About two and a half years ago, when I was Director of the Healthy Families free weekly mental health clinic in Waukegan, Illinois (a joint program of Rosalind Franklin University and the Healthcare Foundation of North Lake County), I was asked to speak on early childhood development to a group of early childhood educators and representatives from community agencies, sponsored by the Community Action Partnership of Lake County. In addition to the handout, below, each person at the meeting received a bilingual (English-Spanish) Hoopoe book of teaching stories (www.Hoopoekids.com) donated by the Learning Resource Alliance (www.learningresourcealliance.com). As part of my presentation, I read the children’s book referenced at the end of the handout, The Lion Who Saw His Reflection in the Water (http://www.hoopoekids.com/orderEng.htm#lion/). Here’s the handout:
Some Neurodevelopmental Benchmarks of Child Development Ages 3-5
I. Developmental Benchmarks
A. Sensorimotor: The child consolidates what she has been learning through much practice and trial and error. Most actions of daily life become automatic, unconscious and fluid, operated primarily through the cerebellum rather than the neocortex. Gross motor (running, climbing, throwing) and fine motor (tool use, drawing/writing, computer dexterity) control is consolidated and extended.
B. Linguistic: The child consolidates basic structures of language–words and grammar–that have been acquired with much practice and effort. Receptive vocabulary is extended as the child learns to understand many more words than he will often use. Expressive vocabulary is extended as the child learns to actively use many more words.
C. Social-emotional: The child consolidates and automatizes his attachment relationships with primary attachment figures (usually parents), which will provide much of the foundation for her patterns in new relationships. The child learns to relate to teachers in pre-school. Through play and adult-structured activities, the child learns to relate to peers, maturing from parallel play to interactive and reciprocal play. The child begins to find and explore partnerships and an expanded network of relationships of various kinds, including creative relationships, exploratory relationships, status relationships (up vs. down), intimate relationships (close vs. far), power relationships (controlling/controlled), etc., and develops interpersonal problem solving strategies within and outside the family. The child learns to communicate feelings, resolve problems, and self-soothe (not always in the best ways, e.g., watching television for distraction). Language is increasingly used to mediate feelings and relationships. The child learns that behavioral choices have consequences and begins to think strategically.
D. Pre-academics: The child learns to: recognize letters and numbers, read letters and count numbers in sequence, read small words and do simple addition and subtraction with real objects (not necessarily abstract numbers), write letters, numbers, and simple words, and follow adult instructions sufficiently to manage her behavior to meet early classroom requirements.
II. Critical Connections
A. The child learns when and how to obey and when and how to make independent decisions, and how to learn from demonstration and correction, through supervision and instruction by adults, including parents and teachers.
B. The child learns to listen to stories being read or told to her, maturing language, memory, and imaginative functions, as well as supporting healthy social-emotional attachment. One of the best things parents and teachers can do for children is to READ TO THEM! Stories that contain metaphoric structures (teaching stories) are the most useful for combining linear thinking (the words are linear) with thinking in images and metaphors. Example: The Lion Who Saw His Reflection In The Water.
Note: That’s the handout. If I were doing it now, I’d want to add something about musical and visual-artistic perception, both of which are being trained during the early neuromaturational period.