Updated: Nov 26, 2021
Education starts from birth, but in order for it to be effective, it must be appropriate to the developmental maturity of the child. A concept is processed differently by children at each age. So, in order for education to be most effective, it must take into account the age – that is, the developmental maturity or readiness – of a child. Too much teaching may not be a problem but too soon maybe.
It is true that the brain development is maximum in the first six years of a child’s life and the more a child is exposed to stimulating experiences the better will be the brain structure as maximum synapses will be made in the brain. Because when synapses are not made between brain cells those cells get pruned after some time. That is why it is said Brain use it or lose it.
But it is also true that the information or experiences we give to the children have to be developmentally appropriate or in simple words given in right order. We cannot teach the child to jump before the child learns walking or standing erect.
Just like how a building needs to have a strong foundation to be long lasting and robust , so does the brain . A strong foundation means certain experiences must happen in a sequence and with adequate exposure. Only then low-level brain circuits will mature first and they can then support long-term development of high-level circuits . This will help in complex learning later. Most of the times adults around children are in a hurry to teach the children writing , reading and such skills because the common notion is that education means reading ABC and writing ABC as fast as possible. But very few are aware that it is essential that the child develops the skill of recognising symbols and the ability to differentiate between them in order to develop the skill of reading . Similarly in order to write it is necessary that the fine motor skills of a child are well developed . If the learning process is not understood and we try to teach advanced skills before the basic ones the foundation of learning will be affected . Many times we find children grow up not enjoying reading or writing because the early memories of these activities are very painful and challenging for them.
Again though we have the developmental milestones for children it is important to understand that these milestones are to be applied to a range of age .Sometimes some children may have very good fine motor skills in the early part of the age range and these children may be able to write very comfortable earlier. But that does not mean all children maybe ready to do so. As long as they get ready in their age range its fine. So again we should not fall in the trap of comparing our children with other children and then forcing them to do some activities just because their peers can do it. It is very important to check if the child is prepared with the foundation or basic skill for that activity and only then proceed to the next level of activity.
When adults expect young children to master skills for which the necessary maturity has not yet been formed, we are impairing healthy brain development by excessively stressing the child. If pushed and rushed, a child’s desire to learn will be hampered, his or her learning spirit crippled. When children show signs of tiring, giving up, or becoming bored, it may be also a sign that we need to adjust learning to their level. Age-appropriate learning can also help to identify any delays in mental or emotional development.
A little delay is preferable at this stage than hurrying with the higher level activity and leaving the foundation weak . It may adversely affect all other related skills . If required an extra year spent in the early years to build a strong foundation will save many years of torture for the child in further years of education.
Knowledge and information remain useless, unless an experience or the skills to process the information are developed in early years. Because early childhood development plays such a large role in later social, emotional, and cognitive well-being, it’s absolutely vital that that this sensitive developmental stage is nurtured and sharpened by age-appropriate learning and experiences.
In early years, kids progress in learning from known to unknown concepts, from general to specific, whole to part, concrete to abstract, and from simple to complex concepts. During pre-school, children learn best through first-hand, interactive, and thought-provoking experiences. Social , emotional and intra-personal skills developed at this stage through basic activities like story telling , role plays and enquiry based learning builds the foundation for a powerful yet empathetic character in future.
Also what activities a child is doing and developing skills at may affect his future skills and therefore help him identify a career of his liking . Many times we may not even pay focus to such activities but they may be the foundation skills for some very niche skills later. We can categorise a child’s activities in the following 9 schemas :
Doing activities trying to understand the connections between whole and parts and parts and whole. Activities like joining train tracks, connecting pieces of lego, running a string from one thing to another .This includes connecting and disconnecting too, construction of sand castles or other structures and then destroying them too. Professionally they may develop to be engineers , architects , journalists , etc
Doing activities to know how things move, understand the relationship between speed and objects. Urge to throw , drop , climb up and jump , put hand under water diagonally , vertically or horizontally to see the direction of the flow of water. Professionally they may develop to be aeronautical and space engineers , landscape designers, etc
3. CONTAINER / ENCLOSURE
Activities to know and see how things fit into the world. The urge to fill up cups to fill water, climb into cardboard boxes or kitchen drawers, build fences for the animals with train tracks or any other objects. Professionally they may develop to be Farmers, Packaging , DNA Scientists , etc
Activities to know how to handle multiple items at the same time and how many will fit and how many can be carried at a time. Carrying many items in the hand , in buckets or baskets or containers with wheels at one time. Professionally may develop to be Packaging professionals, Logistics, etc
Activities to know how things can be hidden and uncovered. The foundation of future archaelogists. To have a sheet over the head , wrapping things in fabrics or with tape and paper .Professionally may develop to be actors, fashion designers , archaeologist, etc
Activities to see and do anything that goes around, anything that is circular, turning lids, watching the washing machine on spin cycle, drawing circles, spinning around on spot , being swung around. Professionally may develop to be vehicle designers, adventure ride designers, etc
Activities like holding food in the mouth for a long time to see what it turns into , mixing juice with water , mixing dough
Professionally may develop to be scientists , chefs, etc
Activities involving lining up things neatly. Lining up toys, shoes , books . They may grow up to be an adult who neatly aligns desk, books , home , a tidy and an organised person. Professionally they may develop to be teachers, authors, chefs , etc
Activities developing their orientation . The urge to hang from different places and watch things upside down . They enjoy seeing things from a different point of view . These skills will later develop to help them take different perspectives on a situation in life either at home or work. They may grow up to be pilots, astronauts , adventure sports people , etc
So to conclude , the early years of a child’s life are rightly called the formative years and we must not take them casually but be fully aware about the developmental milestones and the importance of each stage.
Director ( Tiger Cubs Preischool )