Early Childhood - Let's Not Waste It!
Early Childhood is a time of great growth and development. It is the foundation for building a successful future in school and in life. Young children are intensely curious and interested in the world around them. There is much that we, as teachers, parents and significant persons in the lives of these children, can do to enrich and enhance the development of the child to insure that they are the best that they can be now and throughout their life.
Ellen Galinsky, in her book, Mind in the Making, discusses the seven essential life skills that every child needs. She reinforces our knowledge that everything we do and say to children can be a powerful learning experience. We need to be mindful of this and “teach” and model those things that will benefit and enrich the developing human being in a rapidly changing world.
- Focus and Self Control- As adults, we know how distracted we can get when we are bombarded with “information”; i.e. on the internet, emails, TV, text messages and phone calls. As we multi-task, we are not truly giving our attention to any one thing. It is important for children (as it is for us) to truly learn to focus and block out what is not important at the time. Self control and inhibiting behavior is so important for young children and can be a real struggle for many. This skill is essential for children to pursue their academic and personal goals.
- Perspective Taking- How many adults do we know who are not able to look at a problem or situation from another’s point of view? In our “selfie” driven world, it sometimes seems that many may not be at all concerned with how others’ think and feel and how our behavior may impact others. This is more than empathy. It is truly understanding, or trying to understand, how others think and feel and why they do and say the tings that they do.
- Communication- Communication involves much more than just talking and listening. It involves modeling and non-verbal communication as well as thinking through what we wish to communicate. Young children are like sponges and “soak up” language and meaning. We need to provide them with “language rich” environments, strong vocabulary and thoughtful explanations.
- Making Connections- This is the foundation of learning. We need to connect what we are learning to other things that we have learned. In early childhood this starts as understanding that a picture can represent a real thing and in sorting, classifying, and putting things together in unique ways. Learning random facts that are seemingly irrelevant to a child’s world is not truly “learning.” We need to teach that information builds on prior knowledge and leads to new and more information, like a tree trunk with numerous branches. Facts that stand-alone carry no meaning and are not remembered.
- Critical Thinking- Children need to be able to evaluate information and to determine if something is true or false and if it fits into their ideas and beliefs. It is an important piece of learning and can be fostered at a young age.
- Taking on Challenges-Children need to feel competent and confidant in order to take on challenges and risks. A young child’s life can be filled with stress and some children handle this better than others. We need to help children manage and cope with stress and take steps that may cause stress at first but can lead to growth, learning, satisfaction and pleasure.
- Self Directed Engaged Learning- This is the ultimate goal for all children and adults. We need to model this for children showing them that motivation and learning will occur throughout one’s life.
Mind in the Making contains much information that is valuable to teachers and parents to help children with these life skills, which will ultimately result in productive, competent, full-filled life long learners.
This article is authored by Meg Rugg, MA and experienced Preschool Consultant, who is a member or the McCoy Educational Consulting, LLC team. Learn more about Meg in the 'About Us' section of our website.