This theory was advanced by a Swiss biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget between 1896 and 1980. He observed children and their process of exploring the world around them, which made him design a developmental model with four stages, where the mind processes new information. He described that all children go through the four stages and in the same order. The Piaget’s stages include sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal operations stage (Schaeffer, 2006).
At the sensorimotor stage, from birth to two years old, the infant builds an understanding of himself or herself and of the reality via interactions with the surroundings. Learning occurs through assimilation and accommodation. The child is limited to motor reflexes at birth, which then he or she builds to develop more advanced procedures. They generalize their activities to a wider range of situations and combine them to many behaviors (Burger, 2010).
At the preoperational stage, from two to six or seven years old, the child acquires some skills in mental imagery, especially language. They develop self-oriented and egocentric views. They view the surrounding world from their own perspective. The child at this stage cannot have conceptual abstracts. They classify objects in the simple ways, especially using important features (Schaeffer, 2006).
The third stage involves concrete operations, which concerns the period from six or seven to eleven years old. At this stage, physical experiences accumulate, and the aspect of accommodation increases. The child starts developing abstract thinking, as well as creating logical features that describe the physical experiences. They can take someone’s points of view and compare different perspectives at the same time.
Formal operations stage forms the fourth and the last step occurring between the ages of eleven to twelve years. The children at this stage can think logically and at an abstract level. They can also think in a theoretical way. The individual develops deductive reasoning. The ability for abstract and reasonable thinking nearly resembles that of an adult (Schaeffer, 2006).
Preschoolers, between the ages from two to six or seven, exhibit several characteristics. These characteristics include intellectual, social, and spiritual ones. The intellectual characteristics include ease of distraction from their activities. They enjoy when an individual tells them a story and is reading to them. This repetition forms an important way for them to learn. They like using language that pleases adults, for example, giving right answers that do not necessarily show understanding. They think concretely and literally. They do not possess abstract and figurative thinking, unlike adults. Therefore, children at this stage view things the way they appear. They lack the ability to reason and organize concepts in a logical manner; therefore, the ideas do not make clear sense. They learn via experiences at school, church, or at home. The preschoolers learn using their whole bodies; for example, through tasting, touching, moving, exploring, smelling, watching, and wondering. At that stage, they start developing some literacy skills, such as writing their names, memorizing letters of the alphabet, and counting figures from one to twenty.
The children at the preschool stage pose social characteristics, such as egocentrism. They view the world around them through their own perspective. They cannot understand someone else’s views and perspectives. Therefore, they believe that whatever they do constitutes the right thing. The children have self-centeredness, but can get influenced by others, especially the mother, father, older siblings, or anybody close to them. This means that their behavior aligns to that of the closest persons. They explore the wider world and develop efforts of playing with others.
The children at this stage also have spiritual characteristics, such as having a sense that God is special and real. They have literal concept about God; for example, the one who lives in heaven. Therefore, they readily accept what anyone says concerning God. They enjoy the biblical stories with often repetition. They develop attitudes of trust and love towards God. They have a conscience that one must do the right thing in order to avoid punishment. They believe that the church is a good place to go.
The preschool classroom should have a design that emphasizes education, safety, and engagement. It involves setting of many areas to suit the children’s development. The classroom layout involves a safe and fun environment, which is crucial for a child’s development. The layout below allows for different aims. The design includes several components, such as play items, library, manipulative, music, art, computers, and several other things. Each zone has developmental concerns of the children; for example, emotional, physical, social, cognitive, and language. Apart from the above mentioned areas, the classroom should have other features that make it ideal. That would include ample space and equipment for families, large windows, toilets, and outdoor playground (White & Coleman, 2000).
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The room has lockers in front of the classroom and on the right side of the entrance. The lockers allow the children to store their coats, boots, and school supplies. Individual lockers give children their personal space and at the same time provide them with a certain responsibility in maintaining school supplies. The separate lockers also prevent the spread of diseases. The room also contains a sign-in communication station. The station contains the mailboxes for each child and both parent and child sign-in sheet. The sign-in sheet ensures safety and improves name-writing skills of the child. The largest part of the room is devoted to the learning centers, such as library, cozy corner, art, music, science, literacy and listening, dramatic play, block, sand and water, and cooking or manipulative.
The library contains the seats for the children with books of different genres and reading levels. Reading different books help to builds social development of a child. Reading exercises the eyes, and cognitively develops the children through better understanding of the world. Re-reading books helps the children to build on their memory. The library also enables language development, as they learn to read. The cozy corner forms a place, where the children sit and relax. The cozy corner contains soft floor, bean bags, and sofas for the children. Soft surfaces form an important part of the classroom layout, since the children spend a lot of time in classroom away from home (White & Coleman, 2000).
The cooking area contains such items as measuring cups, blunt knifes, and containers. The manipulative station includes various items for counting, sorting, and stacking, as well as puzzles and games. The station helps to develop the social skills of children. The social development works through cooperation, sharing of items. Problem solving skills and language develop as well. The cognitive development occurs through measuring recipes, reading ingredients, and showing creativity on the items to make. The classroom also contains sand and water tables. This helps to calm down agitated children. Sand and water play enhance social or emotional development of a kid. Scooping and sifting of sand develops fine motor skills. Cognitive development occurs through the outcomes recognized after mixing water and sand. The language development also takes place, since the play involves the use of new vocabulary (Ayoub, 2009).
The art area contains such items as paint, markers, clay, objects for collages, paper, and other supplies. This enables children to express their feelings and imagination. They can express their thought content and emotions through the choice of color and media. Through art, children develop fine motor skills when cutting, painting, and measuring. The cognitive process also develops through the presentation of ideas on the paintings and paper. Language development also occurs through the explanation of arts.
The classroom also contains a science or discovery center. The children can examine growing plants or rocks. The social aspect develops as the children interact with each other in solving problems. The learning of new things in the center strengthens the cognitive development. The learning of new scientific vocabulary encourages language development. The music shelf has some musical instruments. Music helps the children to express and understand different feelings. The musical games help to develop social skills. Playing of musical instruments develops the fine motor skills. Reading music articles and playing develop both cognitive and language abilities of the child. The literacy and listening center contains the items like letter charts, pencils, site words, and paper. The children practice writing their names and other words. The station also contains the area, where the kids can listen to taped music or book. This improves their literacy level (White & Coleman, 2000).
The classroom also has an area, where the children meet with the teacher in the morning to have a brief on the day’s activities. The teacher also informs the kids about the rules and regulations to obey while in class. This helps them to develop cognitively and improve language development. Presence of computers in the classroom enables learners to work independently and develop fine motor skills through typing using a computer keyboard. There toilets and sinks on the sides of the classroom. Large windows allow for maximum lighting of the area.
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The cognitive domain of a preschooler, who is at the preoperational stage according to Piaget’s theory, can develop through painting of art work. The requirements for creation include paint, painting brushes or markers of different colors, and paper. The teacher asks the child to draw a certain picture and paint it with his or her favorite color. The child’s idea clearly comes out in the drawing and painting that he or she has made. The social domain of development can be seen through the dramatic plays. The items required include costumes, drama room, and drama instruments. The children stage a certain play given by the teacher. In the process, they cooperate with each other in order to make the play a success. The social abilities of the children become improved through such activities (Dodge, Colker & Heroman, 2002).
The preschoolers develop their fine motor skills through various activities, such as playing music instruments. For this activity, the items required include hand-played musical instruments; for example, guitar and piano. The children use their fingers to play the instruments. In the process motor activities of the hands become improved, as they learn to follow a certain tune. Language development occurs via many activities and mainly reading of books by preschoolers. The items required include a library equipped with books and reading tables with child-sized seats. The children read the books with the teacher and repeat them over time. This enables them to acquire new vocabulary and develop their language skills (Dodge et al., 2002).
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The discussions above have shown the importance of the Piaget’s theory and its application in the teaching of preschool children. The classroom design for preschool children does not resemble the one for older children. The activities that assist in developing of the domains of preschool development, that is social, language, motor skills, and cognitive domains, have been shown. Therefore, teachers dealing with children aged between two and seven years should arrange their classrooms to fit the children and allow them develop all the domains.