Children are Born with Primed Brains
In the real world, babies are born with brains primed to learn language, movement, elements of music, and symbolic art. This is in stark opposition to the leftist belief in “the blank slate (PDF)” or tabula rasa view of the human brain.
In other words, the baby’s brain is predisposed to a rapid learning of language — preferably multiple languages — and music, movement, and art. Such learning can commence quite early — before birth — proceeding in a playful manner until the early lessons are learnt well enough to build upon.
The brain is most sensitive to particular types of learning at different stages of development. Good habits and emotional control should be learned in the early years, no later than 5 or 6 years. These are particularly important traits for later learning — particularly self-monitored learning.
Language and music should be learned early — and together. Multiple languages are best learned before the age of 9 or 10. Music cognition complements language cognition, just as language learning can be combined with music learning in songs and rhymes.
Music learning likewise complements spatial and number / size learning — so that music learning can be an important forerunner to maths learning. Keyboards and fretboards are spatial in nature, and counting and “sizing” of intervals are part of learning such instruments.
Dance movement and other rhythmic movements have been linked to improved executive function in young children. Dancing can be learned even before walking, with a bit of assistance and gravity mitigation. Rhythmic and choreographed movements involved in playful dancing are good training for the cerebellum and basal ganglia of the brain, as well as for insular cortex training.
Visual art is fun and excellent eye-hand training. The development of artistic judgment and perspective boosts spatial development while giving the child a sense of confidence in creating something that others can appreciate.
All four of these playful pre-school activities are full of opportunities for learning creativity. Art and music should be innately creative, as the child’s senses of vision and hearing develop. But dance and language can be equally as creative if allowed to be.
The early years also present a preview into the child’s later strengths and preferences. If a child is a budding prodigy of art, music, language, or movement, it will be difficult for him to conceal his talent if it has been allowed to develop in a playful, creative manner.
The child should have the opportunity to observe skilled adult musicians, artists, writers, dancers, and craftsmen at work. It is never too early to begin to set goals. But the child’s efforts should be appreciated for what they are, as long as he has put his heart into them.
A human brain is not fully developed until around the middle of the third decade, and remains in its prime for only about ten years before beginning to subtly lose ground. The earlier a child can find a strong talent for independent learning and skills-building, the longer the part of his life that he can develop and exercise that talent.
A television will not do much to help a young child, nor will a computer — at least as computers are currently made and programmed. Children need to see that human beings create music, art, stories, and dance. If a child is particularly talented in a given area, he should be encouraged — but not forced. If the motivation is not there, forcing the child will only prevent him from finding a talent he is willing to develop.
Play is the strongest motivator for young children. During this period, children crave the company of their parents and other family members. It is the period of greatest opportunity for self-development and foundation-building for the child. If this time is squandered by day care and television watching, it can never be retrieved.
Once simple play has lost its appeal, and once the child no longer craves a parent’s company, if the child has not learned good habits and self-control, a parent’s ability to guide the child becomes severely limited. Hasta la vista, baby.
This is important: A young child’s mind is a sponge. Be very careful what you allow it to soak in. You cannot take it back, once it is absorbed.
More on early foundations in future entries.