, and doctors.

Children are exposed to new words everyday, some they understand and some they don’t, but new “word meanings are most easily learned through interactions and conversations with an adult in which the adult introduces new words” (Woolfolk, 2001.p.55).

Implications for Teaching

As research has shown, children tend to use more complex speech when presented with familiar topics (Charlesworth, 2000a). Therefore, I believe that good teaching techniques would involve introducing children to new material. By introducing new material you are allowing children to think more critically, with a wider perspective, about new topics and new situations. When introducing new material the environment should be relaxed and comfortable, otherwise the children will have a harder time focusing on what they are being taught. Other teaching techniques that should be implied in order to further strengthen children's language skills include: one-on-one attention from the teacher; more involvement with peers in structured games, activities, and dramatic play. Providing students with activities such as puzzles and stories can encourage them to help solve or add their own opinion to what should come next in the story. All these implications for teaching can be applied to different language development situations.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is defined as “changes in cognitive structure and functioning that may take place over time” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.310). This refers to the changes in styles and ineptness of a person’s thinking throughout the different stages of their life. Cognition does not just include the way a person thinks it also includes many multiple intelligence that cannot be tested or shown on an I.Q. test. According to Howard Gardner there are eight different intelligences (Charlesworth, 2000a). These intelligences are listed as linguistic intelligence, musical intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily kinesthetic intelligence, personal intelligences: intrapersonal and interpersonal, and naturalist intelligence (Charlesworth, 2000b). These intelligences go to show that although a person may not be considered highly intelligent in one area, they could be highly intelligent in other areas. Each person’s brain develops differently, and each side of a person’s brain develops different characteristics. For instance, the right side of the brain deals with a person’s “orientation in space, creative talents, awareness of the body, and face recognition,” whereas the left side of the brain deals with logic and organization (Charlesworth, 2000.p.320). It has been proven that a person can be left-brain dominate, right-brain dominate, equally weak on both sides, and even equally strong on both sides. All of these factors affect the way a person thinks.

Cognition can also be broken down further and explained through giftedness and creativity. Giftedness can be defined as “children who show advance knowledge and skills in one or more areas to the extent that they need some differentiated educational programming” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.416). School children who have been classified as gifted have shown that they “tend to learn well when they work in groups with other high ability peers,” this includes academic work and play situations (Woolfolk, 2001.p.126). Creativity can be divided into two different categories of thinking: Divergent thinking, where people have “the ability to propose many different ideas or answers,” and Convergent thinking, where people tend to have “the ability to identify only one answer” (Woolfolk, 2001.p.120). Creativity seems to be the key to cognitive skills, especially in the preschool years. According to the Educational Psychology book preschool children who were involved in creative play, and fantasy before taking a test resulted in scoring higher on the test (Woolfolk, 2001.p.122).

Therefore, cognitive skills are greatly enhanced in the play environment because play does not teach just one intellectual area. Play allows room for creativity, by working with others, and the use of imagination and expression in different areas of interest.

Implications for Teaching

There are many important strategies that a teacher can take into consideration when working with cognitive skills, in the classroom environment. The following are some implications that can be used and studied: (1) Teachers should be accepting towards children’s originality and imagination. (2) Teachers should encourage children to express their ideas and their thoughts. (3) Teachers should provide the students with opportunities that require them to make decisions and to take on different roles during structured play while interacting with other classmates, and (4) Teachers should practice lots of patience and understanding, for, not all children learn at the same level or at the same rate.

Social Emotional Development

Social development refers to the changes in the way that a person is able to relate to others (Woolfolk, 2001a). It is closely linked to emotional development because the latter is defined as “the ability to understand and manage emotions” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.441). Many preschool children are still in the egocentric stage, where they mainly see and understand things as they relate to their self. Children eventually progress to a point social development where they are able to recognize the emotions of other people around them. In order for children to successfully be able to relate to others they first need to build their self-competence. “Self-Competence refers to the skills necessary to be accepted and fulfilled socially” (Holly and John L. p.1). Once they have established self-competence they are able to gain a self-concept of themselves. A child’s self concept is greatly influenced by their adult and peer relationships (Holly and John L. p.1). The more positive these relationships are the better the chance this child will have of having a positive self-concept.

A child’s environment greatly influences how this person will react and interact
with other people, as well as how they view their self. For example, if the child has a positive, loving environment then they will be more likely to have a positive self-concept. Children with positive self-concepts are more accepting towards others and their emotions, more open to new ideas and trying new things, and have many friends. Children who come from a neglected or abused home often show obvious signs of a negative concept. These children can be emotionally distraught, aggressive, socially delayed, sometimes even considered socially isolated or rejected, and they can even display developmental delays. It is very important that signs of abuse and neglect are recognized right away so that these children can get the professional help that they need.

Play helps to build a child’s social and emotional development. Play provides situations in which children can interact and understand one another, and be empathetic of one another’s feelings. In some cases children with negative self-concepts are more likely to interact with peers, it all depends on the situation and the child’s attributions. Play tends to help children build a better self-concept of them self.

Implications for Teaching

Not everyone in this world comes from the same living experiences, therefore, it is important for teachers to be sensitive and observant of children's needs. Some other teaching techniques that can be applied to help build social and emotional development skills are; teachers can provide children with concrete objects that can be used in different ways regarding their imaginations. They can teach the children the importance of sharing, manners, and positive words towards others. They can reward children with praise and positive reinforcement for learning something new or doing something good. Teachers can also set up different dramatic play centers, introducing only the basic concepts and ideas of it so that children can be exposed to new situations and open to expressing new ideas.

Parents

Parents play one of the most important roles in their child’s life. From birth, children form an attachment to their parents and/or caregivers (Charlesworth, 2000a). The quality of this attachment tends to form the child’s identity and how they will behave and who they will become later in life (Charlesworth, 2000b). The more involvement and interest that parents show in their children the more likely these children will grow up to be successful. For instance, in an article entitled “Father Love and Child Development: History and Current Evidence,” research has shown that “children with highly involved fathers...tend to be more cognitively and socially competent, less inclined toward gender stereotyping, more empathetic, psychologically better adjusted, and the like” as compared to those children whose fathers aren’t involved in their life (Rohner, 1998.p.117). There has also been much research done that has shown these children tend to do better in school. This article states that the different ways in which parents interact with their children tends to be “the sole predictor of specific child outcomes,” in life (Rohner, 1998.p.118). The environment and ways in which a child is raised tend to predict how that child will turn out, as seen in many life examples where the saying “like mother like daughter” or “like father like son” come true.

Parents can become involved in their child’s life through talking with them, playing with them, understanding their needs, and supporting their desires, interests, and dreams.

Implications for Teaching

As a teacher it is important to motivate parents to become or stay actively involved in their child’s life. From keeping the up-to-date on recent activities, to inviting them into the class as parent volunteers, parents should never be kept in the dark. If a teacher suspects negative interactions or involvement of the parent with the child then it is important for the teacher to report it to proper authorities. The teacher can also work with the school to provide parenting workshops and classes. These are some techniques a teacher can follow without getting too involved in the parents’ positive personal relationship with their child.

Play

Play is one of the most widely used learning tools. There are many different forms of play, all of which use many different skills in the developmental process. According to Catherine Garvey in Understanding Child Development, “Young children mainly use four sets of resources: play with motion and interaction, objects, language, and social materials” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.44). All capable young children love to run around and exert energy. Activities such as running, jumping, screaming, and playing
board games, are all examples of play with motion and interaction. Through play with objects children are able to “use objects as links between themselves and their environment,” for example a three year old may crawl inside a cardboard box and pretend that it is a house (Charlesworth, 2000.p.44). Play with Language changes as children get older, from babbling words to singing songs, there are different developmental stages. “Play with social materials is play that centers on the social world and, according to Garvey, provides the principal resource of make-believe or pretending” (Charlesworth, 2000.p.46). As children take on roles and assign positions in social play then it becomes dramatic play.

Although these are the main types of play for young children, it is important to remember that physical play and activity is what keeps our children healthy and active. In the book, Teachers, Schools, & Society, “Research shows that physical education provides lifelong health dividends” (Sadker, 2000.p.218). It also goes on to describe many of the benefits of a good physical education program, it says “High quality programs emphasize not only physical competence and enjoyment but also social and psychological development, including leadership, teamwork, and cooperation” (Sadker, 2000.p.218). In today’s society it is very important to keep our children active. The early years are the most important times to get our children involved and active, because these are the years when they are the most interested.

Play is very essential in the lives of children. It provides opportunity to use imagination, express creativity, to develop social skills, to build language skills during role playing, to use cognitive skills to make decisions, and to use their motor skills in performing actions.

Implications for Teaching

Teachers should support and encourage play. Setting up different situations that provide play opportunities provide children with several different experiences. Teachers should be open and accepting towards children's ideas and thoughts. Teachers should encourage group play and interaction. They can introduce new ideas and concepts into children's minds. Teachers can play at the children's level of social interaction. All these strategies can be implied in everyday situations to help enhance children‘s play levels.

Conclusion

In conclusion, as we are traveling through the twenty-first century, we are approaching new technology, scientific research, and current and future world events, but the most important thing to keep in perspective are the children of today’s society. Children are our tomorrow, and our future. As children go through school, and people push for more academics to be taught, it is important to remember that too much is overload. Children can indirectly build on their developmental skills through the use of play. Play is something that should never be buried. Play is what forms a child’s identity; it is what allows a child to be a kid!

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"Children: Tomorrow’s Future." 123HelpMe.com. 01 Oct 2014
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