Simple ways of encouraging early learning from day 1
From The Learning Child set of talks and materials
Your child will be experience everything new as fascinating, from the moment they are born. From a new face, to feeling the breeze on their cheek for the first time. From every expensive new toy to (more likely) the box it came in. So, within an array of possibilities, what should you be offering to stimulate your growing baby?
Encouraging early learning means offering different kinds of stimulation to engage with
As you think of supporting your child’s development, there are three key concepts you need to remember. Children are essentially experiential learners; they learn best through their senses; and two much – or too little – stimulation will see their learning essentially shut down.
Step One – Your child is learning by experiencing
While manufacturers would have you believe that children can learn by watching something on a screen, we all need to experience something to really learn by it. So, give your child real learning opportunities. And as you do so, let them choose, manipulate and combine items. Give them opportunities to explore their curiosities, actively engaging with the people and environments around them. And let them explore their spatial dimensions through their movements. As well as experiencing cause and effect as they throw things from the pushchair, or splash in the bath, unafraid of making mistakes.
Step Two – Your child is experiencing through their senses
In every experience, consider what your child is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. What are they doing with their bodies as you engage their senses of body control? When you look at their toys, do they tick many of these boxes, or would you be better off with an orange, some leeks and a pineapple. How about when you change a nappy, or give them a bottle? What about in the pushchair, or on the drive into town?
Step Three – Over – or under – stimulated, and your child’s learning will shut down
When it comes to stimulation, you can have too much of a good thing. And the best person to judge when this is the case, is them. So let your child set the pace within accessible and encouraging environments. Allow them opportunities to act on impulse, as they trial their ideas and grow with confidence. Let them wallow in whole body experiences, unrestricted by routines or distractions when you can. While you stay close by, and alert to the obvious signs that the environment is failing to stimulate them, or that they have had too much.
As you look at your child through these lenses, you will recognise their complete concentration
When your child becomes absorbed in a new experience, you will see the effects of their minds and bodies developing at rapid rates. As your focus becomes helping them to experience, you will be encouraging not only deep-felt early learning, but also what it means to try to learn. Rather than mastering the contents of any programme or set of flashcards, And together, you will recognise every experience you share as a step on the monumental journey they are on.
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