Even when children seem ready and able to learn early academics, sometimes it’s better to hold off. After all, an infant could drink Koolaid from a bottle, but we don’t recommend that, either!
Early childhood experts are now calling more strongly for childhood during the earliest years, rather than academics. Experienced elementary and high school teachers are flummoxed at the quickly-increasing number of children who come through their classes now struggle with issues they’d encountered only very rarely. Anxiety is joining attention and focus issues, sensory processing, autism spectrum, and more.
It starts during early childhood.
They’re missing the most basic parts of how to be a person, and without that, living life as an adult is difficult.
We teach chefs not by starting them out with cheese soufflès, but the the basics: inventory and organization of the kitchen. Deft and automatic egg-cracking, without shells in the bowl. When to pre-heat an oven, and why.
Teaching children academics before they know where the cinnamon is kept — and the difference between cinnamon and cardamon — may be done. They can learn the academics, but implementing them as happy and well-adjusted adults is going to be tough.
Learning to be aware of their emotions and how to react to new experiences, sensations and the like is generally not done while sitting at a computer. Children need a parent or caregiver to help them identify and react appropriately. That’ll reduce things like anxiety, and begin the process of being able to pay attention to a task and focus. (Note: this requires the adult to be comfortable away from their own electronics, able to focus on the real world with the child!)
Some tips you’ve heard of (because they work!)
Limit screen time – TV as well as other electronics. Managing Screen Time Rules for Kids has wonderful guidelines and tips on how to implement this with minimal fuss from the kids.
Increase time spent outside, exploring nature. This is generally calming to a child (we all like to de-stress by going for a walk!) as well as teaching resiliency with new experiences. Dealing with the unexpected teaches an ability to deal with the new and unexpected, and problem-solving. Trying to do that indoors, especially in a group activity, isn’t nearly as effective. Avoid NDD (Nature Deficit Disorder!)
The simpler the toy, generally the better (we all know kids who prefer the box to the brightly colored plastic). Toys that light up and make noises are easy entertainment but they practice the “I’ll only pay attention if it’s constantly reinforced” part of their brain.