By Alison Willems, teacher at Trinityhouse Pre-Primary Randpark Ridge
Children are not little adults. They learn things primarily through their experiences and modeling their parents and others around them, rather than verbal explanations. Being kind to your child is more effective in teaching kindness than an explanation of why it is good to be kind. Allowing a child to learn a concept by exploring it and experimenting with it through play and trial and error is far more effective than telling them how something does or should work. There is a very valid reason behind why this is so. It all has to do with how God has created our bodies to grow and develop.
When referring to a child’s holistic development, our children develop in a specific order for a very specific reason. First comes physical development, so that they can learn to manage their bodies according to their space and environment around them. They learn about their own strengths and what their bodies can do. This physical learning is important because neurological pathways are being developed. If this does not happen, connections for later learning are hindered.
Next to develop is communication, this is to ensure that their survival and basic needs are met. They do this through basic language, eg: crying and one syllable words such as “mama” and “dada”. This should progress to more coherent sentence structure later on. The development of language is the start of their cognitive development. They are therefore not yet able to cognitively understand the adult world which utilizes such things as sarcasm, figurative language, innuendoes, etc. Their understanding of the world is literal and concrete. By the age of two they are taking more cognisance of things like tone and body language.
Next come the social and emotional aspect of the child, this is the most complex part of development and therefore never stops developing, even into adulthood as it encompasses all relationships and our ability to manage ourselves within those relationships. That is why children who have missed developmental building blocks struggle in this area.
Children rely on their senses to give them feedback thereby evaluating their world around them. Hence, babies put things in their mouths and children want to, need to and have to touch things around them.
Our little people therefore need at least two of their senses involved in anything you want to teach them for it to be stored in their memories for recall later. For example, if a child has an item of their mom’s clothing, the smell of her will calm them when upset. This is why kinesthetic learning (using the body and its senses) is so important as they are moving, touching, hearing, seeing and sometimes tasting while learning. As a child effectively learns, the neurons in their brain are making connections. Neuron’s that are correctly ‘wired’ together effectively ‘fire’ together later in their lives.
I would like to close with a well know quote from Benjamin Franklin:
‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’