Thursday, 30 January 2014

How Do Our Children Grow?

The key to learning in baby and childhood is exploring and discovering and challenging and copying and segueing without fear or concern.  I am sure most, if not all, would agree that this makes sense and is there or thereabouts correct.

If I said children should be allowed to play all day – many would start to disagree- even if you agree with an open ended philosophy – with freedom of choice- disagreement might come through actions rather than words.  “Sit quietly while you eat” “Form a line before we go..” “All sit on your bottoms please” are all forms of regular control.

I recently visited a nursery where the manager wanted fences in the garden to stop children mixing together as the big ones might hurt the babies... It is easier to control our children than allow them to explore and grow appropriate actions with appropriate resources and activities. 

Play is, I believe, the foundation of brain development, with nutrition, exercise and mental stimulation being the building blocks.  And play is an action not an activity – there is no such thing as ‘playtime’ that can be cut out of a day – play is freely chosen and has only an intrinsic value. If you take away choice – play is halted – if play is halted, open ended learning stops – if you are learning deprived the ultimate brain reaction is to close down....

So children grow positively with the right environment – and this includes being surrounded by people who are willing to forego some of their fears and controls to allow children to choose for themselves – then for us all to reinforce these with lots of positive opportunities – the right food, plenty of challenges to encourage exercise and movement and non directive mental opportunities.

I would prefer children to eat the right food with their fingers than the wrong food with their knives and forks.  I would prefer children falling over in the park than exploring parks on their computers.  I would prefer seeing a grown up reading a newspaper to a baby rather than sitting with them in front of a television.
So next time you think or say – “sit down and we will all play this” – remember that’s not play and learning...

Tom x

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