Posted on 10/12/2012 at 08:56 AM by Global Reach

In the new book from the NAEYC, Growing Minds: Building Strong Cognitive Foundations in Early Childhood, the author, Carol Copple indicates that there is growing concern about educating American children so that as adults, they will have the thinking skills needed in today’s economy and the complex world we live in.  Will our children have those 21st century skills?

In exploring cognitive development of children, we are learning that it is relationships with caring adults that are critical to the development of the mind. In infants and toddlers, feelings of security and support allow the children to engage eagerly in exploration of the environment and their identity.  Concept development happens within the context of that secure and supportive environment.

In preschool children, that sense of security and support allows them develop critical cognitive skills.  Children that are 3-5 years of age are beginning to create mental representations, anticipate events, create fanciful scenes, become efficient thinkers, and use symbols to communicate and learn. Children expand their ability to attend and focus on tasks. Memory increases. Reasoning begins to develop. Children develop these cognitive skills best through play in an engaging supportive environment.

Piaget and others believed that pretend play strengthened newly acquired abilities to mentally picture different situations and allowed children to take control of their experiences. Indeed, research has shown that children who engage in lots of child-initiated, free-choice activities (play) supported by a variety of equipment and materials have better cognitive and language performance at age 7 than their peers.

So, how do we ensure that our children will have the skills needed in the 21st century? Support the development of relationships; focus on social skills; make sure all children feel safe and supported.  Then PLAY!

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