The psychology of learning is perhaps one of the most heated topics in modern psychology, and there are many conflicting theories and points of view in this arena. The largest area of disagreement is the infant phase, which runs from childbirth to when the child first begins to speak. During all phases of the child’s life, play and learning are of paramount importance.
During the first educational phase described my most theorists of the psychology of learning (0-2 years) children learn by imitating other people (especially the mother), testing out their environment, ritualizing play and eventually simple make-believe. In the psychology of learning, each of these comes at various stages, and all must be learnt in order for a child to be able to interact with their environment productively.
The next phase described by the psychology of learning is the toddler and early childhood phases (2-5 years) in which the primary means of learning is through the use of symbols. It is in this phase that a child begins to learn the arbitrary connections between word-sounds, pictures and concepts.
Since these connections cannot be learnt through trial and error, it is important that the child have as much support as possible during this period.
The psychology of learning and the philosophy of language both place enormous importance on this part of a child’s development. Another important discovery in the psychology of learning is that children in this phase use ‘compensatory play’, which is the first evidence of children trying to come to terms with their emotions.
According the psychology of learning, children transfer their emotions or an event that happened onto another object. For example, a child that has recently been scolded might be seen scolding her doll as a way of understanding how the scolding made her feel. When the child reaches ‘childhood’ status (7 years and up) their learning capacity is greatly increased.
The psychology of learning dictates that children should be given as much structure during this period as possible, to teach the child how to interact socially. Games like hide-and-seek and board games are heavily endorsed by those who practice psychology of learning. Institutionalized games, and organized sports play an important role in this stage of a child’s development.
Studies in the psychology of learning show that children at this age who participate in sports are more likely to have better grades and more energy, and are more likely to get along well with their classmates and friends.