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decorative star graphic  The Play Years:
Biosocial Development
- Mastering Motor Skills -
- Artistic Expression -

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Ψ   Maturation of the prefrontal cortex improves impulse control, while myelinaton of the corpus callosum & lateralization of the brain permits better coordination.

    Gross motor skills - The abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities.

   Ψ  By the age of three, children walk with good posture and without watching their feet. They can also walk backwards and run with enough control for sudden stops or changes of direction. They can hop, stand on one foot, and negotiate the rungs of a jungle gym. They can walk up stairs alternating feet but usually still walk down putting both feet on each step. Other achievements include riding a tricycle and throwing a ball, although they have trouble catching it because they hold their arms out in front of their bodies no matter what direction the ball comes from.

   Ψ  Four-year-olds can typically balance or hop on one foot, jump forward and backward over objects, and climb and descend stairs alternating feet. They can bounce and catch balls and throw accurately. Some four-year-olds can also skip. Children this age have gained an increased degree of self-consciousness about their motor activities that leads to increased feelings of pride and success when they master a new skill. However, it can also create feelings of inadequacy when they think they have failed. This concern with success can also lead them to try daring activities beyond their abilities, so they need to be monitored especially carefully.

   Ψ  Children, who are not going through the rapid, unsettling growth spurts of early childhood or adolescence, are quite skilled at controlling their bodies and are generally good at a wide variety of physical activities, although the ability varies on the level of maturation and the physique of a child. Motor skills are mostly equal in boys and girls at this stage, except that boys have more forearm strength and girls have greater flexibility.

   Ψ  Five-year-olds can skip, jump rope, catch a bounced ball, walk on their tiptoes, balance on one foot for over eight seconds, & engage in beginning acrobatics. Many can even ride a small two-wheeler bicycle.

   Ψ  Six-year-olds continue to enjoy moving in a variety of ways. Although far from proficient in motor skills, this does little to dampen their enthusiasm for trying out new activities & sports. They are able to run in various pathways & directions & can manipulate their bodies by jumping & landing, rolling & transferring their weight from feet to hands to feet. Their hand- & foot-eye coordination is still developing, so skills like throwing, catching, kicking & striking are still emerging.

Fine Motor Skills - Skills involving control of the fingers, hands, & arms.

   Ψ  By the age of three, many children have good control of a pencil. Three-year-olds can often draw a circle, although their attempts at drawing people are still very primitive. It is common for four-year-olds to be able to use scissors, copy geometric shapes and letters, button large buttons, and form clay shapes with two or three parts. Some can print their own names in capital letters. A human figure drawn by a four-year-old is typically a head atop two legs with one arm radiating from each leg.

   Ψ  By the age of five, most children have clearly advanced beyond the fine motor skill development of the preschool age. They can draw recognizably human figures with facial features & legs connected to a distinct trunk. Besides drawing, five-year-olds can also cut, paste, & trace shapes. They can fasten visible buttons (as opposed to those at the back of clothing), and many can tie bows, including shoelace bows. Their right- or left-handedness is well established, and they use the preferred hand for writing and drawing.

Encouraging motor development

   Ψ  Encouraging gross motor skills requires a safe, open play space, peers to interact with, & some adult supervision.

   Ψ  Nurturing the development of fine motor skills is considerably more complicated. Helping a child succeed in fine motor tasks requires planning, time, & a variety of play materials.

It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

   Ψ  Fine motor development can be encouraged by activities that youngsters enjoy, including crafts, puzzles, and playing with building blocks. Helping parents with everyday domestic activities, such as baking, can be fun for the child in addition to developing fine motor skills. For example, stirring batter provides a good workout for the hand and arm muscles, and cutting and spooning out cookie dough requires hand-eye coordination. Even a computer keyboard and mouse can provide practice in finger, hand, and hand-eye coordination. Because the development of fine motor skills plays a crucial role in school readiness and cognitive development, it is considered an important part of the preschool curriculum. The Montessori schools, in particular, were early leaders in emphasizing the significance of fine motor tasks and the use of learning aids such as pegboards and puzzles in early childhood education. The development of fine motor skills in children of low-income parents, who often lack the time or knowledge required to foster these abilities, is a key ingredient in the success of programs such as the Head Start program.

Artistic Expression

Ψ  A child's development in artistic expression varies greatly based on the child's experiences with art, music, dance & theater.

Ψ  Given exposure & practice, six-year-olds use a wider variety of materials to create visual images that combine colors, forms & lines. They can also remember the words & melodies to a number of songs & may sing or play these songs on instruments. They can also be taught how to read music & write simple music notation. With dance, six-year-olds can create, imitate & explore movement in response to a musical beat. The dramatic play of six-year-olds show greater creativity & complexity in the use of props, costumes, movements & sounds. Children this age can repeat simple text & cooperate with others in a dramatization.

Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates
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