There is an article on Eye on Early Education that talks about the importance of the first 2000 days in the life of a child. The message comes from Dr Patricia Kuhl – whose name should not be unfamiliar since she was the one who told us about the linguistic genius of babies – and Dr Andrew Meltzoff – who was mentioned in Brain Rules for Baby because of his amazing work with babies. The message they bring is a potent one:
“There are only 2,000 days between the newborn baby and when that child will show up in kindergarten. It is urgent that we use the best scientific info to make sure we support all our children so they can succeed in school. Our children can’t wait.”
For parents involved in early childhood education, this is nothing new. We heard it from Maria Montessori:
Every child, by instinct, wants to learn and grow to the limit of his abilities. In the first six years of life he does this by imitating those around him. To support this need we must carefully prepare the physical and social environment, provide tools that enable the child to work to create himself, watch for those first tentative moments of concentration, and get out of the way, following the child as his path unfolds.
We heard it from Glenn Doman:
During the first six years of life, the brain absorbs a tremendous amount of information: three times more than during the entire life. By the age of six, the formation of a human’s brain is almost complete in its development. The information children learn by the age of six will serve as a basis for knowledge and wisdom which will increase during the rest of their life.
And Right Brain Education philosophy emphasises the importance of starting early because of the law of diminishing ability:
Ability to acquire new facts is in inverse proportion to age: a one-year-old child learns more easily than a seven-year old. A fiver year old learns more easily than a six year old, a four year old learns more easily than a five year old, a three year old learns more easily than a four year old, a two year old learns more easily than a three year old, and a one year old learns more easily than a two year old, and learning is easiest of all for babies (below one).
All this is reinforced by the knowledge that a child’s bilingual ability begins to fade after the age of 1.
And to provide our children with the richness in their environment to provide these learning opportunities is easy. Every parent has the capability to do it. It is about reading to our children, playing with them, talking to them, and giving them opportunities in their everyday life for learning.
This is the reason why babies as young as six months are encouraged to attend right brain education classes. Although they are unable to perform the tasks themselves, they are learning by observing their parents performing the tasks. However, since it can be months before a child is able to express what he has learned, we are often unaware of the knowledge that is building up until he is capable of expressing it later. Susan du Plessis refers to this difference as active and passive knowledge. It is similar to how we are often able to understand more of a foreign language than we are able to speak. This unspoken understanding is passive knowledge. Once we are able to speak it, it becomes active knowledge. In order to shift it from passive to active knowledge, sufficient repetition is required.
This is also the reason why it is important who you have caring for your child in those early formative years. They say that parents are the best first teachers for their children. Who could be more invested in a child than the parent? Unfortunately, some parents have to work for various reasons. In such cases, who your child’s primary caregiver is becomes even more important. If you can’t be the one looking after your child, find someone who will talk to you child, sing to your child, play with your child and provide all the necessary interaction to encourage brain development.
Mothers who don’t talk to their babies much raise children who are late talkers. Similarly, caregivers who don’t interact much with the babies they care for will raise children who are slower developers. But most important of all, babies need love to learn.