What’s Going On in the World of Early Childhood?

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Early childhood education can be somewhat of a mystery, especially since many people don’t think of it as “education” until children reach elementary school.  Early childhood begins at birth and typically goes all the way until children are age eight or entering the third grade.

Unfortunately, early childhood today is changing more and more in our technologically advanced age.  Education consultant, Rae Pica, has seen several of these changes occurring throughout her years of service since the 1980s.  In her article published in Community Playthings, she lists three things that seem to be recurring areas in need of improvement in early childhood education:

  1. More children are unable to cross the mid-line of the body.
  2. Children don’t know how to play anymore.
  3. Children have no fine motor control.

More children are unable to cross the mid-line of the body.  

Amidst the busy lives of parents all over the world, babies are spending less and less time on their tummies, which is vital in the development of muscles needed to crawl and perform cross-lateral movements.  What parents need to remember is that the body and mind work together.  Children need to practice moving in a variety of ways to gain confidence in their skills.  Pica writes, “what impacts the body’s development impacts the brain’s development, and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better off our children will be.”

Children don’t know how to play anymore. 

Almost every animal on our planet plays at some point or another in their lives.  Play is necessary to learn the skills that are needed to become successful adults.  Educators are reporting that children are simply imitating on-screen characters or are just standing around during free-play time because they are at a loss as to what to do.  With the rise in technology, children are exposed to much more media, thus diminishing the need for imaginative play.  As early childhood educators, it is vital that we facilitate play and give children the time, space and materials to foster imaginative play.

Children have no fine motor control.

This, again, goes back to technology.  Children aren’t getting the same opportunities to utilize crayons, scissors, and other utensils as much as they are given a tablet or digital device to keep them occupied.  Children are also not developing and using large muscles which relates to the development of the small muscles such as those in the hands and fingers.  If large muscles are not developed, it becomes very difficult for small muscles to progress as well.  Children must have the strength and endurance in large muscles in order to begin using fine motor control skills (Buttfield, 2017).  This need stresses the importance of play and practice with a variety of materials and utensils.

Early childhood education is one of the most important times in a child’s life.  Giving them ample opportunities and experiences with open-ended manipulatives can help overcome the above challenges.  For more information on open-ended activities and ideas, check out https://www.communityplaythings.com/resources.

Resources:

Buttfield, J. (2017, April 12). Big muscles make a big difference to fine motor skills. [Blog].  Retrieved from https://childdevelopment.com.au/blog/big-muscles-make-big-difference-fine-motor-skills/.

Education and Child Development Experts – About Rae Pica http://www.raepica.com/education-consultant-rae/.

Pica, R. (2018).  The state of early childhood: Three things that have changed since I became an early childhood consultant.  Community Playthings.  Retrieved from http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2018/the-state-of-early-childhood.

SARAH ROBERTS, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Leslie Crandall, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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