Through all my research about early childhood development, I have noticed several themes cropping up time and time again. As a parent, you probably would not have had to do any reading to know this because they are all pretty common sense stuff. However, as common sense as it is, sometimes, it still gets lost along the way because of our hectic and fast-paced modern lifestyles that end up leaving us so physically exhausted and emotionally drained that it hurts to think sometimes.
Time and again, the following messages keep coming up:
- Too much screen time is bad.
- Reading is good.
- Movement is good for brain development.
As I said – common sense. So why do parenting books, research studies, and experts have to keep telling us this? It’s not as if we don’t already know it. I believe that when we get too advanced, we start to forget the basics. As an example, take a look at any subject you have ever studied so well until you were an “expert” at it… Yet, even as an “expert” we still make mistakes. When we examine those mistakes, we find that they are errors on such basic fundamentals that we find ourselves asking, “How ever did I make such a simple mistake?”
Back to the Basics…
1. Too much screen time is bad
Two hours maximum seems to be the general rule of thumb. So how did we end up parking the children in front of the TV (or computer) for too many hours a day? TV holds our children’s attention so well that it has often made a “good babysitter” for the times when we’ve needed to take a breather, put that load in the washing, take out the garbage, balance the cheque books, and the list goes on.
It’s like a line that’s been crossed. Once you’ve crossed it, it becomes easier and easier to cross. “I’ll just let him watch one program.” The next thing you know, he’s watching more than two hours a day and you can’t remember how it got that way.
Sometimes you just need an activity that can totally absorb your child for a while. What can you do? The answer varies from parent to parent depending on your child’s interests.
For me, this is one of the greatest benefits of having taught Gavin to read young. Sometimes, if I need to keep him busy while I’m handling Gareth, I can ask him to read his books and he will be holed up in his reading corner for a good half hour.
This has also been one of the benefits of having a child with an obsession. Gavin’s obsession has been Thomas and Friends ever since he was one year old. Although he prefers to play with someone, he is able to entertain himself playing with his trains.
Another activity that helps to totally absorb him is painting. I give him some paints and I let him go wild in the shower. I let him paint the walls but he has to clean off the paints after – which he also enjoys, not to mention it takes him at least another five minutes.
2. Reading is good
Duh! Of course it is. But I don’t think it is clear just how good it is because the benefits of reading have been under-rated. Just how does reading benefit our children? I’ve written about the some of the benefits of reading aloud to your child and how it helps your child learn to read in my previous posts – check it out if you haven’t already read them.
3. Movement is good for brain development
I think it goes without saying that physical activity and exercise are good for children. It’s good for anyone. But here are some other findings on movement:
- Crawling helps to develop the corpus callosum (the band of fibers in the brain connecting the left and right brains) – Doman.
- Children need to move to learn – TweedleWink.
- Brain Gym (which I will be writing more about soon) talks about specific movements that can help improve concentration, and physical, emotional and mental development.
So go grab a book and head out to the park.