If you wanted to get your car fixed, you would go to a mechanic. If you wanted legal help, you would go to an attorney. To understand the brain and how we learn, would you go to a teacher? Probably not. Yet, parents trust that the professionals who teach their children are knowledgeable about the brain and the process of learning. It’s time we learn more and connect neurobiology, teaching and classroom behaviours.
In the next few posts, I will be sharing some interesting insights from the chapters in the book which are applicable for parents and teachers.
Preparing the brain for school: from birth to age 2
Research suggests that critical development periods do exist. While it is not definitive that from birth to age 2 is the only time the brain can learn certain things, starting earlier is often better because of the “scaffold effect”. For example, while a child can pick up motor skills at 15 years old, he needs them earlier for the development of other skills such as writing. Moreover, children in their earliest years are a captive audience. They may be capable of picking up skills at a later age, but will they want to?
The four most crucial aspects of development for which the labels “window of opportunity” are legitimate are emotions, sensory motor development, auditory development and vision.
Healthy emotional attachment during a child’s first 24 months helps develop the social and emotional skills fundamental for life. It is important that the primary caregiver set a good example in demonstrating proper emotional responses. These demonstrations help the child understand when it’s appropriate to be disappointed, pleased, anxious, sad, fearful, proud, apologetic etc.
Sensory motor development (Seeing, hearing, moving)
The vestibular system is the system in the inner ear that controls the sense of movement and balance. Many scientists link that lack of vestibular stimulation with learning problems. Vestibular stimulation occurs through activities involving movement, even such simple movements like rocking. Some ideas include: action songs (parents holding the child’s hands to do some actions), sitting in a jumper, swings etc.
The development of language is stimulated by hearing it: the more words a child hears, the better; speaking it: the more a child speaks, the better; hearing parents speak normally: normal grown-up talk is beneficial for babies any time after 6 months.
The developing infants needs a variety of stimulating inputs. They should get plenty of practice handling objects and learning about their shapes, weights and movements.The experience and interactions should not come from television, however.
This post should not spark off a wave of kiasu-ism in parents to start signing their child up for every possible course, but that they should be spending more time with their child even if he cannot speak/walk yet. There are many interesting things that parents can do with their infants instead of just holding them while you surf the Internet or watch the television. It’s worth investing the time on your child. 🙂