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Developing a Nursery That Meets the Needs of a Child

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 3035 words Published: 17th Aug 2018

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Foundations to Psychology

This essay will look into how the designs of nurseries, in light of relevant research will contribute to meeting the cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of children aged three to five years old. The aim of this essay will be to provide a range of activities that nurseries could in cooperate into their timetable to meet these needs.

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The key elements of the cognitive theory is to try and explain the method and processes by which an infant, and then a child will develop into an adult, who can think and reason using hypotheses (simplypsychology.2009.) Cognition consists of the development of perception, attention, language, memory and thinking. As children develop they acquire the cognitive structures that stay with them throughout their lives.

Psychologist Jean Piaget viewed cognitive development as maturational process which focuses on children's interactions with the physical word, and how they view it in their mind. He suggested that children think differently than adults and that they actively try to explore and make an understanding of the world. (simplypsychology, ND.) There are four stages to Piaget's cognitive theory, but the one that is most relevant to a nursery caring for three to five year olds is the preoperational stage. This is the idea that children cannot conserve because they like to please people (psychologyabout, ND.) To test if children were egocentric, Piaget used the three mountain tasks, where children were shown a mountain that had snow on it and a hut on the other side, they were then asked what could be seen from a different perspective (simplypsychology, ND.)

A child of age three to five is beginning to think with numbers and symbols and develop memory strategies. An activity relevant to developing this would be placing counters in front of a child and asking them how many counters they have, this is encouraging them to think logically. Piaget believed that each child moves from stage to stage at their own pace, and that in the classroom you have to look at what stage each child is, to move them forward. So ones who are at a further stage would be able to do more complicated counting tasks. Another activity would be mouse trap, children would have to work together to keep the mouse from being trapped, making the children having to see someone else's point of view and developing their inability to conserve according to Piaget. (littlechildren, ND.)

Lev Vygotsky's theory for cognitive development relies on the 'zone of proximal development'. The three different levels are 'what I can't do', ' what I can do with help' and 'what I can do.' This is known as Vygotsky's scaffolding theory and it was to try and explain that social interaction is important for cognitive development. (simplypsychology, 2007.)

Vygotsky suggested that having interaction with older people would be an effective way to develop skills. So nurseries could pair up a five year old child with a three year old child and they could work together to complete a puzzle, this would give the three year old the help from an older peer which could help them to complete the puzzle on their own eventually (simplypsychology, 2007.)

Piaget's contributions to cognitive development in children are not flawless. Piaget didn't take into account who he was talking to, children of that age like to say whatever would please someone, so if a child is asked 'what is two add two,' the child will answer four, but then if they are asked 'now what is two add two' the child will think that they have answered the question incorrectly and will give a different answer.


The key elements of physical development in children is the physical maturation of an individual's body up until it reaches the adult stage. A child's physical and measurable growth such as weight and height are taking place. Physical development concerns the development of our body's structure and processes during life and how these developments help of hold back how we think and behave socially and emotionally. Everyone develops physically at roughly the same age but the physical changes that occur may vary from one person to another. (psychologyabout, ND.)

According to theorist Mary Sheridan, at three years old, a child will be able to walk up the stairs, cut with scissors and turn while running and pulling toys, so they are able to multi task. At four years old, a child can turn sharp corners, they can run, push and pull, and they can hop and climb. Then at five years old, they can skip and dance and hop (childdevelopmentchart, 2013.) Sheridan also suggests that in terms of other physical developments a child of aged three to five years would be able to give their name and address, they can help with dressing themselves, use their fork and spoon, be able to draw a person and be able to speak roughly 1500 words. (childdevelopmentchart, 2013.)

Sheridan says that children between aged three and five should be able to draw figures, so nurseries could cater for this type of physical development by having art sessions where children can draw or paint family portraits. This would also improve their fine motor skills such as fingers and hands.

Another theorist Arnold Gesell identified the importance of the role of nature and heredity in children's development. There is a psychology debate about whether our nature (biological heritage ) or our nurture (the environment we are brought up in.) Gesell believed that a timetable could be used to outline the developmental growth of every child. (ehow, ND.) Gesell indentified the typical behaviours of children through their childhood. He categorized these behaviours into different areas which he called the gradients of growth. The ones that would be mostly used at a nursery would personal hygiene, motor characteristics, school life and play and pastimes. (education, ND.)

In terms of physical activities to help a child's development and to help work on their gross motor skills (arms and legs,) nurseries could provide a playtime, where children have the chance to interact with each other, play games and have a run around. This would be part of the play and pastimes section on Gesell's timetable. (developmentalpsychology, ND.)

Gesell's theory of development has been accepted as it is still used today, however there are criticisms of his theory because his timetable only went up to the ages of five, so there is no developmental stages for the childhood beyond that age (ehow, ND.)


Emotional development is how an individual develops emotional competence, for example how they deal with emotions and how their identities develop. For a child, hints of their personalities will start to show, so if they are upset of angry they may kick and scream as a way of dealing with that emotion. How a child is treated and their relationships contribute to their emotional development.

Psychologist Wolcott believed that if a child brings in a toy that reminds them of home and their mother they will still have this attachment. This toy would be the mother substitute because they are recognising it as something from being at home. So if the child became upset from missing home which children tend to do when they are going to nursery for the first time, they have something to remind them of home. (psychologytoday, ND.)

A more interactive activity that would strengthen a child's emotional development would be a persona doll. A persona doll is a puppet and could be used at nurseries to put on a show where different situations are created and the children would be asked how they would feel if such a situation happened to them. This would help a child to understand emotions and how they might feel. (personadolltraining, ND.)

Michael Rutter believed that you have to have a mother or a mother substitute in the first five years of life. Rutter conducted a study on children at an orphanage of whom had suffered emotional deprivation. He looked at adopted children and how when they were adopted into families their weight and their IQ's had improved dramatically (pbworks, ND.) Michael concluded that if a child doesn't develop an emotional attachment this is privation whereas deprivation is the loss of an attachment. (simplypsychology, ND.)

John Bowlby's attachment theory looked at the attachment relationship between parents and their children. Bowlby believed that if an infant was unable to develop a 'warm' relationship with their mother, the child would have difficulty forming relationships with other people (bowlbyattachmenttheory, ND.) Bowlby was convinced that the mother and baby bond was formed on a biological basis and that the baby is born with the need to form their bond and the mother has the instinct to form this bond. Bowlby suggested that a child would form only one attachment, normally their mother and this figure would act as their secure base when they explore the world. This one attachment acts as a starting relationship for future relationships that the child may have. (simplypsychology, ND.)

In light of what Bowlby and Rutter say about the importance of having the mother of the mother substitute, nurseries could assign carers or teaching assistants to groups of children or to each child if there is enough. Bowlby in particular said that consistency is important, so by assigning a carer to each child, there would be the 'mother substitute' always there for that child. (littlechildren, ND.)

The implications of Bowlby's theory are that he suggested that the mother should be the constant carer therefore implying that the mother should not go out to work as she should be at home looking after the children and keeping this consistent bond (simplypsychology, ND.)


The key element of social development is socialisation, how individuals develop social abilities by building relationships and how they form friendships. For a child they will develop same sex relationships known as vertical relationships, and they will form friendships by playing with other children. Social development looks into our moral development, groups and peer group influences.

Theorist Erik Erikson developed the psychosocial theory. Erikson had eight development stages, but the one that applies to a child of aged three to five is initiative vs guilt, this is where children start to understand purpose and the meaning of different things (currentnursing, ND.) During the initiative vs guilt stage, conscience and imagination develops, children begin to understand what people expect of them whether it be at home or at school. Children can begin to assert some kind of power and control through direction of play which can include fantasies. (childdevelopmentchart, 2013.)

The best way to in cooperate Erikson's psychosocial theory would be with indoor activities. At a certain time of day at a nursery, children could have the chance to have a play time indoors where there are sandpits, a play kitchen and a play house. The children would be in groups and they would rotate so that they could have the chance to play with each thing. This would give the children a chance to interact with each other and use their imagination to play restaurants or 'mummy's and daddy's' with the play house or kitchen (jubed, ND.)

Albert Bandura's social learning theory emphasized the importance of observing behaviour. Most human behaviour is learned through modelling by observation. The social learning theory explains that human behaviour is interaction of different influences; behavioural and environmental. Bandura believed that an individual is more likely to adopt behaviour if it results in outcomes that are valuable to them. (instructionaldesign.ND.) Bandura's theory is supported by the bobo doll experiment. Children observed an adult attacking a bobo doll to try and knock it down, the children then imitated this behaviour (simplypsychology, ND.)

When meeting children's social needs in light of Bandura's experiment on the bobo doll in which behaviours are learned, a nursery would ensure that children behave correctly, and that no violent or aggressive behaviour is tolerated. Also children would learn to put their hand up when they want to speak. This way they are learning how to behave when they are at school.

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Criticisms of the social learning theory are that they rejecting the differences in individuals such as genetics, brain and learning differences which could affect how they perceive and respond to behaviour. With the bobo doll experiment, critics have argued against saying that children manipulated into responding to the attack on the doll. Children were further teased because they could not knock the doll down (criminology, ND.)

This is the way to go about creating a nursery that would meet the cognitive, social, emotional and physical needs of children aged three to five years old. There is a lot of evidence from doing experiments such as Piaget's three mountain's experiments and observations like Rutter's orphanage study that supports the theorists and their theories, therefore strengthening the ideas on how a child develops in each criteria. Essentially every child develops differently and at a different pace, but looking collectively at children aged three to five years, there are certain activities that nurseries could use to help children thrive emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively.

Reference List

bowlbyattachmenttheory.(ND). Retrieved from http://explorable.com/bowlby-attachment-theory

instructional design. (ND). Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html

childdevelopmentchart.(2013). Retrieved from http://pgcegroup3.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/child-development-chart.pdf

psychologyabout.(ND). Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/ss/early-childhood-development_2.htm

jubed.(ND). Retrieved from http://www.jubed.com/youth_ministry/view/Animal-Farm/?s=106

simplypsychology.(ND). Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bowlby.html

simplypsychology.(2009). Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

developmentalpsychology.(ND). Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/developmentalpsychology/ss/early-childhood-development_2.htm

littlechildren.(ND). Retrieved from http://littlechildren.wordpress.com/2007/11/29/cognitive-development-activities-for-3-to-5-year-olds/

irrpublic.(ND). Retrieved from http://lrrpublic.cli.det.nsw.edu.au/lrrSecure/Sites/LRRView/7401/documents/theories_outline.pdf

simplypsychology.(2007). Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html

pbworks.(ND). Retrieved from http://as-psychology.pbworks.com/w/page/9174253/DeprivationPrivation

currentnursing.(ND). Retrieved from http://currentnursing.com/nursing_theory/theory_of_psychosocial_development.html

psychologytoday.(ND). Retrieved from http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/state/VT/Wolcott.html

personadolltraining.(ND). Retrieved from http://www.persona-doll-training.org/ukhome.html

education.(ND). Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/arnold-gesell-child-learning-development-theory/

ehow.(ND). Retrieved from http://www.ehow.co.uk/info_8593772_criticisms-gesells-maturation-theory.html

childdevelopmentchart.(2013). Retrieved from http://pgcegroup3.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/child-development-chart.pdf

criminology.(ND). Retrieved from http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/bandura.htm


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