in the fields of brain development, psychology, and education are all
coming to the same conclusion:
what happens in the first 3
years of a child's life are far more critical than we had realized.
Children who don't receive sufficient
nurturing, nutrition, and opportunity for movement and intellectual
stimulation simply do not develop to the same fullness of potential
as those children who do. Furthermore, children who are over-stimulated
-- rushed from one activity to another, or pushed to
"perform" to satisfy the self-esteem of adults are also
inhibited from reaching their full potential, because they are robbed
of the experience of "self-directed" exploration and the
opportunity to develop a
deeper awareness of their own feelings and desires.
Please note that when children are expected to perform
at a level far beyond their developmental stage and are therefore physically
punished or repeatedly shamed and ridiculed they are essentially being
abused. We ask all caregivers and teachers to educate themselves
about the signs and symptoms of child abuse and to take action when they
suspect abuse. Visit
our child abuse information page
for instructions and useful links about detecting and anonymously
reporting child abuse. Be informed!
Although our understanding of child development
has certainly come a long way since Jean Piaget studied and taught on
the subject more than 50 years ago, his insights were so profound that
they continue to inform the basis of our theories even today. In
our modern world where parents and teachers are often encouraged to push
children to tackle ever more complicated concepts and skills at earlier
and earlier ages, it's worth slowing down for a moment and informing
ourselves about the way children acquire and process information.
The basic insight of Piaget on this subject was
that there are some skills that children cannot master before they have mastered certain others, and
that brain development can only be hurried so much.
Essentially, he showed scientifically that children have certain
distinct phases of seeing the world and thinking about it at
different age stages. Furthermore, these stages were much more
independent of upbringing than had been realized -- that is, they were
governed by biological/physiological parameters, not simply quality of
Read more about this.
more, Piaget's work gave us our first insight into what subsequent
researchers have shown irrefutably: children must have lots of
"hands-on" exploration of the world around them in order to make full
use of their developing intellectual faculties. Or put another
way, our physical exploration of life and our daily life experience (in
which we observe cause and effect over and over and over) lays the
groundwork for our ability to form more abstract ideas.
example, as adults we can make predictions about the consequences of our
behavior because we have built up lots of experience upon which we can
draw. The more experience we have, the more accurate our
predictions will be (in a perfect world, at least).
the area of language development, we can string words together in new
ways because we have listened to words used in so many ways by those
But what we often don't realize is how so many of our "taken for granted" skills
are made up of other simpler skills and understandings. For
example to drive a car we must not only understand the legal rules of
the road and some basic mechanical principles about braking and
steering, but we must also master some very subtle skills of judging
distance versus speed and acceleration. We must have extensive
awareness of what other drivers on the road are likely to do, and how
road conditions are likely to change in different kinds of weather or
lighting. Over time we develop a feel for how much time and
physical space is required to make a successful lane change at high
speeds in traffic, or to stop in time on a slippery road. Most
importantly, these are not skills we can acquire
however by reading a book, nor even by having another person simply explain them
to us. They require life experience and a learned ability to juggle certain sensory input in a meaningful way --
while at the same time disregarding other sensory input that would
only confuse and overwhelm us (a song on the radio, children bickering
in the back seat, billboards along the road).
is just the way it works in the cognitive development of a toddler, or
even a school age child. It takes time and experience to learn to
juggle all the sensory input and make sense of it, and to coordinate it
with his developing body of knowledge and physical coordination.
Furthermore, there is a value in letting the child mull things over for
himself, construct his own theories and try them out. If we merely
fill a child's head with facts, we stifle intellectual curiosity and
creativity. And facts that have no grounding in his personal
experience, or no solid relation to what he already understands, cannot
be grasped or retained in any meaningful fashion.
Knowing this, and knowing that each child is a little different, we
can rest assured that we are right to be patient with our children's
development. That is, we take note but don't panic when they have
yet to master a desired skill or awareness. (We can always consult
a teacher or pediatrician about the need, or way, to assist or
furthermore, we can know that the best way to help them in the process
of making sense of the world around them, is to let them expand into it.
Allow them the time and relative serenity to explore through their
physical senses, and to make the mental connections that will eventually
help them master higher level concepts.
At the same time, we must
provide a gentle stream of new experiences and opportunities for
short, we must neither overwhelm them with sights, sounds, and things to
do and learn, nor leave them floundering in sensory and intellectual
deprivation while the innate urge to explore and experience is stifled
The way we
accomplish this balance, is by educating ourselves about our child's
current stage of development (and the one that is upcoming), by opening
ourselves to fun ideas for creative play or exploration, and by paying
attention to feelings, both our own and those of our child.
Feelings provide important signals and signposts that let us know when
to forge ahead, and when to ease up. In addition, respecting these
feelings provides important role modeling that will help our child
understand how to navigate life's challenges, both large and small.
A natural part of human development,
toilet learning often gives kids, and parents, real trouble.
Check this page for an introduction to Potty Training, handling
nighttime dryness and bedwetting, plus links to more articles on
this important subject.
Proper nutrition is necessary for
healthy physical and cognitive development. But it's not
always easy to get kids to eat what they should. This page
handles this important issues along with prevent choking in young
children and handling obesity and eating disorders.
Very few things go as smoothly as
they could without a good night's sleep. Kids "lose it" over
the littlest things. And parents make choices they later laugh
-- or cry -- about. And as if this weren't enough, a child has
a hard time progressing through those developmental milestones when
he's falling asleep in his rice cereal. Check out our
collection of articles and advice for helping your child develop
good sleep habits.
Health and safety challenges can have
a major impact on a child's physical, emotional, and intellectual
development. Part of our job as parents and educators is to
know how to handle these challenges appropriately so that kids can
learn and play safely and freely. Surf this page for articles
and links to help you be prepared.
As many parents and teachers know
from experience, children often have special challenges that need to
be taken into consideration with planning curriculum and applying
safety and discipline policies. Surf this section for
resources to help you meet the needs of the particular children in
your care, or to create a classroom and curriculum that works for
children with special needs.
An overview of the the
phases and stages of development that children pass through in the
toddler and preschool years. Outlines typical abilities and
behaviors in physical, social, emotional, and intellectual areas of
development. From here you can surf additional articles
from Child Development Institute.
article laying out the 8 stages,
their crises and desired positive outcome or resolution. Helpful for
understanding what basic social skill/emotional quality a toddler, child,
or teen is
working to master in their stage of development. With such
clues in hand we can work with our children, rather than
always feel pitted against them in the battle of wills. And
when this happens, we all win!
Feeling good about
ourselves, feeling confident in our abilities to master challenges
(or to love ourselves when we don't) helps us do better
socially, emotionally, and intellectually -- all through life.
If we want to have happier families and empower our children to
fuller competence and creativity, understanding self-esteem is
a critical part of the formula. This exceptionally well-written and informative
article is of value to parents, care providers, and teachers. Find out
exactly how self-esteem is shaped and how it can be positively
nurtured in children of all ages.
An excellent article on the
topic by well-known child development researcher Stanley L.
Greenspan. (Other useful articles about developmental issues to keep
in mind while planning curriculum are linked to from this page.)
This article not only explains why intellectual
development is not the only ingredient in a child's future success in
life, but also goes through each major stage of development,
explaining what elements of "E.Q." the child is developing
and what exactly an adult can do to help.
He found the
secrets of human learning and knowledge hidden behind the cute and
seemingly illogical notions of children. Read why this
Swiss philosopher and psychologist was chosen
as one of Time magazines 100 most influential people of the
Am Your Child
Child development from prenatal
to age 3. Brain development, ages and stages, parenting questions,
and a guide to understanding the role and importance of the first
three years of life. Discusses the "parent development"
that accompanies each stage of child development!
as Teachers National Center. A national program to increase
parents awareness of young childrens development. Check
this website to find the chapter nearest you or check out their
"tips for parents" section for a brief list of ways to aid
a child's development at various stages of infant and toddler hood.
Development A listing of charts, graphs, and
checklists to help you make sense of your child's physical growth and
development -- includes such areas as weight, dental development,
hearing, vision, head control & other developmental milestones,
growth spurts, and Apgar scores. From about.com.
to Three Located in
Washington D.C. and
founded in 1977 by top developmental experts, this national,
nonprofit organization is dedicated to the healthy development of
babies and young children -- especially in the first three years of
life (the time of greatest growth and human development). Numerous informative
articles on various child-development topics. Be sure to check their
"tip of the week".