Preschool teaching in America is a horrible mess. Most of the products on the market are of the Mickey Mouse variety that view children as brainless idiots who have to be taught by cute little animals who are more intelligent than the children. Their main teaching tool are pictures. The more pictures the better. The bigger and more colorful the pictures the better. No one in preschool or primary education seems to know how children actually learn.
Four-year-olds are dynamos of self-learning. The capacity of their brains is expanding so rapidly that adults can barely keep up with it. They learn to speak their own language grammatically without the help of a certified teacher. Their vocabulary expands daily without any formal education. Their principal method of learning is play, which is why discerning parents buy toys that can feed that appetite for self-learning. Parents can also help by introducing new words and their meanings. They can also expand their child’s cultural knowledge by playing good music, reading good poetry and stories, and taking their child to museums and historical sites.
But play is the most vital way children learn, and much of play is imitating what adults do. Much preschool learning is self-induced. An only child will learn to play by himself or herself. For example, my niece has a two-year-old son who knows how to turn on a stereo player and dance to the music all by himself. When I was a four-year-old, my sister and I used to pretend we were radio singers. It was great fun. In other words, children in normal, loving families are never bored. They are constantly entertaining themselves and learning about the world they live in.
Parents can foster creative play by giving their children Lego blocks so that they can build their own miniature skyscrapers and lots of other things; large sketch pads with crayons and colorful markers so that they can draw their own pictures; piano keyboards so that they can make their own music. Learning to play a musical instrument can start quite early as we see by how well child prodigies can play the piano or violin or cello or the flute.
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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)