Bonding and the Limbic System
Hannaford looks at the early years of childhood as a time when the developing limbic system enables the child to form relationships and social bonds. This time is ripe for teaching children about behavior toward other people and how to take care of other children, pets, objects, and the environment. She offers examples of how we can go about this task, which she sees as crucial in our society.
It may be that our landfills, hospitals, and mental institutions are overflowing because the early seeds of altruism weren't germinated during limbic development.
Hannaford traces the development of the imagination and memory and their role in learning--a process you can actually see if you observe how children respond when you read to them. As they concentrate on listening to you, they are absolutely quiet. Their brains are developing internal pictures and emotions connected to their already acquired understanding, as they are actively forming new nerve networks. The repetition they demand allows them to elaborate and myelinate the new nerve pathways. Physically play-acting elements of the story gives them the sensory understanding of the concepts and anchors the parts together. As children grow older, books with few or no pictures assist the imaginative process, as does their telling their own stories.
Noting the importance of play in full body/mind integration and in developing the skills necessary for cooperation, co-creativity, and altruism, Hannaford decries the fact that there is so little opportunity today for children to simply play. Challenging the assumption that children need to be entertained and their play orchestrated, she asserts that optimal development occurs when children are free of adult meddling. Looking at how TV inhibits the daydreaming and imaginative play that promote a child's perceptual maturity, emotional growth, creativity, and cognitive development, she suggests it be banned before age eight. She emphasizes that the act of watching TV itself, regardless of content, has a lasting impact on a child's learning. What about Sesame Street? She cites a study showing preschoolers who watched Sesame Street regularly tended to do less well in school than those who watched no TV.