Many parents start early in their efforts to turn their children into the next Marie Curie or Steve Jobs – well before high school or college. Given that the brains of children grow explosively and reach 90% of the adult volume by the time they’re in kindergarten, putting a lot of effort into early childhood makes sense.
But is there a way to help your child learn more and grow, while not pushing them so hard they resist or worse – stop trying?
“It's a classic American concern – how to accelerate learning. Many parents believe that if their children learn fast early, they will remain accelerated,” says Ross A. Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis. “But children learn best at a natural rate. Those who show early advances settle out by the time they reach grade school. Others catch up. The early years do matter. But lower circuits in the brain must be built before higher circuits, and advanced skills must be based on basic skills.”
Here are some ideas for supporting brain development.
Adopt new methods of learning
School is the “test site” for measuring and improving the intelligence of your child. However, traditional schooling may not up to snuff when it comes to the dynamic, information-overloaded years ahead that today’s kids are staring at, compounded by the radical change in teaching methods due to the pandemic. Granted, creativity and curiosity come naturally to them, but K-12 education doesn’t provide the street smarts and flexibility they’ll need when they’re adults.
Thankfully, teachers are adapting fast. As life limps back to normal after the COVID-19 lockdowns, teachers are using hybrid teaching methods, which are a synchronous mix of in-person instruction and remote learning in the same classroom. This involves the use of online videoconferencing tools such as Zoom and Webex, as well as interactive tools such as Google Jamboard and Google Slides, which enable students and teachers to interact and collaborate in a project-based learning environment.
Some schools and teachers are going one step ahead with Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is a framework to optimize teaching methods based on scientific research and insights into how individual or groups of kids learn.
The best part of UDL is that it enables teachers and parents to join forces to help kids take an inquiry-based learning approach that develops their critical thinking abilities and infuses creativity in problem solving.
Give kids access to online resources
Along with kids’ increasing use of smartphones and computers, there is also a rising movement to limit screen time.
Recent research has shown that computer time – in moderation – aids kids’ learning process and boosts their basic intelligence.
So, don’t worry – smartphones won’t dumb down your child! Smartphones are now an inseparable part of adult lives and kids will need them to an equal extent, if not more, as they grow up. While the jury is out about the effects of video games and animated series, there is a case for kids making controlled use of laptops and mobile phones for learning (and play-based learning). Here are some great websites – especially for young kids – that will get them into the groove, so to speak, for lifelong online learning:
- National Geographic Kids – Great videos and articles on animals, history, science, and space
- Wonderopolis – Answers to “Do nose pickers have a better immune system?” and other questions that smart kids ask
- Khan Academy – Resources and learning models for parents, teachers, and students
While these are just three, a simple Google search will turn up many more that are right for your children, their interests and preferences.
Coding and Robotics
Coding and robotics are all the rage today amongst parents who want their kids to “get ahead” in life. A Gallup survey found that over 90% of parents wanted coding to be taught in school. This wish is not unwarranted.
The benefits of coding are clear. Software developers earn over $100,000 a year, as attested by Bureau of Labor stats.
What’s more, the biggest companies of the day are information-based, giving rise to a general consensus that entrepreneurs should learn to code or have basic programming knowledge.
Again, you’d better catch kids young when it comes to coding. Obviously, online is where you go to learn programming – sites such as Scratch from MIT and Code.org are a couple of great places to start.
Don’t forget the “Three R’s”
Reading is one of the best predictors of success in school and life, so it’s best to start reading to your children from Day 1. At the fundamental level, reading stimulates their brains and builds a foundation for their life, knowledge, and career.
Here too, research shows that reading together with kids is instrumental in building their vocabulary, literacy, comprehension, and conversational skills. Make sure they have enough books in the house and also see youreading often, so that it becomes second nature to them.
Finally, spark kids’ interest in math by repeatedly pointing out the relevance and usefulness of numbers in everyday life. Simple questions such as asking them to divide pizza slices equally or mentally adding up the cost of things you buy at the supermarket will give them a “number sense” that lays the groundwork for strong problem solving and financial skills in their later years.
Shreiya Aggarwal-Gupta is the owner of the early education startup Kidpillar, which aims to provide developmental opportunities and resources for young children in the field of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) via kid-friendly journals, practical DIY-kits, and simple project-based learnings and workshops. Shreiya is also a passionate blogger, computer science engineer, finance whiz, and “perfect mommy” to her son.
A note from ThinkFun
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