Between the ages of 1 and 5ish the mid brain, limbic system, is being developed. The brain is working through observations of the world and figuring out how things work. This is easily observed by watching toddlers and preschoolers experimenting with cause and effect, opening and closing doors, latching and unlatching locks, putting things inside of other things and taking them out again.
Today we made a water wheel with styrofoam and spoons. The children poured water down a gutter and on to the wheel watching the reaction over and over again. These types of experiences build a strong foundation in the brain for the higher brain functions that come later in life. This is what, science, math, engineering and art looks like for this age range.
This is also a critical time of emotional development, the limbic system is often called the emotional brain. Self-expression, validation, memory, nurturing and caring are also functions that are growing at this time. Playing in a mixed age environment with adult facilitators nearby provides ample opportunities to connect and support heathy brain development. Helping children identify and articulate feelings supports their ability to self regulate
stress and emotion.
Using connected language, making space for free expression and proving materials that are engaging, is how we build a strong foundation. It's so much more than play and yet it is incredibly fun!