If I had a dollar for every time I heard a parent say that their baby/toddler/preschooler was gifted/advanced/etc, I would be a wealthy woman.
And really, it’s not surprising. Children develop and grow at such a rapid rate, especially those who live in a rich home environment with lots of loving parental interaction. Long ago, I too joined the ranks of beaming parents touting the newest milestone that my child reached. It is a delight to watch your child learn something new or conquer a new feat!
And research is proving what many of us parents already know. God created human beings with an amazing ability to learn and this starts from birth!
While it is good to nurture and help them grow, given the competitive culture we live in, we must always be mindful of not pushing our children in ways that aren’t developmentally appropriate in an attempt to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ or prove to others just how smart our kids really are. This just causes stress for both parent and child and can result in losing that precious love of learning that most children have!
Recently I read a fascinating article in the New York Times that gives a peak into research that continues to confirm the incredible work that young brains are capable of doing.
While research is increasingly showing how smart young children are, it is also confirming how different their thought processes are to ours as adults.
Many think that babies, like adults, should learn in a focused, planned way. So parents put their young children in academic-enrichment classes or use flashcards to get them to recognize the alphabet. Government programs like No Child Left Behind urge preschools to be more like schools, with instruction in specific skills.
But babies’ intelligence, the research shows, is very different from that of adults and from the kind of intelligence we usually cultivate in school. Schoolwork revolves around focus and planning. We set objectives and goals for children, with an emphasis on skills they should acquire or information they should know. Children take tests to prove that they have absorbed a specific set of skills and facts and have not been distracted by other possibilities.
This approach may work for children over the age of 5 or so. But babies and very young children are terrible at planning and aiming for precise goals. When we say that preschoolers can’t pay attention, we really mean that they can’t not pay attention: they have trouble focusing on just one event and shutting out all the rest. This has led us to underestimate babies in the past. But the new research tells us that babies can be rational without being goal-oriented.
The rest of the article goes into some of the research they are doing that demonstrates how babies and toddlers are able to employ probabilites and engage in some higher order thinking skills during play.
It also confirms the most important ingredients to a young child’s success in later life: loving parental interaction and lots of time to play!
“But what children observe most closely, explore most obsessively and imagine most vividly are the people around them. There are no perfect toys; there is no magic formula. Parents and other caregivers teach young children by paying attention and interacting with them naturally and, most of all, by just allowing them to play.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired to put aside my computer, chores, etc and get down on the floor more to play, talk and just enjoy my kids. Yes, it can really be that easy!
Check out my Cultivate Learning page for links to other preschool related articles, a preschool skills checklist and other related links.