The experiences your child has during their first years are fundamental in forming the person they will become. And when it comes to offering them the most promising start to their school days, the experiences you are offering are far more important than making sure they know their letters or can count to 20.
How are you preparing your child to succeed when they start school?
Your child’s early years are a critical and highly sensitive period of development and rapid growth. You will be familiar with analogies of “little sponges” soaking everything up around them. And this is indeed a precious time, that no amount of future interventions can make up for.
But far from cramming sessions with flashcards or workbooks to complete your child needs quality experiences
If they are going to do well once faced with all the demands of a school classroom, they need to have developed some executive level functioning. Because without it, no matter how many languages they speak or advanced trigonometry they know, they are going to struggle.
Your child has not been born with this – but they have been born with the potential to develop it
Executive functions, such as cognitive flexibility, working memory and self-control will allow your child to manage with all the demands of the school classroom. When the lesson changes and their thinking needs to adapt; when they are asked to hold a thought in their head long enough to act on it; and all with the ability to control their more impulsive responses.
This means they can easily go from listening to a teacher at the whiteboard, to practicing their letters at their desk; when asked to go to their draw, get their workbook out and take it to their desk, they can still remember what they need to do when they get there; and they can do it all without jabbing a friend in the ribs or running off and playing.
Rooted in the opportunities you are giving them throughout their early childhood
You can support your child in developing these executive functions with these three simple activities to help them become aware of their thinking.
- Cognitive Flexibility Talk to them about how they behave differently in different situations. Compare home with grandmas, or how routines change at the weekends.
- Working Memory Give them tasks to perform, increasing in number as their ability grows; “Go upstairs, put your pyjamas on and choose a story”
- Self-control Give them opportunities to resist their initial impulse, perhaps with the cake on the table that is for after dinner. Or taking turns with a favoured activity.
These functions are crucial to a successful start at school. But more than this, when they have not been well established, big problems can follow. Your child may be assumed to have a lack of ability, to not be interested, or to have attention difficulties. Meaning a misdiagnosis could follow, or genuine additional needs for support could be overlooked.
So, give your child every opportunity to succeed.
This article 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
DEVELOPING EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL