In my most recent post, I wrote about how powerful words are in a young child’s development. As I mentioned then, it’s been said that sometimes we’re in such a hurry to give kids the things we never had, that we forget to give them the things we did have. Meaningful conversation may rank high on that list of simple, yet powerful things we take for granted.
The 30 million word gap has become somewhat legendary. But in case you missed the recurrent rumbling, here’s the quick rundown. Back in 1995, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley recorded hours and hours of interactions between parents and children. What they found was startling. By age three, the average child from a family in the professional class heard 30 million more words than did the average child living on welfare. What was perhaps most striking about this research was their finding that there was a tight link between the number of words a child heard and their future academic success. This link was so strong that it appears to exist even when other factors, including socioeconomic factors, were controlled for. In essence, they asserted that closing that word gap could close the achievement gap between the social classes.
Subsequent studies have found that it isn’t just the quantity of words, but the quality of conversation that makes such a big difference for kids. Continue reading
Until about the mid 1700s, childhood wasn’t recognized as part of the lifespan. Children were viewed as miniature adults. The same rules, expectations, and responsibilities were applied equally to children and adults. (Hence, the child kings, child brides, child laborers, etc.) No one considered that children might have different needs, different ways of thinking, or different capacities. The shift in perspective that allowed adults to consider children and childhood to be unique was one of the great advances of the 18th century
“Way before we put a pencil in a child’s hand and ask him to write, we need to have a foundation of fine motor skills.”
I could tell right away that while I thought I had said something simple, it was time to slow down and elaborate.
How Should We Protect Children? : Read Along Section Two – What if Everybody Understood Child Development?
Everyone will agree that we want to keep children safe. Despite all the other things that might divide us, we all want to protect our children. The trick is in agreeing on HOW we should protect children.
In Chapter 4 of Rae Pica’s book, What If Everybody Understood Child Development?: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children’s Lives (*affiliate link), she examines the swing in opinions of how children should be protected and what responsibilities the adults in their lives have. This swing has led to them being referred to as “The Bubble Wrap Generation”, as cited in the book.
One of my favorite moments during my last Powerful Play workshop was talking with the table of teachers who were doing their in-depth study on dramatic play. With wide eyes and excited tones they made connections between the play they saw in the classroom and the developmental benefits of playing pretend.
“Susie” played hospital for weeks after her brother was born. “Bobby” had themes of death woven through his play for a month after going to his grandfather’s funeral. “Lisa and Lori” spent most of their dress up time negotiating themes and characters. And the concept that pretending is actually part of building the foundation for reading — that one sparked a major a-ha moment.
Seeing how excited they became as they unpacked all of this, reminded me of why I love what I do. And made me want to give the same experience to you. So here’s a repost from the archives, originally posted in 2010. A primer on the purpose of playing pretend.
Share your observations of powerful play in the comments!
Many parents have come to their child’s preschool teacher with the same concern. “It seems like my child plays dress-up all day at preschool. What could he possibly be learning from that?” The question is understandable – what does he learn from leaping around with his cape fluttering behind him? And yet, the question is somewhat ironic, as these very parents likely spent much of their childhood engaged in the same kind of play. Continue reading
Teaching Children the Way They’re Meant to Learn: Read Along Section One –What if Everybody Understood Child Development?
“Developmentally Appropriate Practice”
Bring that term up in a room full of early childhood educators, and you’d better get comfy. They’ll have a lot to say on the matter. But bring that term up with just about anyone who is NOT an early childhood professional, and you may get blank stares. It’s a mouthful. I’m guessing most of your average citizens couldn’t tell you what it means.