Chapter 7: Physical, Cognitive and Language Skills of Early Childhood
I. Physical Changes
A. Growth and Motor Developments
In comparison to the physical changes in infancy, preschoolers’ locomotor, nonlocomotor and
grasping skills are less impressive. On the other hand, in comparison to infancy, the cognitive and
language gains in early childhood are definitely more impressive.
Note: I use the terms early childhood and preschoolers interchangeably.
1. In early childhood, 5-6 year olds acquire large-muscle skills. Identify examples of large-
muscle skills that your textbook provides.
By age 5 or 6, children are running, jumping, hopping, gal- loping, climbing, and skipping.
2. In comparison to large muscle skills, preschoolers struggle with fine-motor skills. Identify the
fine-motor skills that 5-6 year olds would have difficulty with.
using a pencil or crayon or cutting accurately with scissors.
3. Identify the locomotor, nonlocomotor, and manipulative skills that are acquired in early
childhood (See Table 7.1). You don’t need to know exact ages rather focus on the sequence
4. Your textbook states, “a ‘wait and see’ strategy isn’t the best approach to helping children
learn to write letters and draw simple forms” (p. 193).
(a) Research that finds early training can accelerate fine-motor skills such as writing letters
supports _________ theory (Piaget’s or Vygotsky’s).
(b) Research also finds that “a child who has some grasp of what letters are will be more
responsive to training in letter-writing” (p. 194). Which information-processing concept does
this research finding relate to? (See the chapter 2 table of concepts)
vygotsky zone of proximal development
B. The Brain and Nervous System
In infancy, brain development focused on brain structures that played a role in ensuring infants’
survival. The brain developments that occur in early childhood are linked to the impressive cognitive and in particular language skills that emerge in this period. These gains are associated
with the development of the cortex (early childhood) rather than the structures within the
5. The corpus callosum grows and matures more during the early childhood years than in any
other period of life. Define the corpus callosum.
the structure that connects the right and left hemispheres of the cerebral cortex
6. The growth of the corpus callosum is associated with lateralization.
(a) Define lateralization.
the process through which brain functions are divided between the two hemispheres of the
(b) Identify the eight brain functions that appear to have specialized sites or locations in our
right and left hemispheres – another way of saying this is ‘identify the eight brain functions
that are lateralized’ (See Figure 7.2).
Left Hemisphere: Language, Logic, Analysis, Math
RH: intuition, creativity, art/music, spatial perception
(c) If you had a stroke or brain injury on the left side of your brain, what types of thinking
might you experience difficulty with? (See the text under Figure 7.2)
left hemisphere specializes in logical sequential processes, such as language and computation,
and in the coordination of complex movement.
(d) If you experienced a stroke or head trauma on the right side of your head, what types of
thinking might you experience problems with? (See the text under Figure 7.2)
The right hemisphere is associated with holistic simultaneous processes that involve complex
perceptual and visual-spatial functions, such as the detection and expression of emotions and
7. (a) Record the first two sentences of the second paragraph in the “Lateralization” section,
which establishes the differences between nature and nurture.
Neuroscientists suspect that our genes dictate which functions will be lateralized and which will
not be. However, experience shapes the pace at which lateralization occurs. (b) Identify the research studies in the second paragraph, which support a nature view of
For example, in 95% of humans, language functions that enable us to under- stand the
meanings of words and the structure of sentences are carried out in the left hemisphere.
Studies of fetal responses to different kinds of sounds (i.e., language and music) show that
this pattern is evident even before we are born
(c) Identify the research study in the third paragraph, which support a nurture view of
we don’t know whether children acquire language more rapidly because their brains are
lateralizing at a faster pace. It seems that the reverse is just as likely to be true— namely, that
some children’s brains are lateralizing language functions more rapidly because they are learning
language faster. But such findings suggest that maturation and experience are both at work in the
The Reticular Formation and the Hippocampus
8. Recall from chapter 4 that myelinization of neurons in the reticular formation are associated
with ‘attention’ gains.
(a) In early childhood, neurons in the hippocampus are myelinized. How is this related to
memory advances in early childhood?
Maturation of this brain structure probably accounts for improvements in memory function
across the preschool years
(b) Retrieve the information-processing diagram I outlined in your chapter 2 lecture notes.
What area of the diagram would be associated with myelinization of the hippocampus?