Text by Bhumika Vikam
“Children are like wet cement- whatever falls on them makes an impression”- Dr.Haim Ginott
The brain is the only organ not fully developed at birth: 90% of critical brain development happens in the first five years of life.
These two sentences itself portray how important the first few years of life are.
The early childhood years (2 to 8 years of age) are seen as very crucial not just with regard to one or two developmental domains, but five domains, namely, emotional development, physical development, social development, cognitive development and language development. Giving a little detail about each of the domains:
1] Social and Emotional development: Child’s ability to understand the feelings of others, control his or her own feelings and behaviours, get along with other children, and build relationships with adults.
Enhanced by – being affectionate, being considerate along with respecting feelings, wants, viewpoints and needs, providing encouragement and support during times of stress.
2] Physical development: Involves developing control over the body, particularly muscles and physical coordination.
Enhanced by – encouraging play, physical activities.
3] Cognitive development: Construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem-solving and decision-making.
Enhanced by- encouraging the playing of verbal games, board games, answering all curiosity questions.
4] Language development: Developing speech and language.
Enhanced by- Encouraging reading, talking activities, storytelling etc.
A child’s experiences during these early years of life affect the ‘brain wiring’ and ‘brain cell connections’ which take place, thus influencing the brain growth. Positive experiences help the brain to develop in healthy ways. Seriously negative experiences such as neglect and abuse, on the other hand, affect brain development in more harmful ways and contribute to emotional and behavioural problems later in life. Thus as concerned teachers, parents and caregivers of these children, we must ensure that children’s early experiences are positive so that they have a secure foundation for development.
Children are born ready to learn and are always interested and curious about the world around them. From birth, children start learning about themselves, other people and the world around them. The amount of learning that takes place in these years is beyond amazing. All we have to do is spend time with any baby, toddler or child to witness the incredible hikes in skills, knowledge and understandings that happen in this phase of life.
Relationships are the most important for every child’s first years. These relationships that the child has with people around him shape the way he sees the world. The child learns and makes a map in his mind about the world is safe or unsafe and secure or insecure. The child’s brain and mind capture even things like, ‘who loves him’, ‘what happens when he cries, laughs or expresses any other emotion’ and ‘behaviour/response towards him during a time of stress’ etc. All this creates a base of the child’s future behavioural, social and communication skills. Being parents, carers and early childhood educators, we play the most important role in the child’s growth and development.
Once a child enters preschool, he starts socializing and learning to play with peers, making friends, being a little away from the primary relations and lastly making a place in the heart and mind for schooling which is a home away from home. This is why all preschool teachers and myself, as early childhood educators, are trained to facilitate every child’s all-round development. Since during the early years, children learn and develop mainly through play, it is essential to support and encourage play in their lives. Through play, they get an opportunity to explore, observe, experiment, solve problems, engage in physical activity and learn from mistakes. Play enriches all the five developmental domains be it cognitive, language, social or any other of the five.