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Early Childhood Education



The period of growth and development in early childhood, specifically from 1 to 5 years old, is considered the most crucial phase known as the golden period. During this time, rapid growth and development occur, forming the foundation for the child's subsequent stages of growth and development. The child's growth during this period is characterized by an increase in height and weight according to their age-specific growth curve. Additionally, development in various aspects of the child's life takes place, including cognitive and language development, socio-emotional skills, and various sensorimotor abilities. Therefore, parents need to pay special attention to the growth and development of young children.

Currently, there is an increasing number of mothers working outside the home, which requires assistance from others in caring for their children. Nevertheless, mothers who work still play an important role in childcare and child development. This book is designed to assist parents, particularly working mothers, in creating a home environment rich in cognitive stimulation and nutritious food for young children. Through this book, it is hoped that working mothers, caregivers, daycare providers, and early childhood development centers can engage in play activities and prepare healthy meals that optimize the child's growth and cognitive development.

EARLY CHILDHOOD COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

Cognitive development is one aspect of human development that is related to the psychological activities or processes starting from sensory processes (seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching), giving meaning to sensory processes, and remembering objects or events. These psychological activities enable someone to pay attention, concentrate, coordinate their eyes and hands, acquire knowledge (related to basic concepts such as color, shape, size, volume, and the relationship between one thing and another), solve problems, make decisions, and plan for the future.

The cognitive development approach places special emphasis on the process of children actively constructing their thinking and knowledge. This approach is highly focused on the process of changes in children's thinking from one stage to the next stage of development (Santrock, 2014). The most commonly used theory of cognitive development is Piaget's theory. This cognitive development encompasses the sensorimotor stage (0-2 years), the pre-operational stage (2-7 years), the concrete operational stage (7-11 years), and the formal operational stage (11 years and above).

In the sensorimotor stage, children begin to adapt to the environment and the people around them, starting from recognizing language through hearing, improving social-emotional development, and their intellectual abilities. Everything that children learn at this age is explored through the senses in their bodies. Moving on to the pre-operational stage, children start using objects to represent more concrete objects.

These activities are usually carried out by children through pretend play. In this stage as well, language development, imagination, thinking, and problem-solving skills improve rapidly. Continuing into the ages of 7-11 (concrete operational stage), children become capable of understanding logical thinking, such as solving simple mathematical problems. Towards the end of this stage, after the age of 7, children will begin to think and solve abstract problems. This can be observed from their ability to solve difficult and abstract problems, such as thinking about the future they want to pursue.

WHAT CAN EARLY CHILDREN DO?

Ages 12 to 18 Months:

By the age of 8 months, a child's actions become more directed compared to earlier ages. At this stage, children start developing their hand-eye coordination skills. They become interested in observing and manipulating various objects around them. Object manipulation is done by dropping, hitting, or rolling objects.

The abilities achieved by children aged 12 to 18 months include:

  • Imitating writing (scribbling)
  • Transferring objects from one hand to another to grab another object with their hand
  • Showing understanding of functional relationships (e.g., combing hair with a comb)
  • Attempting to play with a toy upon seeing someone else playing with it

Ages 18 Months to 3 Years:

Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, children begin to develop symbolic understanding. With this ability, children can start thinking about, representing, and manipulating something (an object or event) without directly seeing it. At this stage, children also begin to understand that an object will still exist even if it cannot be directly seen, heard, or touched.

Cognitive abilities that children can achieve between the ages of 18 months and 3 years include:

  • Understanding something by imitating adult behavior
  • Matching actual objects to their corresponding pictures
  • Engaging in pretend play (e.g., cooking on a stove, pretending to drink tea from a cup)
  • Counting or reciting numbers from 1 to 5
  • Recognizing primary colors (red, yellow, blue)
  • Identifying basic shapes (square, circle, triangle)
  • Recognizing sizes (big and small, tall and short)
  • Using an object according to its function
  • Knowing the differences between males and females
  • Understanding the concepts of "same" and "different" for colors, shapes, and sizes
  • Showing interest in storybooks, either being read to or attempting to read on their own
  • Understanding consequences (e.g., dropping a block on oneself will cause pain)
  • Using one object as another object (e.g., using a remote control as a phone)
  • Classifying based on specific characteristics (e.g., combining red color with red color, triangle shape with triangle shape).

Ages 3 to 4 Years

At this stage, children are capable of understanding things without having to directly look at objects. They are also starting to compare one object with another. The abilities developed at this age include:

  • Reading numbers from 1 to 10
  • Arranging objects according to size
  • Attempting to read storybooks on their own
  • Mentally counting up to 5
  • Understanding the concepts of "more," "less," and "the same"
  • Knowing the number of fingers on each hand
  • Grasping the concept of the number 3 and counting objects beyond 3
  • Matching objects based on color, shape, and size similarities
  • Matching objects with similar functions (such as a brush and a comb)
  • Asking about the meanings of signs, such as traffic signs, advertisements, and others
  • Describing comparisons between objects, such as heavier or lighter, longer or shorter

Ages 4 to 5 Years

Starting at the age of 4, children enter the "intuitive" stage, where they have strong confidence in their understanding and knowledge, even though they may not know how they acquired various information. They begin to express simple ideas about the world around them, and their fantasies start to sound more logical. Children also experience an increased curiosity about various things. During this period, they start asking questions like "why" and "what would happen if...?"

The abilities that develop at this age include:

  • Understanding antonyms
  • Counting objects beyond 10
  • Grouping objects into categories
  • Describing the physical characteristics of an object
  • Identifying first, second, and third in a sequence
  • Developing awareness of weather changes
  • Recognizing the sequence of a day (morning, afternoon, evening)
  • Naming 3 basic shapes (square, circle, triangle)
  • Arranging 3 to 4 objects in the correct order of size
  • Identifying groups and similarities within a group
  • Identifying objects that do not belong to a particular group
  • Observing plants and animals and knowing how to care for them
  • Identifying and naming missing parts in an object/picture
  • Continuing simple patterns, such as connecting dots to form a circle or other simple shapes
  • Attempting to solve problems independently before seeking help and exploring different ways to achieve desired outcomes
  • Naming several parts of the human body and using the five senses to understand the surrounding environment.

Meeting balanced nutrition needs for young children is crucial for their growth and cognitive development. Therefore, parents need to pay attention to providing balanced nutrition for their children.

What is Balanced Nutrition?

Balanced nutrition refers to the daily composition of food that contains nutrients in the appropriate types and amounts according to the body's needs, while considering the principles of food diversity or variety, physical activity, hygiene, and ideal body weight.

How to Achieve Balanced Nutrition in Early Childhood?

After the period of complementary feeding (Breast Milk Substitute Complementary Food), meeting the nutritional needs of children can follow the "My Plate" guidelines. The government, through the Ministry of Health, has launched the "My Plate" campaign, which replaces the "4 Healthy 5 Perfect" slogan. The portion division on My Plate is as follows:

  • 1/3 of the plate for staple foods
  • 1/3 of the plate for vegetables
  • 1/3 of the plate for protein sources and fruits.

What is the Correct Eating Process? Eating is not only about what is eaten but also about the correct eating process to reduce the potential for eating problems in children. Research shows that the biggest cause of eating problems in children under three years old is incorrect eating behavior.

The basic rules for feeding are as follows:

• Schedule

Provide meals according to a schedule: 3 (three) main meals and 2 (two) snacks, along with milk as a supplement. Maintain a gap of approximately 2 (two) hours between each mealtime. It is highly recommended to give the child water during the intervals between meals. Limit each mealtime to around 30 minutes. The scheduling of meals also serves to introduce hunger cues to the child.

• Environment

Create a pleasant environment during the child's mealtime. Try to reduce distractions such as toys, television, or other electronic devices while eating.

• Procedure

Allow the child to feed themselves. If the child shows reluctance to eat, offer the food again without forcing them. If the child refuses to eat after 10-15 minutes, end the meal process for now. The food can then be reintroduced by assessing the child's condition and using different approaches.

What Should You Do If a Child Refuses to Eat?

• First, apply the basic feeding rules described above.

• Identify the reasons why the child is refusing to eat, such as feeling sick, changes in daily routines, discomfort, and so on.

• Provide healthy homemade meals for both main meals and snacks.

• Always offer new types of food. Sometimes it takes offering a new food 10-15 times for a child to accept and eat it well.

• Have meals together with other family members to encourage the child to eat.

• Make the food visually appealing by creating attractive shapes and colors.

• Involve the child in food preparation, such as during shopping or cooking.

• Explain to the child the importance of healthy eating habits through stories or educational songs.

NOTES FROM EXPERTS

- Cooking can be a way to play and develop a child's cognition.

- Cooking with a child can be messy and dirty. It's okay because it's part of the learning process.

- Cooking with a child doesn't have to result in perfection. Fine motor skills in young children are still developing, so the food presentation may not be neat.

- Cooking with a child prioritizes the cooking process and the child's involvement in preparing the food.

- Always start cooking by washing hands thoroughly so there is no need to use plastic gloves while cooking. Children's hands will receive sensory stimulation by handling various types of food during cooking.

- Let the child taste various types of ingredients, especially those they have never encountered before. Encourage the child to try raw ingredients and ask about their taste, color, and shape.

- Processed foods (sausages, nuggets, burgers) can be used in cooking, but prioritize healthy, nutritious, and diverse ingredients to introduce the child to different types of food.

- Introduce kitchen safety by explaining proper stove usage and reminding them of the necessary behavior in the kitchen. Inform the child that the kitchen is a place for cooking. There are lit stoves and ovens that produce heat and should not be touched. There are sharp knives used for cutting food that should not be used carelessly.

- At the end of the cooking activity, remind the child that the food is their creation. The child will feel that the food is delicious because they made it themselves. This will foster a sense of pride and positive self-concept as they have produced something tasty.

MAIN MENU "RABBIT SLEEPING BENTO"

Packed meals for school or vacation will be more interesting if they have a unique shape. Children will be delighted when they see such unique meals. To ensure that children are interested in enjoying the prepared meal, parents can involve them in its preparation.

Required Equipment

1. Lunchbox

2. Plastic wrapping

3. Scissors

4. Nori puncher (optional; if unavailable, scissors can be used instead)

Ingredients

● 1 small bowl of white rice

● 1 egg

● 1 teaspoon of cooking oil

● 1 small sheet of nori

● 1 medium-sized carrot

● 1 cooked beef sausage

● Vegetables for decoration, such as broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and others

Instructions

1. Invite the child to crack the egg and discard the shell into the trash. This activity may require several attempts and a few eggs. 

2. Stir the egg using a spoon/fork until the whites and yolks are evenly mixed.

3. With the assistance of an adult, fry the egg in a frying pan with a little cooking oil. Allow the child to observe the color and shape change of the still liquid egg into a cooked omelet. Set aside the omelet until it cools down to a moderate temperature.

4. Shape the white rice into 1 (one) head, 1 (one) body, 2 (two) ears, 2 (two) arms, and 2 (two) legs. Use plastic wrapping to compact and mold the rice. The child can be involved in counting and shaping the rabbit's body parts that we need.

5. Once shaped and compact enough (if the plastic wrapping is opened, the rice should not scatter), arrange the rabbit's body parts in the lunchbox.

6. Cut nori into shapes using a nori puncher (if unavailable, scissors can be used). Nori should be shaped as the rabbit's eyes and whiskers.

7. Cut two cooked sausages to become the inner part of the rabbit's ears. Use a piece of carrot to create the rabbit's nose. The remaining carrot can be used as a bolster.

8. Cover the rabbit's body with the omelet.

9. Add other vegetables as decorations. Additionally, you can include other side dishes like nuggets as an extra source of protein for the child.

SNACK MENU "CHICKEN VEGETABLE NUGGETS"

Almost all children enjoy eating nuggets. However, instead of buying nuggets, children can make their own nuggets at home with healthier ingredients, together with their parents.

Ingredients:

● 100 grams of ground chicken (or finely chop chicken fillet using a blender/food processor)

● 40 grams of boiled potatoes

● 20 grams of chopped broccoli

● 20 grams of chopped carrots

● ¼ teaspoon of sugar

● ¼ teaspoon of salt

● ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder

● 100 grams of bread crumbs

● cooking oil

Instructions:

1. Invite the child to mash the potatoes until smooth using a fork.

2. Add the chicken, broccoli, and carrots to the mashed potatoes and mix well.

3. Add sugar, salt, and garlic powder for seasoning.

4. Shape the mixture with hands according to the child's preference. Try to make them almost the same size to ensure they cook evenly. Smaller nuggets will cook faster than larger ones. If fried together, there is a possibility that the smaller nuggets may burn quickly.

5. Once formed, coat the entire surface of the nuggets with bread crumbs.

6. With the assistance of an adult, fry the nuggets until they turn golden brown. Use medium heat to ensure the nuggets are thoroughly cooked inside.

7. Remove the golden brown nuggets and drain them to reduce excess oil.

SNACK MENU "POTATO POPS"

In addition to main meals, children also need snacks. One easy, appealing, and healthy snack can be made with readily available cassava/sweet potato.

Ingredients

● 250 grams of cassava/sweet potato

● 2 pandan leaves

● ½ teaspoon of salt

● 2 tablespoons of honey

● 50 grams of grated cheese

● Toppings of choice: chocolate sprinkles, rainbow sprinkles, grated cheese

Instructions

1. Boil the cassava/sweet potato with pandan leaves and salt until soft. Once soft, strain and invite the child to mash the cassava using a fork or spoon.

2. Add salt and grated cheese to the cassava/sweet potato mixture. Mix well.

3. Take one tablespoon of the mixture and invite the child to shape it into small balls using their hands.

4. Ask the child to roll the balls over their desired toppings.

5. Potato pops are ready to be served.

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