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Child Development


*Note: The times listed next to the activities are approximate. Each activity could take more or less time. The modules are designed to be completed over a period of time rather than a single sitting.

Download the introductory presentation on Child Development presentation - 
(5 min).

    Principles of Child Development

    Research and theory about child development have provided well supported generalizations to guide practice and instructions (40 min).

      Read the section “Principles of child development and learning that inform practice,” on pages 10-16 of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 -  

      Reflect on the following:

      • How does each of the principles inform practice?
      • In what ways do these principles support decision-making about how best to meet the needs of all children?

      Using the handout, 12 Principles of Child Development: Here’s What – So What – Now What, record summary points and teaching implications for each principle. (You will use this chart in an upcoming activity.)

      Dimensions and Domains of Development

      Recognize the wide range of abilities and experience upon which early learning and development rest, the "whole child" must be embraced with focus given to the five dimensions of learning: physical well-being and motor development; social and emotional development; approaches toward learning; language development; and cognition and general knowledge. (National Education Goals Panel, 1997)

      Read The Five Dimensions of Readiness From the National Education Goals Panel (Wheelock College, Aspire Institute)

      Choose one option below to demonstrate the importance of teaching with the five dimensions in mind, focusing on the needs of the “whole child.”

      • In-Class: Create a poster illustration. Gallery Walk: Place your poster on the wall with those of your classmates, and assume the role of a “docent” as you share your work.
      • Virtual: Create a poster illustration using Glogster: Post and view your classmates’ posters.

      A growing body of work demonstrates the relationship between social and emotional factors and children’s academic competence, and thus the importance of these areas in educating young children. Development is the result of the interplay between the growing, changing child and the child’s experiences in the social and physical worlds. (Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships).

      Using the questions below as a guide, watch the video: The Science of Early Childhood Development - 

      Respond to the following, recording your responses for later use.

      • What did Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. mean when he used the phrase “development, and the impact of experience on development, is not a one way street; it is a back-and-forth interaction?”
      • How are healthy development and school readiness dependent on cognitive and social-emotional development?

      Read the article (focusing on the first 3 pages): "Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships - ." Consider the following questions:

      • What does it mean that relationships are the “active ingredients” of the environment’s influence on healthy human development?
      • How do secure relationships with the TK teacher impact a child, both socially-emotionally and cognitively?
      • Explain how positive relationships with peers can affect a child in a TK classroom.

      Visit the Center on the Social Emotional Foundations for Early Learning -  (CSEFEL) website.

      • Select the topic, “Resources: Practical Strategies for Teachers/Caregivers,” and choose one resource to explore.
      • Using the CSEFEL Resources template, record your selected resource in the first box. Name it and provide a brief description.
      • Share your finding with three other people, explaining how the strategy could be used in the TK classroom.
      • Record strategy information from your classmates in the other boxes.

      The quality of a child’s early environment and the availability of appropriate experiences at the right stages of development are crucial in determining the strength or weakness of the brain’s architecture. This, in turn, determines how well the child will be able to think and regulate emotions. (The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences…) (30 min).

      Watch the video clip: Experiences Build Brain Architecture - 

      Focus on the first five pages of "The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences" -  from the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.

      Choose one of the following statements to discuss with classmates.

      • To reach their full potential, children need exposure to a wide variety of stimulating and appropriate experiences in their early formative years and through continuous exposures to high quality, age-appropriate experiences throughout school-age years. How does this research inform practice in the TK classroom?
      • A transitional kindergartener in your classroom writes his name using all capital letters, stating that is how his other school taught him to write. He is experiencing difficulty changing to the use of upper and lower case letters. Research indicates that the repetition of experience strengthens neural networks, making it difficult to change what has been learned. How does this impact your thinking about teaching and learning?

      Decide from the following activities how you will discuss your selection.

      • Take turns sharing thoughts with a classmate who read the same selection. Then as partners, find another pair who focused on the other selection (if possible) and continue sharing.
      • Share your reflection on the online student forum. Interact with at least three classmates, exchanging ideas and conversing (at least one exchange should focus on the same selection).

      Developmentally Appropriate Practice

      “Children who attend high-quality early learning programs benefit from rich opportunities to learn through play. Their play focuses on the world around them as they seek to make sense of the thoughts and behaviors of other people and experiment with living and nonliving things and make discoveries. Children thrive when offered a curriculum that integrates all the domains in a way that is developmentally, culturally, and linguistically meaningful and appropriate.” (The Alignment of the California Preschool Learning Foundations with Key Early Education Resources, Tom Torlakson, CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2012) (30 min.).

      Developmentally appropriate practice involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group, intentionally helping each child meet challenging yet achievable learning goals through purposeful play, discovery, and engaging opportunities. (Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8)

      Watch the video ( "Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Play -  " using the questions below as a guide

      Answer the following questions, recording your responses for later use.

      • As mentioned in the video: According to Vygotsky, play is serious, but not serious, and real, yet not real. What does this mean in regard to children’s learning?
      • Explain the following statement: “Young children are mentally active learners who are always ‘constructing’ their knowledge and understanding of the world.”
      • How can purposeful play influence the development of self-regulation (process that allows children to control their attention, thoughts, emotions and behaviors) for TK children?
      • In what ways can engaging and active experiences support children at different levels of learning (differentiation)?

      Review accompanying article. In the section, "Kindergarteners and Play", what information regarding play and learning can help support the teaching of TK students?

      Applying Your Knowledge

      Effective early childhood professionals draw upon principles of child development, as well as their knowledge base of effective practice, applying the information to their classroom practice. (Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8) (35 min).

      Use the Integrated Teaching Strategies -  for the TK Classroom scenario and response sheet to demonstrate your understanding about child development and the TK classroom. To support your responses, apply information from the 12 Principles of Child Development -   chart exercise, your responses to questions posed throughout the module, and the Developmentally Appropriate Practice and Play article.

      Approximate total time: 3 - 4 hours