“I am making a hotdog tea!” was the response I got from one of the students when I asked what they were making in the kitchen center. Would you find that rather funny or surprising? Who would ever think that you could make a tea with a hotdog flavor? That’s how imaginative our students can get at the preschool. Sometimes adults think that young children have the craziest ideas in the world and that those ideas are nonsense most of the time. While some of their ideas may sound crazy to an adult, by the age of three and a half, a child’s ability to imagine is a crucial part of their development. By the time a child is four to about six-and-a-half, their imagination fully functioning. (childrennatureandyou.org).
Along with this ability to imagine comes a variety of other abilities that begin to develop, especially when they enter preschool. One is the ability to represent the world symbolically (Jean Piaget’s Insights). Although young children have these abilities, it doesn’t mean they would have an easy grasp, or clear understanding of the world around them the way that adults do. Developmental researchers say that children of this age do not yet have a theory of the mind* (Child Development, Psychology, 2008). Theory of mind (often abbreviated "ToM") is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one's own.
Parents may have high expectations of their children once they go to preschool or kindergarten in terms of the child’s intellectual, emotional, social and even physical skills. Expectedly, these children won’t be able to meet all of the expectations, even if the children are considered “early maturers”, much more so for those children with exceptionalities. As a result, adults sometimes get frustrated. At times, many of us forget that children are not miniature adults and we regard them by our own standards. Let us remember, they learn at their own pace. Every child will make progress, some more slowly than others but all progress is something to celebrate!
The Preschool curriculum of today has become more responsive to the needs of young children, preparing them for higher learning and more stimulating experiences. But according to Vygotsky, when children are presented with tasks that are outside their current abilities, they need the help of culture and society, usually parents and teachers to accomplish them. When a more skilled individual helps a child, the child is able to incorporate new skills and ideas into his or her repertoire of behavior (Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory, Psychology, 2008). So let us be there for the children. Let us see and understand the world through those little eyes, so that we can best support them in their learning.
* Further researches on Theory of the Mind was conducted by Janet Wilde Astington, Professor Emerita at the Institute of Child Study, Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where she has held a faculty position since 1990. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org