Childhood learning… key to adult life!
–by Benazir Shafaat Hussain, Special Educator, Pune
As a child what we learn and experience are the most important teachings of life. A child who is being brought up in a warm and a loving family will always grow to be a matured individual compared to child who comes from a fractured family or a disadvantaged home.
Bachpan ke din are always fondly remembered as the best days of one’s life. I grew up hearing this statement from many people and really feel that as a grown up I also miss being a child; the golden days of life where we are taken care of with most love and affection. We change gradually with age but the habits we developandthe learnings, which we inculcate, stay with us forever. As a child what we learn and experience are the most important teachings of life. A child who is being brought up in a warm and a loving family will always grow to be a matured individual compared to child who comes from a fractured family or a disadvantaged home.
Development of a child
Each child is unique and does not follow the same developmental trajectory, as other but there are common patterns which they learn through early childhood. Development involves three areas:
All the three areas of development are closely linked and are vital in a child’s developing years. Along with these areas of development, there are other areas, viz, the physical development, cognitive and motor development which occur as the child grows. The WHO states, “Early Child Development (ECD) encompasses physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and motor development between 0-8 years of age”.
The most crucial years of an individual’s development consists of the early childhood phase, generally between 0-12 years, where the most basic skills of life such as speaking, writing, reading, motor & cognitive skills and understanding of various emotions & feelings are acquired. Once all these skills are attained, then we move towards the next phase of development. We continue to grow in terms of our thoughts getting matured and actions getting wiser. But there are factors that cause early life adversity, like loss of a parent, divorce of parents etc., which have wide spread effects on both brain and body of the child. Such cold and fractured families can bring a lot of emotional turmoil, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and other negative emotions, which can develop in a child and trouble him/her throughout the life span.
Childhood learning…key to adult life!
“Nature” and “nurture” are two most important factors in bringing up children. I personally believe that early childhood shapes the personality of a growing individual. As a child I am either being loved, cared, and protected or exposed to difficult situations, which creates labels in my growing brain and remains with me as an adult. The first 3–5 years of a child’s life are “formative years”and foundation to their character building, habit formations, development of individual traits and personality. Parents hold the key, which decides what kind of human being their child will grow up as. We need to realize that formative years of life are invaluable to the growth of a sensitive and a matured adult.
In the primary stage of childhood, what we learn is crucial and how we learn matters a lot.Teachers /practitioners are the role models in a child’s life. Thus, it is very important to present ourselves in the most ideal way. The way we think and do things reflects our behaviour. Children learn from what they observe and whom they observe. Peers are valuable to each one of us and many of our learning comes from them too. We share many thoughts with each other and listen carefully to what our peers say. Children spend lengthy hours in schools with their peers learning to develop social skills, organizational skills, planning and discussing challenging topics that in turn increases their confidence and gain personal insight in self-reflection and discovery.
I am sharing my experience of being in an IB school where I am witness to peer learning and collaborative learning, which happens beautifully with young minds. At the very primary stage of development I can see children coming in with confidence to school and being able to communicate as confident humans. They come and learn skills of communicating with each other, helping each other, reciting poems and stories so effortlessly that I feel mesmerized that these little young minds can actually “take in” so much from their environment. However, it is also important that what is taught to them, is absorbed in the right manner otherwise in today’s environment, where kids are exposed to phones, internet and TV it will be a matter of time when we can witness humans being turned into virtual zombies in near future.
What can educators do?
As practitioners, it is very important to carefully plan the development or skill enhancement in young children. The “Learning module” should be structured with resources carefully chosen and tasks arranged in a sequence which leads to a desired learning outcome in children. Then the practitioner should lead, direct and monitor the responses from children to ensure that the holistic learning has occurred. Early years’ education and care reflects in a child’s emotional, social and behavioral development.
Emotional development involves:
- Development of feelings, awareness of oneself
- Development of feelings towards others
- Development of self-esteem and self-image
Social development involves:
- Growth of child’s relationships with other people
- Development of social skills (or ways of behaving in order to fit into the society/environment around them)
Behavioral development involves:
- The behavior of being helpful, calm and not being rude or inappropriate towards others (like hitting, biting etc.) In order to build a system, the practitioners or teachers need to follow certain best practices which includes but are not limited to the following:
- Being active listeners means paying attention to the child’s needs like facial expressions, postures and other forms of body language, all of which gives clues to a child’s feelings.
- Being empathetic means being able to “project” yourself into the other person’s situation and experience. This helps to understand the child’s perspective.
- Being sensitive towards how a child feels in difficult situations. For example, if a child’s mother is unwell, the practitioner should understand how the child would be feeling because of that.
- Showing patience involves being tolerant with children dealing with problems. For example, while dealing with children with behavioral issues one must be extremely patient.
- Being respectful for the child’s personal rights, dignity and privacy.
- Having and demonstrating interpersonal skills means understanding that caring for relationships is a two-way process. Giving warmth and being friendly can help to create a positive atmosphere and which breaks down the barriers to accept the child.
Other practices may include knowing how to cope with stress and also being aware of the possibility of professional burnout. One must learn to relax and teach the same.
Over the years, our education system has been providing knowledge of literacy and numeracy to children but in today’s fast paced world we also need to develop the child’s ability to learn about emotional and social intelligence. Children with excellent social and emotional skills have a stronger foundation upon which their complete identity formation depends and turns them in taking safer decisions when they jump into adolescence.
The first 3–5 years life are “formative years”and foundation to character building, habit formations, development of individual traits and personality. Parents hold the key, which decides what kind of human being their child will grow up as. We need to realize that formative years of life are invaluable to the growth of a sensitive and a matured adult.
Daniel Goleman emphasized on the concept of “Emotional Intelligence” and how it is a key to success in all aspects of a life. Every child who comes to school is unique and each of them have their own treasure of skills, it’s just few who come prepared and few who lack this preparation. Children learn various subjects and topics in school but what remains close to their heart is ‘Play’.
Importance of playtime
“Play is the work of childhood,” says Jean Piaget a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development and his theory of cognitive development. Play is the most imperative element in a child’s life. Without play, children cannot grow. It is the most important aspect of their growing years. Play is the language they speak and through play, they speak a hundred words filled with joy. Children express themselves best when they are playing. Unfortunately, with the growing technology our children are forgetting the essence of play in their life. Play is healthy as children develop cognitive skills, physical abilities, new vocabulary, social skills and literacy skills. It helps them let out stress and anxiety and keeps them joyful. It builds self-esteem and encourages creativity. Play is an essential part of early learning as it is a child’s world. Every school should recognize that Play is one of the most important part of the child’s learning and it should be made a part of their learning process. Playtime should be made compulsory like any other daily activities like prayers and meals. Let the child be what they want to be….
“Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” –Flannery O’ Connor
Play is the most imperative element in a child’s life. Without play, children cannot grow. It is the most important aspect of their growing years. Play is the language they speak and through play, they speak a hundred words filled with joy. Children express themselves best when they are playing.
Benazir Shafaat Hussain is an expert in Remedial teaching, Individual education planning, psychological assessments and curriculum development. Before getting into special education, she was working as lecturer of Psychology at Diana Nursing College (Bangalore). Besides having Masters in Clinical Psychology from Bangalore University, she also did Diploma in Family Counseling, specialization in Family Counseling and certification course in Autism Spectrum disorders from UC Davis University. Currently, she is pursuing her research in Autism to study how we can improve the learning experiences in children with Autism. She also worked with Step by Step School, Noida.