mother children Children, Adolescents

 & the Family

Some Topics

Early Education and Play

Good parents want their children to succeed. They are competitive to a fault and seek every advantage they can afford. Since neuroscience has contributed ideas about brain development, some parents are focused on assisting brain growth in the children with toys, video games, and early education programs. Few pay attention to the food their children eat, even though food and physical activities are important determinants of brain development in the first five years.

Some parents do not appreciate the importance of quality home life and the basic features of nurturance that produce healthy, happy children. Loving parents who feed their children correctly and who interact the most with their children at home will have the best results. In Canada, about two thirds of mothers with children under six years of age work part time or full time. They delegate care of the children to professional caregivers and may feel better if daycare programs have educational content.

Unfortunately, daycare can be an expensive, negative experience for both children and their parents; it depends on the adults who run the daycare. A Berkeley-Stanford study of 14,162 children in kindergarten, reported that early child care suppressed children's social development, self-control, interpersonal skills, and motivation. The worst affected were children who attended learning centers before age 2. Children from poor families had a small benefit in language and math skills (8% higher than stay at home peers.) Children from the highest income families exhibited the most negative behaviors.

Gulli suggested:” Parents, it seems, should also be thinking about how they will be affected by putting their kids into early learning or daycare centers… parents are worse off since the child care program came into play. Mothers of children in daycare are more depressed than their average counterparts. More of them report hostile or "aversive interactions" with their kids. And there is a significant deterioration in marital relationships. None of this is good for children… the pressure parents put on kids reflect the pressure they feel themselves. “

Play Very Important Learning

I enjoy watching children play; they teach me about human tendencies and children are entertaining. Play is perhaps the most important learning experience that children have. Human children play together and practice skills. All learning is mimetic and children copy and practice adult behaviors in play.

Children's play contains a rich mixture of aerobics, theatre, fantasy, competition, cooperation, conflict, resolutions of conflict and talk. Play conversations are a mix of real language and non-linguistic sounds and gestures. Much of the sound-emitting behavior observed in conversations is old primate behavior. Chimpanzees could trade places with children and feel quite at home. Children at play, for example, interact with a continuous sequence of sounds as they run, jump, squat, push, pull, and hit. Some sounds they emit are single or double word commands. Brief phrases are uttered, usually shorter that 6 syllables. Shouts, shrieks, laughter and occasional cries or crying complete the cacophony of play. Like primate relatives, children will climb trees, swing from branches and make primate sounds.

There is no game, course or book that can rival spontaneous children's play for educational content. I believe that unstructured play with a minimum of toys is optimal for young children. Children at the beach will entertain themselves for hours, fascinated with sand, water, stones, and pieces of wood. They always want to move sand from one location to another, adding water. They have an instinct for ordering and constructing. Their order may consist of a few stones placed together. Older children will attempt to construct orderly arrays, such as a row of sticks placed from the shortest to the longest or alternating sticks and stones that suggest mathematical sets. Some children are more interested in creating order than others. A three year old, for example, wanted his brother (of about five years) to help him move some wet sand to his great construction higher on the beach, but his brother, wading out to sea, declined grandly, saying: "I don't want to play with you. It's boring."

Play is a social activity and children will explore all the variations for social interaction as they play. Sometimes they are wonderfully cooperative and considerate. At other times, battles break out and the play group explodes with shouts, tears and hostile remarks.

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  • Children and the Family by Stephen Gislason MD examines the intense interactions of parents and children. From Dr. G's preface:" Parents receive a lot of advice from many people. Popular magazines and books offer a continuous stream of conflicting advice. Professionals have a variety of opinions about child-rearing that range from helpful suggestions to misleading and even bizarre ideas. Child psychology is an eclectic assembly of ideas, miscellaneous observations, opinions, fears and irrational beliefs. Confusion prevails in education about what children should learn and how they should learn it. If psychologists, physicians, and educators are confused, what about parents? Parenting is difficult and long-term relationships sometimes fail. The best parents are pragmatic and not theorists. They stay involved with their children, follow some basic guidelines they learned and tend to do whatever works. Good parents improvise childcare with a combination of innate generosity, common sense, love and concessions to the demands of modern life."

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    Additional recommended reading includes the books
     Intelligence & Learning,  Language and Thinking  Feeding Children and the Alpha Nutrition Program

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