According to the famous developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, the most important years in a person’s life are his first eight years, starting from conception. For parents, the need to do right by their baby is intense pressure. They tend to do everything for their child, just to make sure he wants for nothing. But in infancy and early childhood, there are times when you need your child to do things by himself. You need to let him learn to crawl, walk, talk, run, jump, and play on his own, so he gets to show you who he is and what he can do.
Our role is to give our children the opportunities to experience a well-rounded childhood. Here are basic but important gifts we can give our child as he develops through the early childhood years.
The Gift of Time Time is the most precious gift we can give young children. They need time to feel, touch, see, hear, and taste the world around them. As parents, we guide them to the wonder of discovery, but we never rush. The child will walk, talk and do what he can do when he is READY. And when he falls, let him stand up on his own.
That is the gift of time: readiness to take the leap and feel proud that he can do it. Talk and read to your infant and toddler all the time. Let them listen to your voice and other sounds like music and songs. We must be vigilant in observing and encouraging the child to try out new things. But never force because the child may not be developmentally ready to do what you want him to do.
Play is learning in a young child’s life.
The Gift of Play According to Einstein, play is the highest form of research, the seed of learning. Play in a child’s life is very different from a grown-up's idea of play.
To a child, play is exploring, asking questions, tinkering, experimenting, and pretending. These types of play will be used when they have to learn new concepts, ideas, skills, and strategies when they are ready for school.
The Gift of Wonderment and Awe This gift can only be bestowed by parents, a child's first model of learning. Parents will have to create different developmentally appropriate opportunities to give his child a chance to build a chest full of happy memories.
The Gift of Character, Confidence, Creative Thinking, and Collaboration These 21st-century skills are what our children need to become successful in the future. To build and nurture these skills, our kids need playgrounds with sand and water play areas. They need wooden blocks to create. They need to play under the sun or even in the rain. They need to feel the grass, sand, water, dirt, and various beautiful flora and fauna around them.
So, what are we going to do? Allow them to be children. Allow them to interact with different types of people so they will learn that kindness and friendship are important. Social and emotional skills are planted during this time of development. It's when character-building begins, a time when our kids begin to understand traits like honesty, kindness, fairness, and integrity. But don't forget to imbue your child with a sense of joy and happiness -- it's the foundation she will need for the challenges ahead.
Maricar Gustilo-de Ocampo, an educator for 35 years, is a faculty member of the Brother Andrew Gonzalez College of Education at De La Salle University Manila for the past 18 years. She is the co-founder and partner of progressive school Keys School Manila and consults with companies and schools in Manila, Bacolod, Baguio, and Cebu, among others. She is married to Butch de Ocampo, and they have two adult children, Miki and Amanda, plus a French bull dog named Vito. In her spare time, she likes to read, watch, travel and cook.
References: Becoming Brilliant by Roberta Golinkiff and Kathy Pasek. APA LifeTools (2016) The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis. Viking Press (2016) Practical Wisdom for Parents by Nancy Schulman & Ellen BirnBaum. Knopf (2007)