Children fascinate me. They always have and probably always will. I never tire of watching them. Their innate curiosity and drive to make sense of their world is proof of how well equipped they are when they come to us. Fortunate for us, we do not have to instill in them a desire to move, communicate, problem solve, and adapt. Parenthood would take on a whole new dimension if that responsiblity fell in our laps!
At no other time in life do we approach new experiences and opportunites for learning with such gusto and determination. The infant brain is almost complete at birth. As a matter of fact, many brain cells are pruned in the first years because they are not used or needed. Infants are learning not only the skills needed for survival and function; they are learning about relationships. Each hug, kiss or act of affection or love shapes the brain and "builds" the hardware with which the infant interprets life. Babies who are deprived or neglected approach the world with fear and hyperviligence. Babies who are loved and exposed to many opportunities for exploration see the world as a safe place where good things will happen.
The bottom line is this - the most important achievement in the first years is attachment to a caring adult who loves you, meets your needs, and keeps you safe. Without that learning is difficult, if not impossible. It's really quite simple. The good news is that poor parents can parent as well as rich. Things are not that important, but relationships are. If you want the brightest kid on the block, make him or her the most loved kid on the block. I love this truth.
So, what else do babies learn in the first years? Maybe I can illustrate by showing what Bailey learned in her 15 minute walk today.
Flowers are pretty and smell good.
Going fast is fun!
Cars make lots of noise!
Rocks are heavy and don't taste too good.
Bark isn't very interesting.
Walking is a fast way of getting around!
Riding in my new wagon is fun.
Hi Grandma! I know you.
People love me.
I can climb a step.
A step can pose a problem!
So, my message is - forget the flash cards and the classes. Go for a walk. Remember that children have a fresh, unfilterd view of the world. Everything is new and everything is game. In one hour of play they pretty much cover their math, science, language, physics, and kinesthetic courses for the day. And, they do it with a pure joy of learning. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do the same?