How Does Your Child Develop and Learn?

This issue came up in my music class today and I realized that this is something I need to write to all of you parents about. How can parents know when their young child is ready to start formally learning a new concept? What and how should I teach them things?

I have worked with children all of my life and I have raised two. I was educated to teach children and very early in my life I learned about this basic concept of cognitive development in children. It is fascinating to understand that children learn certain concepts when they are ready to learn them and not a day before. Have you ever noticed that all of a sudden in just one day your child started understanding how to hold his spoon or how to tie his shoes. She went from drawing scribbles to making circles. And then I noticed she started making faces.

One of the most important things to understand when you want to teach your toddler new concepts is to understand that very idea that they truly get it when they are ready. As a teacher of very young children I have learned to rely upon something that I used as a mother. That is exposure. In other words I would constantly expose my children to stories, pictures, shows or music about colors, numbers, counting, ABC’s, clapping, speech and conversation. Understand that your toddler is a little sponge who is constantly absorbing and learning as he watches, listens, feels, tastes and smells. His or her little body is constantly moving. One day he is sitting up and the next he is crawling. And notice that he does what some call the soldier crawl before he actually fully crawls. As a parent you know the joy of those first smiles and later giggles, those first coos and then later words. And have you noticed that every baby is developing at different times but very much in the same stages. Exposure to many concepts puts this information into a subconscious bank from which they will take to help them with new concepts. New experiences and different forms of media are of immense importance for your very young child.

When I was in college learning to be a teacher I studied about this man named Jean Piaget. Here is an article for you to read about his basic stages of human development. I will not bother to elaborate on the different stages here but you will see that he has divided human development into four basic stages. And yes within each one of these stages it has its own details and stages. As I have worked with very young children I am fascinated with their development and readiness to do new skills.

So how as a teacher and a parent do I use this knowledge when teaching my children. Most importantly is the idea of readiness. A child will not learn a concept until he or she is ready. I can tell it to him, show it to him, read it two her, act it out for her as many times as a want, but he or she will not learn that concept until he is cognitively ready. If I get frustrated or push too hard we all know that the child will also become frustrated. As a music teacher one of my most important goals has always been to make it fun! Parents, this is most important. Never push any concept before they are ready. This will create stress and rebellion. Work with the process and know just how to do that.

Always expose your child to the concepts you want them to learn. Put up pictures of the alphabet, numbers, colors, emotions in her room. Read to him everyday starting at a very young age. Talk to your child regularly. Communication is a huge piece in learning. Even if your child is not understanding your words he is absorbing them. Your child may not comprehend those stories or those pictures or songs but he is absorbing this information. One concept that drives me as a teacher of young children is that I believe in exposing these children to these concepts very early and simply having fun with them. My child will learn so much more quickly and energetically if he or she is having fun. When your little one is old enough play games with her. This is by far one of the best teaching tools out there for young children.

Relax. Your job is to expose and fill the subconscious bank. That isn’t that hard is it? Of course we teach concepts when they are ready and that is always more challenging, but when we are relaxed teaching and learning are fantastic. Most of what we do as parents of young children is to expose them to new things. In one way this is very simple. In another way this adds a huge sense of responsibility. So very often it is not just what we say, it is what we do and even more importantly who we are.

I could go on and on, but I will close with this statement. Fall in love with learning. If you enjoy learning and teaching these concepts, so will your child. Your child is a little sponge now. Fill him with all the good stuff and he will have a bank of information to use when he or she is cognitively prepared to use it in the next stage. And very importantly he will love to learn which is priceless.