Wednesday, 2 July 2008

How Preschool Education Helps Brain Development

Morning Greeting
Whenever an adult speaks directly and personally to a preschool child, cascades of impulses go through the child's neurons (nerve cells), which are connected to one another by synapses. The repetition of these kinds of positive early interactions actually helps the brain reinforce the existing connections and make new ones.

By a couple of months of age, babies can process the emotional contours of language (prosody), which means they tune in to the emotional variations in your voice. (In fact, toddlers can memorize nursery rhymes because rhymes have prosody!) As the preschool teacher raises her voice an octave and draws out her vowels, the child's brain responds by sending even more chemical and electrical impulses across the synapses.

Story time
Early childhood teachers are careful to have small groups for story time so that preschool children are able to get involved and process information. Young children need real interactions in order to learn. As she reads, the teacher will use melodic voice tones to ensure children's involvement and learning.

Free play / Work time
During free play, preschool children interact with one another. As they communicate, whether through beginning language or more sophisticated use of words, the neurons in their brains are making more connections, critical for reinforcing learning.

Further opportunities for communication lead to the repetition of impulses sent through the brain. The more repetition that goes on, the more the brain grows sure in its understanding. Repetition of language sounds is crucial to brain development.

Circle time
As the early childhood caregiver focuses her attention on each individual child in the large group activity, the child must think about the topic for the day. The child's brain will be active as he/she retrieves from memory something special in her own personal history that she has learned. Each day children reap the benefits of preschool education.

**Brain development information from an article in Scholastic
Parent & Child, by Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D. April/May 1999

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