Early Childhood

Gesell Institute Study Finds Stability in Cognitive Milestones

By Maureen Kelleher — October 22, 2010 1 min read
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Last Friday, the Gesell Institute of Human Developmentreleased a study comparing when children reach certain cognitive milestones today and when they did in the 20th century. Originally, early-childhood pioneer Arnold Gesell and colleagues published observation-based developmental schedules starting in 1925 and updating through the 1970s. (For a brief overview of the study and links to a related FAQ, click here.)

Guess what? Kids haven’t changed. As the Harvard Education Letter reports, researchers observed more than 1,200 children ages 3-6 in public and private schools across the country and found remarkable stability in the ages at which they could perform tasks such as count four pennies (4 years old) or draw a triangle (5 ½ ).

Gesell heralded its findings at a conference in New Haven on October 15. The Gesell Early Childhood Leadership Conference web site leads with a passionate plea: “Let’s raise test scores the right way.” By that, the Gesell leaders mean supporting children’s overall health and development in kindergarten, not pushing academic skills at the expense of recess, nap time and snacks, for example. Stay tuned to see whether the new data has an impact on the kindergarten wars.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.