The Importance of Healthy Cognitive and Physical Development in Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a child’s first experience in an academic classroom without the protection of home. Children have short attention spans, but teachers help them learn to sit quietly and respectfully listen.

Language and literacy are a big focus in kindergarten. Kids will learn to identify the letters of the alphabet, match upper- and lowercase letters with their sounds and recognize high-frequency sight words.

Social and Emotional Development

Children who have healthy social-emotional development are better able to follow classroom rules and engage in meaningful relationships with peers. They are also better able to control their emotions and build a positive self-image.

One important skill children must learn in kindergarten is how to communicate their needs to others. For example, they need to know that it’s ok to tell their teacher they need to use the bathroom or ask for help if they don’t understand something.

In addition, they must be able to interact in groups without being supervised directly by adults. This isn’t easy for young children, but it is necessary for them to develop independence and confidence as learners. Parents can help prepare kids for this by role playing situations that are similar to school. For example, you could set up a stuffed animal school and have them practice taking turns, asking for help or resolving conflicts over toys. Children who can do these things are more prepared for kindergarten and beyond.

Language and Literacy Development

While many children have some experiences with learning in preschool, kindergarten is often their first experience in a structured school environment. This shift from home-based activities to a classroom setting teaches children how to be part of a group led by adults who are not their parents.

In addition to developing their receptive language skills, kindergartners learn how to express themselves using their emerging literacy skills. Emerging literacy encompasses all aspects of reading and writing, including print concepts, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and vocabulary.

By the end of kindergarten, children typically know the 26 upper- and lowercase letters, their names, and the sound each letter makes. They also learn basic math concepts, like counting and comparing numbers. Children are exposed to new English words through teacher instruction and in their daily activities. Effective teaching strategies include integrating new vocabulary into the classroom curriculum and presenting them thematically (McGee, 2008). In their book “Collaborative Conversations: Speaking and Listening in the Primary Grades,” Laura Beth Kelly, Meridith K. Ogden, and Lindsey Moses describe how they supported a class of kindergarten children in becoming participants in discussions about literature.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development includes a child’s growing ability to think logically and make connections. Children are able to categorize objects, sort information, learn from experiences and develop the capacity for problem solving.

They are able to understand the concepts of size, distance and time. They are able to recognize differences and similarities in things they observe (Flavell, 1977).

The great Swiss psychologist Piaget suggested that children reasoned in four distinct stages: the sensorimotor stage (0 to 2 years), the preoperational reasoning stage (2 to 6 or 7 years), the concrete operational reasoning stage (6 or 7 to 11 or 12 years) and the formal operational reasoning stage (12 years and throughout life).

Many new theories of cognitive development have emerged from research over the last 25 years. However, major questions remain about the nature of these stages, their universality and the extent to which children’s thinking differs from others’. Also, questions about the interaction of nature and nurture and the continuity or discontinuity of cognitive development continue to be important issues.

Physical Development

During the kindergarten years, children undergo physical development at a rapid rate. They gain more muscle strength and coordination, which allows them to use their bodies in a variety of ways. For example, they learn to jump or run, to throw and catch a ball, and to move their hands to string beads or scribble on paper. These physical skills contribute to their cognitive and social-emotional development.

Physical activity also helps children develop their fine-motor skills, which are necessary for learning to read and write. Children who have strong fine-motor skills can grasp concepts such as the properties of shapes (e.g., rectangles and circles) and group toys by type.

Teachers and families can support their children’s physical development by encouraging indoor and outdoor physical activities and creating flexible physical development plans that track and accommodate children at different stages of growth. In addition, they should encourage their children to get 10 to 11 hours of restful sleep each night.

The Importance of Healthy Cognitive and Physical Development in Kindergarten
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