How Young Children Learn
for those who feel trying to enrich the mind of a baby is as much a waste of time as trying to teach a cat rules, Dr. Joyce Gerber presented information that suggests stimulation of all the senses during even the earliest years of life even before birth, can "wire" the brain with pathways that can greatly enhance learning and motor coordination down the road.
""I tell preschool teachers they are probably dealing with the most important time in a child’s life, Gerber said.
Dr. Gerber, a retired professor who has over 30 years experience in the teaching profession, and has a background in early childhood education, as well as enough qualifications to fill a doctor’s office wall, detailed what kinds of pathways can be formed.
While a baby skipping most of the crawling stage and quickly progressing to walking, may seem a wonderful feat, Gerber said crawlers establish better motor pathways, since they are forming pathways to the brain with both feet and hands. The "jumper," that allows babies to stand during rest, can actually hinder development, she said.
"A child is born with 100-150 billion neurons," Gerber said. "Liken it to all the stars in the Milky Way. The more experiences you give children, the more pathways you form. The object is to open as many neurons as possible."
Gerber spoke of a study where two groups of rats were caged, one group in an empty cage, and the other test group in a cage with objects to crawl over. The rats with the objects in their cages had brains that were 20 percent bigger.
Anything that stimulates can help a child’s brain develop, but it must be interactive, Gerber cautioned. Watching TV doesn’t make those connections that a parent reading to a child would, or that interactive play would make. What has the advent of computer games done with learning? Gerber thinks the hand-eye coordination can be helpful for children who are lacking in developing those skills elsewhere.
Touch can make a difference in the eventual personality of a child. Gerber said that babies, whose mothers allow them to cry themselves to sleep, may begin to feel there is no one to help them, where when a crying baby is picked up, the child develops trust in others. Gerber said cultures around the world have very different ways of training their young, for example, some African cultures carry their young.
Gerber considered what preschool teachers can do with kids to make the most difference in the kids. "The best teachers do not ask, ‘what color is the grass,’ instead, they may ask the child, and how you would change a story. Or even make up a story," she suggested. "This develops critical thinking skills.
Brenda Walker, who came to the discussion, has five children, ages 14 years to 11 months. Gerber thinks that can be an environment beneficial to learning. She told of a study finding children of various ages who attend one-room school houses do better on SAT tests. Gerber said the older children help the younger, which not only provides a role model for the young, but helps the older child with teaching and communication.
On Tuesday, March 6, at 6 p.m., at the Summit County Library at Kimball Junction, Gerber will present A Parents Guide to How Young Children Learn.
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