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Early Childhood Development

While in the process of re-branding, some parents were invited to complete our survey. What we found was that 53% of the parents who responded felt that enrolling their children in a language based enrichment centre was important. This was followed by 19% of parents who enrolled their children in Mathematics and Science based enrichment class. 

This brings us to our key question: What should we be teaching our pre-schoolers first? language? math? science? or music? Here is what we have to say 

One of the key indicators of a child's ability to succeed in the school setting is the development of their executive function skills. More than often, it is the child who is able to communicate their needs and wants verbally, manage emotions, pay attention and complete tasks that experience more success in the formal school setting. Going to school with a solid base of foundation executive function skills is more important than their literacy or mathematical abilities. By age 7, most of the little children should develop the brain circuits underlying the executive function skills that are similar to those found in adults. With this set of skill in place, children would be able to better direct their attention, control impulse and plan for meaningful action. 

One of the building blocks in determining your child's executive function is what we call inhibitory control. In simple terms, it refers to a person's ability to direct attention. Here are some ways you can identify your child's inhibitory control at work. 

At six months old: 

Is your child able to keep his/her hands to themselves when you instruct them not to touch an item that is deemed dangerous? 

At 18 months old: 

Is your child able to freeze when playing freeze games? In our classes this month, our students and their parents were introduced to a variety of activities that would require them to exercise their skills and abilities to assert inhibitory control and were surprised at their speed of picking up these skills. 

At 3 years old: 

Take your child to the playground and watch them interact socially. Is your child often told by others what to do, gets pushed out or cause others play to fall apart? This could suggest that they are lagging behind in terms of their executive function and find it difficult to keep up with the play activities that requires them to communicate and execute a play plan with other children. 

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There is a lot to tell about your child just by watching them play with others. 

Here are three ways to encourage your child to exercise inhibitory control: 
1) Develop Motivation In Learning 

At the pre-school age, help your child to develop motivation in learning by exposing them to a series of themes and subjects that will interest them. If they like puzzles, use puzzles as a form of learning. If they love animals, transport or musical instrument, use it as a mean to broaden their interest in learning. It is important to establish the joy of learning at the young age, which would eventually serve as their motivation for asserting self-control when they are ready for formal schooling. 

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Get children involved in learning with all their senses! 

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Multisensory Learning 

2) Praise their effort in asserting self-control 

Yes, children want to please their parents or the adults that matters to them. It is therefore important for us to make an effort to pay attention to their little efforts in asserting self-control and praise them for it. The more they are 'rewarded' and noticed for the effort, the more they will display the desired behavior. In our classes, our teachers are not in the habit of putting down children but we are quick to respond and praise  children for displaying the desired behaviour, be it their ability to queue up, sit and finish their drink or even return their toys. To us, these little things count because they are building blocks for the strengthening of their executive function. Have you praised them for their self-control today? 

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Mark - finding satisfaction in completing mobility task assigned. 

3) Games with rules 

Introduce games with rules and play them with your children. While you are having fun bonding over games, what you are really doing is to strengthen their abilities to assert inhibitory control. Some examples of games could be red light, green light. When they have gotten the hang of the game, start introduce games with more complex rules. 

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Alethea asserts control over her impusivity to jump. She waits for the teacher's instructions while learning how to spell. 

Is your child often labelled as the child with 'bad behaviour' simply because they have problems with controlling their impulses, focusing their attention and following instructions? It could boil down to the poor development of the inhibitory control. 

The answer to the question : What do we teach our pre-schoolers first? We work on strengthening their executive function skills. They provide the basis for children's ability to read, write and do math. Children with strong executive function skills finds it easier to focus, remember and plan which would help them to learn and master any content they are required to. 

As the saying goes: 

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Strengthening the executive function skills can be likened to teaching him how to fish. Teach your child how to 'fish' today!