Early childhood development is a crucial topic in psychology and education, as it is the first step to understanding the human growth and development. Early childhood development is defined as the growth and development that takes place from pre-conception to around the age of six (Marsh, Larson & Hall, 2003). Researchers explain that these are the most critical years for both neurological and physical development, and the child experiences during this time have a great effect on the health and well-being of the individual. Many researchers and theorist have contributed to the subject by presenting their diverse theories regarding early childhood development. With each theory, the academician or researcher aims to give their own ideas regarding child growth and development. One such contributor to early childhood development is Lev Vygotsky, whose work has since become the foundation of most research on cognitive growth and development in children. Born in 1896 Vygostky developed the social development theory that holds the notion that the community and external environment plays a major role in the growth and development of children. According to the social development theory, child development arises from contact between the child and his environment (Ormrod, 2011). His theory has long been confused with that of Jean Piaget, as they hold similar ideas and perceptions regarding childhood development and growth. However, unlike Piaget’s theory of childhood development, Vygostky’s theory of child development holds that child development and learning go hand in hand with each other. That child development does not come before learning as Piaget argues in his theory.  Vygostky emphasizes the social and cultural influences, as well as, the importance of language in child growth and development.

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This paper provides an analysis of Lev Vygotsky’s cultural-historical theory of Childhood development. The paper examines the components of the social development theory as proposed by Vygotsky, as well as, provides an explanation as to why Vygostky is the most influential theorist of all times.


Vygostky’s Theory of Childhood Growth and Development

In the development of his childhood growth and development theory, Vygostky argues for the incorporation of social and environmental elements as part of child growth and development. Accordingly, his theory of childhood development has been classified under the social-cultural approaches of childhood development. According to Vygostky, child growth and development is reliant on the culture from which the child originates. His theory is particular to the emotional and mental development of the child and he focuses of various attributes of childhood growth such as language and the reasoning process. He hold the firm belief that the mental and language abilities in a child are developed through the knowledge of culture. Relevantly, Vygostky’s theory of childhood growth and development argues that cultural development occurs twice within the child’s growth. This includes interpsychological contact, which refers to the interaction between the child and other people, and intrapsychological contact, which refers to the inner interaction of the child with himself or herself.

As illustrated in his theory, Vygostky viewed child cognitive growth and development comes as a result of the educative of learning process. His theory of childhood development implies that learning is a part of growth and does not come after the physical growth and development in children. With this notion, Vygostky argues that children learn through problem sharing experiences with those who make up the external or social environment.

This theory, however, explains  that for a  child to attain proper cognitive development, the child needs to socialize with other peoples such as parents, teachers, peers, and siblings. Only through this kind of socialization can children attain proper mental growth and development. Therefore, Vygostky’s theory of childhood development explains that a child’s social environment consists of the child’s family, teachers, friends, as well as, the things provided for play (Marsh, Larson & Hall, 2003). According to Vygostky, the people interacting with the child  are granted the responsibility for guiding and instructing the child into the performance of certain activities. For that reason, the people interacting with the child are expected to transfer their abilities and skills to the child through education and learning.

Vygostky’s theory on childhood development highlights problem solving as the most significant skill and ability that a child can attain for his or her cognitive development. He believes that the ability to solve problems is vital for cognitive growth as it allows the child to think critically and perform activities, hence facilitating apposite growth and development in children. Vygostky also stresses the need for language dialogue between the child and his external environment as it is through this that the child can attain cognitive growth and development. Vygotsky’s theory of childhood development argues that it is through language that the people who make up the child’s social environment can transmit knowledge to the child. For that reason, Vygotsky’s theory of childhood development argues that language is the primary tool for intellectual transformation in children. Another provision of Vygostky’s theory of childhood developments is identified as what he calls the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD). According to this theory, the probability of child cognitive growth and development is limited to the zone of proximal development. The theory defines the zone of proximal development as the gap between a child’s actual development level and the child’s potential development level.  The former is determined by the child’s ability to solve problems independently, whereas the latter is determined by problem solving under the supervision of others.  Put simply, the ZPD is the difference between a child’s abilities independently and under the assistance of others. According to Vygostky, learning promotes child development if it occurs around and during the child’s ZPD (Morrison, 2009). For that reason, social interaction has a more significant effect on the child of it occurs during the ZPD.



The application of Vygostky’s theory of childhood development is easy as it correlates with some of the concepts of the personal style of childhood education. Accordingly, the application of Vygotsky’s theory of childhood development has been incorporated in early childhood education programs. Mist instructors and teachers believe that the application of this theory is beneficial not only to the child, but also to the educators and instructors. This theory supports the application of various educational activities such as the use of symbols, classroom collaborations and the introduction of new concepts with appropriate timing.

Use of Symbols

According to Vygostky’s theory of childhood development, there is need for the use of symbols in educating children. This theory recognizes that there is a deep cultural meaning in symbols, and for that reason, they need to be used in a classroom setting (Morrison, 2009). By using symbols, children become more conversant with their cultural and social backgrounds as they understand the meanings of these symbols.

Classroom Collaboration

Vygotsky’s theory also supports the classroom collaboration as part of the educative process. His theory of early childhood development argues that collaboration is crucial in ensuring interaction in the classroom (Cullen, Anning & Fleer, 2004).most instructors today encourage their  students to works with each other for the completion of a specific task, as an application of the theory.

Appropriate Timing of New Concepts

Vygotsky’s theory also states that child development is age dependent (Morrison, 2009).This means that childe development can only occur during a specific period. For that reason, instructors who wish to attain cognitive growth by their children can only achieve this by introducing new concepts at specific ages. This is in line with the concept of the ZPD, as the child is presented with new concepts and ideas (Morrison, 2009).


Why Vygotsky is an Influential Theorist

As previously mentioned, Vygostky is one of the most influential theorist, which in turn made him the theorist of interest in this paper. There are various reasons as to why this theorists was chosen as the subject of discussion for this paper. At the outset, this theorist was chosen for discussion n the paper because of his support of social interaction as a crucial part of cognitive development. Other researchers and theorists believe that  social interaction plays a very small role in child growth and development but Vygostky believes that it plays a greater role than estimated. I believe that social interaction and the outside world have a great influence on the child, as they determine the child’s attitude and perception regarding what goes  on around him. I believe that social interaction can either promote or deter cognitive growth, as the child is more likely to imitate what goes on around him or her.  Vygostky was also chosen for this study owing to his recognition of “The More Knowledgeable Other” (MKO), which is a fundamental concept in cognitive growth and development. The more knowledgeable other refers to a person who has a higher cognitive ability than the child does, and who will help in the growth and development of the child n the long run. The most knowledgeable other is what Vygostky defines as the people who make up the social environment including parents, teachers, and peers. I believe that only the above-mentioned individuals can contribute to a child’s growth and their non-existence is disastrous to the child’s cognitive growth. In addition to this, I believe that children can only learn through other people as they tend to imitate what others around them are doing. Lastly, Vygostky was chosen as a subject for this paper because of his ideas regarding the ZPD. Introducing the concept of the ZPD not only allows the comprehension of child growth and development, it also allows individuals to make their own judgment regarding child growth and development.


Vygotsky’s Cultural-Historical theory provides a basis for the development of other theories of early childhood development. This is because the theory introduces various concepts and ideologies of childhood growth and development that are applicable in the field, thus allowing children to attain proper cognitive growth and development. This theory recognizes the impact of a child’s social environment for proper cognitive growth and development. The theory argues for the importance of a proper social and external environment for the attainment of proper cognitive growth and development in children. For that reason, Vygotsky’s theory is significantly applicable in early childhood education.


Cullen, J. Anning, A. & Fleer, M. (2004). A framework for conceptualizing early childhood

education. Retrieved November 26, 2011 from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/9732_035886Ch14.pdf

Marsh, J., Larson, J. & Hall, N. (2003). Handbook of early childhood literacy. Thousand Oaks,      CA: SAGE

Morrison, G. S. (2009). Early childhood education today (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River:  Pearson.

Ormrod, J. E. (2011). Educational Psychology (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
















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