The following article is republished in slightly edited form from an earlier posting on this blog.
Children are Born with Primed Brains
In the real world, babies are born with brains primed to learn and enjoy using language, movement, elements of music, visual and conceptual patterns, and symbolic art. This is in stark contrast to the leftist belief in the newborn’s brain as a “blank slate (PDF)” or tabula rasa.
The baby’s brain is predisposed to a rapid learning of language — even multiple languages. Even inside the womb a fetus begins to recognise the cadence and tone of the mother’s voice. Within just a few weeks after birth, the infant’s brain shapes itself around the sounds of the language it hears. Other, unheard sounds will be very difficult for the brain to hear or comprehend when encountered later in life.
New brains are likewise tuned to the enjoyment of music, movement, pattern, and simple art. Enjoyment leads to imitation as a form of learning which commences quite early, proceeding in a playful manner until the early lessons are learnt well enough to build upon. The playful element of learning for young humans is obvious from the beginning.
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.
Pattern is implicit within art, music, language, and movement — and leads naturally into pre-mathematical foundational concepts, best experienced through play.
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. Children are intrigued by dynamic art such as mobiles, and very much enjoy the tactile aspect of art.
The child should have the opportunity to observe skilled adult musicians, artists, writers, dancers, and craftsmen at work. Children should see where their efforts can lead them. The child’s early efforts should be appreciated for what they are, as long as he has put his heart into them. If a child is a budding prodigy of art, music, language, or movement, it will be difficult for him to conceal his talent so long as it has been allowed to develop in a playful, creative manner.
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 and given opportunities to pursue development of the talent. In this area it is best not to force the child along any one path. 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 younger children. During the early period of childhood, 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.