Most people think of childhood as a fairly long period in the life span - a time when the individual is relatively helpless and dependent on others. To children, childhood often seems endless as they wait impatiently for magic time to come when society will regard them as grown ups and no longer as children. Childhood begins when the relative dependency of babyhood is over, at the age of two years, and extends to the time when the child becomes sexually mature at thirteen years for girls and fourteen for boys. Childhood period is now divided into - early and late childhood. Early childhood extends from two to six years and late childhood from six to the time when the child becomes sexually mature.
Growth during early childhood proceeds at a slow rate as compared with the rapid rate of growth in babyhood.
The average annual increase in height is 3 inches. By the age of six, the average child measures 46.6 inches.
The average annual increase in weight is around 2-3 kgms. At age six, children should weigh approximately 7 times as much as they did at birth.
Average girl weighs 25-30 kgms. Average Boy weighs 30-32 kgms.
Body proportions change markedly.
'Baby look' disappears.
Facial features remain small, but chin becomes more pronounced.
Gradual decrease in stockiness of the trunk.
Body tends to become cone shaped with flattened abdomen.
Chest becomes broader and flatter.
Arms and legs strengthen.
Hands and feet grow bigger.
Some children have an endomorphic or flabby, fat body build. Some have mesomorphic or sturdy muscular body build and some have endomorphic or relatively thin body build.
The bones calcify at different rates in different parts of the body.
The muscles become larger, stronger and heavier, with the result that children look thinner as early childhood progresses, even though they weigh more.
Endomorphy - more adipose than muscular tissue. Mesomorphy - have more muscular than adipose tissue. Ectomorphy - have both small muscles and little adipose tissue.
In the first 4 to 6 months of early childhood the last four baby teeth erupts till the back molars. In the last half year of early childhood the baby teeth begins to be replaced by permanent teeth. The first to come out are the front central incisors, the first baby teeth to appear. When early childhood ends the child has one or two permanent teeth in front and some gaps where permanent teeth will eventually erupt.
Physiological Habits - Habits laid in babyhood becomes well established. Children no longer need specially prepared food, fall into regular meal pattern. Depending on their activities their sleep pattern will change. Bowel and bladder control is well established. Hand skills and leg skills are improved. They start eating on their own, brush their teeth & bathe and dress themselves. Similarly, they are able to hop, skip, jump, climb, swim, cycle, balance and dance.
Improvement in Speech - Learning to speak is an essential tool in socialization and in achieving independence. So there is a strong motivation to learn to speak. The way they pick up speech, the words used, pronunciation etc depends on time spent by family members and encouragement given and the contact with peer groups.
The most common causes of anger in young children are conflicts over playthings, the thwarting of wishes, and vigorous attacks from another child. Children express anger through temper tantrums, characterized by crying, screaming, stamping, kicking, jumping up and down, or striking.
Conditioning, imitation and memories of unpleasant experiences play important roles in arousing fears, as do stories, pictures, radio and television programs and movies with frightening elements.
At first, a child's response to fear is panic; later, responses become more specific and include running away and hiding, crying, and avoiding frightening situations.
Young children become jealous when they think parental interest and attention are shifting towards someone else in the family, usually a new sibling. Young children may openly express their jealousy or they may show it by reverting to infantile behavior generally trying to be naughty. All such behavior is a bid for attention.
Children are curious about anything new that they see and also about their own bodies and the bodies of others. Their first responses to curiosity take the form of sensory motor exploration; later, as a result of social pressures and punishment, they respond by asking questions.
Young children often become envious of the abilities or material possessions of another child. They express their envy in different ways. The most common of which is complaining about what they themselves have, by verbalizing wishes to have what the other has or by appropriating the objects they envy.
Young children derive joy from such things as a sense of physical well-being, incongruous situations, sudden or unexpected noises, slight calamities, playing pranks on others, and accomplishing what seem to them to be difficult tasks. They express their joy by smiling and laughing, clapping their hands, jumping up and down, or hugging the object or person that has made them happy.
Young children are saddened by the loss of anything they love or that is important to them, whether it be a person, a pet, or an inanimate object, such as a toy. Typically, they express their grief by crying and by losing interest in their normal activities, including eating.
Young children learn to love the things - people, pets, or objects - that give them pleasure. They express their affection verbally as they grow older but, while they are still young, they express it physically by hugging, patting, and kissing the object of their affection.
Between the ages of two and three years, children show interest in watching other children play and they make social contacts, this is known as parallel play. Following this comes associative play, in which children engage in similar or identical activities with other children. As social contacts increase, they engage in cooperative play. Some of the social patterns followed are imitation, rivalry, cooperation, sympathy, empathy, social approval, sharing and attachment behavior.
They also have some unsocial patterns like negativism, aggressiveness, selfishness, destructiveness, etc.
Play in Early Childhood - Early childhood is often called the toy stage because most play, makes use of toy in one form or another. Children become aware of the fact that certain kinds of play and toys are considered more appropriate for one use than for the others. The amount of play equipment, space provided for this and the interest and involvement is directly related to the socio-economic status of the family.
Sex-Role Typing in Early Childhood - In early childhood, parents and family members are the main agencies of sex-role typing and when they go to pre school or day care centres, the teachers take over. Another important agency for sex role typing comes from the mass media. The stories read to children, TV shows, comics, commercials etc. By the time early childhood draws to a close most children are well typed, especially the boys.
Personality Development- The child self-concept is 'formed within the womb of family relationship', because parents, siblings and other relatives constitute the social world first. Later young children have more and more contacts with peers in neighborhood or preschool. This will have an effect in their self concept and may have negative or positive influences. Some of the factors that affect self concept are parental attitudes, child training methods, parents expectations, ordinal position, environment and appropriate sex-role identification.
Physical hazards - Young children are highly susceptible to all kinds of illness, especially, when they play out. Most children experiences cuts, bruises, infections, burns, broken bones, etc. and a few have more serious problems that can lead to temporary or permanent disability. Obesity is a major problem.
Psychological Hazards - The most common of these are speech, emotional, social, play, concept development, sex-role typing, personality etc. Early childhood can & should be a happy period in life.