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7: Physical Development in Early Childhood

  • Page ID
    24637
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    Learning Objectives

    After this chapter, you should be able to:

    1. Describe the physical changes that occur in early childhood.
    2. Explain how to provide health nutrition for 3- to 5-year-olds.
    3. Summarize how to support the progression of motor skills with age appropriate activities.
    4. Discuss the sleep needs during early childhood and sleep disorders that may affect children.
    5. Explain the development behind toilet training and some elimination disorders that children may experience.
    6. Recognize the importance of awareness of sexual development in early childhood.
    7. Discuss risks to and a variety of ways to promote and protect children’s health and safety.

    During the early childhood years of three to five we see significant changes in the way children look, think, communicate, regulate their emotions, and interact with others. Children are often referred to as preschoolers during this time period. We’ll examine the physical changes of the preschooler in this chapter.

    • 7.1: Growth in Early Childhood
      Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years tend to grow about 3 inches in height each year and gain about 4 to 5 pounds in weight each year. The 3-year-old is very similar to a toddler with a large head, large stomach, short arms, and legs. But by the time the child reaches age 6, the torso has lengthened and body proportions have become more like those of adults. The average 6-year-old weighs approximately 46 pounds and is about 46 inches in height.
    • 7.2: Nutritional Concerns
      Caregivers who have established a feeding routine with their child can find the reduction in appetite a bit frustrating and become concerned that the child is going to starve. Caregivers need to keep in mind that they are setting up taste preferences at this age. Young children who grow accustomed to high fat, very sweet and salty flavors may have trouble eating foods that have more subtle flavors such as fruits and vegetables.
    • 7.3: Tips for Establishing Healthy Eating Habits
      Tips for establishing healthy eating habits
    • 7.4: Brain Maturation
      The brain is about 75 percent its adult weight by two years of age. By age 6, it is approximately 95 percent its adult weight. Myelination and the development of dendrites continues to occur in the cortex and as it does, we see a corresponding change in the child’s abilities.
    • 7.5: Motor Skill Development
      Early childhood is a time when children are especially attracted to motion and song. Days are filled with jumping, running, swinging and clapping and every place becomes a playground. Even the booth at a restaurant affords the opportunity to slide around in the seat or disappear underneath and imagine being a sea creature in a cave! Of course, this can be frustrating to a caregiver, but it’s the business of early childhood.
    • 7.6: Sleep and Early Childhood
      Along with food and water, sleep is one of the human body's most important physiological needs—we cannot live without it. Extended sleeplessness (i.e., lack of sleep for longer than a few days) has severe psychological and physical effects. Research on rats has found that a week of no sleep leads to loss of immune function, and two weeks of no sleep leads to death. Recently, neuroscientists have learned that at least one vital function of sleep is related to learning and memory.
    • 7.7: Toilet Training
      Toilet training typically occurs after the second birthday. Some children show interest by age 2, but others may not be ready until months later. The average age for girls to be toilet trained is 29 months and for boys it is 31 months, and 98% of children are trained by 36 months (Boyse & Fitzgerald, 2010). The child’s age is not as important as his/her physical and emotional readiness. If started too early, it might take longer to train a child.
    • 7.8: Sexual Development in Early Childhood
      As children grow, they are more likely to show their genitals to siblings or peers, and to take off their clothes and touch each other (Okami et al., 1997). Masturbation is common for both boys and girls. Boys are often shown by other boys how to masturbate. But girls tend to find out accidentally. And boys masturbate more often and touch themselves more openly than do girls (Schwartz, 1999).
    • 7.9: Health in Early Childhood
      While preschoolers are becoming more and more independent, they depend on their caregivers to keep protecting and promoting their health.
    • 7.10: Safety
      Child injuries are preventable, yet more than 9,000 children (from 0-19 years) died from injuries in the US in 2009. Car crashes, suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires, and falls are some of the most common ways children are hurt or killed. The number of children dying from injury dropped nearly 30% over the last decade. However, injury is still the number 1 cause of death among children.
    • 7.S: Summary

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    7: Physical Development in Early Childhood is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson.

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