Ryan has about 5 more minutes before he has to turn off hisiPad, get in the car and go to his acting class. After acting class, he will tackle thatworkbook page and get ready for dinner. Thissounds like a typical day for a teenager in 2012. Sadly, it is also a typical day for many 3-5year olds.
We have forgotten. That must be the reason that so many young children spend their dayswith an adult’s schedule. We have beendistracted by product marketing and standardized test makers. We are ignoring what children need in orderto learn. We have reprioritized to apoint where children are expected to perform more than pretend. We have given into a society that says thedefinition of successful parenting is pushing children beyond their developmentalstage because everyone needs to be the absolute best at literallyeverything. We have forgotten and it issad.
Technology – tablets, laptops, smart phones – are theproducts of creative, critical thinkers but they do not develop that sort ofthinking. Applications are beingmarketed to parents and educators as tools that ensure more success inpreschool by encouraging children to read and write at a very young age. The publishers of workbooks try to tell usthat they can do the same. We cannotopen a child’s head and put knowledge in it. Early childhood learners need to construct their own knowledge. Jean Piaget, the cognitive theorist behindmany of today’s accepted practices regarding child development, taught that ifyou teach a child something before they are ready to learn it, you deprive themof the opportunity to learn it completely. Babies cannot read but they can point to the picture that makes youreact. They enjoy when you smile or clap– it is entertaining. Preschoolers willwrite and read successfully when they are ready to do so. Understanding the symbolism of letters canonly take place when a child is ready to understand that one thing can standfor another – a letter can stand for a sound. Copying letters and imitating an adult’s pencil movements aremeaningless until the child is ready for them to have meaning. Preschoolers are egocentric and only careabout what matters to them. When itmatters, they will do it more easily and with more depth of understanding. It is a wonderful thing when you exposechildren to language arts skills and they suddenly grasp it. They were ready. Until then, keep in mind that children needto engage all of their senses to integrate concepts. Write letters with them in shaving cream orsand or finger paint. Read to them sothey can see your finger move along the page with each word and your lips moveto form the sounds. To a preschooler,tablets, laptops and smart phones are toys and should be treated as such.
The use of many technological items is a solitaryactivity. One person can use themouse. One person can use thetouchscreen. Have you ever reallywatched children sit together at a computer? They are fixated on the screen. They are sitting together, each fixated individually on the movement,colors and music coming from the monitor. Socialization, something that should be a primary goal of any preschoolprogram, can only come from social interaction. Children need to speak to each other, not a computer program. They need to learn about things thattechnology simply cannot teach them – caring, sharing and finding their placein a larger group.
Children need time to explore their world on theirterms. Schedules that include lessonafter lesson do not allow them to experiment and learn by satisfying their curiosity. Lessons and sports are adult driven activities. Adults decide what the children will do. Adults cheer them on and encourage theirsuccess. Team building, instructiveactivities have their place. I doremember taking dance lessons as a young girl but I remember far more timespent sitting in the grass exploring nature, playing with my friends at theirhomes and riding bikes in my neighborhood. I remember my parents telling me to go play and indulging me when Iwanted them to participate in some pretend activity. My fondest memories are not in the car goingfrom one adult driven thing to another but in the yard with my family andfriends. It was okay that I went todance class but my neighbor did not. Everyone didn’t need to be doing everything. We grew up, learned to read, went to collegeand have families of our own now.
We have forgotten. Ihope you join me in a quest to remember.
Copyright 2012 © Cindy Terebush
All Rights Reserved
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