Observing Harry: Child Development and Learning 0-5

By Cath Arnold | Go to book overview

3 Harry's physical
development

We begin by considering how Harry gains control of his own body, learns to handle tools skilfully and becomes aware of himself in relation to other people. It is the most obvious area of development in young children and also the most important. Physical activity is not simply an outlet for excess energy, but lays the foundation for thought. When we are learning to move, we are also learning to think. Dewey (1998: 206) states that:

The joy the child shows in learning to use his limbs, to trans-
late what he sees into what he handles, to connect sounds
with sights, sights with taste and touch, and the rapidity
with which intelligence grows in the first year and a half …
are sufficient evidence that the development of physical
control is not a physical, but an intellectual achievement.

Nathan Isaacs (1966) tells us that 'Thought is in fact for Piaget just action carried on inwardly' (p. 9). More recently, Davies (1995) reminds us that 'many people find [moving and thinking] and [moving and feeling] less familiar and accessible notions' and that 'these ideas … remain unexplored and untested' (p. 49). These are complex ideas, which few researchers feel able to tackle. While we value highly the marks made when Harry moves a pencil or other tool across some paper, we rarely give enough attention to the actions that precede the making of a mark. Davies (1995) states that 'information concerning cognitive development appears in movement, where children use their bodies as a major framework of reference, before other more established contexts' (p. 49). We often see Harry try out things with

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