Friday, May 14, 2010

Bad family child care hurts kids brains

Forty percent of preschoolers in this study of 110 full-day licensed family child care homes had higher levels of cortisol when they were in child care than they did at home. This was among mostly White, middle-class 3s and 4s.

It also found that cortisol increases over the day were larger in settings where care providers were intrusive or overcontrolling. In such settings, children moved frequently between activities, were given relatively little time for free play, and spent long periods of time in structured activities led by the providers. While many of these structured activities seemed designed to help the preschoolers learn letters, numbers, and colors, the activities weren't carried out in a way that allowed the children to learn actively through play, but rather in a rote fashion that required the little ones to sit quietly and respond when called on.
The larger elevations in cortisol meant different things for girls and boys in terms of behavior. Girls with larger increases in the hormone acted more anxious and vigilant at child care, while boys acted more angry and aggressive.

What this tells me is that a lot of family child care is crappy. Too many providers think school readiness comes from flash cards and worksheets. Since we now know that this kind of age-inappropriate "teaching" raises cortisol levels, and we know all the bad stuff cortisol does to little kids, this kind of child care could almost be classified as child abuse. Maybe we should require some sort of education for licensed child care, at least some workshops from the local R&R.

But we know it's a symptom of a major error in early education, the elementary schoolization of preschool. Family providers, not by and large knowing much about child development, think rote memorization is the way to teach kids. It worked for them, didn't it? I get so depressed thinking about this crap.

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