By Shelley Ruiz
Nurture and Teach
The single most important thing caregivers can do for a child is provide a nurturing environment. By doing this, we influence children's brain development and their ability to learn. Introducing nurtured children to learning opportunities every day will help them become happy, well-adjusted adults. In all stages of child development, each experience builds on the one before it. The most basic foundations can serve as the basis for the comprehension of more complex ideas in future years.
Learning Begins at Birth
We are born with billions of brain cells – in fact, all we will ever have. What is missing is a large amount of connections – synapses – between those brain cells. Synapses start developing based on a child's experiences. Children's brains develop faster from birth to age three than any other time; and more learning takes place during this time than any other. The more learning opportunities parents provide for their children from birth until school age, the more synapses are made. The connections will serve as a pool of knowledge for a child to access in later years.
Because children's earliest experiences affect how they will think, learn and behave, helping children learn from birth to school age is a crucial activity. Parents and other caregivers can create a strong foundation for learning by providing a nurturing and rich learning environment from the very beginning.
Children Seek Learning Experiences
Not only do children need to be physically active, it is their nature to look for opportunities to learn. They participate in learning by using their senses and asking countless questions in order to more fully understand the task at hand.
Creating a Learning Environment
Children enjoy learning when they can master an activity. Begin with a simple task and expand or complicate it after your child has enjoyed some successes.
Create a safe and secure learning environment. This will help children do their best learning rather than distract them. Key to creating this environment is treating your child with respect and caring.
Where Do Children Learn?
Children learn everywhere from school to the doctor's office to the grocery store. As do adults, children learn from interacting with others and watching their parents' behavior. Kids are highly influenced by the people in their lives, especially adults who they are close to.
Not All Children Learn in the Same Way
In the book Frame of Mind, Howard Gardner described his theory of multiple intelligences. We all have a certain way we prefer to learn. The seven multiple intelligences Gardner points to are interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, musical, logical-mathematical and linguistic. We have the most success teaching our children when we can recognize their style of learning (as well as our style of teaching) and incorporate activities accordingly.
Playing and Learning
The main way children collect and process information is through play. Play is the repetition that reinforces old skills and encourages new ones. Because play is enjoyable, children's minds are open. Children are capable of much learning through play because they are very receptive and relaxed. Take advantage of this benefit and select activities that are fun and educational. Your children will learn, and you will both enjoy the experience.
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