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Early Development Teaching Children are fun. They are vibrant and adorable and full of curiosity. They are filled with a desire to learn and absorb whatever they can. But different ages can make a difference. It is important to understand how children develop works and incorporate these things into one’s work. Studying childhood development can’t be done without looking at the works of Piaget and Skinner, and while Skinner’s work is invaluable to teaching and understanding childhood development, I am not going to focus on him for this paper. Skinner’s behavioralist ideas are great to incorporate in the classroom, but don’t look too specifically at the different ages of children; Piaget on the other hand does look closer at stages and sub-stages of childhood development. It is here that I want to look. Specifically, I want to look at the Preoperational stage of Childhood development. Within the Preoperational stage of childhood development, there are sub-stages, and it is here that I would like to focus on. I have been teaching for many years now and have taught children and adults of all ages. Recently I started working in a Kindergarten and began to notice just how different teaching young children can be. Teaching a three-year-old is drastically different than teaching a five-year-old. Looking at Piaget’s stages of development, we know that three-year-olds and five-year-olds are both in the Preoperational stage of development, so why are they so different to teach? To better understand this, I looked at Piaget’s substages of development and cross refenced this with the CDC’s Important Milestones for child development (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html). Three-year-olds are more than likely still in what is referred to as the Symbolic Function substage of the Properational stage, while five-year-olds have tended to graduate to the Intuitive Thought substage. Reading about these stages helped me understand why teaching these different ages require such different tactics. While the children have all begun to acquire object permanence and even started to represent objects through words and pictures, three-year-olds often still look at the world as a closed environment that is there only for them. This egocentric view usually means that the child sees the world through their own perspective and all other people must also share the same point of view. In doing this the child will explain everything through their scope and not question what they don’t understand as much as older children do. An example would be that a child might believe that the sun is a stone in the sky painted yellow and heated by an oven. The child would have no reason to question this theory unless other information was directly handed to that child. But at the same time, they are becoming social creatures and developing friendships with like-minded children. The CDC milestones come in very handy to better understand how to work with children and incorporate play with other children and with a teacher. We will cover this soon. But just a few years removed from the three-year-olds, the five-year-olds offer a new set of challenges and unique view-points. As mentioned above, five-year-olds are often in what is called Intuitive Thought substage. They are starting to understand that there is vast world of knowledge out there and they want to acquire that knowledge. They become very curious and start asking many questions. They are starting to overcome the egocentrism that ruled their three-year-old thought processes. They are still egocentric beings, but are starting to understand more and more that there are other people who believe and act differently from them. They start developing more empathy and develop stronger friendships. Now this is all very good information to know, but how does it help a teacher? Well once you can begin to better understand a child’s thought processes, you can better develop a lesson plan that works with the children and their worldview. I wanted to research this, because I found myself struggling with the three-year-olds. The five-year-olds are actually quite easy and fun to teach. They are naturally more curious and have better social skills. Looking at the CDC Milestones, five-year-olds are willing to play team games and can agree on rules to games. They enjoy singing and dancing. They want to please their friends and be like their friends. So while they can at times be very demanding, because of the lingering egocentrism, they can also be very cooperative. So games that involve scoring points and being active, like ball games and flash card games are great for this age. Singing and dancing is also very fun to do with them. Teaching them isn’t a problem. Three-year-olds are a different story. They are still living in a very egocentric world. They are starting to develop social skills, but are still learning to play with, rather than next to, other children. They often don’t understand rules to games, and more often don’t care and make up their own rules, which are whatever suits them at the time. So what I learned is rather than try to involve them in big team games where they must work together, or flash card games where they must race to choose the correct one, it is best to use very simple activities that involve everyone, like passing a ball around a circle and all saying the same word, or jumping up together when they say the word on the flash card. These games can become increasingly difficult rules wise, once the children understand the core premise, but the games must involve all the children and be active enough to keep their attention. So for new teachers that are looking to work with young children, it is vitally important that the new teachers understand how children develop and plan accordingly. Even a couple of years can make a drastic difference on how children learn and respond to teaching. We must be aware of these differences and plan accordingly.