How children develop their intelligence in the First Five Years of Life
Babies are born with brains that are hardly developed. The process of development of the brain is very complicated. It is through proper brain development that children are able to develop intellectual capacity or intelligence. The essential part of cognitive or brain development is therefore highly influenced by the environment in which the child is exposed to. Intelligence in children is basically how they acquire and process information and knowledge in order to understand the environment around them. It is a mental skill; as it develops, it changes over time. It involves perceiving, thinking, learning, remembering and attending.
The principle behind the development of a child’s intelligence or cognitive ability is through objects that are attached to the child in the first early years after birth. The most important objects in a baby’s early life, first year, are the parents or caregivers. Through the parents, the baby is able to develop a sense of trust and security. The parents or care givers help the baby achieve this through being consistently available in all aspect. This means that the parent is always present to provide emotional support and respond to the needs of the baby.
According to Jean Piaget, there are specific characteristics and abilities that children have, that make them to adapt to the environment around them. He identifies three characteristics: assimilation, accommodation and adaptation. Adaptation, according to Piaget, is an ability that people are born with that enables them to be able to adjust to the demands of the environment. Assimilation is a process in which children are able to interpret the new things that they experience by incorporating them into the existing basic units of knowledge. And lastly, accommodation is a process in which children are able to modify the existing basic unit of knowledge in order to incorporate new experiences.
Based on these three characteristics, he proposed four stages in which children undergo to develop their intelligence. These stages cater for children’s intellectual development up to adolescence. The children until the age of five only fall in the first two stages. These stages are sensory motor stage and pre operational stage. All the stages are important and the first one makes way for the second one. If a child fails to develop properly in one stage, then this may affect their cognitive development in the other stages.
The sensory motor stage occurs from the time the child is born up to two years. They tend to develop behavioral, and action basic units of knowledge. They evolve from reflexive creatures to reflective and plan full problem solvers. This means that they change from a situation where they naturally react to sudden things to a situation where they are able to start thinking and scheming things within their abilities. They are able to begin thinking of ways to solves some of the problems they face.
By the time the child reaches the age of two, they have already developed the ability to reflect and plan solutions. They have growth of problem solving skills. During the second year, they learn to coordinate simple behavior and how to have purposeful behavior. They have already learned by this time that the object they perceive around them are permanent objects. They have acquired a sense of self. This means that they are able to figure themselves as objects that do things in order to survive.
In the first month of this particular stage of sensory development, the child is only able to center all its activities on reflex. Such activities become more efficient and voluntary as the child continues to grow within the first two month. Between one month and four months the babies have gained the capacity to repeat actions using parts of their bodies; for instance, they repeatedly suck their figures. At this point, they have primary circular reaction. Secondary circular reaction occurs between the ages of four to eight months. In this stage the babies shift their focus from the self to other objects. They begin to have interest in other objects as they explore them. They also show a lot of interest on people around them.
By the age between eight and twelve months, they begin to coordinate the secondary behavioral units. This means that they can do something intentionally without the causal reflex. For instance, they can know when they are ignored or abandoned and then begin to cry. By the time they are between twelve and eighteen months, the infants have already achieved locomotion. Therefore they have an expanded world and can repeat actions.
Above the age of eighteen months, the infants have the ability to have representational thoughts. This means that they can retain memory of mental images of events and objects around them. By this time they have also increased their ability to communicate and can attempt to describe some of the familiar objects that they interact with daily. The next thing after attaining problem solving skills, children develop imitations.
The voluntary imitations now become more precise. They can easily produce the behavior of an absent object such as an adult. The infants at this stage can see an adult performing an action and decide to imitate the adult. Finally, the sensory motor stage ends at twenty four months, and the infant have developed further and they are able to recognize that people and objects continue to exist even when they are not in touch with them.
The next stage of how children develop their intelligence is the pre operational stage. This stage begins at the age of two and runs all the way to the age of seven. At this stage, they are even more proficient at using mental symbols. They are able to think about events and objects that they encounter on daily basis. In the perception period, the child is very intelligent and can remarkably recall events that occurred in the past in addition to present events. However, there are certain limitations that are still quite prominent at this stage.
The children would always attribute life and life like quantities to objects that do not have life. For instance, they may have slight problems differentiating between a robot and a real animal just because of the fact that the robot has locomotion like an animal. They are also not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality. This is where they would watch a cartoon do certain things on TV or video games and think that they are real. Another limitation is that they have transductive reasoning where they would base their arguments on patterns of events. For instance, if an event follows the other, they would think that the first event caused the second event to occur.
In their minds, children at this stage have very selfish thoughts. They only think about themselves and are unable to develop concern for others or view the world from the perspective of other. From the age of four year, the children undergo the intuitive period where they now begin to engage their brain in real thoughts. They can pick a single and salient feature of an item and center their thought on that feature to identify the item. However, they still fail to understand the difference between a member of a group and the group itself. Their thinking is centered in only one feature of an object. Conservation is still a problem because they are incapable of mentally revising the flow of action.
All these stages and processes of a child’s cognitive development are influenced by certain factors. These factors determine whether the child would grow to be intelligent or have mental impairments. Biological factors are the main ones. They include the development of the brain and the entire nervous system. As earlier mentioned, the brain is poorly developed when a baby is delivered. Much of the significant development occurs as the baby grows. Socio-cultural factors also play a role in the development of a child’s intelligence. These are mainly the practices that are typical of a particular ethnic group or society. Lastly, experiences in the physical environment shapes a child’s intellectual development. The environment could be rich in stimulants that encourage positive development or it could have stimulants that discourage positive development.