Tonight I stumbled on an amazing and informative documentary on Netflix called, The Beginning of Life. If you work with babies, young children or have children of your own, stop what you’re doing and go add it to your watch list right now. In my career as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I work with many children under the age of 3. When watching this documentary, I found myself rewinding and listening over and over to the very helpful brain science nuggets this documentary contains. I can’t wait to share these nuggets with my clients’ parents to help them understand and value the importance of play. So many parents want to focus on the fact that their child is not yet using words. They don’t always understand the importance and significance of play and social development during the first 3 years of life.
My favorite nugget was from Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. when he was discussing the importance of providing a balance of challenge and support during play with young children:
“What [babies and young children] need is that little bit of challenge and the frustration that goes with not being able to do something so easily so that you work at it. It’s not only working at it to master that skill. It’s working at it develop a sense of what it’s like to work for something that’s not that easy. If you never get that experience… If every time you try something that’s a little bit frustrating, an adult comes in and does it for you, how do you learn how to deal with frustration?”
So, the next time you interact with your baby or young child, focus less on the words they are able to use and more on how they are exploring and interacting with the world. How are they taking in their environment? How are they solving problems and exploring the world around them? How much are you letting them figure things out on their own? Are you letting them fail so that they can learn how to succeed?