Kelly Hor, Director of Schools at Odyssey The Global Preschool, explains why the early years are the most crucial period of childhood development.
Newborns come into the world ready to learn, and to recognise faces and voices – especially their mothers’ – fairly quickly. Studies have shown that neurons and synapses, core components of the central nervous system and key to learning and thinking, develop the most rapidly during the first three years of a child’s life. Brain cells multiply at a rapid rate during the first year, and during this time, the synapses (or connectors) between the cells and different parts of the brain grow and develop. With appropriate stimulation by sound, sight, touch and smell, the environment can effectively support the child in developing particular skill sets or traits.
“Infants who are nurtured in a conducive and encouraging environment have the ability to hone their sensory-motor development, cognition, language and social-emotional competencies. Missing this sensitive period of learning could result in more difficulty and less success in picking up skills later in life,” says Kelly. Odyssey recognises the importance of the first year of development – a sensitive time that some might overlook.
The team at Odyssey believes that every child is a competent individual deserving of respect; hence their curriculum is a continuous learning journey of inquiry, research and experimentation undertaken by children. “Parents and caregivers need to offer a secure, safe and enriching environment that is responsive to and respects the child’s intrinsic growth needs,” says Kelly. “Equally importantly, the influence and effect of educators on the life of a child and his or her family should not be underestimated.” The roles of educators can be diverse: from observing and documenting children’s learning, creating a rich classroom environment and facilitating children’s learning and play, to building collaborative partnerships with families and communities.
A team of Infant Curriculum Specialists, Caregivers and Infant Educators supports Bambino Odyssey, the new infant curriculum that is offered at Odyssey’s fourth campus at Still Road. Infant Curriculum Specialists are responsible for planning, monitoring and promoting the attainment of both individualised and group goals for children. Careful attention is paid to ensuring a high teacher-child ratio at all times, and infants can be assured of a nurturing and warm environment for personalised interaction and teaching approaches.
Bambino Odyssey has a focus on total brain learning and emphasises language, movement and relationships during the sensitive period of zero to three years. Programmes will revolve around creative experiences such as Baby Art, Baby Music, Baby Chef, Baby Outdoor Learning Experiences, Baby Fitness and Baby ME Time. The programmes are formulated to respond to babies’ verbal cues and actions, and encourage their efforts to move and explore sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, rather than restrict or interfere with these biological processes. “Children absorb information like sponges, and infants should be encouraged to learn naturally according to their innate timetables,” says Kelly.
This article first appeared in June 2016 issue of Expat Living Singapore. Subscribe.