I used to wonder what was the point of taking the kids to classes when they are really young because all they seem to do is run around and pay the minimum of attention to the teacher. When I talked to Wennie from TweedleWink, she explained that children can absorb information through three methods – directional, peripheral, and 360 degrees – so they didn’t need to look directly at the teacher or the subject material to learn it. As long as the children are in the room, they are learning. The rationale behind this is because the right brain is wide open to receive information in young children. Adults who are largely left brain dominant have lost the ability to receive information in this way which is why we need to give our full attention to lecturers and teachers in order to learn new things.
A recent article I read about baby brains confirmed this by explaining that baby brains are like lanterns shining light all around, while adult brains are light torch lights with a focussed beam. Babies have less of the inhibitory neurotransmitters that prevent adults from consciously absorbing other stimuli occuring around them, and because of this, they can be aware of everything around them while they play with a toy. I’m sure we’ve all noticed this when we talk about our children thinking they are too fully immersed in their activities to be aware of our conversations and yet they know everything we have said.
So it doesn’t matter if your child runs around or “multi-tasks” in class. Being present means he is learning. I’ve also noticed that some parents try to turn their child’s head to face the teacher and to insist they look at the materials presented. This is born out of the misconception that a child can’t learn if he doesn’t look. It’s a normal reaction because we assume children learn the way we learn. Even knowing what I do know, I sometimes catch myself insisting that the children “pay attention” in class because it is difficult to fathom how they can still learn without looking. Or perhaps even if they do learn, they are absorbing less than they would if they were giving their full attention to the teacher.
I guess this is a little reminder for me as well – have faith in our children and relax. If they are in class, they’re learning. So if children can learn in this manner then isn’t it better if they don’t develop those inhibitory neurotransmitters that prevent them from absorbing everything around them? Well, it appears that being able to focus like a torch light is good for getting things done. We can see this in young children who seem to be bouncing around like they have ants in their pants. It is almost as if they can’t settle down long enough to concentrate on anything so developing those inhibitory neurotransmitters is not a bad thing.
But when exactly do they start to lose this ability to learn without looking? At what age do they become like us – limited in the way they learn? When do the inhibitory neurotransmitters start to increase? I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to these questions. Based on what I took away from this all, although it is great to be able to absorb everything around us, having those inhibitory neurotransmitters in place helps us to focus.
This also brings us back to subject of early childhood education – when children are very young, it should be all about input, input, input, and less about output.