The majority of parents want their children to have the best in education, believing children should be able to read and calculate pi to 22 significant places by the time they are three. But in reality children schooled early can often peak too soon and then fail to thrive in primary school. Children need to have fun and playing with educational games and toys can be a far more productive way of introducing the learning process.
Although formal schooling starts in England at five years old, in Wales children are allowed to play until they are seven. By no means the disaster you might think, this approach is generating positive feedback although too early to reveal any definite conclusion. But in Finland, much heralded as the benchmark in early year’s education, children don’t start school until they are seven years old and can boast high literacy rates, indicating a significant catch up.
Playing educational games in maths, English and science are a great way of learning in disguise helping children to associate the learning process with enjoyment. They like to repeat favourite games over and over again, a repetitive cycle that may seem boring to parents, but is an essential element of learning. Seventy five per cent of learning retention comes with practice.
Although there is a central department education in the UK there are several variants in the way the national curriculum is interpreted. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England have slightly different approaches. There are strong arguments for and against the schooling start age with leading educationalists, school Headteachers and research institutions arguing the toss. All agree learning to read is absolutely vital in any educational programme. “The fundamentals of literacy are caught not taught” says Sue Palmer, former primary school head teacher and literacy expert. “Crucial to the learning process is training people how to achieve this. We have to invest in training practitioners how to help children catch the principles.” She also said there is no rush to teach children to read and a staunch protagonist against the targets set in the early years learning curriculum.
One concern about changes in the educational process is the inherent time-scale to prove or disprove theory and practice. If proven wrong the change may have disrupted the potential for a generation of children. But one thing we can be sure of, childhood is designed to allow kids to learn through experimentation and fun. If you want your children to master the basics in phonics, literacy and maths before they start school be sure you consider educational games and toys to help.