Our knowledge of human growth and development in the earliest years has taught us that children are learning from the moment they are born. Brain growth, approaches to life and learning, language skills are shaped by what does or does not happen in a child’s first day, months, and years.
Infancy and Toddlerhood
This is when the brain’s architecture develops. Early experiences that are nurturing, active and challenging actually thicken the cortex of an infant’s brain. This creates a brain with more extensive and sophisticated neuron structures that determines intelligence and behavior. So, having good experiences help the brain develop. And poor experiences can literally cause a genetically normal child to have a lower IQ. Children who are exposed to less language, less touch, little adult interaction actually have smaller brains.
Children Learn How to Learn
Responsive and nurturing relationships early in life build not only synapse rich brains, but also the social and emotional foundations that support lifelong learning. Today, young children are expected to enter kindergarten being able to count, recite the alphabet, and write their names. Equally important, on their first day of kindergarten, teachers also expect children to be able to listen, and follow directions. Teachers expect children to start and finish small projects, express their needs, be able to wait, and know when they need help.
We now know a child must develop these skills long before the first day of school, the key ingredients of successful learners are:
Confidence and self-control
Ability to communicate
Because these are difficult skills, parents must nurture them through responsive relationships during a child’s earliest years. Warm, nurturing relationships with parents and teachers provide infants and toddlers the emotional nourishment they need to succeed.
Children Build Language and Literacy Skills That Last a Lifetime
Basic language and communication skills are essential building blocks of reading readiness in the first three years of life. Scientific evidence confirms that how much parents and teachers talk to their babies is critically important to early language development.
Children who hear fewer words before age three have dramatically smaller vocabularies than children who have richer early language experiences. During the first two years language development improves when an adult puts into words what an infant/toddler is looking at or listening to.
For more about the early learning years visit www.ounceofprevention.org/news