Children’s brain development during the ages of 2 and 5 are critical and set the stage for life long learning. Play is a big part of that development.

In a recent study by Dr. Sara Baker, researcher at the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University, changes in children’s way of thinking were charted to examine individual learning curves month by month.

Several experiments were designed to identify the age when executive skills begin to develop. Those skills that help us problem solve, regulate our emotions, behaviour and also keep us from eating that delicious piece of cake just before dinner.

In one experiment involving dropping balls into tubes that crisscrossed each other, younger children were able to apply their knowledge of gravity but did not understand the idea that the tubes were not straight up and down. When children repeat mistakes they are providing a glimpse into their understanding of the world. Parents and teachers are there to help children move past the impulse and develop new information and increase their understanding of the world around them.

Through her research, Sara and her team are developing an instructional, play-based approach in collaboration with teachers. Understanding the developmental process of the child’s brain and finding ways to encourage it’s development through play and exploration while encouraging independence is vital to helping children develop executive skills. They learn when to ask for help, how to self-regulate and when to be self-reliant.

Executive skills begin developing well before formal education and play-based interactions have an important role. How you start to learn continues on throughout your lifetime.

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