No Reset Button In Parenting: Reasons Why You Should Invest In Your Child’s First Five Years of Life
The child’s first five years are considered to be the most important phase of a child’s life. The period from the time they are born until the time they reach 5 years old is where most of the brain develops. In fact, 95% of the child’s brain is developed in their first five years of life! During this stage of development, the child learns all about the world around him. His language, speech, and perception of his environment, including his perception and knowledge of people and things start to develop at this stage.
So, why do the first five years of life matter so much?
Think of the child’s brain as clay, in their first five years of life, their brain is still very mouldable how you want to shape it. Their brains are like sponges, they take whatever information that they get from their environment, from parents, educators, and carers. Even language is easily passed on to children at this stage of their life. Whatever you teach them in their first five years would last all throughout their lives!
Language and communication are one of the most important developments that take place in the early years. Infants learn most of what they know through hearing and copying. In fact, they engage in an intuitive analysis of regularities of speech from the sounds that they hear and use these to construct their own language (Saffran, 2003). Young children rely so heavily on what they hear from others that by the time they are in preschool, they are able to tell the difference between adult speakers who are likely to give them more knowledge and those who are not (Harris, 2012; Jaswal, 2010; Koenig and Doebel, 2013).
Another important discovery on early child development is that children create their own intuitive map of mental processes (Baillargeon et al., 2010; Saxe, 2013; Wellman and Woolley, 1990). Children subconsciously create their own patterns and follow certain behaviours, and most of it is influenced by what they see, hear, and observe in their early years of life. Infants are also perceptually sensitive to changes, and they are receptive to a language’s rhythm. For example, children that are spoken two languages, like English and French, know that these two languages are not the same (Byers-Heinlein, Burns, & Werker, 2010; Mehler et al., 1988).
A child’s early years present a crucial window of opportunity to influence their overall development and lay the groundwork for their future. What you do or do not do in their first five years affect them forever. Once the first five years pass, you can no longer take it back, and you will only regret the years that you missed. The first five years of life are when you should really invest in your child’s development. More than expensive toys, children need parents that listen and provide them with the support that they need in their growing years.
Early brain development shapes a child’s social skills, cognitive ability, emotional well-being, language, reading abilities, and physical talents, and is a predictor of school success and life resilience (Blair, 2002; Posner & Rothbart, 2006; Shanker & Greenspan, 2009). These first five years greatly determine the child’s readiness to start school, how well they do academically, their behaviour with their peers, and later on their success in life and in their careers.
No Reset Button In Parenting: What You Can Do Today
As a parent of a child 5 years old and below, there’s still something that you can do to make the most of your child’s first five years. Being the parent, you are their first educator, so you hold the responsibility to support your child the best way you can, especially in their early years of life.
Little changes make a great impact. The first step is to acknowledge that you have some behavioural and lifestyle changes to make. Your behaviour and attitude as a parent greatly affect your child’s success. In fact, a study shows that parent participation in early childhood education and care settings not only improves children’s development (Greenspan & Shanker, 2004; Mustard 2006).
Most of the children happen at home, so this is where you will have to start. Early childhood reading is a proven method to improve your child’s literacy and improve their brain activity. Some of the benefits of childhood reading include the early development of the child’s brain, the development of a lifelong love for reading, mental and psychological benefits, and a boost of self-confidence. Moreover, children who are readers are also more likely to become better communicators and writers.
You can start by reading with your child for atleast 10 minutes a day. When you are reading with your child, you are joining them in the world of the books, this builds a connection and a solid bond. A study even shows that reading with your child for 10 minutes a day affects their mood, happiness, and overall well-being. When this becomes a habit, your child will develop a natural love for reading and will soon be reading books for pleasure, and you would not even have to force them to do so.
However, some children may not like the idea of reading at first, especially when they are not used to it. Remember, you are introducing a new habit to them so be patient, choose a book that they are interested in like a personalised book. A study by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) shows that personalisation of books and reading materials has been shown to improve older children’s reading comprehension. Children prefer to read books that they can relate to, and personalised books relate to the child on a personal level. You want to build that connection between your child and reading because you want to make the experience fun and enjoyable for them.
Building a reading habit in the child’s early years should be the benchmark for early childhood learning. The benefits of early childhood learning and building a reading habit is something that your child should not miss. A reading habit equips your child for school and life in general. The more the child reads, the more literate they get, readers also have higher comprehension levels than those who don’t. More importantly, reading increases your child’s literacy. And, literacy greatly affects the outcome of a person’s life. Low literacy rates reduce the UK’s ability to compete economically, costing the government £2.5 billion annually (KPMG, 2009). Children who are most involved in literacy are three times more likely than those who are least engaged to have higher levels of mental wellness (National Literacy Trust).
How you want your child to develop in their early years is all up to you. You have the power the change the course of their lives and guarantee them a brighter future by building a reading habit on them while they are young. Through reading, you are not only building the child intellectually, but you are also raising children that are emotionally intelligent, better communicators, and have a solid relationship with you!