Laying a Foundation

Laying a foundation is very important …not only in a building’s construction, but also in the preparation of a child for his/her formal schooling.  If there are empty spaces left in that foundation, that which is built may eventually collapse. 

            As I was eating lunch today with my husband, I observed a small baby about six months old sitting at the next booth with his parents.  I was amazed to see the baby keeping perfect rhythm with the music playing over the speakers.  I thought to myself, “Maybe children today will be better musicians since many of their parents are of a generation that hasmusic playing in the background most of the time.  In fact, many of the babies probably were exposed to music throughout their mother’s pregnancy.”  Of one thing I was sure: this baby was keeping perfect rhythm with the music’s beat!

            I do know my grandson has a natural talent for picking up any instrument and playing music easily with it.  His mother played the piano and sang almost every day of her pregnancy and listened to the radio almost continuously.  Is there a correlation?  Several studies have been done in this area which show babies can remember up to four months and react to melodies heard in the womb. 

            I think the key for successful learning in children is building a strong foundation with repeated time and activity devoted to the desired outcome.  For example, a child will be better prepared for the school experience if the parent will make efforts to leave the child with other caretakers on many different occasions in many different situations.  It is an exhausting experience for my preschool teachers to deal with a child who has never been away from his/her mother for any period of time…until that first day of school!  A child must be prepared for that time of separation. 

            Children must be exposed to playing with other children before they can make a smooth transition to being in a classroom.  Even periods of play at a playground in a park or a play area in a mall can help the child to recognize there are other beings in their world with needs and feelings similar to their own.  Of course, at first, play may be only alongside of others rather than “with” them, but it’s a very important first step!

            Parents need to allow their children to fall down, pick themselves up, and go on playing in spite of the small scrape that is bound to happen with children at play.  Unless the hurt is bleeding or serious, the child needs to become resilient by going on with life.  The scratch can be treated later at a more convenient time.  Children of “helicopter parents” expect the whole playground to shut down when a scrape or tumble occurs, and their vocal “siren” to bring things to a halt usually is effective.  However, it does raise everyone’s stress level and takes time away from the limited recess period for everyone.

            I have been amazed at the parenting done by my teachers whose babies came to school with them every day.  I watched these one and two year old children play along with our regular students aged 3-5 on the playground.  Following the modeling of the older children, these little ones handled all things well, including climbing up ladders to the tornado slide and sliding down.   One of these children just finished her first two weeks of summer school camps as a three year old who will attend PK in August.  She was perfectly adapted to school life, meeting and interacting with new students, and doing classroom activities.  She did give a little whimper as Mom left for home, but she sniffed once or twice and went right on with school activities for the whole day.  I think she had a great foundation laid for a successful school career!  

-          Kay