Schmidt: Potential begins at birth |

Schmidt: Potential begins at birth

Maren Schmidt

The human being grows based on experiences in his or her environment. Brain development and learning are based on an individual's interaction with sensory information.

Even in utero, our brains react, change and grow according to stimuli.

Human beings are born to connect positively to the people and objects in their immediate surroundings. We naturally connect with our mothers and fathers, the toys in our crib, the blankets that cover us, the music and sounds that soothe us.

Conversely, newborns are preconditioned to protect themselves from loud noises, changes in temperature, physical harm, as well as a lack of food or attention.

Many opportunities to aid our children's optimum development are diminished or lost because of parents' and society's ignorance of the importance of the first six years of life as the foundational platform on which each child builds an adult. "The child is the father to the man." It is the child's blood, sweat and tears that build an adult human being.

Movement, language, social relationships, a sense of order and refinement of sensory perception are critical or sensitive periods of development from birth through age 6.

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Our being aware of these periods assists a child's growth.

Movement and brain development are intricately interrelated in the young child and movement continues to be important to learning for all of our lives. Opportunities to explore, orient and repeat self-selected activities create optimum conditions for the neural pathways of the young brain to become substantial and diverse.

Language development in the young child is fully formed by the age of 30 months and relies on subtle and almost constant interaction of the child with the people in his or her environment. A place rich in language affords the child a wealth of spoken and receptive language that leads to the acquisition of written language. This period of learning language will never be as effortless as in this first six years of life.

Foundational social skills and personal relationships are established during a child's first six years. Compared to a ten-year old, it's relatively easy for a three-year-old to learn how to say "please and thank you." Trust and other foundational skills for human relationships are established during this first six years. Childhood issues of distrust and abandonment leave holes and scars that deeply affect future adult relationship building.

The developing sense of order in the young child creates foundational learning as experiences in the child's environment define the essential structure—who, what, when where, why and how—of day-to-day living.

The child's continued interactions with people and objects refine sensory perception. Tastes, sounds, touching, smells, and vision become fine tuned as input is graduated from dichotomies of good/bad, yes/no, like/dislike.

Learning success has its roots in these first six years of life. From birth our children's minds are absorbing and coordinating foundational information as children experience their immediate world. When a child's early environment is not rich in experiences with people, objects, concepts and nature, many, if not most, learning difficulties take root in these deficiencies.

Children under the age of six learn very differently than any other time in our lives. The work of the child under the age of six requires adequate societal support and understanding.

From birth our children must become the focus in our new system of education. Our society and our systems must back the work of our families, for it is our families who nurture the emerging individual and nourish vital foundational learning.

Kids Talk TM deals with childhood development issues. Maren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers. Contact her at or visit Copyright 2010.

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