I know. I’m impressed you’ve even got to the first line in this article.
But this is not about enrolling your child in music lessons, football classes, ballet lessons or teaching them another language.
This is about the brain science of the early years, and chances are you’re probably already setting them up for life.
Dr Laura Jana is the Director of Innovation at the University of Nebraska College of Public Health, a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of The Toddler Brain, Nurture the Skills Today that Will Shape Your Child’s Tomorrow. She says that the key to our child’s future success lies in the years between birth and five.
Listen to Laura’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:
Now, if you’re anything like me (with children under five) most of your time is just trying to manage the here and now. You know, that they get fed three meals a day, know how to use the toilet, are sleeping okay, that you’re dropping them off and picking them up at day care and that they’re wearing their socks and undies. I don’t have much time to think about whether or not they will be employable in 15 years’ time.
But Laura isn’t talking about going in to parental overdrive. She says that all the stuff we’re doing now, the nurturing that we do alongside the clothing and feeding, is what will set our kids up for the future.
“The good news is I’m telling parents the talking, cooing, singing, reading books to babies is not just warm and fuzzy, something fun to do each day…” says Laura. “You’re literally connecting neurons in your baby’s brain and what’s striking is that the skills now that are being identified in the business world, and innovation and entrepreneurial worlds, they are preschool skills that take their roots from what happens in those early years.”
So what are the skills that our kids will need to succeed in the future?
Laura says that we have to start with where we are at now; a globalized, complex world where technology is constantly evolving us into places we’ve never been, with a whole load of information at our finger tips.
The question becomes who can use that information and be creative problem solvers.
“What happens in a world where it’s been estimated that 65% of jobs that third graders today will work in, in the future, do not currently exist? When technology comes in, when robots take over things, what skills are going to be so valuable it doesn’t matter what your job is?” Laura ponders. “Those skills are creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, adaptability, the ability to fail and learn from your mistakes and certainly all of the skills that relate to relationships, and perspective taking and empathy.”
Laura says the ability to read people will be as important as the ability to read books.
And the research is saying that between birth and five years is where we can lay the foundation for these skills. Through play-based learning, allowing them to take safe risks, and learning how to use their executive functioning skills like impulse control, emotional control and flexible thinking.
We teach our children these things every day, when we’re coaching them to share, to name emotions, and especially through role modelling the behaviour we’d like to see.
The secret to setting up our kids for life is connecting with them now, encouraging their independence at the right time, and continuing with what we’re doing already.
If you’d like more information you can find more about Laura’s book here.
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