How stimulus and experience shapes young children’s landscape of learning

nathaniel_walks
Movement is integral to learning. In this picture, Nathaniel walks his way out to wherever he likes going.

Since day one, a young child encounters new things every single day. The way he responds to a stimulus and the experience formed out of this new encounter is vital to the ability of his brain to adapt to such a demand.  Every time that something new is learned, change takes place at some parts of his brain.

Experts in child psychology consider the first five years of life as the time when development and learning is at its greatest. Toddlers respond to a stimulus better during this stage than what most adults can in their primes. Stimulation and experience shapes young children’s landscape of learning.

Children’s sensitivity to anything that triggers the senses is very high. His central nervous system, comprising the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and the nerves, could never be more active and functioning fully well than at any particular point of his life. How the stimulus enters the receptors, travels through the spinal cord and to the brain for interpretation is a work designed by a genius.

Once the brain reacts to an outsider, neurons weave a network of many extensions called dendrites. It is during this important brain activity of a human being that neurons are able to communicate with many other neurons. New pathways are formed as the number of connections in the brain increase.

As the child reacts to things he encountered for the first time, his brain automatically molds the network of intermediate neurons into a desired shape. The more stimulation and experience a child has, the better his learning becomes. Such a process stimulates growth of dendrites between neurons in the brain.

nathaniel_fitsahat
Trying to fit a hat, Nathaniel wants himself photographed for it.

As one grows older, this ability of the brain to form new pathways and adapt to the environment will be reduced. That is why it is more difficult for an adult person to learn to speak a foreign language, for example, like a native than a child who grew up learning that language even if that is not his mother tongue. A newborn baby is already capable of learning new things as manifested by his basic movements like yawning, crying, and giggling.

USE IT OR LOSE IT

Anyone who wants to learn something new must use what his brain is functioning for or else he loses the opportunity learning the things he ought to. Doing so requires movement considering that the human body is designed to move. There is a strong connection happening between the mind and body, so intimately connected that the body relies much on how the brain reacts to a stimulus and interprets it.

This interaction between the thought and movement is vital to the increase in neuronal connections of the brain responsible for developing more pathways. If such a process is repeated all over again, learning occurs. As a result of that, the memory, understanding, and muscular control of the subject also improve.

THE POWER OF LISTENING

Listening is a critical skill in the formation of what a child may learn from a particular thing. You may not be aware of it, but your baby has already begun listening to you while he was still in the womb. That is why most pediatricians suggest about pregnant women to talk to their babies during the whole pregnancy time.

A newborn baby has a fairly well developed hearing ability except in the case with children having auditory defects from birth. By the time a toddler learns how to talk, although with only just very few words to start with, it is a good thing to assume he understands far more words than he can initially speak.  Toddlers learn vocabulary directly from their parents first and the other important people around them.

Babies and toddlers can only learn and understand vocabulary from actually hearing the words spoken to them. That is why the traditional way of reading books in front of your child helps him a lot in learning new words as well as to understand the meaning of those words. How wonderful it is to find out that such simple acts of reading stories before your kids every single day reap so many benefits for them.

THE EIGHT INTELLIGENCES

nathaniel_drinks
That cold drink quenched his thirst.

According to Howard Garner, the one who developed the theory of multiple intelligences, intelligence can be classified in eight different ways. These are the linguistic, spatial, musical, interpersonal, naturalist, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, and logical-mathematical. There are people who are gifted with two or more intelligences they can dominate upon.

It was theorized though that all people possess the eight intelligences in varying degrees and can learn best, out of the full spectrum of activities and experiences, when operating in their areas of concern. All infants, toddlers, and young children are tactile-kinesthetic learners. It means they learn by moving until they shift towards learning best from what they see, or can be both.

SUMMING IT ALL UP

Studies have shown that by birth, an infant’s brain comprises only about twenty five percent of its adult weight. It will reach fifty percent of its adult weight by six months, and ninety percent upon reaching five years old as it continues to be refined throughout life. In that sense, the first five years of life are crucially important to learning.

Children who grow up with developmental problems are the direct results of lack of sufficient attention and stimulation while still in their earliest stage of development. These are the orphaned, abused, and neglected children. On the other hand, children who are well taken care of from the very beginning, exposed to a wide range of sensory experiences, and a good deal of human interaction, are the ones to most likely thrive.

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