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Never Too Early To Learn

Stimulation and experiences in the early stages of a child’s life are imperative. It instills in the young children a positive and progressive feeling that only grows as they learn

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The role of early childhood education is unparalleled; it is responsible for developing the learning roots in children giving rise to inquisitive minds and future thinkers. Stimulation and experiences in the early stages of a child’s life are imperative. It instills in the young children a positive and progressive feeling that only grows as they learn. 

Along with the development of cognitive abilities the stimulation of a child’s senses enables him/her to develop qualities like communication, critical thinking and positive social behavior. The period of early childhood from birth to six years of age is often called the sensitive period of life. Knowing that the impact of early impressions carves the pathway of adult life, it would be unwise to not leverage it.

Research & experimentation on the subject has reinforced that the role of relationship, experience and environmentare decisive in early education. What happens in children’s early years sets the foundation for all the years that follow. Child development is a dynamic, interactive process that is not predetermined. It occurs in the context of relationships, experiences and environments. 

That’s because as Harvard University pediatrician Jack Shonkoff says, “Brains are built not born.” Understanding this concept is ensuring that each child has the opportunity to realize his or her potential. The brain is one of the only organs not fully developed at birth. Most of the cells are there, but the connections – the wiring that forms the architecture is not. These connections develop in early childhood. Every experience a baby has forms a neural connection in the brain. These connections—called synapses—form very rapidly in the early years at a rate of over one million new connections per second.

During 0- 6 years of age, 100 million neurons in the brain keep ticking away to making connections, at twice the speed an adult brain can comprehend. Around 85% of the actual networking is completed by the age of 5. The interesting part is that it is not the building of random & infinite network that causes an enduring effect on the child’s learning and personality but it is pruning of this network and strengthening of neural pathways that plays the pivotal role.

While the sensory experiences and activities that a child participates in build the neural connections, repetition of the activities helps to strengthen the networks and form habits. Pruning of the network occurs when neurons are not used thereby helping the child build a perception of the world around them. They also establish fundamental values, beliefs and a concept of self- identity. The formation of such complex concepts revolves around the warm and responsive relationship the child receives at a very early stage.

The education environment and the adults’ role in the child’s life have the responsibility to provide the necessary ecosystem for development of a young child. The language that we speak and expose the child to, the relationship that the child builds with his/herparents, teachers, care givers and the experiences he/shereceives are the deciding factors of their eventual perception of the real world. Experiences in early education should be planned around developing emotional, physical, social and cognitive linguistic capacities of a child. 

Before the child learns to read and write, he/she learns to express and connect, before a child learns to walk and jump, they learn to trust in others and in themselves. Growth is inevitable; the deciding factor is the nurturing of the physical, social and emotional aspects of growing up.Food and health habits established in the early years set the stage for choices that children make in later life and their health in adulthood.

It is important to realize that every child has the potential for greatness. It is our responsibility to tap the potential and mold a child early enough to bring about innovative, articulate, free thinking individuals who then go on to becoming global citizens.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Adilakshmi Chintalapati

The author is Early Childhood Education Expert at Oakridge International School.

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