From preschool into early elementary school children have begun to develop their gross motor skills where they have developed a "mature pattern of walking" and are ready to test their physical abilities to the limits. Also fine motor skills have begun to develop, however more slowly. Along with motor skills children are developing their visual, tactile, and kinesthetic senses. A child's sensory skills are helpful in learning language. A child's proper growth depends greatly on their nutrition and health. A healthy diet is essential to the developing child.
Food should never be used to reward, punish, or bribe a child. Instead children should have three healthy meals with snacks in between. It is also important for children to have good self care behaviors (including bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth), and adequate sleep. Rapid growth of the brain and nervous system continues during the early years of a child's life, however because of birth defects or health problems some children may be at a risk of cognitive delays. Problems such as Autism, where children may have a difficult time with language skills and sensitivity to touch, behavioral problems, or chemical exposures can all affect a child's cognitive development. For most children though with a proper diet and plenty of stimulation cognitive abilities will develop rapidly, and by about 7 years ones cognitive skills have become "functionally related to the elements of adult intelligence." Psychologists are still at a disagreement as to whether intelligence is a combination of many unconnected abilities or a single general intellectual capacity.
Those who believe there are multiple intelligences rather than just one factor consider there to be 9 "distinctive intelligences that interact." Other theories and concerns include intelligence as a process (operations involved with thinking), and intelligence as information processing (how we manipulate information). While many psychologists have taken on the contemporary scientific consensus where no extreme view is currently justified, there are those whom believe different. Hereditarians use methods such as the IQ test to ask how much. Environmentalists on the other hand believe that ones mental abilities are learned.
John Piaget theorized pre operational thought where the child has developed the ability to use symbols in order to internally represent the external world. During this time however children don't comprehend the reversibility of operations. Piaget also believed that children are egocentric, which became a major critique of Piaget's theory. Piaget also said that children under 7 or 8 can't grasp the concept of causality (cause and effect), and that counting was "merely verbal knowledge" where children had not acquired the actual ability to count. Another aspect of a child's cognitive development is language acquisition. By 3 years of age children are able to master phonology and are understanding use of syntax.
By ages 3-5 children are able to understand in which type of social context certain types of language can be used. Also 3-5 year olds appear to spend much time interacting with others through language. Theories of language development include Chomsky's Linguistic theory and Vygotsky's zone of proximal development. Chomsky theorizes, "humans are born possessing a language acquisition device." Vygotsky says rather that in order to master language a child has to be in a social setting. Skills, which may be difficult for the child alone, can be mastered when helped by a skilled partner. The last aspect of cognitive development covered is that of information processing, or memory.
"Memory refers to the retention of what has been experienced." There are two components of memory; recall (what was learned earlier), recognition (familiarity, something previously encountered). The brain stores information in either the short-term memory, or the long-term memory. In the Short term memory information is retained for a brief period of no more than 30 seconds. In long term memory information is stored over an extended period of time. Metacognition and Metamemory while very similar are very different. Metacognition is ones "awareness and understanding of their own mental process." Metamemory on the other hand differs in that it is the "awareness and understanding" of ones memory process.
As a child matures they become more in tuned with both. A child may employ one of two strategies when memorizing information; rehearsal, repeating information, or categorization, sorting information into meaningful categories.