The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence
by Kathleen Stassen Berger
Seventh Edition
Chapter 9
The Play Years:
Cognitive
Development
Slides prepared by Kate Byerwalter, Ph.D.,
Grand Rapids Community College
Preoperational Thought (Piaget)

Preoperational thought (ages 2-6 years)
is characterized by:
 Egocentrism
 Centration
 Focus
on appearance
 Static reasoning
 Irreversibility
 Lack of conservation
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Egocentrism

Egocentrism is the tendency to think
about the world entirely from their own
personal perspective.
 Example: A child
tries to comfort his upset
father by giving him a teddy bear.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Centration

Centration is the tendency to focus on
one aspect of a situation to the exclusion
of others.
 Example: A child
insists that lions and tigers
are not “cats”!

This is a type of egocentrism.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Focus on Appearance

When looking at something, young
children tend to focus only on what is
apparent, ignoring other relevant
attributes.
 Example: A girl
with a short haircut “must” be
a boy. Or the “taller” child must be “older.”
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Static Reasoning

Young children assume the world is
unchanging.
 Example: A boy
is surprised to learn that “his”
teacher is also someone’s mother!

If things DO change, they occur totally and
suddenly (e.g., a child “wakes up” tall).
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Irreversibility

Irreversibility is the idea that nothing can
be undone. It is the failure to recognize
that reversal of a process can sometimes
restore something to its original state.
 Example: A child
refuses to eat a hamburger
that is “contaminated” by lettuce, even after
the lettuce is removed.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
(Lack of) Conservation

Conservation is the idea that the amount of
a substance remains the same, despite
changes in its appearance.

Piaget found that most preoperational
thinkers lack conservation.
 Example:
Break a cookie in half, and a young
child might think there are 2 cookies!
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Updating Piaget’s Research

Research following Piaget has found that
preoperational thinkers demonstrate more
advanced abilities IF the testing situation
is modified (e.g., nonverbal, or with a
“naughty bear” moving things), and/or the
objects used are familiar.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Vygotsky: Children as Learners

Lev Vygotsky viewed a child as an
apprentice in thinking: one whose
cognition is stimulated and directed by
older and more skilled members of society
who provide instruction and
encouragement.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Helping Children Learn

Guided participation is the process by
which children learn from others who
guide their experiences.
 Example:

helping a child with a puzzle
Scaffolding: sensitive structuring of the
learning experience
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Guided
Participation
DAVE BARTRUFF / STOCK, BOSTON
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Zone of Proximal Development

ZPD is Vygotsky’s term for the skills a
person can do with assistance, but not yet
alone.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Language as a Tool

Vygotsky believed language was essential to
the development of thought (through social
mediation).

Private speech: internal dialogue that helps
develop new ideas and solve problems
(young children do this out loud)
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Make it Real: Children’s Thinking

As a few young children (ages 2−7) the
following questions, and record the answers:
Why does the sun come up?
 Where do dreams come from?
 (Make up one of your own)

Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Children’s Theories

Theory-theory: Children attempt to
explain everything they see and hear by
constructing theories!

They ask lots of questions about human
behavior and natural things.
“Why do you kiss mom?” “Why
does it rain?”
 Example:
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Theory of Mind

Theory of mind is a person’s theory of what
other people might be thinking.

It requires the realization that people’s
thoughts are unique and personal.

It develops considerably around age 4 years.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Theory of Mind (cont.)

The development of theory of mind is
influenced by:
 Language
ability
 Siblings
 Brain
maturation (prefrontal cortex)
 Culture
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Language

Childhood appears to be a sensitive
period for language–a time when
language learning happens most easily.

2-6 yr olds learn an average of 10 new
words a day!

This process is helped by fast-mapping.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
What is “Fast Mapping”?

Fast mapping is the speedy and
imprecise way in which children learn new
words by mentally charting them into
categories.
 Example: A child
has an “animal” category in
mind. Therefore, learning “tiger” is easy if he
already knows “lion.”
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Language Errors

Young children sometimes use language
errors:
 Time,
place, and comparison words are difficult,
as well as metaphors
 Overregularization:
applying grammar rules
even when exceptions occur

Example: He “goed” to the store.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Bilingualism

Bilingual children by age 5 have more
advanced theory of mind, but may lag in
linguistic skills such as reading.

There is considerable debate about how and
when a second language should be taught.

Immigrant children may feel pressure to
speak the “new” language.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Bilingualism (cont.)

A good solution is for a child to become a
balanced bilingual, equally fluent in two
languages.

Early childhood is an optimal time for this
to occur. Young children may make errors,
but eventually sort out the languages.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Learning to Read

Emergent literacy: early skills (e.g., letter
recognition, page sequencing) that help
children learn to read

What fosters emergent literacy?
 Being
read to by an adult
 Symbolic play
 Making up songs and rhymes
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Reading
Together:
A Gift to All
MICHAEL WICKES / THE IMAGE WORKS
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Early Childhood Education

Most 3-5 year olds in developed nations
attend some type of school or preschool.
Programs differ in philosophy and goals.

Three main types are:
 Child-centered
 Academic
 Intervention
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Child-Centered Programs

Inspired by Piaget and Vygotsky; children
are free to play and explore with guidance

Materials such as art, blocks, dress-up
clothes are arranged for self-exploration

Children are encouraged to learn through
play (e.g., make up songs, games, etc.)
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Learning is FUN!
LAURA DWIGHT
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Montessori Schools

Maria Montessori (in 1936) believed that
children need structured, individualized
projects that give them a sense of
accomplishment.

Pretend and dramatic play is not
encouraged–learning is the emphasis.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Reggio Emilia Approach

Reggio Emilia is a region in Italy in which
early education is high-quality and funded
by the city.

The schools value art and creative play,
and have a low teacher-child ratio, and
high parent and teacher involvement.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
A Reggio Emilia Inspired Room
ATELIER FROM “OPEN WINDOWS,” © MUNICIPALITY OF REGGIO-EMMILIA–INFANT-TODDLER CENTERS AND PRESCHOOLS, PUBLISHED BY REGGIO CHILDREN 1994.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Teacher-Directed Programs

These programs stress preparation for
school
 Teach
children letters, numbers, shapes
 Teach how to sit and listen quietly
 Teachers direct the events of the day
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Intervention Programs

Project Head Start is a federal program
for low-income children (since 1965).

Goals include preparing kids for school,
involving parents, providing nutrition and
health care.

Programs vary in quality and outcomes
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Experimental Programs

Other intervention programs include:
 Perry
(High Scope) project
 Abecedarian
 Child-Parent centers

These programs are effective in enhancing
children’s cognitive skills
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Think About It

Intervention programs are costly in the
short term, costing several thousand
dollars per child per year.

However, they are cost saving in the long
run in terms of decreased need for special
education for many children!
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Quality Matters

A consistent finding in developmental
research is that high-quality early
childhood programs are associated with
high-quality outcomes for children.

Quality measures include trained staff,
low adult-child ratio, positive interactions,
safety, adequate space, and a curriculum.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
Make it Real: Early Childhood
Education

Pretend money is no object. Design the
“ideal” early childhood education
program. Consider a child’s social,
cognitive, and physical development.
Berger: The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence, 7th Edition, Chapter 9
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The Play Years: Cognitive Development (Ch 9)