Tips by Ranko Rajovic, author of the NTC learning system
Children feel joy every time they manage to solve a problem that may arise during play. For this reason, it is important to introduce children to learning methods that resemble play, as this will allow them to think, connect concepts, and come up with solutions while engrossed in play-like activities, which will in turn help them master school curriculum more easily.
Ranko Rajović, MD, PhD (MSc in neurophysiology and PhD in physiology of sports), authority on development of intellectual potentials in children, author of the NTC learning system which is currently being implemented in 20 European countries, UNICEF associate for early childhood education, Mensa Gifted Children Committee member, winner of the Mensa International award for the intellectual benefits to society, and lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Koper. NTC learning system cornerstones comprise the implementation of discoveries from the field of neurophysiology in pedagogy and methods that promote motor and cognitive development in children. All of the methods are modeled after play. Children aged 4-12 attend classes in NTC centers in 30 cities across the territory of former SFRY.
- Talk to your baby as if they could understand your every word
- Humans are designed to be physically active, and physical activity promotes brain development, particularly in children
- It’s always better to encourage the child to overcome the obstacle than to clear the path for them
- Overprotection is harmful. The wisdom of parenthood is to identify the boundary between protection and overprotection
- Let the father play with the child, but make sure he doesn’t get carried away or overdo the play
- The child’s job is to play
- Present the child with a challenge
- Make the child feel proud of themself, develop their self-confidence, and help them make beautiful memories
- The child learns best when they are not focusing on learning, i.e. when the learning process is a part of play
- The brain barely registers reproductive learning
- The child shouldn’t feel bored in class
- Enough freedom for exploration
- The child knows that grass doesn’t grow as high as the sun, but if they draw it as such, let them have grass growing as high as the sun
- Teachers have always been and need to remain authority figures because they are an important factor in the child’s development
- It is important to educate parents and keep reminding them about critical points because misconceptions can occur and parental mistakes can at times be difficult to rectify
Talk to your baby as if they could understand your every word. Use each and every opportunity to explain to your baby what’s going on around you in the park, store, at home or during a walk. Even though babies don’t talk, this stimulates brain development. Television can’t be a stand-in for a parent’s voice. In addition to speech, you can also use eye contact, gesticulations, body language, finger gestures and head movements because all means of communication stimulate the child’s brain development.
Humans are designed to be physically active. This point is particularly important for children; for them, movement is one of the most important activities because it promotes brain development. Parents should therefore be aware that walking is important, and that running is even more important for proper development of children’s faculties as a whole. From the standpoint of biology, the child is bestowed with an enormous energy potential they can use for physical activity which promotes development of important structures in the brain. Physical activity (such as walking, jumping, tumbling, running, climbing, and rolling) helps create new neurological pathways, prepare the child for life, and lays down the foundations of their healthy cognitive development.
When the child faces an obstacle, don’t try to make things easier for them. A crawling child wants to reach a ball but they see a small obstacle in their path and start to cry. It’s always better to encourage the child to overcome the obstacle on their own than to clear the way for them or bring the ball to them.
Children need protection, but overprotection is harmful. The wisdom of parenthood is identifying the boundary between the two. A child will fall when learning to walk, but don’t try to prevent them from falling by not allowing them to walk along city streets or paved playgrounds. Take the child to the forest, park, beach, or snow, where they can fall safely without risking an injury. It’s normal for a child to fall when learning to walk because it’s the only way they can learn to fall and master complex movements more easily, both of which will have a positive impact on cognitive development.
Sometimes the mother may regard the father’s play with the child as nonsensical or even dangerous, but even such games can promote the child’s development. A piece of advice for moms: let the dad play with the child but make sure he doesn’t get carried away or overdo the play. All play is beneficial for as long as it takes part in the park or woods and not in front of the PC. What dads need to bear in mind: three hours of screen time mean the child will make several dozen thousand movements fewer, which is a lot as their brain develops through physical activity.
The pre-school years are the most important period for brain development and the child’s job at this age is to play. A child engrossed in play doesn’t hear their mother’s calls to lunch or the father’s invitation to go for a walk. During play, the child’s mind seems to be in an altered state, or as the parents might say “on standby,” but the truth is quite different – in play, the child uses their mental faculties most by exploring, discovering a new world, thinking, connecting concepts, and this is also when concentration is at its peak.
Challenge the child to make something slightly more complicated than they are capable of. You can show the child how you made the object and encourage them to try it on their own. If the child doesn’t feel like giving it a go, you can motivate them in other ways, too, because it’s a well-known fact that children often learn by copying adults. You can tell the child that it’s a game for mom, dad and other adults, not for children. Most children will react to this statement precisely by trying to accomplish the action themselves. This is a physiological mechanism which allows the child to experience happiness and self-confidence by doing something their parents thought they are not capable of. If you were to cajole the child into completing the activity, though, the effect would be completely different.
Parents should provide support to the child, commend their ideas and discuss them instead of labeling them as stupid, pointless, etc. If the child wants to learn about dinosaurs, don’t say that the idea is stupid and that such kind of knowledge isn’t necessary because the animals are now extinct and are as such irrelevant for the child’s existence. Instead, find tiny dinosaur figurines and books on the subject, check the map of the world to see where specific species used to live, buy playdough and make small dinosaurs from it, bring moss and twigs and help your child make a mini dino park which they will proudly show around as their masterpiece. Make the child feel proud of themself, develop their self-confidence, and help them make beautiful memories.
Learning is play. The child learns best when they are not focusing on learning, i.e. when the learning process is a part of play. The learning process should resemble play, and methods and games that indirectly lead to learning should be used whenever possible. Children feel joy every time they manage to solve a problem that may arise during play. For this reason, it is important to introduce children to learning methods that resemble play, as this will allow them to think, connect concepts, and come up with solutions while engrossed in play-like activities, which will in turn help them master school curriculum more easily.
The brain barely registers reproductive learning. Members of the most primitive species learn by repeating an action a hundred times, and they still forget it. The human brain has enormous potential that is underexploited in the classic reproductive learning model. This is why it is important to use learning methods that employ the unharnessed brain memory and learning potential.
The child shouldn’t feel bored in class because no learning can take place in such circumstances. Teaching methods need to be engaging, stimulating, unpredictable, and sometimes even humorous and contrary to logic. Teachers who can arrange such classes are a source of happiness and knowledge for children.
Give the child enough freedom to explore, connect concepts, and think, to come up with fresh ideas and discover things on their own, thus developing creative potential. It is our job to make this possible for children and to motivate them to keep up the work if necessary, i.e. in case they get discouraged or sidelined on the path.
The child knows that grass doesn’t grow as high as the sun, but if they draw it as such, let them have their way – may the grass grow as high as the sun in the lovely drawing. Through imagination, children open the door to a new world, enjoy it and lose themselves in the game. Children can at times connect concepts in a way that seems to spite logic, but it is precisely this type of games that stimulate important centers in the brain which are vital to unleashing creativity.
Teachers have always played an important role in the child’s life, and served as a unique authority and source of support. Teach your child to respect teachers by showing respect and appreciation for them yourself, by adhering to their advice, and backing their work. Teachers have always been and need to remain authority figures, because together with parents, they create the framework for the child to safely move, explore, and learn. The child can step out of the framework, but we will help them return to the safety of the framework. Without the framework, children would be in trouble because most children find it difficult to set boundaries for themselves.
Lastly, it is important to educate parents and keep reminding them about critical points because misconceptions can occur, and parental mistakes can at times be difficult to rectify.
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