As we gently launch into this new year, I thought it might be interesting to write about some key learning concepts that occur in the first six years of a child’s life, learning that sets the stage for success in school and success and an important sense of well-being throughout our lives as humans. We all play such a vital role in wiring a child’s brain for learning. From the moment a child is born, our loving relationships create the foundation for all this learning to happen.
There are twelve things on my list; all are vital to the learning and to the well-being of children in these early years of life.
Love is experienced by babies when we hold them, touch them, rock them, stroke them, talk to them, and sing with them. All of these ways of showing love create learning pathways in the brain that will be used for life. Love helps babies to feel safe and to explore their world. Love provides comfort a baby can count on. This teaches babies how to trust and how to comfort themselves. Love helps babies learn to cope with stress and handle their feelings all through life. Love between a parent and a child forms the basis of every other relationship in a child’s life. Love teaches children how to be loving, caring people.
Listen to children and they will feel understood and learn to understand others. This is empathy building. Listen to the feelings behind children’s words and actions and discuss them by name. Children will learn a language known all over the world–the language of feelings. Listen to children with all your attention–with your ears, eyes, body, and heart. They will feel your respect.
The more your talk and the more words you use, the stronger a child’s language skills will be. Words are tools for thinking. Talk is the first language of your home because it holds special warmth of the family. Talk about what you are thinking. You will show children the importance of curiosity and how to be problem solvers. Talk by asking questions like “I wonder…” or “What do you think?” You will bring out children’s sense of imagination and encourage them to wonder.
Read with your arms lovingly wrapped around your child. Reading this way stimulates many of a child’s senses, including the important sense of touch. The more senses that are used in learning, the deeper the learning will be. Read as early as you can with your child–it is never too early to start sharing books with children. Read in the first language of your home, the language closest to your heart.
Teach by doing because this is how a child’s best learning happens. Children in the early years learn more when you do things with them than from workbooks, computer games, and flash cards. Teach because lessons learned from the heart of the family last a lifetime. Teach to build routines and set limits so that children know what to expect and how to behave. Teach with your heart, with warmth, and respect. Children’s love of learning and sense of self will thrive. Teach what really matters to you so that your children know who you are.
We all support parents in the early years, where it has the biggest impact. Good parenting is vital throughout a child’s life. Support helps parents of babies through those first moments, when they may be tired, stressed, and lonely. We support parents especially as it gives them joy and confidence in their parenting. Support adults who are dedicated to supporting children and this will create a chain of empathy.
Play is the work of childhood. Play is how children make sense of their world and learn to solve problems. Play in the early years is not meant to be organized, tidy, quiet or rushed. Play gives children the freedom to imagine. It makes anything possible. Play is both serious and joyful. It helps children learn how to keep trying when something doesn’t come easily. It makes them more confident. Play teaches children how to handle their feelings and get along with others. Play helps children to face their fears and worries and overcome them. Playing with children helps adults see the world with fresh eyes.
Notice how all children are unique in the way they grow and develop. Notice how different temperaments allow each child to look at the world in their own way–and notice how a child’s temperament changes the way we parent or care for them. Notice the amazing achievements children make in the early years, when the brain is growing so quickly. Notice the powerful effect that loving relationships, encouraging talk and stimulating experiences have on learning in the early years. A child’s developing brain is nourished by all these things.
Protect yourself from getting too tired, depressed or lonely. You are your child’s lifeline. Protect your child from harm. Protect the environment we live in by caring for it.
Celebrate every major milestone and small victory in your child’s life. Celebrate with rhymes and lullabies to build children’s language skills and lay the groundwork for reading and writing. Celebrate your dreams and interests with your child. Children are never too young for art and beauty. When you laugh, dance and dream with them, you show them how to grow their own dreams and interests.
Include people of all races, cultures, sexual orientations, languages, religions, and abilities in our families, our classrooms and our society. Include all generations so that children will learn from the past and the present to create our future. Include those who may feel left out–The wound of feeling left out in childhood is a hurt that may be carried into adult life.
Imagine a community where children are valued and celebrated along with their parents and all those who look after them. Imagine a community where every person feels they belong. Imagine a community that dreams and plans together to put children first.
(adapted from information obtained from the BC Council for Families, Vancouver BC)
So, what has been going on at Peacock this past week? (editor’s note: this was from Jan 14, 2014)
In our Infant Room our babies are having early literacy swim around their developing brains. Every day they are listening to stories from books, and they can focus on pictures that connect with the stories. Music time is also a lovely moment in the infant room, where all kinds of melodies and rhythms are happening for the babies to listen to.
In our Toddler Rooms, we are welcoming and transitioning some new children, who have been happily adapting to life at Peacock. The children in the toddler rooms are devouring books (not literally!) and have been enjoying immensely new books that the teachers read to them and that they can look at by themselves. They are learning how to pick up after themselves and they are building independent skills that are very impressive. They made hand print art with gloves, and for a wonderful science project, they mixed food color with ice cubes, and watched them melt with warm water. They learned the concept of hot and cold, and loved watching the process of ice melting.
In our Green Room, every day the children are learning a new letter and applying it in several ways. Each day a letter is featured, both in the morning and afternoon, and projects are developed that highlight this letter in art, language, math and movement, poetry, music, and small motor development. Some of the letters featured this week were D, R, W and H. In addition, the children are working on cutting skills and other fine motor, literacy skills. They are learning several shapes including circle, square, and triangle. They took a nice walk yesterday to Waterfront Park
In our Blue Room the children did a lovely science experiment focused on ice melting, like the toddlers, but taken many steps further. They used rock salt and ice, and they made ice crystals of different colors, talking about the process of melting, making predictions and careful observations as they did so. They also “turned” the building blocks into ice blocks, talking about glaciers and igloos, as they got to be the creators of such interesting ice forms. They made polar bears out of coconut, and they talked about penguins. They focused on the letter A this week and the number 7, and they made math art with applejax. They sang 5 fat walruses and the Snowy Pokey, and they did lots of easel painting that adorns the walls.
So, that, dear parents, is our week. Do have wonderful weekends, one and all!