Raising a child is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of a lifetime. There’s a common saying amongst parents: “There’s no manual on how to raise a child.” It’s a learning experience. Just because there isn’t an explicit set of instructions, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t valuable resources. These are often statistical guidelines and published studies presented in peer reviewed journals. The best thinkers in the world are studying what brings about positive educational development in our young children– which, arguably, is one of the most important aspects of growth. Getting them started on the right educational path early is crucial to their success. Any resource that promoted this would be truly invaluable. In these 11 terrific TED talks, some of the brightest minds in the world rise up to the challenge and give tremendous insight into the growing minds of our kids.
1: Annie Murphey Paul: What we learn before we’re born
One of the biggest questions in terms of childhood education is when do we even begin to learn? Clearly, if we want to understand early childhood education, few questions are as crucial as this one. The majority of psychologists state that the age range from 0-3 are the most crucial, developmentally. Science writer Annie Murphey Paul presents evidence of even earlier development. Using numerous studies from across the globe dealing with food and even cultural preference, she shows that a large sum of the learning we do may, in fact, be done while we’re still in the womb.
2: Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education
The need for teachers doesn’t merely exist in the western world. Indeed, the places where teachers are needed the most, they’re often not present. It’s hard to convince the world’s best teachers to disseminate their knowledge in the world’s poorest places. Sugata Mitra, however, discovered something incredible in his research on education. If he put a computer in a remote village (in places where they have never been seen before), within hours students will have mastered it. Within days, they will be learning and teaching their interests and become masterful in that subject matter, regardless of a teacher.
3: Alison Gopnik: What do babies think?
If you asked the average adult “what do infants and babies think?” they would probably respond with a resounding “nothing.” After all, it’s our job to teach the babies and infants how to think. Most people view their brains as neurological play-dough that can be molded instead of as complex, functioning structures. Gopnik provides research to illustrate that, shockingly ,there’s a lot more going on in the mind of that infant than we’d originally think. In fact, according to her, it’s almost “genius.”
4: Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist
In an intimate and personal rendition of his life, Krosocxka discusses the importance of learning and loving art is to the developing mind of children. He uses his life to discuss how he came to find value in a liberal arts education and how he was predisposed from it. Although it doesn’t promise to give sheer statistical data, it does give a nice looking glass into how a successful artist grew out of a boy with an interest in drawing.
5: Colin Powell: Kids Need Structure
Although slated to (predictably) discus foreign policy, former Secretary of State Colin Powell discusses the importance of structure in a child’s development. He argues that structure is essentially the glue that holds all of the lessons we take in on a daily basis. We essentially need to, according to Powell, ask our family members to help create an environment of disciplined thought and structure for the children before they even reach primary school. This discipline will be the greatest tool in the child’s arsenal of success.
6: Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your children do
Surprisingly, despite his provocative title, Tulley is adamant about safety. Except his belief on safety isn’t that the world needs to be shrink wrapped and dulled for the world to be safe for children. He argues that we even think that “golf balls are too sharp for children.” He instead believes that a true appreciation for safety comes from trying new things. He gives a list of five things that you should let your child do. They may seem a bit counter intuitive, but with the right supervision it’ll only help expand their horizons.
7: Ali Carr-Chellman: Gaming to re-engage boys in learning
Although it may be inappropriate to brashly generalize, education statistics point to one thing for males ages 3-13. Their culture isn’t exactly school appropriate. Their general sense of violence, emotional disconnect, and hyperactivity tends to make them more inclined to drop out. The items males generally embrace do not make them great learners. However, there is hope. Carr-Chellman illustrates how gaming, one of the most notorious aspects of male culture, could help reel them back in.
8: Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies
Although we’ve already discussed the relative genius of infants briefly, Kuhl brings a more in depth position to this phenomenon. Specifically, she looks at the linguistic capacities of infants and children. Studies have shown that babies are veritable geniuses at picking up second languages. Yet another intriguing look into the minds of our youngest.
9: Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids math with computers
Math is arguably the most important universal “language” any child can learn. Math is responsible for almost all of mankind’s feats of intellectual greatness. The space program, faster machines, all are things that are accomplished through math. Why then, do kids lose an interest in it? Wolfram argues that it’s all how we’re taught. We merely focus on the pen and paper aspect– solve for x for you A, if you will. He insists in a different way of teaching our youth. One involving computers to help energize them for future innovation and learning.
10: Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food
While intelligence is certainly an important thing to grasp for early childhood education, Oliver argues a different kind of learning. A learning that will allow children to live healthy lives and combat some gruesome predictions. Our children are slated to live a full decade less than we will due to the unhealthy food choices we’ve predisposed them to and primed them to make. Oliver’s message? Teach kids about the reality of good diet to ensure a long lasting, bountiful life.
11: Cameron Herold: Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs
Why is it that we only hire tutors to train kids at what they’re bad at? Why is it that the idea of being an entrepreneur is so vilified? Herold argues that we need to stop essentially punishing the children with these proclivities in business. Instead, we need to foster their development. Although specific in its focus, the core message can be translated ubiquitously. Let’s teach our kids what they’re good at, not teach them to be adequate in something they previously weren’t.