Early Education and Play
Good parents want their children to succeed. They are competitive to a fault
and seek every advantage they can afford. Since neuroscience has contributed
ideas about brain development, some parents are focused on assisting brain
growth in the children with toys, video games, and early education programs. Few
pay attention to the food their children eat, even though food and physical
activities are important determinants of brain development in the first five
Some parents do not appreciate the importance of quality home life and the
basic features of nurturance that produce healthy, happy children. Loving
parents who feed their children correctly and who interact the most with their
children at home will have the best results. In Canada, about two thirds of
mothers with children under six years of age work part time or full time. They
delegate care of the children to professional caregivers and may feel better if
daycare programs have educational content.
Unfortunately, daycare can be an expensive, negative experience for both
children and their parents; it depends on the adults who run the daycare. A
Berkeley-Stanford study of 14,162 children in kindergarten, reported that early
child care suppressed children's social development, self-control, interpersonal
skills, and motivation. The worst affected were children who attended learning
centers before age 2. Children from poor families had a small benefit in
language and math skills (8% higher than stay at home peers.) Children
from the highest income families exhibited the most negative behaviors.
Gulli suggested:” Parents, it seems, should also be thinking about how they
will be affected by putting their kids into early learning or daycare centers…
parents are worse off since the child care program came into play. Mothers of
children in daycare are more depressed than their average counterparts. More of
them report hostile or "aversive interactions" with their kids. And there is a
significant deterioration in marital relationships. None of this is good for
children… the pressure parents put on kids reflect the pressure they feel
Play Very Important Learning
I enjoy watching children play; they teach me about human tendencies and
children are entertaining. Play is perhaps the most important learning
experience that children have. Human children play together and practice skills.
All learning is mimetic and children copy and practice adult behaviors in play.
Children's play contains a rich mixture of aerobics, theatre, fantasy,
competition, cooperation, conflict, resolutions of conflict and talk. Play
conversations are a mix of real language and non-linguistic sounds and gestures.
Much of the sound-emitting behavior observed in conversations is old primate
behavior. Chimpanzees could trade places with children and feel quite at home.
Children at play, for example, interact with a continuous sequence of sounds as
they run, jump, squat, push, pull, and hit. Some sounds they emit are single or
double word commands. Brief phrases are uttered, usually shorter that 6
syllables. Shouts, shrieks, laughter and occasional cries or crying complete the
cacophony of play. Like primate relatives, children will climb trees, swing from
branches and make primate sounds.
There is no game, course or book that can rival spontaneous children's play
for educational content. I believe that unstructured play with a minimum of toys
is optimal for young children. Children at the beach will entertain themselves
for hours, fascinated with sand, water, stones, and pieces of wood. They always
want to move sand from one location to another, adding water. They have an
instinct for ordering and constructing. Their order may consist of a few stones
placed together. Older children will attempt to construct orderly arrays, such
as a row of sticks placed from the shortest to the longest or alternating sticks
and stones that suggest mathematical sets. Some children are more interested in
creating order than others. A three year old, for example, wanted his brother
(of about five years) to help him move some wet sand to his great construction
higher on the beach, but his brother, wading out to sea, declined grandly,
saying: "I don't want to play with you. It's boring."
Play is a social activity and children will explore all the variations for
social interaction as they play. Sometimes they are wonderfully cooperative and
considerate. At other times, battles break out and the play group explodes with
shouts, tears and hostile remarks.