SUE PALMER

Sue Palmer
Sue Palmer writes and speaks about child
development and education in the modern world. I read about her on the Internet and I wanted to share it with you

What Children Need For Healthy Development On The Fingers Of One Hand
The world may have changed beyond recognition in the last three decades, but children haven’t changed at all. For healthy development, they still need the same basic ingredients that have helped lucky children through the ages grow up bright, balanced and fit to face the challenges of adult life.
1) Above all, children need love. From the moment they’re born and until they’re full-grown, they need to know that their parents really care for them, will look out for their interests, and will take their point of view into account. In the words of developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner ‘Someone’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one. First, last and always.’
2) But love must be balanced by discipline. We are a social species and children need to learn the ropes of day-to-day family life, how to behave beyond the home, and how to abide by the necessary rules of institutions, notably school. So adults must set clear boundaries for behaviour – such as table manners, bedtime routines, screentime rules and so on – and apply them consistently. Authoritative parenting is ‘warm but firm’.
3) The next essential is play, starting with a baby’s playful exploration of his world. Throughout childhood they need active, imaginative, social play in the real world (not sedentary, screen-based entertainment). Real play is unstructured, preferably outdoors, doesn’t need adult control or direction, and seldom costs money – real play happens with whatever’s to hand.
4) In a social species, communication skills are vital, so the fourth developmental must-have is language. This starts with a ‘dance of communication’ between parent and babe-in-arms, usually accompanied by exaggerated babytalk and simple songs. Then, as they grow towards the teenage years, children need loving adults to talk (and listen) to them, as well as opportunities to talk (and listen) to friends during play.
5) Given these four essential foundations, almost every child should be able to take advantage of education, starting with literacy. But this doesn’t need to start too soon. There’s wide international agreement that, until the age of six or seven, it’s better to prepare the ground for learning through plenty of play (including music, art and drama) and opportunities for spoken language.

The good news is that – given a reasonable level of material comfort (nutritious food, a quiet darkened room to sleep in, a warm safe home) all the above ingredients of a happy, healthy childhood are free.

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