The Most Important Skills for Early Childhood

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

by Erin O'Connor

It might seem out of place to write about skills for the 21st century marketplace on a parenting forum focused on young children. However, two thirds of the skills listed on the 2016 World Economic Forum most valued skills list are those we develop in childhood, especially early childhood. These are the skills that allow us to work with others, persevere in the face of obstacles, and grapple with complex problems creatively.

With 85% of brain growth occurring by age 3 and up to a million new neural connections forming per second during the first five years of life, it is during early childhood that our brains are best prepared to build these skills. Dr. Lara Jana, a pediatrician, organizes these skills into the following:

Me Skills: The skills that allow us to be in control of our thoughts, feelings and actions.

We Skills: The skills that allow us to work with and get along with others.

Why Skills: These include the skills of exploration, curiosity, and the ability to ask good questions to find out how the world works.

Will Skills: These skills include drive and determination, especially based on intrinsic motivation.

Wiggle Skills: These relate to how physical movement can help us think.

Wobble Skills: These are the skills that allow us to learn from failure and to move forward.

What if Skills: These are the possibility skills that allow us to imagine things not as they are, but as they could be.

How do parents and teachers foster these skills:

Allow children to be fidgety and wiggle.

Help children understand how another child might feel when upset.

Avoid extrinsic rewards for good behaviors (i.e. if you pee in the potty you will get a candy).

Encourage children to try things even though they may not show an innate ability for it. Maybe as goalie they will let the other team score. But that’s okay, stand up and try again.

Allow children to ask questions about why things are as they are or how things work.

Encourage make believe, engage in pretend play.

For more information, check out Laura Jana’s TedX talk.

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