One thing that has become evident during the recent epidemic is that parents are on their own as far as their children’s education is concerned. In reality education has always been the parents’ responsibility; but without the help of the classroom teacher for their child, parents are finding the problems of education insurmountable. This is true, especially when both parents work.
Parents have concerns and they should have. Research indicates children are already falling months behind. Virtual learning (online) does not work for many children. It is also a new way of learning for many teachers, and makes it even more difficult for them to interact with the individual student.
Parents need to be aware that the most vulnerable child, and the one that could easily be forgotten in a family of several children, is the child between the ages of 0-6. This is the period of time that a child’s brain is the most open for learning. The foundation for all future learning is laid during this crucial period. This is a critical time for learning. These early years are a natural once-in-a-lifetime “window of learning opportunity” that, once closed, is lost forever. For your preschooler, kindergartener, and first graders, the damage done during this period is irreversible. This does not mean that your child can’t learn in later years, but it means he/she could be left with learning difficulties. It also cannot be emphasized enough how important this period of time is for children with any type of learning disability. Many learning disabilities can be corrected during this period.
Coming soon – My Experience Teaching an Autistic Child
Donna Blevins has been a life-long educator. She has taught both on the elementary and secondary level and has often been a guest speaker to educational graduate students on the topic of curricula for the early years. For the past 30 years, she researched and developed the nationally recognized program Be Smart Kids which addresses early brain development. Thousands of students across the nation have benefited from Be Smart Kids.
By the age of three, much of the child’s brain growth and density is complete. What started as a relatively small number of connections now number in the trillions. By the end of this period, the critical periods for some skills such as speech begin to close, so vocabulary building is very important. At the end of this stage, brain patterns for music begin to develop. By the age of three, the neurological network that will guide a child’s development is already well established; however, it does not mean that learning for the young child is over.
For a parent of caregiver it is important to remember to interact with your child daily with love, praise, play, conversation song and discipline. Discipline is a huge factor during this period of development. We have all heard of the “Terrible Twos”.
Here are tips to enhance your child’s intellectual development from age 2 to 3.
- Find a scheduled time to read to your child every day. Choose books with big pictures, sturdy pages, and simple story lines. Remember, most children have short-attention spans during this period.
- A child will be improving her knowledge of words and sentence structure during this period. Let her hear the correct word order, but don’t demand that she imitate you. For example, if she says “mote juice,” say, “Jane wants more juice.”
- Encourage him to identify noises. “Do you hear that dog barking?”
- Let the child help with chores. “Let’s pick up all our toys and put them in the toy box. Can you bring blue bear and put him in the box?” She’ll love helping with laundry. “Let’s count all the socks as we put them in the washing machine—1, 2, 3, 4, 5.” Math development is very important during this stage too.
- Add new information to what a child is saying. “Yes, that’s a blanket, a soft, warm blanket.” Children wire through experiences, so take time to let him feel that the blanket is soft and warm.
- Give your toddler clear and simple choices. “Do you want to wear the blue or green socks? Do you want milk or juice?”
- Know how to handle a temper tantrum.
- Don’t yell or hit the child,
- Remain calm,
- Talking in soothing tones,
- Being consistent, having a schedule, setting limits, and providing limited choices are very important.
- Development of creative expressive is very important during this stage. Provide newspaper, flattened grocery sacks, and commuter scraps for drawing and painting. Provide plenty of praise for his accomplishments.
- Give your child the opportunity to learn about cause and effect by giving her many opportunities to fill, dump, collect, gather, give, hide, and seek. Toddlers love messy play. Encourage sand, mud, clay, and water play.
- Provide space where your toddler can spend time alone. An old cardboard box or a blanket over a card table works great.
- Provide safe outlets for physical activity and space exploration like small steps, boxes, barrels, tires, pulling and pushing toys, and ride-on and ride-in toys.
- Don’t forget play between the two of you. Fun and bonding between the two of you is very important to learning. Songs like “Old MacDonald” explain sequences. Songs and rhymes are very important to the development of vocabulary and language.
- Don’t pressure your child to be right or left-handed. A few two-year-olds will begin to show a preference for one hand, but many will continue to use both hands for a year or two.
The Be Smart Kids Learning program develops these skills for 2 to 3-year-olds:
language development, speech development, vocabulary, math & logic, spatial/visual skills, fine motor skills, social & emotional skills, reasoning skills, creative expression, attention span, sign language, Spanish, character-building, and a love for learning.
With the exception of sight, most of the critical periods of human brain development are open during this stage. At no other time in a person’s life is the brain more receptive and responsive to its environment. During this time and over the next two years, many of the neurological foundations that govern a lifetime of skills and potential will be determined. In other words, how a child learns and processes information for the rest of his/her life is going to be determined.
“Wow, you might say, this puts a tremendous burden on me. I’m no teacher or scientist. I want to do the best for my child, but I’m not sure I’m capable.” I say to you that virtually every parent is capable, and it takes very little of your time to enhance your child’s intellectual development.
As human beings, we instinctively know what to do to advance intelligence and have down through the ages. Parents have interacted with their baby with love, praise, play, conversation, and song as far back as we know. Today, with all of our science and educational research, we know these things are still basic. However, over the last 3 decades, we have learned many simple things that we can work into our everyday life that will enhance the child’s intellectual development.
Remember that it is very important to provide a positive learning environment because children develop their brain through experiences. Bad negative experiences can badly damage a child’s learning ability.
Below are a few tips to enhance your child’s intellectual development.
- Enhance the child’s language development by being a chatty, always explaining mom/caregiver. Talk, talk, talk, and then talk some more. “This is your red ball. This is your yellow duck. We’re going to wear our red dress and red socks today. You will look so pretty.” Not only will your child learn to identify things but will learn colors as naturally as she learns to talk.
- Provide appropriate, simple picture books. I prefer books that have a simple picture and a word description (picture of cat with word “cat” in big letters).
- Many parents are aware of the importance of language development, but are not as aware of the importance of math during this critical period. When bathing your child, you can count the fingers on his hand. “Let’s count our fingers. We have 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 on this hand and … on this hand.” You can count the toys in his play area. “Let’s pick up our toys. We have one yellow duck, blue bear makes two, and black cat makes three.” Young children can develop math skills as naturally as they can the language skills.
- Have fun with a variety of music, games (peek-a-boo, roll a ball back and forth), and rhythms. These fun things can develop so many things like language, vocabulary, math, music, attention span, spatial/visual skills, and social/emotional skills. The greatest gift is the bonding between adult and child. This has a tremendous impact on a child’s learning.
- Allow your child to explore his surroundings. Do not keep your child penned-up in a swing or playpen all the time. It is important that he has time by himself to explore. Corner off a larger safe area for her. Put together an “everyday junk box” of items to feel, poke, and squeeze. You might have measuring cups of different sizes, pans, spoons, cups, tissue paper, egg cartons, shoe box, and favorite toys.
- Around 18 months, a child may get anxious and clinging about being separated from parents and caregivers. This behavior is normal. If possible, minimize separations and stick to consistent routines.
Donna D. Blevins, Founder of Be Smart Kids
Be Smart Kids is a system of 30-minute weekly lesson plans for children, ages 1-6, that enhances the intellectual development of children. (See research)
The critical window for sight was primarily established in the first 6 months. The critical windows for brain development from 6 to 12 months of age are speech and emotional development, although these two areas began in the first 6 months. Language capacity grows tremendously during this period, and this is a good time to introduce the natural sounds of other languages.
As a parent you only have to remember five words in order to enhance these two areas. They are love, praise, sing, read, and play. Below are listed some tips for enhancing the building blocks for speech and emotional development for future learning.
- Provide plenty of love and care (hold , cuddle, kiss). Affectionate touch is especially important during the early months. Being held and cuddled frequently is extremely important in the development of a baby’s sense of self-worth and security.
- Talk constantly with your child. It will build vocabulary, develop patterns for learning language, and help create a special bond between parent and child. Face infants when talking to them so they can see and smile with you. Talk about what you are doing, familiar objects, or people. You may even want to babble back or echo sounds your baby makes much as you would in a regular conservation. Even though an infant cannot understand everything you say, he will be learning many words that will form the basis for language later on.
- Read aloud to your child during the day. Establish some specific routines such as reading after meals or bedtime. Telling the same stories and singing the same songs over and over may feel boring to you, but not to your child. Children learn through repetition, repetition, repetition. This principle applies to more than language.
- Play music; sing for and with your child. Have fun.
- Play with your child. Get down on the floor to meet her at her level. Play peek-a-boo and other games such as hiding something out of sight and finding it.
- Provide opportunities for your child to explore his or her environment. Do not keep him caged in a playpen or swing. Provide a bigger safe space for him to explore. Children will learn by doing. That is how they learn best. Older infants need space and time to practice crawling, creeping, pulling up, and walking.
- Praise your child; build self-esteem. When a child master the challenges of everyday life, she feels good about herself, especially when you acknowledge her accomplishments with specific praise. “Wow!” “You’re standing!” “Yea!” Clap to show your enthusiasm.
- Listen and respond to your child. Give your child your undivided attention. It will make him a secure and confident learner. You will not spoil a child by responding to his needs.
Since the 1990 there has been a massive amount of research that confirms a child’s early years are critical to his intellectual development. “Windows of opportunity” have been identified as particular time periods in which a child can best learn or enhance particular skills or even correct learning deficiencies. One thing everyone agrees on is the early years have a tremendous impact on how a child learns and processes information the rest of his life.
As parents and caregivers, your earliest interactions with the child have an influence on her brain development. You may not be aware, but many of the things to enhance brain development you do instinctively as loving parents. However, there may be things that are critical in which you are totally unaware. It is very important for you to educate yourself on the critical stages of brain development because the “windows of opportunity” are so short and once closed are closed forever.
The first stage of development is from BIRTH TO 6 MONTHS. Brain growth during this period is unmatched. The most critical windows during this stage are vision, hearing, language, and emotional development. It is important to pay attention to vision and emotions during this period because the windows shut so early. For example, certain eye problems not corrected in the first six months can cause permanent impairment.
Donna Blevins, Teacher & Founder of Be Smart Kids
The Be Smart Kids Process was built to address the various stages of brain development.
It is critically important for every parent to know that the early years are the most important learning years in their child’s life. It is a time that determines how a child learns and processes information for the rest of her life.
Here is how it works! Your child is born with 100 billion neurons in the brain. When the neurons fire often enough, a permanent connection is made. This is what scientist call “hard-wiring the brain.” The more connections become permanent, the more work the brain can do. But, this window of opportunity is brief. The brain operates on a “use it or lose it” basis. As harsh as the news may seem, if deprived of early positive experiences, the child can intellectually struggle for the rest of his live.
This does not mean that your child cannot learn in later years. However, these early years have already determined how your child will learn and to what degree. This is a critical time, a window of opportunity, to give your child the boost she will need to do well in life. The best time for learning begins early and last a lifetime.
There is plenty of evidence to support the benefits of early learning and the effect it has on learning and emotional stability. An example is the Rumania babies that were tied to their baby beds in orphanages. They lived in filthy conditions and received no stimulation. Later research confirmed that even the children who were in these places for less than a year were found to have emotional problems (being very aggressive) and learning disabilities.
It is extremely important for parents to become knowledgeable about the stages of critical brain development and the simple things they can do to insure a positive impact on their child’s emotional development, learning skills and how they function later in live.
In the next blog, I will be discussing the 1st stage of critical brain development, birth to 6 months.
Donna Blevins, Founder of Be Smart Kids
Donna Blevins has been researching and developing her early brain development educational product since 1991. See research at www.besmartkids.com.
Most early brain development disorders now come under an umbrella called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One in every 68 children is said to have some form of it. These disorders are more prevalent in boys (1 in 44).
It is critical that the parent/teacher begins an intervention program with these children immediately. The earlier you begin the more success you will have. Too often parents send so much time with doctors and tests that this incredible “window of opportunity” to take corrective measures is missed.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
How do children learn? Scientist and educators tells us how children learn and process information for the rest of their lives depends on how we stimulate their brains in the early years, ages 0- 5. When we stimulate the brain of the young child and the neurons fire often enough, a permanent connection is formed. Connections used regularly become stronger and more complex. Connections not used are pruned away. The brain is built on a “use it or lose it” basis especially in the early years. The more connections, the more work the brain can do. It is called hard-wiring the brain. These early years are the greatest learning potential of a person’s life and the foundation of all future learning.
Over the last 20 years, we have taught children who had various degrees of Autism at the Be Smart Kids Center. They were not drilled. They only received the lesson once a week for 30 minutes. I remember one case in which I am extremely proud. He had just turned 3 when he came to me in 1998. I always say that he taught me more than I taught him. He had no speech except for whining, had glazed over eyes with no interaction to any other person, walked on his tiptoes bringing his feet up very high when he walked, and did a lot of flapping with his arms. He would sometimes put his hands over his ears and scream. I would think time and again that he would not be able to accomplish something but I kept going. He proved me wrong in every instance. This child graduated number one in his high school and is now attending college.
The same process that I used is available to you. The Be Smart Kids Learning Process has instructions and tutorials for each weekly lesson. It is important that you do the computer-based product because the interaction between the computer, adult, and child will produce the best results.