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Assignment Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

Assignment: Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

For more than a decade, my fourth-floor office window overlooked the preschool and kindergarten play yard of our university laboratory school. On mild fall and spring mornings, the doors of the classrooms swung open, and sand tables, easels, and large blocks spilled out into a small courtyard. Alongside the building was a grassy area with jungle gyms, swings, a playhouse, and a flower garden planted by the children. Beyond it lay a circular path lined with tricycles and wagons. Each day, the setting was alive with activity.

The years from 2 to 6 are often called “the play years,” since play blossoms during this time and supports every aspect of development. Our discussion opens with the physical attainments of early childhood—growth in body size and improvements in motor coordination. We look at genetic and environmental factors that support these changes and at their intimate connection with other domains of development.

Then we explore early childhood cognition, beginning with Piaget’s preoperational stage. Recent research, along with Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and information processing, extends our understanding of preschoolers’ cognitive competencies. Next, we address factors that contribute to early childhood mental development—the home environment, the quality of preschool and child care, and the many hours young children spend watching television and using computers. We conclude with the dramatic expansion of language in early childhood.

Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

image1 A Changing Body and Brain
In early childhood, body growth tapers off from the rapid rate of the first two years. On average, children add 2 to 3 inches in height and about 5 pounds in weight each year. Boys continue to be slightly larger than girls. As “baby fat” drops off further, children gradually become thinner, although girls retain somewhat more body fat than boys, who are slightly more muscular. As Figure 7.1 shows, by age 5 the top-heavy, bowlegged, potbellied toddler has become a more streamlined, flat-tummied, longer-legged child with body proportions similar to those of adults. Consequently, posture and balance improve—changes that support gains in motor coordination.

Individual differences in body size are even more apparent during early childhood than in infancy and toddlerhood. Speeding around the bike path in the play yard, 5-year-old Darryl—at 48 inches tall and 55 pounds—towered over his kindergarten classmates. (The average North American 5-year-old boy is 43 inches tall and weighs 42 pounds.) Priti, an Asian-Indian child, was unusually small because of genetic factors linked to her cultural ancestry. Hal, a Caucasian child from a poverty-stricken home, was well below average for reasons we will discuss shortly.

FIGURE 7.1 Body growth during early childhood.
During the preschool years, children grow more slowly than in infancy and toddlerhood. Chris and Mariel’s bodies became more streamlined, flat-tummied, and longer-legged. Boys continue to be slightly taller, heavier, and more muscular than girls. But generally, the two sexes are similar in body proportions and physical capacities.

Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

Skeletal Growth
The skeletal changes of infancy continue throughout early childhood. Between ages 2 and 6, approximately 45 new epiphyses, or growth centers in which cartilage hardens into bone, emerge in various parts of the skeleton. X-rays of these growth centers enable doctors to estimate children’s skeletal age, or progress toward physical maturity (see page 121 in Chapter 4 )—information helpful in diagnosing growth disorders.

By the end of the preschool years, children start to lose their primary, or “baby,” teeth. Genetic factors heavily influence the age at which they do so. For example, girls, who are ahead of boys in physical development, lose teeth earlier. Environmental influences also matter: Prolonged malnutrition delays the appearance of permanent teeth, whereas overweight and obesity accelerate it (Hilgers et al., 2006 ).

Diseased baby teeth can affect the health of permanent teeth, so preventing decay in primary teeth is essential—by brushing consistently, avoiding sugary foods, drinking fluoridated water, and getting topical fluoride treatments and sealants (plastic coatings that protect tooth surfaces). Another factor is exposure to tobacco smoke, which suppresses children’s immune system, including the ability to fight bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Young children in homes with regular smokers are at increased risk for decayed teeth (Hanioka et al., 2011 ).

Unfortunately, an estimated 28 percent of U.S. preschoolers have tooth decay, a figure that rises to 50 percent in middle childhood and 60 percent by age 18. Causes include poor diet and inadequate health care—factors that are more likely to affect low-SES children. About 30 percent of U.S. children living in poverty have untreated dental caries (National Institutes of Health, 2011 ).

Brain Development
Between ages 2 and 6, the brain increases from 70 percent of its adult weight to 90 percent. At the same time, preschoolers improve in a wide variety of skills—physical coordination, perception, attention, memory, language, logical thinking, and imagination.

By age 4, many parts of the cerebral cortex have overproduced synapses. In some regions, such as the prefrontal cortex, the number of synapses is nearly double the adult value. Together, synaptic growth and myelination of neural fibers result in a high energy need. In fact, fMRI evidence reveals that energy metabolism in the cerebral cortex reaches a peak around this age (Huttenlocher, 2002 ; Nelson, Thomas, & de Haan, 2006 ). Synaptic pruning follows: Neurons that are seldom stimulated lose their connective fibers, and the number of synapses gradually declines. By age 8 to 10, energy consumption of most cortical regions diminishes to near-adult levels (Nelson, 2002 ). And cognitive capacities increasingly localize in distinct neural systems, reflecting a developmental shift toward a more fine-tuned, efficient neural organization (Tsujimoto, 2008 ).

Assignment Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

Assignment Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

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Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

EEG, NIRS, and fMRI measures of neural activity indicate especially rapid growth from early to middle childhood in areas of the prefrontal cortex devoted to various aspects of executive function. These include inhibition of impulses, attention, memory, and planning and organizing behavior—capacities that advance markedly over the preschool years (Bunge & Wright, 2007 ; Durston & Casey, 2006 ). Furthermore, for most children, the left cerebral hemisphere is especially active between 3 and 6 years and then levels off. In contrast, activity in the right hemisphere increases steadily throughout early and middle childhood (Thatcher, Walker, & Giudice, 1987 ; Thompson et al., 2000 ). These findings fit nicely with what we know about several aspects of cognitive development. Language skills (typically housed in the left hemisphere) increase at an astonishing pace in early childhood, and they support children’s improved executive function. In contrast, spatial skills (usually located in the right hemisphere), such as giving directions, drawing pictures, and recognizing geometric shapes, develop gradually over childhood and adolescence.

Differences in rate of development between the two hemispheres suggest that they are continuing to lateralize (specialize in cognitive functions). Let’s take a closer look at brain lateralization in early childhood by focusing on handedness.

A 5-year-old illustrates gains in executive function, supported by rapid growth of the prefrontal cortex, as she engages in an activity that challenges her capacity to attend, remember, and plan.

Research on handedness, along with other evidence covered in Chapter 4 , supports the joint contribution of nature and nurture to brain lateralization. By age 6 months, infants typically display a smoother, more efficient movement when reaching with their right than their left arm. This difference, believed to be biologically based, may contribute to the right-handed bias of most children by the end of the first year (Hinojosa, Sheu, & Michael, 2003 ; Rönnqvist & Domellöf, 2006 ). Gradually, handedness extends to additional skills.

Handedness reflects the greater capacity of one side of the brain—the individual’s dominant cerebral hemisphere —to carry out skilled motor action. Other important abilities are generally located on the dominant side as well. For right-handed people—in Western nations, 90 percent of the population—language is housed in the left hemisphere with hand control. For the left-handed 10 percent, language is occasionally located in the right hemisphere or, more often, shared between the hemispheres (Szaflarski et al., 2012 ). This indicates that the brains of left-handers tend to be less strongly lateralized than those of right-handers.

Left-handed parents show only a weak tendency to have left-handed children (Vuoksimaa et al., 2009 ). One genetic theory proposes that most children inherit a gene that biases them for right-handedness and a left-dominant cerebral hemisphere. But that bias is not strong enough to overcome experiences that might sway children toward a left-hand preference (Annett, 2002 ). Even prenatal events may profoundly affect handedness. Both identical and fraternal twins are more likely than ordinary siblings to differ in hand preference, probably because twins usually lie in opposite orientations in the uterus (Derom et al., 1996 ). The orientation of most singleton fetuses—facing toward the left—is believed to promote greater control over movements on the body’s right side (Previc, 1991 ).

Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

Handedness also involves practice. It is strongest for complex skills requiring extensive training, such as eating with utensils, writing, and engaging in athletic activities. And wide cultural differences exist. For example, in tribal and village cultures, the rate of left-handedness is relatively high. But in a study of one such society in New Guinea, individuals who had attended school in childhood were far more likely to be extremely right-handed—findings that highlight the role of experience (Geuze et al., 2012 ).

Although rates of left-handedness are elevated among people with mental retardation and mental illness, atypical brain lateralization is probably not responsible for these individuals’ problems. Rather, early damage to the left hemisphere may have caused their disabilities while also leading to a shift in handedness. In support of this idea, left-handedness is associated with prenatal and birth difficulties that can result in brain damage, including maternal stress, prolonged labor, prematurity, Rh incompatibility, and breech delivery (Kurganskaya, 2011 ; Rodriguez & Waldenström, 2008 ).

Most left-handers, however, have no developmental problems. In fact, left- and mixed-handed youngsters are slightly advantaged in speed and flexibility of thinking, and they are more likely than their right-handed agemates to develop outstanding verbal and mathematical talents (Flannery & Liederman, 1995 ; Gunstad et al., 2007 ). More even distribution of cognitive functions across both brain hemispheres may be responsible.

Other Advances in Brain Development.
Besides the cerebral cortex, several other areas of the brain make strides during early childhood (see Figure 7.2 ). All of these changes involve establishing links between parts of the brain, increasing the coordinated functioning of the central nervous system.

At the rear and base of the brain is the cerebellum , a structure that aids in balance and control of body movement. Fibers linking the cerebellum to the cerebral cortex grow and myelinate from birth through the preschool years, contributing to dramatic gains in motor coordination: By the end of the preschool years, children can play hopscotch, throw and catch a ball with well-coordinated movements, and print letters of the alphabet. Connections between the cerebellum and cerebral cortex also support thinking (Diamond, 2000 ): Children with damage to the cerebellum usually display both motor and cognitive deficits, including problems with memory, planning, and language (Noterdaeme et al., 2002 ; Riva & Giorgi, 2000 ).

The reticular formation , a structure in the brain stem that maintains alertness and consciousness,generates synapses and myelinates throughout childhood and into adolescence. Neurons in the reticular formation send out fibers to other brain regions. Many go to the prefrontal cortex, contributing to improvements in sustained, controlled attention.

Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

An inner-brain structure called the hippocampus , which plays a vital role in memory and in images of space that help us find our way, undergoes rapid synapse formation and myelination in the second half of the first year, when recall memory and independent movement emerge. Over the preschool and elementary school years, the hippocampus and surrounding areas of the cerebral cortex continue to develop swiftly, establishing connections with one another and with the prefrontal cortex (Nelson, Thomas, & de Haan, 2006 ). These changes support the dramatic gains in memory and spatial understanding of early and middle childhood.

The corpus callosum is a large bundle of fibers connecting the two cerebral hemispheres. Production of synapses and myelination of the corpus callosum peak between 3 and 6 years, then continue more slowly through adolescence (Thompson et al., 2000 ). The corpus callosum supports smooth coordination of movements on both sides of the body and integration of many aspects of thinking, including perception, attention, memory, language, and problem solving. The more complex the task, the more essential is communication between the hemispheres.

FIGURE 7.2 Cross-section of the human brain, showing the location of the cerebellum, the reticular formation, the hippocampus, and the corpus callosum.
These structures undergo considerable development during early childhood. Also shown is the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones that control body growth (see page 219 ).

Growth and myelination of fibers linking the cerebellum to the cerebral cortex contribute to improved motor coordination and thinking, enabling this child to master a game that requires him to play hopscotch while also throwing a ball.

REVIEW What aspects of brain development underlie the tremendous gains in language, thinking, and motor control of early childhood?

CONNECT What stand on the nature–nurture issue do findings on development of handedness support? Explain, using research findings.

APPLY Dental checkups reveal a high incidence of untreated tooth decay in a U.S. preschool program serving low-income children. Using findings presented in this and previous chapters, list possible contributing factors.

REFLECT How early, and to what extent, did you experience tooth decay in childhood? What factors might have been responsible?

image2 Influences on Physical Growth and Health
As we consider factors affecting growth and health in early childhood, you will encounter some familiar themes. Heredity remains important, but environmental factors—good nutrition, relative freedom from disease, and physical safety—are also essential.

Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

Heredity and Hormones
The impact of heredity on physical growth is evident throughout childhood. Children’s physical size and rate of growth are related to those of their parents (Bogin, 2001 ). Genes influence growth by controlling the body’s production of hormones. The pituitary gland , located at the base of the brain, plays a critical role by releasing two hormones that induce growth.

The first, growth hormone (GH) , is necessary for development of all body tissues except the central nervous system and the genitals. Children who lack GH reach an average mature height of only 4 to 4½ feet. When treated early with injections of GH, such children show catch-up growth and then grow at a normal rate, becoming much taller than they would have without treatment (Bright, Mendoza, & Rosenfeld, 2009 ).

A second pituitary hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) , prompts the thyroid gland in the neck to release thyroxine, which is necessary for brain development and for GH to have its full impact on body size. Infants born with a deficiency of thyroxine must receive it at once, or they will be mentally retarded. Once the most rapid period of brain development is complete, thyroxine deficiency no longer affects the central nervous system but still causes children to grow more slowly than average. With prompt treatment, however, such children catch up in body growth and eventually reach normal size (Salerno et al., 2001 ).

With the transition to early childhood, many children become unpredictable, picky eaters. One father I know wistfully recalled how his son, as a toddler, eagerly sampled Chinese food: “Now, at age 3, the only thing he’ll try is the ice cream!”

Preschoolers’ appetites decline because their growth has slowed. Their wariness of new foods is also adaptive. If they stick to familiar foods, they are less likely to swallow dangerous substances when adults are not around to protect them (Birch & Fisher, 1995 ). Parents need not worry about variations in amount eaten from meal to meal. Preschoolers compensate for eating little at one meal by eating more at a later one (Hursti, 1999 ).

Though they eat less, preschoolers require a high-quality diet, including the same foods adults need, but in smaller amounts. Fats, oils, and salt should be kept to a minimum because of their link to high blood pressure and heart disease in adulthood. Foods high in sugar should be eaten only in small amounts to prevent tooth decay and protect against overweight and obesity—a topic we will take up in Chapter 9 .

Children tend to imitate the food choices of people they admire, both adults and peers. For example, in Mexico, where children often see family members enjoying peppery foods, preschoolers enthusiastically eat chili peppers, whereas most U.S. children reject them (Birch, Zimmerman, & Hind, 1980 ). Repeated, unpressured exposure to a new food also increases acceptance (Fuller et al., 2005 ). For example, serving broccoli or tofu increases children’s liking for these healthy foods. In contrast, offering sweet fruit or soft drinks promotes “milk avoidance” (Black et al., 2002 ).

Supporting Language Development in Early Childhood

As this child’s grandmother shows him how to eat with chopsticks, he also acquires a taste for foods commonly served in his culture.

Although children’s healthy eating depends on a wholesome food environment, too much parental control limits children’s opportunities to develop self-control. When parents offer bribes (“Finish your vegetables, and you can have an extra cookie”) children tend to like the healthy food less and the treat more (Birch, Fisher, & Davison, 2003 ).

Arrange to join a family with at least one preschooler for a meal, and closely observe parental mealtime practices. Are they likely to promote healthy eating habits? Explain.

Finally, as indicated in earlier chapters, many children in the United States and in developing countries lack access to sufficient high-quality food to support healthy development. Five-year-old Hal rode a bus from a poor neighborhood to our laboratory preschool. His mother’s welfare check barely covered her rent, let alone food. Hal’s diet was deficient in protein and in essential vitamins and minerals—iron (to prevent anemia and support central nervous system processes), calcium (to support development of bones and teeth), vitamin A (to help maintain eyes, skin, and a variety of internal organs), and vitamin C (to facilitate iron absorption and wound healing). These are the most common deficiencies of the preschool years (Ganji, Hampl, & Betts, 2003 ).

Hal was small for his age, pale, inattentive, and unruly at preschool. By the school years, low-SES U.S. children are, on average, ½ to 1 inch shorter than their economically advantaged counterparts (Cecil et al., 2005 ; Yip, Scanlon, & Trowbridge, 1993 ). And throughout childhood and adolescence, a nutritionally deficient diet is associated with attention and memory difficulties, lower intelligence and achievement test scores, and behavior problems—especially hyperactivity and aggression—even after family factors that might account for these relationships are controlled (Liu et al., 2004 ; Lukowski et al., 2010 ; Slack & Yoo, 2005 ).

Infectious Disease
One day, I noticed that Hal had been absent from the play yard for several weeks, so I asked Leslie, his preschool teacher, what was wrong. “Hal’s been hospitalized with the measles,” she explained. “He’s had difficulty recovering—lost weight when there wasn’t much to lose in the first place.” In well-nourished children, ordinary childhood illnesses have no effect on physical growth. But when children are undernourished, disease interacts with malnutrition in a vicious spiral, with potentially severe consequences.

Important information for writing discussion questions and participation

Hi Class,

Please read through the following information on writing a Discussion question response and participation posts.

Contact me if you have any questions.

Important information on Writing a Discussion Question

  • Your response needs to be a minimum of 150 words (not including your list of references)
  • There needs to be at least TWO references with ONE being a peer reviewed professional journal article.
  • Include in-text citations in your response
  • Do not include quotes—instead summarize and paraphrase the information
  • Follow APA-7th edition
  • Points will be deducted if the above is not followed

Participation –replies to your classmates or instructor

  • A minimum of 6 responses per week, on at least 3 days of the week.
  • Each response needs at least ONE reference with citations—best if it is a peer reviewed journal article
  • Each response needs to be at least 75 words in length (does not include your list of references)
  • Responses need to be substantive by bringing information to the discussion or further enhance the discussion. Responses of “I agree” or “great post” does not count for the word count.
  • Follow APA 7th edition
  • Points will be deducted if the above is not followed

Welcome to class

Hello class and welcome to the class and I will be your instructor for this course. This is a -week course and requires a lot of time commitment, organization, and a high level of dedication. Please use the class syllabus to guide you through all the assignments required for the course. I have also attached the classroom policies to this announcement to know your expectations for this course. Please review this document carefully and ask me any questions if you do. You could email me at any time or send me a message via the “message” icon in halo if you need to contact me. I check my email regularly, so you should get a response within 24 hours. If you have not heard from me within 24 hours and need to contact me urgently, please send a follow up text to.

I strongly encourage that you do not wait until the very last minute to complete your assignments. Your assignments in weeks 4 and 5 require early planning as you would need to present a teaching plan and interview a community health provider. I advise you look at the requirements for these assignments at the beginning of the course and plan accordingly. I have posted the YouTube link that explains all the class assignments in detail. It is required that you watch this 32-minute video as the assignments from week 3 through 5 require that you follow the instructions to the letter to succeed. Failure to complete these assignments according to instructions might lead to a zero. After watching the video, please schedule a one-on-one with me to discuss your topic for your project by the second week of class. Use this link to schedule a 15-minute session. Please, call me at the time of your appointment on my number. Please note that I will NOT call you.

Please, be advised I do NOT accept any assignments by email. If you are having technical issues with uploading an assignment, contact the technical department and inform me of the issue. If you have any issues that would prevent you from getting your assignments to me by the deadline, please inform me to request a possible extension. Note that working fulltime or overtime is no excuse for late assignments. There is a 5%-point deduction for every day your assignment is late. This only applies to approved extensions. Late assignments will not be accepted.

If you think you would be needing accommodations due to any reasons, please contact the appropriate department to request accommodations.

Plagiarism is highly prohibited. Please ensure you are citing your sources correctly using APA 7th edition. All assignments including discussion posts should be formatted in APA with the appropriate spacing, font, margin, and indents. Any papers not well formatted would be returned back to you, hence, I advise you review APA formatting style. I have attached a sample paper in APA format and will also post sample discussion responses in subsequent announcements.

Your initial discussion post should be a minimum of 200 words and response posts should be a minimum of 150 words. Be advised that I grade based on quality and not necessarily the number of words you post. A minimum of TWO references should be used for your initial post. For your response post, you do not need references as personal experiences would count as response posts. If you however cite anything from the literature for your response post, it is required that you cite your reference. You should include a minimum of THREE references for papers in this course. Please note that references should be no more than 5 years old except recommended as a resource for the class. Furthermore, for each discussion board question, you need ONE initial substantive response and TWO substantive responses to either your classmates or your instructor for a total of THREE responses. There are TWO discussion questions each week, hence, you need a total minimum of SIX discussion posts for each week. I usually post a discussion question each week. You could also respond to these as it would count towards your required SIX discussion posts for the week.

I understand this is a lot of information to cover in 5 weeks, however, the Bible says in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ that strengthens us. Even in times like this, we are encouraged by God’s word that we have that ability in us to succeed with His strength. I pray that each and every one of you receives strength for this course and life generally as we navigate through this pandemic that is shaking our world today. Relax and enjoy the course!

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