The Puzzle Pieces of Early Childhood Development

Sensory Development in Early Childhood
In this three part series we will take a look at the different aspects that make up a human being. I thought it would be interesting to identify some of the puzzle pieces that make up individuals and explore each one briefly. This is by no means a conclusive. Each of these aspects interacts with the others resulting in complex and fascinating individuals.

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Aspects of a Child

Sensory and physical development is the gradual process by which children gains use and coordination of the large muscles of their core, legs, trunk, and arms, as well as the smaller muscles of the hands. They gradually develop the physical skills needed for their adult lives. It includes both growth and the ability to use muscles and body parts for particular skills. Children often learn a set of skills by a certain age, which are called developmental milestones. Children who have delays in meeting these milestones need support as these delays seriously impact other pieces of the puzzle.

Sensory development includes any activity that stimulates a child’s senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Both influence the development of static (when you sit or stand still) and active balance (when you are moving) too. Sensory activities encourage inquiry and exploration and naturally encourage children to use an active scientific process while they play, create, investigate and explore. Physical and sensory play and activities help children develop connections between the nerve cells and the brain. As these connections develop: fine and gross motor skills, socialization, personal awareness, language, creativity and problem solving are improved. Some ideas for developing sensory play can be found HERE.

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Communication and Language in Early Childhood

 Children are born ready to communicate.  They are born knowing and loving their mother’s voice above all others.  Communication begins with understanding the tone of voice and the reading of gestures and facial expressions.  In the early years listening and attention, understanding and speaking and the making of marks to communicate ideas are main areas of language and communication development. Listening to others and watching and imitating what they say and do as well as listening to, repeating and eventually creating rhymes, stories and playing interactive, social games develops this aspect.  Sitting and talking while eating with friends is a key way of doing this. In the Early years we encourage the teachers to sit with the children in their class when they eat their snack and lunch, as it is a golden opportunity to develop these skills.

Being listened to and treated like a respected communicator with something valuable to say helps children value being part of the communication process.  Understanding how and when to respond to interact with someone is part of this process. Children understand far more that they can say and by interacting and telling them about your own personal experiences, expecting them to make connections with their own lives and listening to the connections that they make contribute to this aspect of their development.  The more early years children are spoken to and with the greater the word bank they develop in their memories.  This helps them to be effective and skillful communicators.  They learn grammatical and structural aspects of language by trying out different sentence structures and conjugations.  Children enjoy expressing themselves through mark making and drawing.  It is a fantastic way for them to express their individuality and uniqueness.  Mark making develops into the acquisition of written language and the understanding that different kinds of marks are associated with different sounds.

Contributed by: Karen Cooke

Assistant Head of Early Years

Greenfield Community School

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