There is a major focus on pushing young children to learn academics at earlier ages. Of course this is all well intentioned. Everyone's goal is for children to be successful in school and in life. But, if this is the focus and desire for children, it is essential that the knowledge that science is providing for us is used for the base of the experiences children are having every day.
Previous to technical advances, scientists were not able to study active brains. Early childhood education was based on behavioral studies and theories. Scientific evidence has now been available for many years and should be making a remarkable difference for all children. However, for some reason this is not always the case.
When you ask a child what is it that they want to do most, is the common answer, “I want to do lots of worksheets.”? No, what children express is their desire to play! Children are born ready to learn. They naturally want to explore, move and figure out what they can do and what this world is all about. This happens through play. And play is exactly what a developing brain needs. Play contributes greatly to the all important development of better math, language, problem-solving and social skills. Evidence also shows that play is very effective for the reduction of the effects of stress on the brain.
Through “hands on” experiences young children are learning about their environment and how things work. Just think about how everything is new to them. They need to use all of their senses and try things out in various ways. Through play children find out that they can make things happen and they have an effect on their world.
You will also commonly see children do the same actions repeatedly. Through repetition the brain verifies that what it is experiencing is true and creates strong pathways for functioning in life.