The brain develops best when a child has a variety of optimal emotional, physical, cognitive, and social experiences at appropriate times. Brain development is not enhanced through pushing children to learn more at earlier ages.
The term, “developmentally appropriate” is used in the field of education by professionals that understand that we need to provide learning in the way a child will benefit most. When adults decide children should learn something at an earlier age, this is not in best interest of children.
It seems that for some, the term “early brain development” has come to mean, “push young children to learn more at earlier ages”. It is not advantageous for anyone when we push children. Due to scientific research, we now have the advantage of understanding more than we ever have about how the brain develops. We need to take advantage of this knowledge.
We do not feed a newborn solid foods, we don’t expect a 4 month old to give himself a bath, we don’t expect an 8 month old to tie her shoes, we don’t expect a one year old to jump rope. We do not have these expectations because we know children are not physically ready for those tasks at these ages. It is critical to use all we know when it comes to emotional and cognitive development also.We can not afford to ignore this information any longer.
This article, Picture Books Still Do Work for Kids, gives a perfect example. It states that children are being pushed to read chapter books too early. In the article Dr. Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation states;
"If a parent pushes a child through their developmental stages too quickly, the child often ends up frustrated and behind later on," she said. "What's sadder is that they miss out on something they can never get back -- their childhood."
Together we can help everyone learn how to provide optimal experiences for children’s brains to develop in healthy ways. Let’s ensure every child has the love, safety, nutrition, play, sleep, understanding, and appropriate learning experiences they need!