Tadpoles Nursery School’s approach to early years education aligns with Harvard University
Harvard University’s ‘Center on The Developing Child’ has released an article detailing the importance of early years development on the resulting characteristics of adults.
The article, titled ‘The Science of Early Childhood Development’, and appearing as part of its ‘In Brief’ series, explains how ‘child development – particularly from birth to five years – is a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society’. The piece looks at this through the lens of early experiences determining the quality of the ‘architecture’ in the brain, leading the individual in question to develop either a ‘sturdy or fragile foundation’.
The first few years of life see more than 1 million new neural connection being formed per second. After this initial rapid growth, a process known as ‘pruning’ sees these connections reduced in order for the brain’s circuits to become more efficient. As these circuits develop in a young child’s brains, the ‘serve and return’ process begins to take place, where children will reach out for interaction via noises, actions and expression. Healthy responses to these actions help to develop the child’s mental architecture, while negative responses can damage the brain’s development.
Nurseries have to be particularly aware of the serve and return principle as they help guide children to become more self-reliant while keeping them stimulated. Claire Dimpfl, Head and owner at Tadpoles Nursery School in Chelsea, emphasises the importance of teaching children that ‘all emotions are valid’. The approach is intended to stop children feeling the need to achieve ‘constant happiness’ often embedded in young children with good intention but in a manner that results in unrealistic expectations and poor emotional management. In Dimpfl’s own word, the approach helps to encourage the children at her nursery to ‘prepare for a future with resilience’
Dimpfl also emphasises the importance of allowing the children to play with objects and interact with each other without being interrupted, as this activity has ‘an imaginative and creative flow which leads to discovery and problem solving’. She adds ‘It is very tempting to try to interfere with a teaching moment, but this much be avoided’. The view that the structure of a child’s learning at this point in their life is of great importance to their future is echoed by the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child, who write ‘the emotional and physical health, social skills, and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years are all important prerequisites for success in school and later in the workplace and community’.