All children should be introduced to a broad range of experiences from an early age for them to develop physically, mentally and emotionally. Children start to experience new things from the moment they are born, with sensory activities playing a significant part in the first few minutes and hours of their life. For the first few months and years of their life, sensory information and the environment around them will play a significant role in their development.
We all appreciate that genetics is a massive contributor to how we evolve as individuals, but at Bangkok’s leading international kindergarten, we believe that experiences are equally as important. In this article, we will focus on how being exposed to a broad spectrum of experiences can influence a child’s development as well as their personality and behaviour. While the “wiring” of the brain may be genetics, how it develops comes from experience and learning.
What the psychologists think
Psychology theories are incredibly useful when it comes to understanding the role different experiences have on our lives. They help us appreciate how they shape us both as children and adults. There is a consensus that as humans, we learn through three different types of conditioning which are explained below.
- Classic conditioning – Classic conditioning is how we learn to respond to a particular stimulus with Pavlov’s dogs often being cited as an example. Children quickly, often through repetition, associate a specific action with a response. Just as Pavlov’s dogs associated a bell with food, a baby will know that when they see a bottle, they are about to be fed. It is learning from experience and is essential in terms of their mental development.
- Operant conditioning – Operant conditioning is the act of rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad. It is often referred to reinforcement learning as could include a child being taken to their favourite restaurant for helping with household chores. It is about encouraging good practices and the avoidance of bad ones.
- Observational learning – Observational learning is where kids learn from watching the actions of their parents and then replicating them. In the modern world, this now includes steps that they learn from video games and the internet, which is one of the main reasons parents need to be increasingly vigilant about what their child is doing. Modelling good and positive behaviour is what should always be encouraged, so parents need to be aware of their actions and behaviour.
The importance of good and bad experiences
As parents, we always want to shield our children from bad experiences, but in the real world, this isn’t possible. Dealing with negative experiences and learning coping mechanisms or appropriate actions is essential if they are to become well-balanced adults. Arguably, overly protective parents can have a damaging effect on a child in later life as they may be missing essential life skills. It perfectly illustrates why it is vital to experience a variety of adventures, events and even ordeals.
Where do children gain this broad spectrum of experiences?
In reality, even as adults, we are exposed to new things everyday so most children will gain this exposure naturally. Children will learn from family, teachers and their peers with many of these practices and skills being required as they grow up. Of course, many actions become mundane, so parents and teachers must make a conscious effort to expose children to different things.
It shouldn’t be ignored that where and how and child is brought up will influence their personality. It can be affected by the country, eastern and western cultures as well as religion and personal beliefs. However, it is equally essential that it is the interaction with these influences that will ultimately dictate how our children develop. Often events will combine uniquely for each person, and this will shape the person they become.
Ideas to help broaden experiences
1. Further education
Education is an incredibly broad topic and extends far beyond academic learning. For instance, you could teach your child how to do things that interest you such your hobbies. If you enjoy cooking, yoga or even DIY, you could show your child how they can join in. Naturally, the level and detail to which you show them will be dependent on their age while also needing to be an appropriate skill for a youngster to learn!
2. Cultural activities and events
Culture is again a very wide-ranging topic but includes modern culture such as music and dance or something more historical. Visiting museums, theatres, or even sites of interest will expose them to new and positive things. It will help to broaden their horizons and interests, as well as impacting on their personality.
Participating in activities is another great way to expose children to new experiences. It could be joining a group, playing a sport or visiting a zoo. When it comes to activities, your choices are endless and are only restricted by your imagination. Ideally, you want to find something that you are both interested, and this will help to develop the parent-child bond.
The influence of parents and caregivers
Finally, parents and caregivers will have an enormous impact on a child’s early years. Some children are fortunate to receive lots of love, attention and care. Sadly, some parents don’t have the time that they would like to spend with their children, perhaps worried about work or other issues which a child shouldn’t be exposed to. While this isn’t necessarily the parent’s fault, they should try and find ways to enrich their child’s life. It could be that others help them accomplish some of the ideas mentioned above.
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At Kidz Village, we care deeply about encouraging children to experience new things and broaden their spectrum of experiences. Our acclaimed International School in Bangkok strives to provide the ideal environment to promote all aspects of learning, including broadening horizons. For more information, please call us on +66 2888 3337.