According to a meta-analysis study conducted by Pritzker, 90% of brain development occurs in the first five years of a child’s life. During these years, there are over 700 new neural connections made per second. What does this mean? It means that early childhood education is 9 times more important than the later school years. We put such a strong emphasis on pursuing development later in life that will lead to good grades and prestigious universities as a recipe for success, when in fact, these things become nearly impossible without a solid groundwork.
This groundwork is early childhood development.
Preschool teachers are generally the most uneducated professionals in the education field. Why is this the case, when they are cradling the most essential development years of the next generation of leaders and creative minds?
Modern technologies can be great but they can also be detrimental to natural child development. Our high tech, fast paced culture has caused parents and teachers alike to take the easy way out. The early childhood years are thought of as an inconvenience and tossed aside for the sake of time management, work priorities, & entertainment.
Unfortunately, our ignorance has created a generation of children plagued with disabilities and delays like ADD, ADHD, SPD, ODD, Autism, Dyslexia, and a slew of other increasingly common disadvantages.
This has become the new norm.
As modern culture has taken over, natural child development has taken quite a hit. Children sit for hours in front of digital screens rather than exploring with their senses. They are spoken AT instead of TO by electronic voices everywhere. This handicaps them linguistically as well as socially. Placing young children in equipment for extended periods of time essentially “freezes” their gross motor development, pushing off these neural connections to a later time in which they should be developing another skill.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?!
Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses. Many of our favorite memories are associated with one or more of our senses: for instance, the smell of a summer night campfire or a song grandma taught you as you baked cookies. Now, when your nostrils and eardrums are stimulated with those familiar smells and sounds respectively, your brain triggers a flashback memory to those special times.
Cognitive: The most obvious cognitive skills sharpened by sensory play are problem solving and decision making. Simply present a child with a problem and various materials with which to find a solution, and you can almost see the connections their brains are making.
-Comparing size (big vs small)
-Counting and one-to-one correspondence (matching numbers to objects)
-Timing (Does water or oil move faster?)
-Matching (same sizes and shapes)
-Sorting and classifying (buttons, beans, or rice)
-Cause and effect (What happens when I add water to sand?)
-Gravity (water slides down a funnel, not up)
-States of matter (ice melts)
Without realizing it, children grow into amateur scientists by making predictions and observations, even developing analysis skills.
Linguistic: Children can’t define parts of language until they’ve experienced the true meaning of the word. The attempt to convey something without the proper words to do so can be frustrating! Sensory play encourages children to use descriptive and expressive language: slimy doesn’t mean much until you touch something slimy. Children will develop pre-writing skills as they pour, spoon, grasp, and work on eye-hand coordination tasks while using various materials.
Social and Emotional: Certain sensory play options like sensory tables allow children to be in complete control of their actions and experiences, which boosts their confidence in decision making and inspires their eagerness to learn and experiment. Sensory play can also teach kids about cooperation and collaboration. Not only do the children learn about perspective from cameras and mirror play, but they also learn to understand someone else’s viewpoint while working and playing side by side. The children also have the opportunity to express themselves and become confident in sharing their ideas with others.
Physical: Fine motor skills are often defined as the coordination of small muscle movement (usually hand-eye coordination), that enables us to perform a variety of important tasks. For children, these task might include tying shoes, zipping zippers, and even turning the pages of a book. Gross motor skills involve the larger muscles of the body and include activities such as walking, running, pushing, pulling, and throwing a ball.