INFO QUEST #2
How Do Children Learn?
Everyone learns in a different way. Some people learn visually, and some people need to be hands-on; however, young children all learn the same way. They may learn at a different pace, but that all depends on how well or how fast their brain is developing. In order to figure out how a child learns, one must understand the brain development in the child.
Children begin to learn as soon as they are born. Their brain develops by getting help from their five senses—smell, hearing, vision, touch, and taste. "The scent of mother's skin, the father's voice, seeing a face or brightly colored toy, the feel of a hand gently caressing, drinking milk." (Bright Beginnings #4) The five senses help the baby's brain build connections. This makes it easier later on in life because the brain learns the most when they are young. The brain development is influenced by everything that goes on around the baby. They learn from mimicking everything else that goes on around them and this allows the child to "develop the abilities to crawl, speak, eat, laugh, and walk." (Bright Beginnings #4) Everything that happens to the child when he or she is a baby, impacts the brain development in such a huge way. It is not just the baby that is growing, but it is the brain that is also growing. Not only does the baby need nourishment and attention, but the baby's brain needs it, as well. The early childhood experiences affect the child's brain development.
The early childhood experiences wires the brain. "At birth, most of its [baby's brain] 100 billion neurons are not yet connected in networks." (Brain Development) This means that the child begins learning as soon as they enter the world. "…Activity, experience, attachment, and stimulation determine the structure of the brain." (Brain Development) The baby needs a lot of love and a lot of attention in order for the brain to development properly and up to speed. The five senses play a huge role in helping the baby learn. While adults use their five senses every day and use them a lot, babies depend on their five senses in order to figure out what is going on around them, but if they do not get what they need, it is hard for them to use their senses. They need to be able to recognize their mother's soft gaze; they need to be able to realize the big, tall man speaking is their father. They need nurturing in order to know who their mother and father is. This is because the brain needs love in order to grow function correctly. This makes so the brain develops healthily. "Early care and nurture have a decisive, long-lasting impact on how people develop, their ability to learn and their capacity to regulate their own emotions." (Brain Development)
A mother can give all the love and attention their child needs and deserves, but how do they know that is it enough? There are a few ways to enhance the brain development in young children. One of the ways to enhance the brain development is to have a safe and secure environment. One way to do that is when a child cries out, respond warmly and quickly. An infant cannot express his or her moods, needs, or wants by speaking. They cry and use body language. "Babies might cry shrilly if they need a diaper change, an infant may look away when done playing, or toddlers might hold up their arms to be picked up." (Bright Beginnings #5) No matter what the cry sounds like, you must learn to be aware of the child's signals, respond quickly, be gentle, and try to give the right response. Another way to have a safe and secure environment is to hold and cuddle with the baby. "Touch is an infant's lifeline to security, attachment and reassurance." (Bright Beginnings #5) If the baby does not receive enough physical strokes of a family member, the brain and baby will cease to develop healthily because they miss out on the affection that they so long for and deserve. A mother should also beware of over stimulating the child. "Some parents are so concerned with a child's brain development that they buy expensive educational toys, videos, computers, and language tapes. Too many new experiences or too much stimulation can cause stress and hinder and child's development." (Bright Beginnings #5) Children should have the freedom to open their mind and explore on their own. A child probably feels stressed if he or she cries, turns away, or gets frustrated.
One more way to enhance the brain development in a young child is to have an enriched learning environment. "An enriched learning environment is the second cornerstone of a child's brain development in infancy and childhood." (Bright Beginnings #5) This opens so many new windows for the baby and helps them get a feel for things around them. One way you can have an enriched learning environment is to talk, play, laugh, or sing to the child. Once they hear a language so many times, they'll get the idea and attempt to speak. Soon they will be able to say little things and then be able to talk. Another way to have an enriched learning environment is to challenge the child. "Young children learn most efficiently when they're provided with some opportunities to work slightly above their current ability with the assistance of an adult." (Bright Beginnings #5) An example would be allowing the child to walk towards you while holding onto the coffee table. Soon, they will be encouraged and confident enough to take their first steps toward you without holding onto anything. This also means that the child should have an "interesting variety of brain-building activities and experiences on a regular basis." (Bright Beginnings #5) The child should be allowed to turn the page of the book while their mother reads to them, or they should be allowed to stroke the cat or dog. While their mother feeds them, they should still be allowed to hold onto the spoon or fork and grasp it firmly in their hands. The child can also roll a ball on the floor. Not only would it be a hands-on activity for the child, but he or she will also receive quality time with the parent.
There are more than enough things that you can do to enhance the development of the child's brain. However, there are a few effects that are able to hinder the baby's brain, as well. While there are some things that can hinder the development, there are ways to protect the child from these effects. These ways are, "Alcohol and tobacco, breast-feeding, avoiding solvents, reducing risks from building materials, construction and furnishings, from household products, from chemicals that accumulate in food, from lead, and from pesticides." (Brainy Child) If a mother wants to keep their child out of harm's way from drugs and alcohol, the only way to prevent it is if the mother does not drink, smoke, or be around others who smoke while she is pregnant. Also, while breast-feeding actually does more good than harm, it is contaminated with environmental chemicals. This is why breast-feeding should not last longer than a year. Avoiding solvents means that if a women loves to paint, she should stay completely away while she is pregnant and breast-feeding because then the child will be exposed to solvents. Expecting parents should also avoid having their home remodeled. The toxic fumes and the dust will certainly delay the development. As for cleaning the house, use less toxic or nontoxic cleaning supplies. During pregnancy, the woman should eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat, dairy, fish, and poultry. This will decrease the chances of chemicals obstructing the baby's brain development. A child should go to their doctor to be tested for exposure of lead and to rid of pesticides, the mother should use nontoxic pesticide spray.
Just because there are a lot of ways a baby's brain development can be delayed, does not mean that the development will never be proper. A mother should always be aware of what she is around while pregnant and breast-feeding, the parents should always make sure that they're home is a safe, comfortable, and fun environment for the child. The child should receive a lot of attention, love, and nurture as well interaction will family and friends and active play time. If the child obtains all of this, then the brain will develop accurately and effectively.
Bright Beginnings #4. April 2005. North Dakota State University. October 24, 2011. .
"Brain Development." Multnomah County Library. May 2010. October 24, 2011. .
Bright Beginnings #5. July 2005. North Dakota State University. October 24, 2011. .
Brainy Child. October 24, 2011.