Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development in Early Childhood Education

Lev Vygotsky was a developmental psychologist who studied the processes through which children learn. He developed the theory of a Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), which suggests that “children require activities that both support past learning and encourage new learning at slightly more difficult levels” (Beverlie, 75). This means that in order for successful learning to occur children need to be engaged in both activities that they are proficient at, and activities that are slightly outside the child’s comfort zone.


In the ZPD theory, there are 3 major areas of learning. First are the things a child can do on their own, second are the things a child can do with some assistance, and third are the things a child cannot yet do. Vygotsky proposed that in order for learning to occur, tasks had to exist in the zone of proximal development, which is the area in which a child can do something with some assistance. This task would require some attention and help from a teacher but over time a child would master it and the task would move to the category of thing’s a child can do.


Through this theory, early childhood educators play a duel role. They both support children in accomplishing difficult tasks, and they expose children to tasks that a slightly beyond their current skillset. This strategy helps develop children’s learning and confidence.


Source: Dietze, Beverlie. Foundations of Early Childhood Education: Learning Environments and Childcare in Canada. Pearson Learning Solutions, 2006. VitalBook File.


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