For decades researchers in the field of psychology have debated nature versus nurture in the role of brain development. Are we really a product of genetics or does our environment determine who we become? In recent years, research has shown that environment, specifically in early childhood, is a strong predictor of success in adult life. In the first years of life, children develop habits that will last a lifetime.
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They will begin a life of activity or settle into a sedentary lifestyle. They will learn the language that is spoken around them and model the behaviors they see. While the brain develops most of its neurons from birth to three years old, early childhood is defined as the period of birth through eight years old. Education during this time is important because these are the child’s most formative years. Early childhood education will determine a person’s health, intelligence and personality in later years.
In a child’s early years, he is energetic and longing to play. It is during this time that regular physical activity should start and become a habit. Because physical activity is directly related to good health at every stage of life, play and sports should be a part of early childhood education. Exercise improves motor skills in young children while organized play teaches skills such as honesty, teamwork, fairplay, respect for themselves and others, and adherence to rules. Early involvement in sports increases the chance that a person will be physically active later in life. It is important for children to be part of sports programs outside of school to achieve the maximum impact on public health. Any sports program can teach a child skills that will help his coordination and improve his health.
Just as a person’s health and physical rigor is determined by his early years, so is his ability and motivation to learn. Even before kindergarten age, children should get familiar with materials like scissors and pencils, learn letters and sounds, and recognize numbers. The child should be read to and begin to write his name.
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