What’s the fuss about Early Years?
The Early Years (0-8 yrs) are incredibly important. The way children are born, programmed to learn, is fascinating, and this first stage in brain development last from 0-7yrs approx. (Between 6-8 yrs according to much research, with most cultures and child pyschologists noting the next stage in life from around 7).
It’s particularly important to match children’s learning and needs in this stage, as we have a bizarre situation in UK and it’s colonial countries, which means formal schooling starts earlier than most parts of the world (it related to being able to get their parents into factories during industrialisation of Britain). This causes many problems for our children according to neuroscientists, researchers and psychologists. Recognised by many in Education and Health, it remains the system our children have to face.
The more we offer new experiences, and talk about them with our tiny children – the better. By the time they start Nursery the most critical stages have already taken place. The learning doesn’t stop, and children are embraced into the Curriculum for Excellence, but gaps may have developed. So how do we make sure we support our younger children in the ways they need and continue to help them the best ways we can?
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy
Sing! Read Stories and poems, make up stories, get outside, climb, roll around, pick up sticks, paint stones, build anything and everything, draw together, laugh, hug – lots, pay attention to them, create memories, bake, roll and shape play-dough, make the playdough. Invent games, nursery rhymes, count flowers, be in nature – lots and lots of it. Walk up hills, over stones and tree roots, wriggle, let children do what they are programmed to do from babyhood (move, reach, mimic, twist and turn, babble, express feelings, touch, taste), explore, jigsaw puzzles, crafts and art that help children make sense of the world around them, and listen to them. A lot! Play board games, make mini obstacle courses, learn to ride a balance bike, loose parts play is heaven for children and light on pockets for adults too, believe in them and show it…let them get bored and invent. Encourage perseverance but don’t ignore frustration, help them turn that into something good. Don’t expect miniature adults – they can’t process everything like adults….they are children who are learning about their world and they won’t stop being children / adolescents until their mid 20s. LOADS of time….so give them time.
PLAY….every single chance they can. And as they grow through stages, remember they need time with other kids, different ages and time to choose for themselves (Free play) as it is never healthy to have adults supervising everything. (In fact, it’s harmful).
Children never stop needing to play – nor do adults. Play is essential for our mental, physical and emotional health, relationships, imagination, problem-solving, creativity and design, initiative. It creates collaboration, team-work and resilience. Failure is supported as an experience and a root to success.
Experiential learning is behind Dirt is Good campaign…..children need to experience things to make real sense of them, and when they do – they grow in understanding and knowledge. They further their curiosity by testing their ideas and hypothesis, by discovering what creates success (the outcome they want) and discover how to link experiences and learning. Learning to trust yourself in ‘finding things out’ is very important for development.
There is another thing we can do for our children in their Early Years. If you notice your child is not developing social skills, or language, or communication, or fine motor control, or any other issue. Ask to speak to early years practitioner, teacher / head teacher (Named Person for 5+ as well as Head of Learning). Speak to your Health Visitor (Named Person Birth to 5). Many different stages happen within these early years – and so there is great support there to listen. Share your observation and concerns or questions early. Observation can be more clearly planned in the Nursery / class settings and clarity can be achieved. The earlier intervention can take place for a special need of any kind (temporary or an ongoing / life condition), the better the outcome for our children. It is never silly to bring up a concern.