Various dimensions of development during the period of early childhood (3-6 years) are as follows:

1. Physical and motor development :

He acquires many motor skills like catching throwing, running, jumping, climbing, using simple tools, riding a tricycle etc.

Growth in outer parts of the body especially height. weight, formation of muscles etc. is not as fast as it was during infancy. The child, however begins to assume the body proportion of an adult.

The growth of legs is rapid and it acquires about half of an adult size. The growth of head is, however, very slow and that of trunk is medium. (iv)

The height of a three years old child is 38 inches on an average though Indian children may be slightly lower than this size. Similarly, the weight should also be 33 pounds at the age of three. By the age of five years, the average weight of children is 43 pounds and average height for boys is 43 inches.

Muscles develop at a very rapid speed due to excess involvement of the child in motor activities.

The rate of heart beat and pulse slow down and blood pressure goes up steadily.

By the age of 5-6 the child acquires 90% of the adult weight of brain. Nerve fibres in the brain areas also come to almost maturity by the end of the period of early childhood. It should be noted that the growth of brain and nerve fibres is very rapid from birth to four years.

Self feeding, self dressing, self bathing, combing the hair, brushing the teeth, playing with toys, using pencils for writing or sketching etc are also seen during this period.

2. Intellectual development :

Perceptual development begins from mass movement to differentiation. Norms for perceptual development is given in the callout table.

The child perceives those things quickly and clearly which are concerned with his mental set and interest. The child begins to explore his social environment and acquire new experiences at the age of three.

By the age of six, the child develops clear perception of size, shape, colour, time and distance. He does not consider all bigger objects as heavier too.

The child begins to form concepts of physical and social reality. For example, he does not do any thing against the wishes of his family members. If he does so, he hides the same.

The child starts learning many materials by rote memorization. His capacity to retain learnt material increases.

Imagination begins to grow and creativity is seen. He manipulates or breaks his toys to understand its mechanism. But his thinking process is restricted to concrete objects only.

Span of attention increases from 7 minutes to 20 minutes.

His curiosity forces him to explore the environment. He asks so many questions from his elders for this purpose.

The child is now able to use symbols in language and mathematics. The child develops a lot of concepts during this period but many of his concepts cannot be verbalized by him due to limited vocabulary.

During this period, children’s concepts of spatial relations, distance and depth are vague. This makes the children awkward in their behaviour. For example they calculate height and distance wrongly.

By the age of five, they are able to distinguish between past, present and future, ie, between yesterday, tomorrow and day after tomorrow etc.

The concepts of number and quantity also become clear to them. According to Piaget, children acquire concept of number even before they are able to count.

Children’s social concepts are influenced by the nature of inter-personal relationship.

This stage is also called the stage of fantasy. The child takes shelter into his imaginary world in order to escape the harsh realities of his world at home and neighbourhood. If he is given more chance to interact with people, his social concepts will be rich.

3. Language development

The child has to master four major tasks in the process of learning to speak properly. 

  • Comprehension of the speech of others
  • Building a vocabulary
  • Using and combining words into sentences
  • Pronouncing the words correctly

By the end of the period of early childhood, the child is able to master all these four tasks.

Language development of a child actually begins from birth cry. When he is responded by his mother after crying, he comes to understand the meaning and importance of crying.

A ten month old child is able to use one or two words only but by the end of the first year his vocabulary increases to four, as Smith has observed. By the end of 2nd year, he can use 272 words. In the third year, his vocabulary increase to 896. when he attains the age of four, he can use 1560 words and at the age of 6 he can use 2562 words as Smith has observed.

Language development of children is not uniform. It depends upon better socioeconomic environment at home, better schooling and independent living of the child.

4. Social development:

Feeling of autonomy develops in children.They try to explore and manipulate their environment independently.

The child learns how to behave, talk and interact with the family members and neighbourhood.

The child may be frustrated if social atmosphere of the neighbourhood is not similar to that of the atmosphere at home.

The child’s play no longer remains a solitary play after the age of three. The child selects his playmates and develops casual friendship with them. He learns cooperation, competition, sympathy, jealousy, teasing, bullying, quarrelling, etc. in the company of his playmates.

Imitation, timidity. shyness, desire for possession etc. are other forms of social behaviour that develop during this period.

The child who is resistive upto the age of three years becomes cooperative and friendly and seeks approval of adults upto the age of four years. That is why he does not object to exchange his toys with his best friends.

At the age of 5-6 he begins to pride about his parents and boast about other members of his family after six.

Most of the children want to dominate in their respective groups at the age of six. Thus group leader changes every time in the group. In this way. the child learns how to adjust in the society in varied situations.

Children of both sexes play together without any discrimination.

They also take part in those games which involve physical energy and motor activity like hide and seek. They take interest in fairy tales and animal stories in which they want that someone should win in the fighting. They are very much interested to know which animal is stronger and strongest out of so many at the age of 4-5.

Negativism increases during this period. It is believed that the more a child is frustrated by the interference of adults, the more negativistic his behaviour will be.

Girls have been found more dominating than boys in social and group situations.

5. Emotional development :

Contributions of emotions are very much recognized in the personal and social adjustment of the individuals. Important features of emotional development during this period are given below.

Emotions of the child are exhibited only for a very short period. It means that child shifts from one emotion to another very rapidly. For example, if a three or four years old child who is weeping loudly is given a toffee, he will become pleased at once.

Emotions of children are intense irrespective of the intensity of the stimulus. A very simple stimulus can create a very intense emotional experience.

Children are helpless to hide their emotions and they express them by different activities like crying, throwing objects, nail biting, bullying, thumb sucking and speech difficulties. Emotions of hope, disappointment, fear, anxiety, shame, jealousy, hatred etc. are expressed during this period in different ways.

He is still guided by his innate tendencies and instincts.

His moral behaviour is also guided by his emotions-pleasure and pain.

Emotions of submission and elation are alternately seen in the child.

At the age of five his emotions begin to organize into sentiment. The most primitive sentiment is his love for his own self and his love for his toys. Due to this reason, this stage is also called “Narcissism autoerotism” or self love. This word narcissism has been derived from Greek language which means falling in love with one self.

The child also develops a deep sentiment of affection for his parents. At the age of 6-7 it is very painful for the child to see his/her father or mother ailing. Here Freud is of the opinion that girl is very much attached to her father and boy feels more attachment to his mother. Former is called Elektra complex and later is called Oedipus complex. 

The child begins to show “moodiness” expressed in sulking and bad emotions at the age of four. This emotion reaches to its peak during the period of adolescence.

Most of the emotional responses are learned by children by imitating parents and other family members. Thus, emotions are innate but emotional responses are innate and learnt both.