It is universally acknowledged that the first five years of life are probably the most crucial in an individual’s development. There is no other time in human life when so much is learned in so brief a period. In our short – term concern for preparing the child adequately for formal academics, we sometimes tend to neglect the true nurturing of their minds.
What do we mean by mental stimulation? What are the intellectual needs of the young child? To put it succinctly, it consists of giving children certain opportunities, which facilitate them to:
- make sense of the environment and adapt to its changing requirements
- have as many experiences involving the senses
- communicate and express themselves
- explore and experiment
- solve problems
HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN?
Anyone who has ever spent time with young children knows how strong their impulse is to see, hear, touch, taste and smell everything they encounter. This behavior illustrates a fundamental fact of early childhood experience. Young children learn best when they are actively involved, when they can handle materials and try things out for themselves.Early learning must, therefore be based on sensory experiences.
Play is an indispensable avenue for learning. The crucial value of play in the development of children’s thinking is yet to be fully appreciated by many of us. Adults who have watched young children at play know the intensity and seriousness they often bringing to it. Play clarifies concepts and gives children opportunities to explore, to imagine and to translate experience into something meaningful to them. Play is the natural and most effective means through which a young child learns.
Activity and play by themselves are not enough to enhance a child’s learning. Children need asocial environment with peers and adults to help them interpret or clarify their experiences and to relate new learning to their previous experiences and to assimilate new learning to their existing repertoire of knowledge. This type of social interaction is crucial. As a parent or teacher, how do you enhance a child’s learning ability? Evidence from recent research suggests that the kind of dialogue or interaction which seems to help the child most, is one in which a caring adult engages with the child, enters the child’s psychological space, listens to the child, makes appropriate comments and helps clarify concepts.