NURTURING EARLY CHILDHOOD

  • Blog By
    Sumita Sen Mazumdar
    Principal – Erode KG Campus
    The Indian Public School – Erode.
    August, 18 2023 | In Blog

The first few years of life in childhood significantly influence subsequent physical and mental conditioning of the human being. Physiologically, 90% of the brain develops the most in the time before birth and in the span of the early years. The brain will continue to mature during adulthood, but it is the kindergarten years that build the foundation for all intellectual capacities and physical wellbeing. Development at this stage includes physical, emotional, language and the ability to acquire learning when exposed to suitable stimuli. There is accelerated brain development in the early years due to the child’s ability of natural acquisition and integration of skills.

Nurturing care for the child’s mind and body is necessary to facilitate appropriate development of the brain. The right care and positive environment can ensure that the child reaches their full potential.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES

A child is born prepared to learn from the immediate environment. They develop language, numeracy and various everyday skills. To become independent in self-care and communication, they observe and replicate actions of parents, caregivers, those in their surroundings. Therefore, the child’s experiences of the world through the people and things around them affects brain development. A nurturing environment, where children feel safe, secure, with no perceived stressors and ample opportunities to explore their innate natural curiosity through play is the one that will promote the best brain growth.

At school, facilitators can support this accelerated brain development of the early years child through the prepared classroom learning environment, providing a healthy mix of different kinds of stimuli. The variety of activities is equally important as the type of activity itself to break monotony and ensure age-appropriate acquisition. While not impossible at home, it is still a big challenge given the multiple kinds of hands-on setup needed for the process to happen naturally, without force, without the child feeling the burden of “having to learn up something.”

Where English is not the mother tongue, but still the first language in school, children learn best through lots of listening and speaking activities, stories, songs, movement and language integrated activities such as those typically done in TIPS kindergarten. Once language and communication has a firm base, other areas of learning and development tend to follow relatively smoothly. Any exposure to stress or trauma is seen to have a long-term negative impact on a child’s brain affecting their future experiences and takeaways from such. An early years educational environment, to be fruitful, should be one that is accepted by the child as a consistently safe and stable environment with adequate nurturing and stimulating resources.

DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES FOR AGE GROUPS PLAYGROUP TO KG 2 AND NURTURING THESE

For toddlers in the PLAYGROUP age, milestones include showing a desire to explore things around them independently, walking with bilateral coordination, smiling in response or waving Hi/Bye, recognizing names of familiar people, places or objects, using naming words or action words/simple phrases, following simple 1 to 2 step instructions, etc. Some nurturing practices to facilitate such milestones –

  • Circle time language development activities
  • Hunting objects of a certain name or description/pointing out parts of the body
  • Sorting and matching, simple puzzles.
  • Encouraging children to safely explore and try new things such as nature walks around campus, identifying sights and sounds of the visible road from within the school compound.
  • Encourage independence by taking care of their belongings or starting to feed themselves.
  • More of positive reinforcement of desired behaviour. Less of punishing for unwanted behaviour.
  • Free play outdoors and indoors.

For preschoolers in the PRE-KG age group, SVO pattern of communication (subject-verb-object), taking turns, pretend play, kicking a ball, jumping, running, or balancing, graces and courtesy, following 2 to 3 step directions, expressing emotions are some of the typical milestones.

Some nurturing practices include:

  • Safe-space circle time language development activities
  • Exercises of practical life tasks
  • Role play
  • Nature walks and field trips.
  • Positive reinforcement for good behaviour and acceptable ways to show “difficult” emotions.
  • Free play and risky play

For the 3 to 5 age group, children typically become more independent and ask many questions about the world around them. They begin to model behaviour based on their interactions with family and adults around them. They can recall stories in parts, sing songs, dress or eat independently, etc.

Nurturing practices for this age group include –

  • Circle time language development activities with consistent new vocabulary addition including everyday “grownup” words
  • Encouraging independent reading and then writing.
  • Tasks involving exercises of practical life activities.
  • Encouraging cooperative play with other children.
  • Clear and consistent approach while disciplining. Explaining and demonstrating the behaviour that is expected from them. To discourage negative behaviour patterns, supplement the “no” with expected behaviour in the situation. Helping children through the steps needed to solve a problem when they are upset.
  • Giving children simple choices in their learning process or other decisions involving playtime, everyday tasks, activities, etc.
  • Strengthening and refining gross motor development through ample movement opportunities

Nurturing the early childhood years rather than force-directing has more far-reaching benefits for every developmental domain in the child’s subsequent years to come.

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