BrainDev 2: “Education is everything we do with the child”

Observing and learning! Children learn from everything in their environment*Picture seen on Facebook
Observing and learning! Children learn from everything in their environment
*Picture seen on Facebook

In the first post in this series, I talked about brain development and specifically the development of neurons. I mentioned that even though the neurons that make up the brain are present at birth, they still need to be connected to be useful. This connection happens through use and this is where you come in as a parent or care giver especially in the first year. I ended that post by saying that parents can support their child’s development in the first year not only feeding and caring but also by education. This post will discuss that educational component.

To be clear, proper nutrition (feeding) and love (caring) are very important and without them, all the education in the world would not help brain development. I have talked about the importance of breast milk in the first year and I’ll just touch on love and care quickly. The brain of a child who does not feel safe, loved or cared for will default to survival/defense mode and is unable to function or develop to a higher level. For the brain to move from basic survival to more analytical or intelligent processing, the child has to feel loved, safe and secure. So as a parent, along with feeding, you should love and nurture your baby and make sure he/she feels safe. This is especially important in the early years. Now that the basis has been set, let’s move to education!

What is education? As the topic of this post says, education is everything you do with your child. Animals are born with specific instincts and characteristics which prepare them for a specific environment and life but this is not the case with human beings. A human being is born with the ability to learn and adapt to the time and place he is born into. He does this by observation of, and experiences in his environment.

Observation:

From the moments their eyes open, children are keen observers of their environment. The environment includes everything that surrounds the child and everything he/she comes in contact with. So the physical environment of the home, the parents and other people, the sensory stimulations, motor experiences, social experiences, intellectual interactions and basically everything the child experiences. Again it is everything the child comes in contact with and experiences. What does this mean for the parent? It means your child is learning from everything you do and taking in aspects of the physical environment. To support this,

  • You must model the right behavior. children and especially babies are excellent observers. They pay attention and absorb the things they observe
  • Make sure the physical environment is interesting, beautiful and attractive. Remember the child is constructing himself and his brain using the images he takes in from the environment. He can only build using what he finds. So if he finds beauty, he will construct with beauty. Keep the environment simple, clean and attractive
  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress the importance of this and yes, this should start at birth. Multiple researches have found that children whose parents speak to them have a higher IQ, speak better and perform better academically. While they may not respond or respond intelligibly, children are learning a lot by watching and listening to their parents speak

When talking to your baby:

  1. You should also not dumb down your speech or restrict words.
  2. The more the variety of words, the better
  3. Speak slowly and clearly. When I say slowly, I don’t mean that you should drag the words oh! Just slow enough that the words are distinct and the sounds are clear
  4. I am not saying you should babble 24/7 to your child but there are plenty opportunities especially during care i.e. when you are feeding, bathing, changing or just caring for your child. Use these opportunities to tell the child what you are doing. You can also point out body parts and items. Here are some examples: “I am going to bathe you now”, “This is your hand. I am washing it”, “Time to eat”, “You look happy” “I am going to put your shirt over your head”,  “Look, that’s a dog”, “The sun is so hot today” etc. I hope you get the idea. People might look at you like you’re crazy but you have to remember that you are supporting your child’s brain and you can use the opportunity to educate them about what you are doing
  5. Allow opportunities for your child to observe conversations. These can include conversations between both parents, between you and friends etc. It is important to mention here that having the baby listen to word or conversations by watching television DOES NOT COUNT! Matter of fact, It has been proven over and over again that exposure to television before the age of two decreases IQ and causes behavioral problems.
  6. Smile at your child and communicate emotions when you speak
  7. Make eye contact
  8. When the child starts to make sounds, even if you don’t understand, listen and respond. This communicates to the child that you like hearing him/her.  You can respond by repeating the sounds and/or talking back. “Interesting!”, “I wish I understand what you are saying”. It is ok to keep it real.
  9. Read to your child. Reading is awesome because it allows the child to observe and get interested in reading but also expands the vocabulary.
  10. Sing to your child and also listen to music together. Listening to music this this case is not watching music videos. Put in a cd or your iPod and turn off other distractions so that you can really listen and enjoy
  11. Again, you don’t have to babble 24 hours of the day. It is also ok to sit in silence and enjoy the silence. I know it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Experiences:

In addition to observing, the child needs sensory stimulation and experience in the environment to support learning and thus brain development. Again this requires the parent to provide the right environment. Because the kind of stimulation and experiences required depends on the level of development and this changes from month to month, I will address 3 months and a time. Please check the next post for 0-3 months.

I apologize for having to break down these posts. There is so much I want to share with you but I also don’t want to overload or bombard you which is why I break down the posts.

To summarize this post, babies learn by observing their environments. Parents should provide safe, interesting, beautiful environments for the child to observe and model the right behaviors. It is very very very important to talk to your child from the day they are born. You can talk about the things you are doing to them, what they are experiencing or just things in the environment. Reading and singing are also very good for babies while TVs are bad.

As always, I would love to hear your questions and comments. To be honest, I haven’t figured out if my posts have the right tone or level of detail so I would really appreciate your feedback. Does anything confuse you? Would you like more detail? Less detail? Please let me know! I write for you.

Live a GoodLife!

Nduoma

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9 thoughts on “BrainDev 2: “Education is everything we do with the child”

  1. Nduoma how you day. As you said in your post, “it’s ok to keep it real” so I go try do this comment 9ja way.

    First of all, NDUOMA to you, and to all readers ____ NDUOMA to una. I been love your post well well, e teach me plenty. So I go make plenty effort to make sure my surrounding good for my pickin and I go yarn to am and read to am well well but I promise not for this kin english I dey speak now.

    Actually, it’s too difficult for me to even continue in pidgin English. I love the post and I think you tone of writing is very easy to read. Your passion and drive to give us and our kids NDUOMA jumps out in your words.

    The only thing I would say is, stop apologising, if the post is too long or technical or ……..
    We are here to learn and want to learn. However the fact that you do, shows signs of good NDUOMA in you.

    Ok I’ll stop rambling on now. Until next time NDUOMA to everyone.

    1. Lol! Thanks for the comment. You have a point. I do apologize quite a bit, don’t I? Well, the apologies are sincere but I offer them sparingly going forward.

      Thank you for the feedback. I am happy to hear you find the information helpful.

      Nduoma to you too!

    1. Thank you Ijeoma. Please share the website with as many people as you would like too. You can broadcast it to your contacts and share it on your Facebook page. Every additional reader is progress.

      A wise woman once told me to light my own corner and the light will spread. So please let your little corner by sharing with as many people as you can and they too will share and gradually, it will get across.

      Live a GoodLife!

  2. Lovely article. I totally agree that people should have conversations with their kids, but use the proper words. I heard a young man’s conversation with his 4yr old nephew. He said “you wont believe the stupid guy was drunk”, trust me to correct him.

    1. Hello Cima Brawn! You are right that the contents of the conversations we have with children are just as important and the act. We should use proper vocabulary and use every opportunity we get to teach grace and courtesy. I’m glad you pointed it out to him. A lot of times, people are not conscious of these things and need someone pointing it out to really pay attention.

      Thank you and I’m sure you’re living a GoodLife!

  3. Hello Nduoma. Again, quite informative and enlightening.

    I would like to ask a question on children and the television. If I read correctly, u said watching tv isn’t good for children. How about educational and interact tv programmes as well as children cartoons

    1. Hello Bunmi and welcome to Nduoma.com!

      You read correctly that TV is not good for children and should be avoided completely for children under 2 (according to the American Academy of Pediatrics). This includes “educational” and interactive TV. A lot of what is marketed as educational TV for children are for entertainment and do not provide any educational value. You can google the Baby Genius videos and DVDs which were recalled.

      Here are some of the disadvantages of TV:
      – It does not provide sensory input or encourage movement (for infants) which is how children learn.
      – It can cause hyperactivity. The constant screen changes and flashes can make it hard for a child to sit still when TV is absent.
      – It can cause sleep issues.
      – It reduces the opportunities for human interaction.
      – Babies cannot read the lips on TV and associate the movements of the mouth with the words being spoken like they would when a human being speaks to them.
      – Most emotions on TV are exaggerated and this is what is presented to the child.
      – Even supposedly educational TV these days includes language and behavior that may not be acceptable to your family
      Children learn better by doing instead of passively listening.
      – In the early years, children are building their base for reality and a lot of television programs (including the educational ones) do not support this. I know of a boy who jumped off a balcony cos he saw a cartoon character doing it. Yes, this happened here in Nigeria. I was also recently told of a test that asked children to spot the unrealistic scenarios from some pictures which included animals and fruits talking or wearing clothes. Most of them thought these scenarios were correct because it is what they see depicted on TV.
      – Think of most of the songs your learnt from TV as a child. When you listen to them now, I am sure you find that you had a lot of the words incorrect.
      – A lot of parents have noticed a significant reduction in aggressive behaviors and other behavioral issues when they eliminate TV as a form of entertainment.

      Also most of us grew up on little or very restricted TV but it is now available for 24 hours and can easily become an unpaid nanny. The child is better off listening to his caregiver’s voice, interacting with humans or playing independently with developmentally appropriate materials.

      If the right environment is prepared, children can learn to play independently and concentrate for extended periods of times. A lot of parents feel the child has to constantly be entertained but this can lead to issues in future. It is ok for the child to just relax and explore with his eyes sometimes.

      My advice: Turn of the TV and hang a mobile or read a book!

      Thanks for the question and I hope the answer helps. Please feel free to ask anymore questions and contribute to the other topics.

      Live a GoodLife!

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