There are many theories about how children learn and develop. An awareness of these theories helps us understand children’s needs and recognise how these theories influence practice in setting. They also help us to identify strategies for maximising children’s development. An understanding of child development is essential because it allows us to fully appreciate the cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and educational growth that children go through from birth to adulthood. Some of the major theories of child development are known as grand theories; they attempt to describe every aspect of development, often using a stage approach. Others are known as mini-theories, they instead focus only on a fairly limited aspect of development, such as cognitive or social growth.
The following are just a few of the many child development theories that have been proposed by theorists and researchers. More recent theories outline the developmental stages of children and identify the typical ages at which these growth milestones occur.
Theorists such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Skinner developed theories based on research around cognitive development, and a variety of approaches to teaching have since grown from that work and the work of other theorists. Other approaches concerned with cognitive development include behaviourism, information, processing, and constructivism.
Cognitive theory looks at how children learn and understand new concepts, Piaget Recognised that children have different learning processes to adults and they learn through developing ‘schemas’. Children’s intellectual development is a process of adaptation to the world, which includes: Assimilation, Equilibrium, Disequilibrium, and Accommodation.
Piaget proposed that the following principles underpin all cognitive development. The child is an active learner and they must be given opportunities to explore, discover and experiment. Children don’t think the same way as adults, this is not because...