Mental Representation of 3-year-old Male Child

Category: Philosophy
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At an early age of 3-5, the majority of students are enrolled in either Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten. At this point in time, these years are critical for growth in reading. Primarily, at this age, students will know the names of their favorite books, be capable of holding the book, and recall familiar words and phrases. Some might even be readily prepared to predict what happens next in the book or retell a familiar story. However, at this age, children are not fully ready to begin reading on their own.

Based on what I’ve learned regarding Piaget’s theory, Information Processing, and the development of language, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle makes for exciting and appropriate book for their reading level. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a hardback book, safe for children to put their hands on without damaging the book. The cover is colorful and attractive, making it intriguing for children among this age. A child’s vision fully develops prior to the age of 3 so they have no trouble seeing the full color scale. According to Jean Piaget, there are four stages of cognitive development. Children ages 2-7 are at the Preoperational stage of learning. At this stage, they gain the use of mental representation and the understanding of symbols. Mental representation is a presentation to the mind in the form of an idea or image. In other words, a child that is familiar with a certain object can mentally present what that object looks like in their mind. For example, The Very Hungry Caterpillar says on the first page, “In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf”. If the child understands what a moon, egg, and leaf are, they can picture in their mind, the egg laying on the leaf in the moonlight. Symbolic thinking is a major advancement in the preschool years. This is the type of thinking in which symbols or mental images are used to present larger scale and physical objects.

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In The Very Hungry Caterpillar, every picture and drawing is taken directly from what the sentence on same page expresses. One sentence in the book says “One Sunday morning, the warm sun came up”. On the same page, is a picture of a sun rising. A child at this stage could simply look at the picture of the sun rising or listen to the words carefully and be able to recognize that when the sun rises in the morning, the drawing and language are expressing the same thing. Language; however, is a child’s most important form of symbolic representation. Although children at the Preoperational stage are advancing in language and thinking areas, they still fail to think abstractly. Rather, preoperational children think concretely. A child that thinks concretely would be able to count three cookies. Nonetheless, a child who thinks abstractly would be able to count numbers as opposed to merely cookies. An example from The Very Hungry Caterpillar is shown in fruit. The book says, “On Monday he ate through one apple but he was still hungry”, and on the same page is a picture of one apple. The following day, the caterpillar ate two pears and so on. By the final day, it says “On Friday he ate through five oranges, but he was still hungry”. A child at this stage would have to think in terms of oranges to count how many he ate. However, a child in a later stage would be able to respond with the number five, not necessarily needing oranges to make sense of it. By the time a child reaches preschool, they should have reached a good understanding of the components of language: phonology, semantics, syntax (grammar) as well as the development of metalinguistic knowledge. Phonology is the sounds of language including phonemes. The Very Hungry Caterpillar includes phonemes such as: “up” and “pop”; however, children by age 3 should have no problem differentiating between the two sounds. By the end of their first year, their perception narrows to sounds in native language. This means they have the ability to differentiate between words of their native language and words that aren’t real.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar contains some words that are too advanced for a 3-year-old’s vocabulary level. For example, the books contains the days of the week. A 3-year-old that has yet to enter preschool probably has limited knowledge, if any, about the days of the week. However, the pictures and drawings give clues to help them to better understand the story. Because by age 2, kids have expanded their grammar to include conjunctions, articles, and some prepositions, they have gained the understanding of syntax. Syntax is the rules for forming sentences. At this point, they have complete ability to determine what is a sentence and what’s not. The Very Hungry Caterpillar only has one sentence per page, making it easier for the child to determine if it is a sentence. Between ages 2 and 5, kids often use morphemes (-ed, -s, ing). The use of morphemes helps the child to determine if the context is written in past, present, or future tense. For example, the book says: “He started to look for some food”. By looking at the -ed in “started”, the child has a clue that the sentence is written in the past tense, meaning the action was already done. Children ages 3-5 are also capable of asking questions in complete sentence structure. In the story they might ask, “Why was the caterpillar so hungry?”. They are also capable of giving appropriate responses to questions asked. If asked who the story was about, they could respond with “The story was about the caterpillar.”Information Processing also discusses the development of learning in children. According to principles of Information Processing, attention develops with age as well. Around the age 3½, a child’s attention span increases to about 8 seconds. The Very Hungry Caterpillar contains no more than one sentence on each page, which can be read easily under 8 seconds. Because attention span develops through adolescence, a 5 year old would have a longer attention span than a 3 year old.

The color on the pages as well as the holes in the pages that represent the caterpillar taking a bite from the food also capture the attention of the child. Memory, according to IP, develops at approximately age 3. “Memory is our ability to encode, store, retain, and recall information from our memory” (Siegler, 2014, 102). Beginning at age 3, a child’s memory begins to develop. Children have a significant amount less of working memory than adults do. This is why you can’t remember anything about your birth, or anything prior to age 3. Preschoolers tend to use language to encode language for later recall. Because using language helps them to remember, being the participant as oppose to the observer helps them to recall information easier. It is better for the child to read the book themselves even in they are only beginners. In preschool, a child begins learning their letters and numbers. Although The Very Hungry Caterpillar can be challenging for them to read on their own, they are capable of sounding out words by recalling letters. A child’s memorization process is also made smoother by their ability to create mental images. One way to make sense of a word is by connecting it to a picture. For example the book says, “On Saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake”…And sitting right there under the sentence is a piece of chocolate cake with a bite taken out. Before age 3, a child’s acuity and color vision are fully developed. The Very Hungry Caterpillar can be a challenging book for young readers. However, it can also be very advantageous to the development of their language as well as their memory, attention and information processing.

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Mental Representation Of 3-year-old Male Child. (2022, Jun 29). Retrieved from