The Incredible Brain
Why it matters
I am a strong advocate for early education because from birth to the age of five years old, the brain develops faster than any other time in life. In fact, at birth the brain is 1/4th the size of what it will be at full growth. It doubles in the first year. By the time a child is 5 years old, the brain has reached roughly 90% of its growth. This information is critical when considering implementing early childhood programs into a community. I have been so excited about the research on brain based learning and getting the information out to the public. Up until the last decade or so, people haven't put much emphasis on the importance of early childhood education and considered a daycare as a babysitting facility. However, studies have shown, that dollar for dollar, there is a higher rate of return on your investment if you invest in the early years of education, (birth through 5 years,) than on elementary, middle and high school education and even some college/ job training schools. Studies have proven that children's involvement in high quality programs in early education in which children are exposed to a multitude of experiences can help alleviate more costly outcomes on society in the later years, such as special education, tutoring, grade repetition, teen pregnancy, and incarceration. The billions of connections the brain makes sets the stage for higher level skills and abilities. This leads to greater motivation, getting along with others, problem solving, patience, seeing different perspectives, delayed gratification and being better prepared in society.
The vital connections that the synapses form inside the brain during this critical time are encouraged and strengthened by loving, nurturing, positive interactions. Sometimes parents get caught up in the idea thinking they need to send their child to a program that focuses on academics and the finished project. They pay no attention to the process that takes place, when in fact that is where the main focus should be. In any early educational program, children will be exposed to letters, numbers, reading and writing just through every day activities. Trying to drill these concepts into their little heads is completely unnecessary.
Early childhood curricula should be based on the concepts of caring and sharing, listening and being heard, patience and turn taking, identifying and labeling feelings and working through them, giving support and being supported. Children should be respected and treated as powerful, vital parts of the community and have an active role in developing the curriculum, as it should be emergent and of interest to the children. It is their job, at this age, to be curious and investigative. Inter-personal interactions between children and teachers should focus on social / emotional growth and development. This type of program will set forth each child with a foundation of confidence, compassion and security. These social/ emotional strengths are paramount for soft second skills that many lack in today's world. These include reflective listening, collaboration, problem solving, time management, self awareness and regulation, and the ability to adapt, to name a few. Children who are lucky enough to attend programs where the emphasis is put on social/ emotional skills and development will fare much better in elementary, middle and high school years.
The importance of play is overlooked and disregarded as “just play” however it is during this time that many critical skills are being learned.