Physical Development in
Caprice Paduano, SPSCC
Chapter 8 Key Questions
• What changes in the body and the brain do
children experience in the preschool years?
• What are the nutritional needs of preschool
children, and what causes obesity?
• What threats to their health and wellness do
preschool children experience?
• What are child abuse and psychological
maltreatment, what factors contribute to
them, and can anything be done about them?
Chapter 8 Key Questions
• In what ways do children’s gross and fine
motor skills develop during the preschool
• How do handedness and artistic
expression develop during these years?
The Growing Body
• Two years after birth, the average child in
the U.S. weighs 25 to 30 pounds and is
close to 36 inches tall—around half the
height of the average adult.
• Children grow steadily during the
preschool period, and by the time they are
6 years old, they weigh, on average, about
46 pounds and stand 46 inches tall.
Individual Differences in Height and
• Statistical averages mask great individual
differences in height and weight.
• Global economics also affect these
• Differences in height and weight reflect
economic factors within the United States
Changes in Body Shape
• During the preschool years, boys and girls
become less chubby and roundish and
grow more slender.
• Children grow stronger as their muscle
size increases and their bones become
• The sense organs continue their
The Growing Brain
• The brain grows at a faster rate than does
any other part of the body.
• Myelin Protective insulation that surrounds
parts of neurons
• By the end of the preschool period, some
parts of the brain have undergone
particularly significant growth. (corpus
• The two halves of the brain also begin to
become increasingly differentiated and
• Lateralization The process whereby
certain functions are located more in one
hemisphere of the brain than in the other
• Although there is some specialization of
the hemispheres, in most respects the two
hemispheres act in tandem, and the brain
The Links Between Brain Growth and
• Neuroscientists are just beginning to understand
the ways in which brain development is related to
• It appears that there are periods during childhood
in which the brain shows unusual growth spurts,
which are linked to advances in cognitive abilities.
• Other research suggests increases in myelin may
be related to preschooler’s growing cognitive
• The increasing development of the brain
permits improvements in the senses
during the preschool period.
• Preschool-age children gradually shift the
way they view objects made up of multiple
• Preschoolers’ judgments of objects may
reflect the way in which their eyes move
when perceiving figures.
• One area in which preschoolers’ auditory
acuity does show some deficits is isolating
specific sounds when many sounds are
• Although most children settle down fairly
easily and drift off into sleep, for some,
sleep presents a real problem.
• Nightmare A vivid bad dream, usually
occurring toward morning
• Night terror An intense physiological
arousal that causes a child to awaken in a
state of panic
Health and Wellness
• The majority of U.S. children are quite
healthy during this period.
• The major threats to a child’s health and
wellness come not from disease but, as
we will see, from injuries due to accidents.
Nutrition: Eating the Right Foods
• Because the rate of growth during the
preschool period is slower than during
infancy, preschoolers need less food to
maintain their growth.
• Obesity A body weight more than 20%
higher than the average weight for a
person of a given age and height
• Parents’ best strategy to deter obesity is to
make sure that a variety of foods, low in fat
and high in nutritional content, is available.
Minor Illnesses of Preschoolers
• Minor illnesses may offer some unexpected
– help children build up immunity to more severe
– help children to understand their bodies better
– help learn coping skills
– ability to better understand what others who are
sick are going through
• This ability to put oneself in another’s shoes,
known as empathy, may teach children to be
more sympathetic and better caretakers.
• Socioeconomic factors prevent some
children from getting good health care
• Members of minority groups, which tend to
have less disposable income, suffer from
Cancer and AIDS
• The most frequent major illness to strike
preschoolers is cancer, particularly in the
form of leukemia.
• Due to advances in treatment, more than
70% of victims of childhood leukemia survive.
• Regarding AIDS, treatment options are
expanding and the number of cases in
children is declining due to increasing use of
Reactions to Hospitalization
• The most frequent reaction of 2- to 4-year-
olds is anxiety, most typically brought
about by the separation from their parents.
• Hospitals can deal with these anxieties by
allowing a parent to stay with the child for
lengthy periods of time or to spend the
night on a cot in the child’s room.
• Increasing number of children are being
treated with drugs for emotional disorders
such as depression.
• In fact, the use of drugs such as
antidepressants and stimulants has grown
Injuries: Playing It Safe
• Before age 10, children have twice the
likelihood of dying from an injury than from an
• The danger of injuries during the preschool
years involves children’s high levels of
physical activity; also, some children are
more apt to take risks.
• Parents and caregivers of preschoolers can
take several precautions to prevent injuries.
Lead Poisoning Risk
• Children face risks from poisonous
substances such as household cleaners
and lead paint.
• 14 million children are at risk for lead
poisoning due to exposure to potentially
toxic levels of lead.
• Poor children are particularly susceptible
to lead poisoning.
Reducing the Risks
• Although we can never completely prevent
exposure to dangerous substances such
as lead, accidents, and injuries, the risks
can be reduced.
• Adults need to concentrate on “injury
control” rather than focus on preventing
“accidents,” which implies a random act in
which no one is at fault.
Child Abuse and Psychological Maltreatment: The Grim
of Family Life
• Child abuse The physical or psychological
maltreatment or neglect of children
• The abuse takes several forms, ranging
from actual physical abuse to
• Child abuse can occur in any household,
regardless of economic well-being or the
social status of the parents. It is most
frequent in families living in stressful
• Poverty, single-parenthood, and higher than
average levels of marital conflict help create
• Table 8-1 lists some of the warning signs of
• Most parents who abuse their children
later express bewilderment and regret
about their own behavior.
• Cycle-of-violence hypothesis The theory
that abuse and neglect that children suffer
predispose them as adults to abuse and
neglect their own children
• Violence may be perpetuated from one
generation to another.
• Psychological maltreatment Harm to
children’s behavioral, cognitive, emotional,
or physical functioning that is caused by
parents or other caregivers who use
verbal or psychological abuse, hurtful
actions, exploitation, or neglect
• Child neglect Ignoring one’s children or
being emotionally unresponsive to them
• Some children are sufficiently resilient to
survive the abuse and will grow into
psychologically healthy adults.
• In many cases, however, lasting damage
Resilience: Overcoming the Odds
• Resilience The ability to overcome
circumstances that place a child at high
risk for psychological or physical damage
• Resilient children tend to have
temperaments that evoke positive
responses from a wide variety of
Resilience: Overcoming the Odds
• The characteristics of resilient children
suggest ways to improve the prospects of
children who are at risk from a variety of
Keeping Preschoolers Healthy
• Well-balanced diet
• Proper sleep
• Avoid contact with others who are ill
• Immunizations (Table 8-2)
Gross Motor Skills
• By 3 years old, children have mastered a
variety of skills: jumping, hopping on one
foot, skipping, and running.
• By 4 and 5, their skills have become
honed as they have gained greater control
over their muscles.
• Table 8-3 summarizes major gross motor
skills that emerge during the preschool
• The advances in gross motor skills are
related to brain development and
myelination of neurons in areas of the
brain related to balance and coordination.
• Despite generally high activity levels, there
are also significant variations among
• Some differences are related to inherited
Fine Motor Skills
• At the same time that gross motor skills
are developing, children are progressing in
their ability to use fine motor skills, which
involve smaller, more delicate body
• Fine motor skills show clear
developmental patterns (Table 8-4)
Potty Wars: When—and How—Should
Children Be Toilet Trained?
• The current guidelines of the American Academy
of Pediatrics suggest that there is no single time to
begin toilet training and that training should begin
only when children show that they are ready.
• There are a number of signs of readiness that can
be helpful to parents.
• Children must be ready not only physically but also
emotionally, and if they show strong signs of
resistance to toilet training, toilet training should be
Handedness: Separating Righties
• Handedness A clear preference for the
use of one hand over the other
• By the age of 5, most children display a
clear tendency to use one hand over the
other, with 90% being right-handed and
• Some evidence exists that left-
handedness may be associated with
Art: The Picture of Development
• Developmentalists suggest that art plays
an important role in honing fine motor
skills and several other aspects of
• Children learn the importance of planning,
restraint, and self-correction.
• Researchers suggest that children’s art
proceeds through a series of stages
during the preschool years: scribbling,
shape, design, and pictorial.