There’s a lot of emphasis these days made on the importance of early learning, but are young children pressured to learn too much too soon?
It’s hard to get away from references for the need for early learning. It’s talked about in the media, at nursery, in books, by other parents and even on this website, and parents are encouraged to teach their children as much as possible from an early age. With all this emphasis on learning, some people worry that it could be a case of too much too soon – after all, babies are meant to enjoy time to play and there’s plenty of time to devote to learning once they’re a bit older.
Early Years Foundation Stage 2007
The introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage in 2007 was intended to help Early Years practitioners working in different arenas to help reach the same goals of care, development and learning. On the whole, it’s certainly a good framework to have, as it means children don’t miss out if they’re looked after by a childminder rather than being at a nursery and there’s a standard structure for practitioners to keep to.
Concern has been raised in some areas though that there’s a bit too much emphasis placed on what children should be able to do at certain ages, rather than on the simple act of playing. Receiving reports, moving up a class and reaching achievement goals are things that used to be reserved for children who were school age, but they’re now they’re part and parcel of learning life with younger children too.
Whilst it’s certainly good to have a framework of learning in place, there is the temptation for parents to start worrying too soon that their children hasn’t yet achieved certain goals, when really they’re likely to pick them up soon in their own time.
There’s also the issue of parent pressure in some cases, too. There have always been some over zealous parents who want their children to do well, so push them into trying anything and everything. Typical pushiness includes sending them to lots of clubs and classes, enrolling them in activities every day of the week and keeping them busy all the time.
The character Bertie, in Alexander McCall Smith’s ’44 Scotland Street’ series of novels is a classic example of an over-pressured six-year-old child who’s made to learn and speak Italian, play the saxophone and do yoga, when all he really wants to do is play with a train set.
It’s easy for parents on the outside to look in and realise when someone else is pushing their child to excel at things, but harder sometimes to realise you’re doing it yourself. It’s definitely a good thing for children to get the chance to learn new activities and gain new skills, but building their schedule up so that they’re busy almost all the time, with little time to just relax and play, is rather excessive and could, as was discovered in Bertie’s case, lead to a child beginning to rebel over their pressured environment.
Getting the Right Balance
The key to giving your child the best learning start in life, and not overpowering them with information and activities, is that thing called balance. Although it’s sometimes hard to get the balance right, with a bit of careful planning and a good look at the schedule your child has, you can get it right. The early years especially are an important time in your child’s life, but they go so quickly and children already grow up fast. So cherish the time you have, make learning fun at every point, try some classes and you’ll be doing the best for your child.