Early childhood care and education is rifled with interest as well as concern for both academic scholars and general public at large. In the social milieu of India, a child’s birth is prescient by parents deciding upon their preferences for playschools and public schools. This process is now ordained in the contemporary urban culture characterized by double income, nuclear families.
As universally understood, education is about creating a system that allows the child to grow in the desired state without holding him/her it within societal conventions, rules, ritualistic practices or mechanistic methods of pedagogy. As per Census 2011, India has more than 158.7 million children under the age of 8 years. The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby's development. A newborn's brain is about 25 percent of its approximate adult weight. But by age 3, it has grown dramatically. Hence, the thrust on acquiring learning in school is essential but family is the first social environment that the child experiences. This environment holds the key to several opportunities of learning and development for the child itself.
Few everyday possibilities are suggested here that parents can practice to help children get off to a good start and establish healthy patterns for life-long learning.
1. Babies produce lots of sounds and noises and one of the best ways to connect with them is to be imitative i.e., reciprocate similar sounds and noises to them. We may dismiss this as baby talk but these sounds are treated as conversations by children and they feel that they are being heard and acknowledged. As parents we just fostered the sense of personhood and self-identity in our child.
2. Use fun and creative ways to introduce your child to his or her environment: Everyday things at home can be used to teach children. For instance, tomato can be used to teach them color red. A glass of water can inform them about warm or cold temperature. Let the child meander through spaces and learn through curiosity.
3. Sing, dance and teach: Babies are energetic, so why not channelize it well? Singing and dancing tap into the sense organs of children which are uninhibited in early years. Jump joyfully, squeal with them, and use your hands or things like bottles, spoons, fruits, etc. to teach them numbers. Encourage them to explore, touch and feel everything they see and hold. This will also enhance their motor skills.
4. Let your child be the scientist: Children enjoy being strident by playing with objects, and see what happens while throwing them on each other. They may even hold a fly without feeling an ounce of fear. Let them be. Be around them to ensure they are safe but also allow them to explore at their leisure. Support them but do not finish the task for them. For instance, if your child is building blocks but the top block keeps falling because of wrong positioning, then patiently show the child what he or she may be missing and wait until they do it themselves. Their joy and confidence will be insurmountable when they successfully accomplish it. If they don’t put the block in the most appropriate manner, do not worry. It is fine! If the child is happy with what s/he has accomplished, as parents we should not be too fastidious. For now, perhaps it may be imperceptible to us. Ensure that the child finishes his task completely with unfettered guidance and support from you. This shows your child’s intellectual ability, creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
These are some of the creative and engaging ways that parents can use with children to explore their own natural world.
Written by: Ms. Sugandh Gupta