It’s back to school time for those 5 years old and older. Yet our role as our child’s teacher begins long before 5 years old and that role doesn’t come with summer breaks or holidays. It is seven days a week, 360 days a year. Yet, there are great and lasting benefits!
This may not be a job we planned on signing up for when we became parents, but each of us finds ourselves in this role none the less…teacher! Parents are the first teachers a child ever has. From the child’s very first cry and the mother’s and father’s first embrace, teaching is taking place. We show our child how to get our attention by responding to those cries and meeting the child’s needs. This is not a surprise, nor should it be. We expect to teach our children how to talk, walk, put their clothes on, eat with a spoon, etc. What we may not have realized is just how important that role , teacher, will continue to be as our child grows older. Even when our children attend school whether it is a public, private, Christian, or secular, our role as a parent remains of utmost importance. We must lay the groundwork now for being effective as teachers of our children’s moral and spiritual development, as well as their intellectual and physical growth.
In the early years the brain nearly triples in size and weight. Up until age two there is a huge buildup of neural connections. This is followed by a massive pruning. This brain reorganization is often characterised by the Terrible Twos. The erratic behavior of the child reflects the changes taking place in the brain. Pat Wolfe; Brain Matters
Current research in brain development validates what many of us already know – the toddler years are a challenging time. Yet it is also a time when the brain is solidifying connections that will greatly impact our child’s growth and development intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I would like to address one of these four areas for each of the next four weeks. First – intellectual growth.
The brain responds to repetition. Current brain reasearch shows this – but any mother of a toddler knows that they love to hear the same story over and over again. They learn colors, numbers, names of things, and people by hearing them repeated over and over.
Learning is the act of making and strengthening connections between thousands of neurons (neural networks)
Memory is the ability to reconstruct or reactivate the previously made connections. Pat Wolfe – Brain Matters
So, repetition is an essential part of teaching our child about the world around them. As a child begins to remember information, they are using words they have heard repeated over and over and those words contain meaning for them. The more those neurological connections are used, the more permanent they become.
Think about this – do you remember the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill”? When was the last tine you practiced repeating it? It may have been years – yet those early neurological connections were made permanent by the repetition of that verse when you were young. This holds true for our children as well. It would bless our children if we are intentional and careful about what we allow them to see and hear over and over. Neurons are continuously “firing”.
Reading to children is the most important intellectual preparation parents can provide for children. Stories build vocabulary, make connections to the world around them, and provide sequential information, while providing pleasure, humor, and closeness as parents and children read together.
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
The God who created our brains will also lead and guide us as parents to be the teachers He desires us to be. What a privilege and blessing!
Next week we will look at teaching healthy physical development.