3 Things parents can do to encourage their child’s learning during these crucial years of early childhood
You catch yourself observing your little one as she zips around the house, entranced by her newly acquired walking skills. You look at her tiny frame, and think how fragile she must be – how much she has to learn about the world around her, and yet – there is the one ability that a toddler possesses that an adult can never hope to match. Her ability to learn!
“During early pregnancy, about 250,000 brain cells are produced in the fetus, every minute, and at birth, the baby’s brain consists of approximately 86 Billion neurons.”
Early childhood is marked by an amazing gift from mother nature – the brain’s ability to absorb information at a tremendous rate, the reason for which becomes clear when you look at what is happening behind the scenes, deep within your toddlers brain.
Your Toddler’s Mighty Brain
During early pregnancy, about 250,000 brain cells are produced in the fetus, every minute, and at birth, the baby’s brain consists of approximately 86 Billion neurons. As the infant grows into toddler-hood, the child begins absorbing massive amounts of information about the world around him/her (forging literally 700 new connections per second) growing this network into an astounding number of neural connections. This rapid rate of growth is considered by specialists to be a once in a lifetime occurrence, a result of the novelty of sensations that the child experiences, causing the brain to develop connections as new information surges into the brain.
“This period of synaptic growth often sets the pace for your child’s learning ability for the rest of her life, and hampering the child’s learning during this period affects her for the rest of her life.”
What happens next is equally mind-boggling. Slightly beyond toddler-hood, the brain starts the process of Synaptic pruning – when the brain starts eliminating synapses, weeding out redundant connections – the ones that are not needed anymore. This is the reason why scientists, medical professionals, educators and even governments constantly stress the importance of early learning.
This period of synaptic growth often sets the pace for your child’s learning ability for the rest of her life, and hampering the child’s learning during this period affects her for the rest of her life.
Which brings us to our next question.
What can parents do to encourage the child’s learning during these crucial years of early childhood?
1. Don’t outsource your child’s learning.
The number of studies that co-relate low maternal education with developmental delays in children leave no doubt about the importance of parental involvement in childhood learning and yet we come across the strangest viewpoints among young Indian parents. I once heard an argument from the parent of a preschooler stressing that his child’s ability to learn was the school’s responsibility, and not his. He claimed was paying good money not to be bothered by it. If a preschool wishes to remain in business, it has to find the best way to optimise space and resources. There is no possible way for a preschool, no matter how exclusive – to offer your child personalised and exclusive teaching. Only a parent can do that! This is why it is important to look at pre-schools using a flipped-classroom method. Consider yourself the first and most important teacher, and the school as a space that supplements your child’s learning.
Photo courtesy: Smitha Shivaswamy
Recognise your child’s natural interests and build on that by carefully choosing products such as books or toys that help your child learn, carefully tying in these experiences to what your child learns at school.
2. Educate yourself on child-development
The first decade of your child’s development is fantastically varied with visible growth in cognition occurring at irregular intervals – often at an intimidating pace. Fortunately in today’s age of information, there are a host of resources out there that can help you learn about the various child development stages to help you educate yourself in ways that can benefit your child’s early learning potential.
Photo courtesy: Smitha Shivaswamy
It’s good to remember that parental bonding is everything, and you will always be the role-model – the first teacher!
3. Say no to pressure, peer or otherwise
It’s easy for young parents to look at the children of others and be carried away by the differences in childhood learning. Avoid such comparisons. No two children are ever the same. The neural connections that form during early childhood are largely due to environmental factors, and this affects the ways in which each child learns. Never fault the child, especially during it’s early years for it’s learning rate – instead find ways to encourage learning ability.
All of which brings us back to the question we started with. You toddler is learning. Are you?
References & credit:
- Equal numbers of neuronal and nonneuronal cells make the human brain an isometrically scaled-up primate brain
- Are There Really as Many Neurons in the Human Brain as Stars in the Milky Way
- Low maternal education as a unique and general risk factor for developmental delays in preschoolers: Population-based estimates
Photo courtesy for the featured image: Smitha Shivaswamy
Do have a look at some fun activities you can try at home. Toddler Sensory Activities