Michelle is married to Dawid van Coller, who is a civil engineer.

Two “bunnies” playing… Michelle van Coller interacts with little Aurodo Dlamini at the Baby College. She says stimulating a child’s senses is a great way to foster imaginative thinking. (Photo: Kate Miller)

College for babies: it’s never too soon to start learning

What happens during the first few years of a child’s life is crucial. The learning that takes place early on influences the overall development of children and the adults they will become.

NWU alumna Michelle van Coller opened the Baby College two years ago. The classes she offers are designed to cover every aspect of a child's development, helping to build the strong neural pathways that are vital for early brain development and all subsequent learning. (Photo: Kate Miller)




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Preparing children for 4IR


With the fourth industrial revolution upon us, Michelle advises parents to prepare their children for this digital era.


“Unstructured playtime is very important for toddlers and preschool children; they quickly learn through interactions and use their imagination.


As a parent there are different apps you can use for your children to learn, but I would suggest co-view materials with your little one.  It helps with bonding,” says Michelle.


However, she advises parents not to let their children use digital devices for hours on end.


NWU alumna Michelle van Coller, who obtained her BEd foundation phase degree on the campus in Potchefstroom in 2007, knows the importance of early childhood development.


Two years ago, she opened the Baby College in Fourways in Johannesburg, where she helps children from birth to three years maximise their cognitive, sensory, language and social skills.


It all makes sense


Infants use their senses to learn about the world around them, Michelle says. Sensory stimulation is linked to emotional, cognitive and physical development. All the senses need to work together so they can move, learn and behave in a certain way.


Sensory play has a calming effect on children and helps them develop their vocabulary and fine motor skills.It is also important for developing the senses themselves.


As children use their senses, they learn how to make sense of the various stimuli coming at them from different directions.


A second language


She also encourages parents to teach their children a second language before they go to school.


Research overwhelmingly supports teaching of a second language early, because brains grow rapidly from birth to the age of three and this is when language development is easiest.


She adds that it becomes harder to learn another language later in life. “Even though many people think learning two languages causes speech delays, that is not the case,” emphasises Michelle.


She says it's natural for a child to confuse word order or use words from both languages in the same sentence, but they quickly learn to separate the languages.


Michelle’s advice to parents is to invest in their children’s early years in order to build a firm foundation for future development.

Here, Michelle guides a child at the Baby College.  (Photo: Kate Miller)


Gaining experience


Armed with her NWU degree in foundation phase education, Michelle relocated to the United Kingdom in 2009, where she taught at different nursery and primary schools.


Upon returning to South Africa in 2011, she taught various foundational phase classes in and around Johannesburg.

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