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Creating Brain Connections through Experiences

After many years, we have a new baby around. My grandson, Jack, has become the joy of our family. After ten years, I had somehow forgotten the beautiful joy that a newborn can bring. It also helps that he is the most gifted child every born. :-)

Having Baby Jack around has reminded me about how important it is for infants to make strong learning connections during that critical Birth-12month period. Those connections will only be as strong as we make them. The experiences we create for them must be real and relevant for strong connections to form. I was tying to read a board book to 5 month-old Jack and he was much more interested in how the corner of the book tasted. He was also intrigued when I opened up pages of the book and he suddenly discovered that there were several surfaces from which to choose. That experience may not be what I had in mind, but it was what he had in mind.

I was doing an art workshop in San Francisco this week and we were talking about how urgent it is for us to create hands-on real-world experiences for all children in the early childhood years. Giving a child a coloring book page or worksheet is not hands-on and instructional for cognitive learning. Early childhood educators should be all about creating experiences that can lead to strong brain connections for the children in their care. We must be teaching children to think in critical and creative ways to face the world in the future. We don't even know what they are going to be doing, but each year we see critical and creative thinking rewarded with jobs and new opportunities. I challenged the group that I was working with to worry less about 'mess' and more about experiences. Messes can be cleaned up. Missed brain connections in early childhood cannot be made up.

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