When one talks about The Glory Years we typically refer to those times in our past that are remembered for great success or happiness. Maybe it’s your 20s, 30s or even your 50s. Most people probably don’t think it’s when they were a toddler.
However, the years from 2-7 are when our brains are best primed for learning — so, from a learning perspective these are indeed The Glory Years.
The evidence on this remarkable learning time is clear (e.g. Edutopia: Why Ages 2-7 Matter So Much for Brain Development. Neural connections, and hence learning, increase when we are young, but not in a uniform progression.
The first critical period of rapid brain development happens around ages 2 to 7 — the second and final one happens during adolescence. Between the ages of 2 and 7 the nerve connections between brain cells (called synapses) actually double in number, accelerating learning. After age 7 the brain begins to ‘trim’ its neural connections to focus on the areas most useful for daily life. So, it’s during the early years that learning things like languages, interrelationships between concepts, and the mastering of physical tasks like running or riding a bike happen with greater ease.
If you are familiar with Albert Einstein, the extraordinary scientist from the early part of the 20th century, you may also know that his childhood was anything but normal. He struggled to even speak as a young child, and had some significant issues in school including being expelled. But, as difficult as his early years were, he was incredibly successful in some areas such as playing the violin, studying magnetism, and being able to think in pictures rather than words. His well known adult accomplishments can likely be tied to his diverse childhood experiences.
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8 thoughts on “The Glory Years: Ages 2-7”
From a Kindergarten teacher, “thank you!” You explained this so well.
Thanks, Monika. I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂
As a new grandparent and a former primary teacher, this age is the lens I use most when I think about education. Over the past number of years, I’ve been truly committed to protecting childhood and encouraging the idea of play and wonder as a core tenet as foundational for life. You only get to be 5 once. Thanks for writing about it.
Thank you, Dean. We miss the golden opportunity to capitalize on the enormous benefit of play when we choose to focus on academic skills when our children are in their youngest years. While I’m not a grandpa, if that should happen, I might just be a bit ‘over the top’ with the playing aspect of babysitting. 🙂
Early years are so important. I was fortunate enough to lead a staff who saw the benefits of having small kindergarten and early grade classrooms even though it meant the older grade classes were slightly bigger. This made it possible for the early grade teachers to structure play and observe their students to see what might be the next best step and how that might be introduced into their play. The older grade teachers saw that many learning difficulties could be addressed so their focus could be more n curriculum. It goes without saying that art, music, dance and drama at every level are all part of that. Second language learning also is a great thing to introduce in the early years. The ability of children to see different perspectives is so much enhanced through singing. playing and experiencing other languages in these years.
Yes, yes and yes. The wider the variety of experiences the better. Thank you for your comments, Sheila.
So true! Exposure to a diverse range of activities, not just in younger years but all throughout life, is so important. Even in sport, studies have shown that being exposed to multiple sports and taking a break from a primary sport is very good for the mind and body, and will make a better overall athlete. Or how playing music can also enhance an athletes performance and visa versa. Another fun fact: It is believed that Einstein had ADHD (along with a multitude of other ‘out of the box’ thinkers). This could in part explain his struggles in his early years but incredible success later on. So, just another reason why early intervention, understanding, & support is so important for those who are neurodiverse and who struggle with: learning, breadth, emotional intelligence, and play. These game-changers are waiting to be discovered….
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Chris. I had not heard about the possibility of Einstein having ADHD. Makes some good sense.