Figuring Out the Minds of Little People

Children are the future so we are often told.  That said, for something so important we are often guilty of not taking the time to properly understand them.  Often we don’t think we need to – after all we were all children once.   Surely we remember what it was like and how best to deal with kids!   

However, as someone suddenly entrusted with the care of a young person whether as a new parent or a relative left suddenly holding the bag and looking after somebodies offspring, it can be really hard to remember what it was like when we need to remember most.  And on top of that, knowing what a child thinks as a child isn’t necessarily the best way to make decisions about their welfare.

Key Physical Differences

Despite the occasional appellation of kids as little people, little boys and little girls are not at all simply miniature men and women yet to come into their pride.  Aside from the obvious size factor, there are numerous other physical differences that caregivers and guardians aught to be aware of.  Some of these include:

  • Thinner Skin:  Children really do have thinner skin than adults meaning injury hurts them more and is more likely to result in cuts and bruises.  Additionally this thinner tissue is less effective in protecting the child from infection and poisons that might be absorbed through the skin. 
  • Larger Body Surface Area:  Children’s bodies have a larger surface area comparatively speaking to adults.  This means the proportionately they are more vulnerable to the loss of heat and fluids and extra care must be considered when the child is put into a position which may lead to either i.e. sports day in the hot sun.
  • Higher Metabolic Rate:  The heart rate of juveniles is faster than that of adults.  While this partially explains why they can be so full of energy, it also makes them more susceptible to contaminants in food and drink and means careful attention must be paid to amounts when given medicine.

From a Childs View – Mental Differences

Physical differences are only the beginning, though they form the bedrock of the childs mental character.  The immature brain of a baby for example can do little other than respond to the young infant’s immediate needs for food, warmth and safety.  As the baby begins to grow and explore it’s surroundings however it learns from its senses about the world around it.   For all this however, such young children are barely above animals in their cognitive abilities. 

The ability to communicate starts the child on the path to adult hood.  However the immature brain still limits the infant capability.  By the age of four a child is able to talk and converse but does not have the ability to think logically.  Imagination is a powerful figment of the childs mind in this time. 

Slightly older children can, generally from the ages of six and up that children begin to think rationally and logically.  Even then this is largely only about concrete objects.  Nevertheless it is this ability that allows a child to add and subtract. 

However it is not until the near onset of adolescence that, generally speaking children begin to demonstrate the ability to think hypothetically.  About situations that might happen and to begin to plan and act in preparation for them.  For example, a young child might study for a maths test because a parent says so.  An older one either in expectation of reward or in fear of punishment for failure.  But by the teenage years a child might study because they see longer time gains or losses from the task, for example, getting into college or university.

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