Archive for November, 2013

Put Down Your Device and Raise Up Your Child

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by ctpadmin

Have you been guilty of spending time on your device rather than interacting with someone in person?  I have. Usually I have a good reason.  When I am with my husband – we have a question and I try to find the answer on the Internet.  Sometimes when we are in the car I use the time to get business done so it won’t be so overwhelming when we get home (no I don’t email or text while I drive!)

However, if I had young children at home I would have to reevaluate my digital life.

  • What example am I setting?
  • Am I distracted?
  • What or who is important?   images

There is a great deal of talk about creativity, thinking skills, reading and writing skills.  I believe as the educators of the next generation, we need to prepare our children with the ability to think independently and be creative.  When they are young, we need to give them the building blocks to be thinkers.  I believe that those blocks are literal. We need to give both boys and girls alike the opportunity to build with blocks, clay or Legos; work with tangrams; make music and sing songs (folk songs, or their own creations); color, create their own pictures and stores; dress dolls; create hideouts; play inside and outside with others and by themselves.

How is this affecting their future?  It is giving them real time opportunities to become independent and also collaborative workers.  Play is the work of a child.  By giving them technology at an early age we are already limiting and defining the scope of their thinking.  Children need to use their bodies to develop both gross motor and fine motor skills.  As they get older they will be able to put those real life, physical experiences to work and technology will become their servant.

One example I share with you is of a former piano student.  Nathan studied music as a very young child (4 or 5).  At about 6 he began in a piano class and, much to the chagrin of both me and his parents, he didn’t like many of the activities (playing games and dancing) and refused to participate.  After some disciplinary procedures by his parents, he reluctantly participated.  Now Nathan, 19, when asked what his favorite recreation is, says playing the piano!  If he had not had the early physical experience he might still like creating music on the computer which he does very well, but there wouldn’t be the depth of understanding that he now has.  Although engineering is his major in college I have no doubt that he will pursue a music history or theory class – maybe even both- and will, apply it to his music.  All because he had a real life experience with music at an early age!

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Here are a few steps to creating an environment to grow creative and independent thinkers –

  • Limit screen time (computer, TV, video games, etc)
  • Encourage outside play time every dayProvide blocks, Legos, musical instruments, paper, pencils, crayons, paints, sewing materials (age appropriate of course), clay, and more.    lego-clip-art-7
  • Provide items such as pots and pans, cardboard boxes, straws, paper cups,
  • Provide music, art, dance,  gymnastic, swim lessons
  • Ask open ended questions about the child’s creations
  • Most of all talk to your child

I encourage you to revel in the development of creative, independent thinkers.  They may be the next YoYo Ma, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Hemingway, Baryshnikov, Renoir, Steve Jobs, or Albert Einstein.  I urge you to treasure the human potential you hold in your hands not the digital device.

If this has stimulated your thinking, you might find http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/ways-screens-are-ruining-your-familys-life_n_3860927.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Education

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Developing Strong Brains in Young Children

Posted on: November 4th, 2013 by ctpadmin

Recently, during my reading, I stumbled upon a report from Harvard (http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/interactive_features/five-numbers/) which got me to thinking about why John and I are involved in Early Childhood Education and what we can bring to these children in our care.

Exploring a baby pumpkin

Exploring a baby pumpkin

Who are children’s educators?

  • Parents
  • TV
  • Siblings
  • Internet
  • Friends
  • Childcare providers
  • Extended family
  • Grandparents
  • Recordings

What does this mean?  We need to monitor those things to which our children are exposed.  Is it appropriate?  Is it too simple?  Is it creating opportunities for creative thinking? Is it quality (rich language, beautiful images, glorious sounds with complexities, does it present problems to be solved, are there gimmicks, what will the child learn)?

Many years ago in a music education class I was presented with an image that has stuck with me for many years.  The professor presented a challenge that can be applied in many aspects of a child’s growth.  If you only have 15 hours a year to teach music to your classes, what are you going to use as materials for those children?  Will you use folk songs rich in melodic and harmonic content that teach our heritage, or songs like “One bottle pop, two bottles pop…”  Would you use Muzak for listening or would you expose them to the complexity of Bach, the wonder of Mozart, or the pathos of Beethoven?  Would you expose their creativity to the ability to “hear” a story through program music like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or The Grand Canyon Suite or would you simply put on music of “Nature sounds”?  If you were teaching literature in a limited time, would you give kids a comic book, or a classic?

We believe strongly that children must be stimulated as part of their education, beginning at birth. What does this mean? The above mentioned Harvard study states that during “the first few years of life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second.”  (Emphasis mine). These connections are the way we all build a strong brain that is used for learning, behavior and health as we develop.  The denser these neural connections are, the stronger the brain.

In infants and toddlers we can begin creating these rich, dense neural connections through:

Reading with infants

Reading with infants

  • Interaction with adults
  • Talking and singing
  • Moving
  • Presenting interesting shapes and other visual stimulation
  • Using rich vocabulary and big words
  • Explaining what we are doing with our interactions with the child
  • Allowing them to explore and fail
  • Presenting opportunities to succeed in difficult tasks
  • Asking open ended questions

Not long ago, I was observing a parent with their child.  The child was building with blocks and the parent would say, “Did you build a house?  You should put the smaller block on top of a larger block…”  All the interaction was the parent naming what she thought the child should be doing.  Maybe the child was really trying to build a swimming pool, not a house. The only way a child will really learn that if he is going to build a tower that is very high, the base probably should be larger than the top.  By having the structure topple several times, and reconfiguring it, the child will learn from experience rather than being told how to do it.  A better approach might be to ask the child to explain what they were building.  Allowing the child to fail is a great learning experience.

As you search for early learning opportunities for your child, please think about the ways in which you are able to stimulate their brains to make those dense neural connections for an excellent foundation to serve them through life.