Education Case Study on Development Pathways in a Preschool Child


Bringing up a preschool child remains a big challenge for many parents or guardians. Preschool is a level of education where children are prepared for compulsory education that often begins in primary school. Most preschool children are between the ages of 3 and 4 although a few children at this stage are two-and-a-half-years. From a developmental perspective, the transition of a child from infanthood to preschool years is of special interest. Research indicates that at preschool age (3-4 years), there is the need to assess and differentiate psychopathology. Any behavioral or emotional problems at the preschool age could set the child on a course of maladaptation, which is the greatest fear of every person bringing up a child. This calls for careful scrutiny and awareness of the needs of preschool children. Interaction with the environment and the people around plays a key role in the development of preschool children. Most of the behaviors preschool children develop are learned from their teachers, other students, and the environment.

Part One: Identifying a Preschool Child’s Characteristic Needs

At preschool age, children are known to develop more socially, have real friendships with those they interact with, and have an understanding of the causes of their feelings. Often, preschool children take part in high energy activities such as climbing objects and running. Some children at this age progress fast to riding a tricycle. Children develop at different rates and pace. However, at the preschool age, every person examining his or her child’s development must focus on the aspects of self-esteem and learning despite the different rates of development. At this age, pre-school teachers could help in solving puzzles or issues surrounding a child’s development (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013). Just like infants, preschool children showcase different characteristic needs when it comes to physical, cognitive, social, and emotional, as well as language development. Some of the characteristics of preschool children are seen in the case of Christopher, and these are discussed below.

Physical Development

Christopher K. Charles is a preschool child who despite disability, showcases many physical development characteristics similar to those of normal children. In the video, Christopher can be seen playing with toys, riding on his wheelchair, playing with something that looks like a flag, sitting comfortably on a car seat, and swinging. As expected of preschool children, Christopher also displays fine motor skills such as pulling apart a piece of paper. Unfortunately, he displays minimal motor skills largely because of his inability. He is often seen seated on his wheelchair, a perspective that reduces his physical activity (Earlyinclusion, 2009).

Cognitive Development

According to Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole (2013), preschool age witnesses considerable slow growth of the brain until adolescence when it undergoes another growth spurt. At preschool age, children have several limitations concerning problem-solving capabilities. Additionally, they often have difficulty in keeping several concepts in the mind at once. In the video, it can be seen that to some extent, Christopher has a problem when it comes to remembering things he does. His parents help him to do most of the activities but he does not memorize what he is taught. As a result, he is unable to do most of the things when left alone (Earlyinclusion, 2009).

Social and Emotional Development

Some of the key aspects that are taken into account when examining the social and emotional development of preschool children are identity development, development of self-regulation, understanding aggression, and development of pro-social behaviors. Lightfoot, Cole, and Cole (2013) argue that the path of identity often takes a sharp and fateful turn during early childhood, specifically during the preschool age. Based on these perspectives and on the video, it appears that Christopher faces the challenge of initiative versus guilt. He is happy when in the company of his parents and other people but appears sad or less jovial when left alone. At some point, when sliding down one of the objects in his school in the company of other people, he smiles and looks happy (Earlyinclusion, 2009). Also, he is happy when in the company of his friends at school. Despite his disability, Christopher shows eagerness to join his peers and engage with adults.

Language Development

Language allows communication about the past and the future and allows one to express his or her abstract ideas and emotions (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013). Children moving from infancy to preschool age undergo significant language development. In the case of Christopher, there are no signs of him cooing or babbling, which marks his development from infancy to preschool age. He appears to have modified his way of communication while taking the listener into account. His language or communication uses more of signs and facial expressions than speech. For instance, he smiles or giggles to show his acceptance of those around him. At some point, he is sad, and this communicates to his caregivers that something is amiss (Earlyinclusion, 2009).

Developmental Theories

A developmental theory that can be used to explain the behavior of Christopher is behaviorism. This theory primarily argues that personality and behavior are often shaped by an individual’s learning experiences or encounters. The learning process can encompass the modification of behavior when one forms associations between observable behavior and consequences thereof.

Key Tenets of the Theory

Behaviorism’s key tenet or principle is that human behavior is as a result of external, observable behaviors, and their consequences rather than inner workings of the mind and personality as popularly believed. The theory further states that behavior can be shaped by either rewards or punishments.

The Theory’s Insight into The Case of Christopher

As can be seen in the video, Christopher’s behavior at this age is learned from his friends, teachers, parents, and the overall environment he interacts with. It can be seen that Christopher is swinging because of the influence of his parents. He also slides down an object, and this is primarily influenced by his caregivers. It can also be seen that Christopher plays with toys, which might be because of the influence of his environment (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013).

Contextual Influences on Preschool Children’s Development


Culture impacts child development in various ways. First, it has a significant impact on the cognitive development of a child. Cognitive development refers to how a child thinks and learns, and these can be affected by a child’s cultural environment (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013). For instance, a child’s culture that integrates aspects such as music may benefit the child cognitively. A child with limited diversity or experiences strained intercultural dynamics can feel inferior to other children cognitively. Culture can also impact a child’s emotional development in that cultural aspects such as religious convictions could provide the child with spiritual networks that help them develop emotionally (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013). Moreover, a child’s social development can be impacted by culture in that a given cultural identity might provide shared interests and activities to enjoy.


Language plays a crucial role in the development of children. One of the key roles of language is that it helps children to understand and cope with their emotions (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013). Often, throughout their development, children closely interact with their caregivers, families, and friends, and language helps to forge the attachment between children and these parties (Lightfoot, Cole, & Cole, 2013). One aspect of development among children is cognitive development where children analyze ideas including basic ones of hot versus cold, and this is dependent on language. Moreover, it is through language that children can understand or make sense of things around them.


Preschool age comes immediately after infancy and is often between 3 and 4 years. Just like in infancy, many caregivers have a big challenge bringing up preschool children. There are significant differences between preschool children and infants from the perspectives of physical, cognitive, social and emotional, and language development. Concerning physical development, preschool children exhibit fine gross and motor skills such as running and feeding well. They also witness slow cognitive development attributed to the slow growth of the brain. Regarding social and emotional development, preschool children use physical and verbal aggression to display emotions such as displeasure. As compared to infants, preschool children can effectively express ideas and emotions. The Behaviorism theory best explains behavior exhibited by preschool children. It argues that personality and behavior are often shaped by individuals’ learning experiences.



Earlyinclusion. (2009, April 14). SpecialQuest Christopher’s Story. Retrieved from

Lightfoot, C., Cole, M., & Cole, S.R. (2013). The development of children. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.