LITTLE THINGS ABOUT LITTLE ONES
Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
Providing a loving and nurturing environment for our children is one of the most important things that we, as parents and caregivers, can do. A nurturing experience early in life may increase their IQ, it will almost certainly build their self-confidence, and it will often give them a head-start in school. But more important than all of these, it will cement the bond of love and respect between us and our little ones. Those who play together and so share exploration, discovery, laughter, sharing, fun and learning (for that is what play is) have a special bond of friendship. The glue of attachment that bonds the children to their caregivers is strengthened when we play together. Let's look at some interesting facts about our little ones:
The brains of our babies at birth are not fully formed. The areas associated with 'vegetative' activities, such as breathing, digestion and sleeping, are mature at birth, while those associated with thinking, reasoning and remembering develop in the early years of life. Practice makes perfect and that is certainly true for forming neurons (brain cells) as well as the behaviour these networks control.
It is true that too much stimulation is not conducive to learning, but on the other hand, neither is too little. Having fun and laughing raises our level of arousal without pushing us into the fear zone, and so does being exposed to a moderate amount of novelty. For this reason, games which may seem silly as well as surprising variations on old themes help to put children into the optimal learning zone.
We know that using a particular part of the brain encourages its development ? for example, areas of the brain associated with finger? tip touch are larger in blind people who read using Braille than in blind people who have never learned Braille ? so stretching a child's working memory capacity (as these tasks do) can only be beneficial.
It is seen that children who are exposed to rhyme in preschool years have fewer problems learning to read, and this is particularly true for children who have a propensity for dyslexia. Dyslexia tends to run in families and causes difficulty in reading, although it is often accompanied by problems with spelling. One symptom of dyslexia is difficulty in hearing a rhyme. Rhyming practice in the preschool years can reduce later problems.
Research shows that adults can keep about seven things 'in mind', whereas small children can only keep one or two. This is why they speak in short sentences and find it hard to compare things in more than one dimension. For example, they can categorize by colour or shape, not by colour and shape. Describing and discovery activities help to stretch their capabilities.
Almost from the moment our babies are born, they will start to acquire social skills, and these skills grow and mature as they do, particularly as our toddlers begin to play alongside other children. It is usually at around the age of three ? often coinciding with the time they start to attend a nursery or a playgroup ? that our children will really begin to make friends of their own. We can help our children to become someone whom other children like. Firstly, we need to develop their confidence by talking and listening to them in a way that shows we really value what they are saying. Secondly, we need to teach them good manners- knowing when and how to say 'please' and 'thank you', and how to share or wait for their turn shows consideration for other people. This kind of politeness also helps children to feel safe and relaxed with each other.
The areas of the brain associated with short?term memory are among the last to mature. Small children find it difficult to keep track of the sequence of events. This difficulty is because of the hippocampus? the area of the brain that processes such information? is the last to develop. Stories help, and making sure our children are involved in the stories is a great idea.
We just need to take a look around and we'll see how much we depend on labels and signs every day. We need them on tins and packets to tell us what's inside, on shops to show us what's for sale and on the roadside to give instructions and tell us where we're going. Signs are everywhere, and learning to decode them is part of growing up, so we have to help our children develop that skill.
Syllable and word-shape recognition lead to reading. Many toys and games help our children to hear the little sounds that make up words and to recognize letters by their shape? both of which are necessary skills for reading. When children can put the two tasks together, they will be ready to spell out letters and blend the sounds to form words.
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org