Take care not to lose your child’s eager attempts at learning

During their early months and years it is so important that you take care not to lose your child’s eager attempts at learning. You may not recognise these for what they are.  Or be misguided into thinking that your actions are encouraging them to learn.  But if we are not careful, we can derail a child’s early attempts at learning by not recognising or valuing their efforts.  Or by not seeing them for what they are. 

Your child has been equipped with everything they need to learn since before they are born.  These natural features of Lifelong Learning are present in every child, it is how we have survived as a species.  But they do need validating, encouraging and nurturing during these early days.  And they will be looking to you for guidance and confirmation of their actions.  Yep – that was why they pulled your plant over… again! 

With a knowledge and understanding, support and guide your child as their features of Lifelong Learning flourish

However, if a child is denied opportunities to explore, then their instinctive urges to know and understand will become limited.  If their endeavours are devalued or continuously interrupted, they will learn that these attempts are not worth their efforts.  Equally, if they become over stimulated or overwhelmed, they will be quick to retreat, no longer able to function well. 

Luckily, young children are very good at demonstrating when the experiences you are offering are unmatched to their needs.  So, tune in to their body language and responses and learn what they are trying to tell you.

Children learn “just in time” more than “just in case”

We tend to think of our children as developing through milestones.  While the timing may vary, they are hitting steps of development in the same basic ways and in a pre-determined order.  However, it is truer to say that necessity is the mother of invention.  Your child is learning what they have an interest in.  And a need for. 

If there was never a need to communicate, if no one spoke to them, would they bother putting in the effort?  And if their curious attempts at knowing and understanding are repeatedly met with discouragement – how long before they stop completely?  If you want your child to grow up curious and motivated to learn, give them things to be curious about.  With experiences that reward their efforts.

Children are so keen to accumulate rich experiences because they are such a rich method of learning 

Ideas become strengthened and enforced or challenged and dismissed through every sensory experience you give your child.  With every experience stimulating their neurological development.  This is most effective when multiple senses are combined, so consider this in the toys you offer them.  And avoid plastic in favour of authentic, multisensory, unexpected and interesting. 

Children need to engage in enriching experiences.  But there is NO evidence that “super enrichment” leads to “super development”

So, don’t be swayed by toys promising any of this, they are totally unnecessary.  Instead, simply think of the experiences you are offering for your child to engage with their world.  How interesting is another plastic toy to hold?  How about feathers or segments of an orange?  What are they looking at right now?  How about if they were laying under a tree to watch the movement of the leaves in the wind? 

And all the while, be aware of what they are communicating to you as you connect with their leaning and enjoy this wonderful journey of discovery together.

This session is taken from our course: The Learning Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.   www.nurturingchildhoods.co.uk

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