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these things supplyIn this article, taken from the course of the same name at the Nurturing Childhoods Academy, we are going to be looking at how you can nurture children's learning from the first day you meet them - from the stimulating environments you create, to the experiences you offer them. 

We all want our children to do well and achieve all they are capable of in life and nowhere is this more pronounced than with their learning. However, there is so much more to early years learning than development goals and school readiness, and the worst thing we can do is look to accelerate them into the unfulfilling styles and methods of teaching you may remember well! 

If we want to advance our children’s interests, capabilities, and motivations, we need to offer them experiences that ignite their passions and interest in their world. Learning techniques for children involve helping them see how capable they are of learning, right when their attitudes about themselves are forming - and all of this begins from the first time they open their eyes. 

Learning From Day One

From the moment they are born, a baby's brain is hard at work, forming intricate connections and laying the foundation for future learning and experiences. At birth, their brain already comprises billions of neurons forming the basic building blocks of the brain's intricate neural networks. It is wired for connection and interaction with others, with billions of synapses being formed, strengthened or pruned based on their experiences and interactions with the world. 

The early years are an extraordinary period filled with boundless energy, exploration and rapid development, as a child’s brain undergoes incredible transformations within their cognitive, social and emotional growth. During this stage, a child's curiosity knows no bounds as they explore, imagine, and engage with the world around them, laying the groundwork for the years to come when they are more mobile, vocal, and full of past experiences to fine-tune. These experiences, received through their senses, allow the brain to process information, shaping neural pathways and facilitating their understanding of the world around them. 

A child is also born with the capacity to learn any language and young brains are primed to absorb and understand the intricate nuances of speech. This is why language development is a key area of brain development and why engaging in conversations, reading, singing and exposure to a rich linguistic environment are so important. You will hear language development leap forward during the toddler years as children begin to form sentences, understand instructions, and engage in basic conversations. All of these things supply the experiences children need for the remarkable surge in language and communication skills in the years to come as they begin constructing more complex sentences, absorbing words, grammar and social cues from their environment.

Children also exhibit some remarkable cognitive milestones as understanding develops, nurtured through symbolic play, cause and effect and engaging in problem-solving abilities. As thinking becomes more logical and abstract, children can begin to solve more complex problems, understand concepts symbolically and engage in more imaginative play, creating stories and exploring new worlds.

From the first flutters of their tiny fingers to the first time they ride a bike, a child's brain is also working tirelessly to develop their motor skills and coordination. The brain's motor cortex and cerebellum play crucial roles in controlling and refining their movements, allowing children to explore and interact with their surroundings.  But this needs lots and lots of practice as they gain greater balance and exhibit more precise coordination, developing their fine motor skills, becoming more able to handle small objects and engage in more precise movements.

The brain is also responsible for emotional and social development. Areas such as the limbic system and prefrontal cortex all play integral roles in regulating a child's emotions, forming their attachments and developing their social skills. In the early years, the limbic system undergoes periods of maturation as children learn to identify and express their feelings... but I do mean learn and this will sometimes come with some familiar frustrations. But as the prefrontal cortex matures, you will begin to see better impulse control and emotional regulation, nurtured through positive relationships and environments as children develop healthy emotional regulation.   

So, How Do We Stimulate All This Brain Development Then? 

  • First, provide a consistent, nurturing, and responsive environment that fosters a sense of loving, security and emotional well-being. 
  • Engage in face-to-face interactions, talking and singing to develop language and social skills. 
  • Encourage exploration and hands-on discovery, especially outdoors as you engage their senses and physical development.   
  • Offer puzzles, sorting games, memory games and hands-on activities to stimulate cognitive growth.   
  • Encourage curiosity by asking open-ended questions that promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 
  • Allow free and unstructured time for imagination and independent discovery. 
  • Read to children, sing songs and engage in interactive play to expose them to a variety of words, sounds and ideas. 
  • Offer creative opportunities through art, music and imaginative play. 
  • Support social interactions with opportunities for parallel and cooperative play.  
  • Emphasise the joy of learning at every age as you celebrate their achievements and foster a growth mindset. 
  • Talk to them, with eye contact, smiles and genuine engagement - every chance that you get! 

Through this whirlwind period of growth and discovery, a child’s brain is rapidly evolving to absorb the world around them, blossoming into a powerhouse of knowledge, creativity and social understanding. You have the incredible opportunity to provide a loving and stimulating environment that supports and nourishes growing minds. Embrace the wonders of this journey, celebrating the strengths, interests and milestones of each unique child as their development unfolds, shaping their brain and laying the foundations for their future learning and development. 

So, whether you are a parent, practitioner, or family worker, join me at the Nurturing Childhoods Academy where you can listen to talks and access lots more tips and suggestions. And there are also materials for you to print out and keep handy, giving you all the key bits of learning at your fingertips.

If you become a member of the Nurturing Childhoods Community, you can come and talk with other parents and carers about the experiences you are having. You might like to swap a funny story or ask for some advice. You can also read all the new blogs or have a go with a Childhood Challenge! 

About the author:

Dr. Kathryn Peckham, the visionary behind Nurturing Childhoods, is a dedicated champion for ensuring that children have access to enriching and purposeful experiences during their crucial formative years. With a fervent commitment to this cause, Kathryn collaborates with various educational settings to assess the profound effects of impactful childhood experiences, which lay the essential groundwork for lifelong learning.

About the author:

Dr. Kathryn Peckham, the visionary behind Nurturing Childhoods, is a dedicated champion for ensuring that children have access to enriching and purposeful experiences during their crucial formative years. With a fervent commitment to this cause, Kathryn collaborates with various educational settings to assess the profound effects of impactful childhood experiences, which lay the essential groundwork for lifelong learning.

About the author:

Dr. Kathryn Peckham, the visionary behind Nurturing Childhoods, is a dedicated champion for ensuring that children have access to enriching and purposeful experiences during their crucial formative years. With a fervent commitment to this cause, Kathryn collaborates with various educational settings to assess the profound effects of impactful childhood experiences, which lay the essential groundwork for lifelong learning.

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