The importance of diversity in education for our kids

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Nathaniel colors a flower illustration in the book.

Since each child has different level of needs, interests, and ways of learning, there must be a school that offers a variety of educational approaches. It is about creating a system that, instead of trying to fit young children into some standardized school, has a school to fit every child in the community where they belong. The same thing should best apply to teachers as well as, actually and in fact, there’s no single best school for every teacher.

The fact that human beings are so extraordinarily diverse, it has become increasingly important for every community to develop such a differing program which, in turn, frees up teachers to facilitate this process as well. Teachers are empowered when they’re allowed to try new things, meet new needs, and so on and so forth. In the case with young children with divergent learning styles or special needs, such an approach would be the key in building diversity into the system, allowing a school system to be responsive to different needs, on the part of both teachers and kids.

But what if such a method is not yet available in the community where these children live? If that’s the case, then it’s the parents’ initiative to fill in the void for that matter. It is important for parents to know of the fact that getting an education is not limited to what was being taught in schools alone, but what one would be learning outside of it as well. Each child must be taught in a case to case basis, being that parents are the ones who know very well the every little facet of their kids’ personality.

In fact, the notion that the school could be hermitically sealed and could do it without the parents is an illusion. Education should be a system that empowers individuals, where there are no unworthy seekers of knowledge, and that parents play a significant role in which they could forge ties in their children’s schools.

In what way schools could really make kids smarter

SCHOOLSIt has been said that the most important attribute that schools can give students is the ability to learn on their own. Kids could learn in different kinds of setting and, in that sense, learning has become something they could see from both sides of the desk. Schools should be a place where everyone expects kids to do well.

A real emerging challenge, though, is on how to get kids of today to learn so much even by just sitting and listening. Sure, schools could make smart kids but it depends on their ability to deal with the growing need to build a culture that promotes academic distinction while, at the same time, trying to teach everyone. Here are few pointers in which schools should be doing to make kids smarter:

CREATIVE USE OF TIME

It’s a fact that there are fast learners and slow learners. One effective way in making it possible for slow learners to move along with their peers is through creative use of time and combining it with techniques such as cooperative learning. Schools should make effective use of time in the service of better learning.

CREATING A GENUINE EDUCATIONAL GOAL

The goal is something that would describe what these young learners need to know. Then, after finally figuring it out, a test or series of tests must be developed, based on that goal, that measure knowledge and skills. Traditional preoccupation with process and inputs must be abandoned and that schools focus, instead, on results.

With this method, schools are tasked to respect diversity and in rewarding the ability of students who could generate answers on their own, not merely repeating the information they have soaked up like sponges. Authentic test is designed just so students could show off in no matter what way comes most naturally to them and that’s what’s important. It should, therefore, encourage teaching to the test.

CREATING A PSYCHOLOGICAL SECURITY

This is very important. Teachers should be most knowledgeable about child development in the first place. Teachers should very well know about its importance and the way they’re going to support that in school.

Teachers and administrators in schools should agree to the fact that learning, in itself, involves more than just native ability. It must be noted also that success in school is not a product of anything but of overall development which was made possible to some extent by a child’s ability in internalizing the values and ways of significant adults. Schools should be a place where people understood children’s developmental needs.

LEARNING ORIENTED, NOT TEACHING-ORIENTED

Teachers should know the right questions to ask. Teachers should have the answers, but to the point that they must not control the questions as well. It is about shifting from teaching to learning in which the teacher becomes the manager of instruction, facilitator, coach, and one who creates the proper learning context aimed at helping the student in taking responsibility for his own learning.

In other words, teachers should not be presenters of information but managers of instruction. They should be functioning as teams of professionals that share ideas and communicate frequently. Students, on the other hand, should be learning both on their own and in flexible groups and should be playing an active role in their own learning.

COOPERATIVE LEARNING

Someone once said that “cooperation is the basic phenomenon that distinguishes our species.” It should be understood as the underpinning for everything. Cooperation means students collaborate in a common environment where they can share their talents and skills in a way that benefits everyone.

PARENT’S INVOLVEMENT

There should be parents’ involvement in schools wherein they would be given time and opportunity for an open forum with teachers concerning their kids. When there is an open communication between parents and teachers, kids could only benefit a lot from it in a positive way.

A child’s education should begin at least one hundred years before he was born

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Nathaniel silently reads a book.

You may find the title of this article quite intriguing, but it was a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, a nineteenth century American poet, medical doctor, lecturer, professor, and author. Educating a child who was yet to be born one hundred years into the future may sound most improbable to many people. How could that ever be possible?

Trying to understand, in my own way, what the quote has to imply, I came up with something I need to ask myself in the first place: what does it take or mean to educate the whole child? I had to live by the fact that the way I brought up my own child today would have a significant impact on the kind of education my future great grandchildren would be getting or introduced to one hundred years hence. So one hundred years hence might be something quite different for my great grandchildren, and it should start from me.

A child gets his first education at home, directly from his parents and from the other people in his life closest to him. The lessons a child learns from this experience will serve as a compass to guide him for the rest of his life. A civilized society is the direct result of empowered, well-informed families.

It is through the family, universally considered and accepted as the basic unit of society and as the nucleus of civilizations, that the blueprint for communities and governments are modeled. Meaning to say, if we want to have a community where there is less crime and less poverty, a school that truly educates or impacts people positively, a stronger church that truly promotes morality and the spiritual capacity of a person in general, we have to empower or build stronger families first. Stronger families mean stronger societies.

Holmes most probably believed or suggested that the kind of education you would like for the next generation to have or acquire starts today, right now, with you. Child education, for the most part, lies in the way families are treating their own children and that could pass on from one generation to another. Education is a continuous, never ending process so that one keeps on learning, learning, and learning.

There’s quite a little difference between educating a child and to provide him with some schooling. Education is, in my humble opinion, the bringing up to the highest level the experiences, facts, and thoughts and ideas gained by a person over a lifetime. That’s what learning is all for and about. Schooling is, on the other hand, the formal part by which learning is gained with a hope of making you a functional person.

While one may be gaining a great deal of education from getting schooled, yet there is more to education than what academic learning can do and offer, than what was being taught in schools. An educated person is someone who understands human nature and knows how to establish, improve, and maintain relationships with other people regardless of race, gender, creed, and status in life. He becomes a well-rounded, analytical person that actively participates in the world around him.

Next to the family, schools play a very important role in educating the young minds of a particular society. Teachers and parents should collaborate in finding specific qualities they felt an education should seek to develop in their kids. Teachers and students should be interacting as whole persons. A school should be treated as a whole community.

How to make eating time a learning time for your child

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Nathaniel enjoys eating meals with his parents.

Eating time is the best learning time for each child of every family. Sitting down to dinner as a family every night of the week, interacting in a positive way, is essential to producing healthy kids as they grow up. Eating meals together is one way to help families build cohesion.

It’s a way in which kids are given the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and for parents as well to have the chance teaching values and to encourage independent thinking. It’s like an arena, as if being especially provided for such a purpose, for family discussions.

But did you know that it should start right on the child’s birth? From birth to six months of age, when the baby should be exclusively breastfed ten to twelve times a day, or as often as he or she wants, for around fifteen minutes on each breast at each feeding, you can start telling to your infant what you’re doing to him or her even if he or she can’t still understand what you’re saying. Breast milk alone is sufficient enough to contain all the nutrients he or she needs in his or her first six months of life, and so is your talking to him or her can help nourish his or her emotional and mental capabilities.

When your baby reaches his or her sixth month, you could start introducing complementary foods to satisfy his or her nutritional needs. You can give your baby adequate amount rice porridge with added oil or from any of the following variety of foods: flaked fish, mashed potato or sweet potato, vegetables, and monggo; egg yolk; chopped meat or chicken; and fruits like avocado, banana, and mango. You can give these foods one or two times/servings per day after breastfeeding, gradually increasing to three times/servings or more per day.

Eating time can be used as a means to promote learning for your baby or child. Make sure that the baby or child is comfortable in his or her position in the chair, and the entire setting is relaxing and neat. The following are some tips on how to make eating time a learning time for your baby or child:

TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT HOW TO TELL THE TEST OF THE FOOD

Effective communication is vital to learning. If nothing is transmitted due to lack of communication, no new information will be generated. You can start introducing to your child a certain food, and then tell or explain to him or her what that particular taste is all about.

LET YOUR CHILD TOUCH AND PICK UP THE FOOD

It must be known that young children are too curious beings, so that whatever it is that catches their attention or stimulate their senses, they would really be doing their best to find out. Allowing your child to touch and pick up the food is one way of giving him/her the opportunity to study the food and for him or her to familiarize it.

SHOW YOUR CHILD SOME THINGS THAT ARE SMALL AND SOME THINGS THAT ARE BIG

Comparisons and differentiations are ways in which your child’s learning, at such a foundational stage, is further stimulated. Showing him or her things that are different from the other, he or she will eventually enhance his or her choosing skills. He or she will know why this particular thing is different from the other and why he or she must choose a particular object, which he thinks is the best one, from the rest.

NAME THE UTENSILS, FOODS, AND COLORS

You need to be your child’s first teacher. It is your job to teach your child what he or she needs to know. Remember, you’re building your child’s foundation of learning what no schools or institutions could substitute.

How the brain forms itself before the baby is born and how it continues to create itself after birth

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The baby’s brain can become increasingly effective at doing what his immediate environment demands.

A baby is born with not less than one hundred billion nerve cells or neurons which is about the same number as the number of stars in the Milky Way. These neurons will then form themselves into circuits that are laid down in patterns as instructed from genes. The formed circuits are unstable and immutable, which means they can be changed.

The genes provide the very framework of the brain. But yet, it is one’s experiences in life that will direct its final construction. The human brain has three structures and these are the reptilian base atop the spinal cord which is responsible for the control of autonomic actions. The other one is the limbic system from which feelings arise and the last one is the cortex which involves thinking, intuition, and all other cognitive processes.

Parents may find the first few months of life to be especially obscure. You can never tell what’s happening inside the infant. You have to be cued just so you can see what’s stirring behind the surface of your baby’s infantile self. As a parent, more often than not, you had no idea how much physiological and psychological distance your own baby is covering in just a few short months.

Neuroscientists have a lot to say about how the brain forms itself before the baby is born. It was proven that the human brain is self-contained and isolated; it is evolving independent of its context. It can be likened to a social organ that evolves only through continues interaction with its environment.

After your baby’s birth, his brain explodes with trillions more connections between neurons than he can use. The brain is hedging its bets and is taking no chances on not having a connection that it will turn out to need. The long journey through childhood is one of attrition.

As to which of the circuits to get maintained and strengthened and which atrophy and die, will be determined in the childhood years. The brain has a self-organizing mechanism that can govern such functions as hearing, seeing, speaking, and moving. As the child reaches ten years old, about half of these connections will be gone and he will have about the number of connections he will keep throughout his life.

The first three years of life is crucially important as it is during these years that the brain’s self-creation primarily occurs. How the brain develops is dependent on the kind and the quality of the connections the baby is experiencing. Literally speaking, the brain is created in relationship.

How the brain evolves and what it becomes is dependent upon the quality of its context. A baby who grows up in a deprived environment can only have fewer connections to develop while, on the other hand, babies who grew up in an appropriately stimulating environment can grow brains that are filled with healthy connections and patterns. The baby’s brain can become increasingly effective at doing what his immediate environment demands.

Talking about the brain’s plasticity, it helps to enable it to use the outside world in creating itself. Brain’s plasticity, by the way, is the ability of the brain to change its physical and chemical structure responsively while interacting with the environment. You need to be especially vigilant and responsible in ways that can provide appropriate stimulation in such a time when the cues from your young child are the hardest to read.

Five ways to help encourage your child’s language development

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Nathaniel stares down, from the second floor of a McDonalds building, at the crowd of people crossing the street. He was two years old when this picture was taken.

Attempting to learn a language can be very difficult and it takes a considerable amount of time for anyone to become fluent on it. But not with babies though, as they come equipped with a phenomenal ability to learn a language with fluency in just about the span of three years. Yes, that’s a fact, and they can do it with even very little practice and almost no conscious thought required.

But how did they do it? Babies learn it directly from their parents whom they looked upon as models. Parents play a very important role in a baby’s development including the area of language development. Here are five ways in which parents can help encourage their children’s language development:

AVOID BABY TALKING TO YOUR BABY

It is not advisable to use baby talk as a way of communicating to your baby. There are times they come naturally and unavoidable, but try cutting such a habit as much as you can and as much as possible. Babies are wonderful decoders so that whatever you say, he understands very well the tone of your voice, the facial expression, and any gestures you might be using.

Aside from being wonderful decoders, children are great imitators as well. When a baby reaches one year old, he or she is capable enough to understand the words and intonations so that he or she can figure out exactly what you are telling him or her. Baby talking to them is to shut the opportunity about giving them a chance to learn the correct sentence structure.

READING BOOKS TO YOUR CHILD

It is one of the best of ways to expose him or her to words and concepts. Your baby’s auditory processing skills play a central role in his or her ability to learn, enjoy, and effectively use language. Reading aloud to your baby is one way of giving him or her some of life’s greatest gifts.

Reading aloud, when done on a daily basis, can enrich your child’s vocabulary that’s responsible for the expansion of the mind. It will also allow him or her to acquire knowledge of everything about books and all that can be learned from them. It becomes a source of motivation and love of reading that will lead to a happy, successful life.

TALK TO HIM OR HER ABOUT JUST EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING

This simple method will give your child a chance to pair words with concepts. Sure, he or she may not be able to understand all the words at first but you’re on your way to giving your child such a great exposure to the world he or she deserves to have. When you’re brushing your teeth, for example, and your pre-toddler is intently watching, explain to him what you are doing and why you are doing it. He or she may not be able to understand everything you said but you are laying a broad foundation for the future.

ELABORATE WHAT YOUR CHILD IS SAYING

By the time your baby starts speaking, try to expand the conversation by elaborating on what he or she is saying. Like, for example, when you’re holding a book in your hands and he says, “Open book.” You should respond by saying, “Yes, I am going to open this book so I can read you a nice story.” You are doing this not only to recognize what your child was saying but to give him the correct form of a full sentence.

BE CONFIDENT AND TAKE TIME TO RELAX

Take time to relax and be confident as your child learns a language in spite of anything you do or think you have done to inhibit it. Do not worry if your child is a month or two late attaining any given level for language development as children mature at different rates. What you need is time, patience, and encouragement to achieve success for that matter.

Why is reading aloud to your baby so important

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Nathaniel joins his mother in reciting a prayer in a booklet. He was two years and five months old when this picture was taken.

According to a study, babies can benefit a lot from a daily dose of read-aloud session or activity. Let me say it again with emphasis on the word “daily” which means it must be made a habit or a routine. Spending time to read aloud to your baby every single day can have significant impact on his emotional, sensory, physical, and mental development.

Parents have a very crucial role to play in laying the building blocks that form their child’s language and literacy foundation. A baby’s brain is equipped with everything that is capable of absorbing enormous amounts of information. New technologies are making it more possible for us to experience the incredible wonders of human infant development starting from prenatal stage.

Scientists have found new evidence that a seemingly passive baby is, when it comes to brain activity, more active than adults. They have also stressed the fact about the importance of the first two years of a baby’s life as the most critical for his future language development. The following are the benefits a baby can get from parents who make it a habit reading aloud to their toddlers:

IT PROMOTES LISTENING SKILLS

Despite the fact that each language is unique or different, babies from all over the world quickly learn and become experts of their mother tongue. This was made possible through the power of listening. It is a critical skill in the formation of language.

One of the most basic survival instincts for all life forms is communication. It is advisable that parents should start talking to their baby even before his or her birth and also after that most especially in the first three years of life. Parents will surely notice how intently newborn babies listen.

IT INCREASES THE NUMBER OF VOCABULARY WORDS

Parents have a significant role to play in providing the quantity and quality of language necessary for their child’s academic success. In talking to your babies, it is recommended that you have to use more complex language that includes a variety of verbs, adjectives, and nouns. Asking your child questions is also encouraged and to follow his or her lead by talking about whatever he or she is saying or babbling to further expand the conversation.

IT DEVELOPS ATTENTION SPAN AND MEMORY

Reading aloud to your babies each passing day is the best way to help develop attention and memory. There is a strong connection in the ability of a child to pay attention and to remember. The logic to that is simple: you can’t remember what you don’t pay attention for in the first place.

A baby’s brain is more than capable of concentrating intensely, searching and scanning everything he or she comes in contact with in order to get information and meaning. If this special ability of a child to pay attention is left undeveloped or not nurtured from day one, you are teaching your child just the opposite of it which is all about having a divided attention. Child experts said that at around eighteen months to two years, your baby is already capable of remembering all the words in a book after only a few readings.

How would you know if your child has a learning difficulty

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Learning difficulty is like a distorted television picture caused by technical problems at the station.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics that, for one to have a better understanding on how it’s like to have a learning difficulty, learning difficulty among children can be likened to “a distorted television picture caused by technical problems at the station. There is nothing wrong with the TV camera at the station or the TV set in your home. Something in the internal workings of the TV station prevents it from presenting a good picture.”

Why I tackled this topic was simple: I wanted to help parents who have this kind of problem with their children. Remember that I, too, am a parent although I don’t encounter learning difficulties with my three-year old son that other parents have been experiencing for their own children. Let me tell you that learning difficulty is reversible, as long as there is willingness on the part of the parents to do something about it.

Children with learning difficulties appear to be just like any normal kids around. They can see and hear just fine and have no problem socializing with other children. But, as what the American Pediatrics Society said, “the problem occurs in the brain after the eyes and ears have done their job.”

There’s no single surefire formula of treating children with a learning difficulty but, as what I’ve said earlier, it is reversible which means there are ways you can help them cope with it. And who would have thought that the phenomenal genius in the person of Albert Einstein suffered learning difficulties with arithmetic as a child. It only proves that learning difficulties can be fixed. You may start trying to apply the following methods, but it’s still best and advisable that you consult professionals or experts of this field in the first place:

  • Observe your child if he or she is showing signs of having difficulty learning with even the most simple of tasks given. Once you found out that your suspicion is right, that your child is having difficulty learning over a particular thing or two, don’t jump up quickly to the conclusion that he or she may have a brain disorder as well. It may be just that he or she is merely lacking the background or the training to handle the situation or task.
  • You can talk to your child’s teacher, when your child is already started schooling when you start to suspect something about the learning difficulties he might have had, to see if the teacher thinks there’s a need for special testing concerning him.
  • Always look for activities that will benefit your children like, for example, helping them create or make different sizes of paper boxes or paper planes and make them as colorful and as creative as you can. This method may help stimulate your children’s learning capability and as a way to address the problem in its earliest stage.
  • Consult your pediatrician and discuss the problem with him or her. They are professionals in that field and they sure know what to do about it. You can start promoting the spirit of cooperation by working together with your pediatrician. After all, it’s for your child’s own good.

Why traditional storytelling is still a matter of the utmost importance

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Nathaniel may have inherited what has been my passion for reading as shown in this picture when he was only a little over two years old.

Traditional storytelling has been lost in the midst of transition with the introduction of new technologies that replaced the traditional means and ways. New inventions made it all possible by making works easier, faster, and more efficient. But not with traditional storytelling though, as it continues to stand its ground proving why some things are best left alone.

A scientific study has been conducted and came up with a conclusion that one of the determining factors for future academic success of a baby is in the amount of words per hour per babies to hear before the age of two. The baby’s first exposure to language begins at birth, and so with his reading and writing skills as well. Every word you say and read to your baby can generate something that results to brain growth.

Every time you read and re-read a book, your baby’s brain, like a sponge, absorbs all the information it can to form the foundation of what will be his lifelong literacy. It is important to note that words are the basis of literacy which is the ability of an individual to read and write. In that sense, every word you say to your baby in his earliest stage of development is the food for his brain.

Traditional storytelling is important because it builds relationships and closer connections among children, parents, extended family members, and friends and acquaintances. It also contributes a lot to cultural literacy. Cultural literacy, by the way, is about knowing and understanding the past and the present.

Cultural literacy can have a positive impact in young children as it helps them understand and appreciate the shared heritage, institutions, and values that unite people together as a nation. It also helps them to read more fluently and with greater understanding, and in gaining new knowledge and to put that knowledge into its proper perspective. In other words, it helps children to feel they are a part of something bigger than their own selves.

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

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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.

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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

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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.