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An analysis of the stages of human development is subject to nuanced complexities. This paper aims to study the various processes involved in the maturity of preschool children. The concerned developmental psychology process of preschool children occurs around certain specific areas of skill set like ‘motor skill’, ‘cognitive skills’, ‘linguistic and literary developments’ and ‘socio-cultural and emotional development’ all of which are discussed at length, with the last point taking into consideration the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud.
Developments of human beings are a complex area of study, more so because the psychological nuances are subjective and vary across persons and age-groups, with respect to their socio-cultural environment. This paper aims to focus on the developmental stage of ‘Preschool’ children, aged between three to six years, which is one of the most crucial phases of child development. In this phase, also regarded as playschool or kindergarden, a child acquires certain basic skills concerning their physical, emotional, cognitive and social ability, which are long-lasting and gear them up for the rest of the life. This paper aims to study the transformations that a child goes through during this phase.
Given their importance in life, the skills acquired by a preschool child is often regarded as ‘developmental milestones’, which involves a variety of behavioural patterns pertaining to processes like the abilities of playing, learning, speech, and movement (Fox & Geddes, 2016). These skills include naming of colours, ability to recite poems, riding a bicycle, basic personal activities like bathing and dressing up on their own. This is the phase when they learn to be independent, and has an inquisitive bent of mind, by virtue of which, they tend to pick up speech or behavioural patterns of their surrounding elders. As such they want to try out new avenues of socializing, even outside the house and interacting with them. Although innocent and prone to the development of unconditioned feelings, these children have an acute sense of judgement, which is shorn of any biases. All these help to shape their personality and, when channelized properly by the elders, develop their creative bent of mind. This is also the time when the identity of a child is formed in his/her mind. The major areas of skills and developments involve:-
Motor skills are those related to the movements of limbs within a child. The two major kinds of motor skills are fine communication skills and gross motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills – It involves learning to use the smaller muscles like those of hands and fingers and development of the ability to draw basic geometric shapes with a pencil and a paper. It also involves the ability to dress or undress independently.
Gross Motor Skills – These skills are associated with the movement of the larger muscles of the body. This involves the ability to hop, skip, jump and climb staircases with considerable ease. It also includes the ability to hit or catch a ball and ride a bicycle on their own (Redshaw, et al. 2018).
This refers to the faculty of using language, not only the written language but also sign languages. This is the phase when a child’s basic communicative skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing starts to develop and hence needs proper guidance (McLeod, et al.2017). It is precisely because of their introduction to language that they are so inquisitive during this phase, because of nurturing their ability to define the things they notice around them. Their ability of memorizing and practical application are also put to test, through the teaching of words, small sentences, colours and basic day to day items. Directly aligned to this is the development of cognitive skills.
This refers to the normative stage of intellectual development of a child, and must be looked after carefully and responsibly both by school teachers as well as by their parents. It is the time when the power of thinking and rational and moral judgement are developed through a process of practice over time (Kautz, et al.2014). It enhances their ability to logically, through reasoning and question the asymmetry and inappropriateness of things. The child learns to differentiate days and months of a calendar, and the count time. Basic mathematical – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of single or double digits – and creative and aesthetic faculty, most likely in song, poetry or painting comes up at this phase. When a child reaches the age of five or six, he/she learns to develop the various parts of a story, for example, the beginning middle and the end. The reasoning capability, if channelized in the right direction, enhances the self-confidence and consequently the competence level of the pre-schoolers, which allows them to perform various activities like visiting a nearby friend’s house, independently, without help from senior family members. However, they may not be able to differentiate reality from fantasy.
During preschool the social world of a child expands beyond the four walls of the house and they are introduced to a complicated social life through the agency of school, where they learn to venture beyond their comfort zones and interact with different kinds of individual of his/her age group. They learn to play and work as a team, which increases their propensity to adjust and adapt to unfavourable situations and individuals. Participation in cultural activities occur for the first time in this phase, which is extremely important for the exploring the cultural side of the child as well as enhancing or reducing of self-confidence, the later one having a long-lasting impression in the child’s psyche for years to come (Durden, Escalante & Blitch, 2015). They make friends and adversaries with like-minded and opposite kinds of individuals, most importantly the opposite sex of their age group. This particular phenomenon demands a Freudian psychoanalytic study of this phase.
Sigmund Freud divided the various phases of a child’s development and associated each of them with the body parts, all being centrally rooted to an innate sexual desire, for which he provides adequate psychoanalytic explanation. According to Freud, the age group of 3-6 is one of the most crucial in terms of a person’s psychosexual development, and he calls this phase the ‘Phallic Stage’ (King-Hill, 2016). Here it must be clarified that Freud’s interpretations largely borders around the male psychology. He believed that a child’s centres of pleasure are located around the genitals which are extremely prone to stimulus. He classifies human desire for pleasure into the domains of Id, Ego and the Superego, where Id represents the basic human resource instincts, The Superego is the Morality, and Ego is the balancing principle between the two which keeps a person attached to Reality. Freud believed that since their birth, young males develop an unconscious sexual feeling towards their mothers, which further complicates their relationship with the parents (King-Hill, 2016). He sees the father as their sexual adversary and feels that they would be punished for their feelings. The sexual feeling falls in the domain of the Id, while the fear from the father acts as the superego. Freud calls this issue of stimulation the Oedipus Complex, which is aligned to the Greek myth of Oedipus, who had unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. The anxiety of a symbolic castration provokes the Freudian Ego, whereby the individual suppresses his desire. The female counterpart of this phenomenon is called the Electra complex, whereby a girl feels attached towards the father. This desire is then channelized towards attraction for the opposite sex when the child reaches school. Thus, socializing in this phase helps in the development of a child into a morally righteous individual.
Therefore, it may be concluded by saying that the preschool stage – three to six years – is extremely important for the development of an individual into a proper human being. In this phase, a person goes through various stages of physical and intellectual development, which must be addressed and channelized in the right direction by the elders. Special individual care through specific communicative mediums is of utmost importance in this regard, both in school as well as at home as the children are introduced to a whole new world of knowledge and logical understanding. As such, besides encouraging a child to socialize and make new friends, parents or other elderly guardians must constantly make the child aware of the basic safety norms like traffic rules, use of sharp tools or equipment, safety around strangers and the like. The choice of words and phrases the guardians use regularly are extremely important because at this age, a child is likely to pick up most of his/her language skills from there. Taking a child to a bookstore, zoo or a cultural space that is friendly for preschoolers is also advised for all-round development. Parents should give a lot of importance to the child’s diet, ensure that it is nutritious and rich in proteins, as that is integrally related to the child’s physical and mental growth.