When I was an infant/toddler teacher, December was a time for reflecting over the past year and thinking about how to improve the experiences in my classroom, as well as myself professionally. I looked closely at what was happening in my room, school and community. I thought about the children and families I served, and how I could best support them. I would read books and articles, discuss and debate with my fellow teachers and just listen to the babies and families around me.
One book that I often returned to was The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, And Flourish by T. Berry Brazelton, MD and Stanley Greenspan, MD. Though the book is more than ten years old and new research and knowledge is available, the “irreducible needs” that Brazelton and Greenspan discuss haven’t changed. According to Brazelton and Greenspan, children have:
- The Need for Ongoing, Nurturing Relationships
- The Need for Physical Protection, Safety and Regulation
- The Need for Experiences Tailored to Individual Differences
- The Need for Developmentally Appropriate Experiences
- The Need for Limit Setting, Structure, and Expectations
- The Need for Stable, Supportive Communities and Cultural Continuity
- Protecting the Future
I often think of these needs as “rights” to help guide my teaching and interactions with children, and they’re easier to implement in your classroom than they might seem at first.
A close relationship with a trusting adult will support a children’s growth in all areas of development. Find ways to support the relationships between the children and their families, too.
We are responsible for the health and safety of the children in our centers, too. Review state licensing regulations often; you never know when you might be unwittingly breaking some of the rules that are in place to keep children safe and healthy!
The experiences we provide should be developmentally appropriate. The most important thing to bear in mind when thinking about this is that your curriculum should be based on the age, developmental levels and interests of the individual children in your room. All children are different! They develop at different rates, in different ways, have different personalities and come to us with different experiences, families and backgrounds. Our expectations for their learning and behavior, as well as how we structure their day, should always be as individual as they are.
Keeping these “irreducible needs” alive and well in your classroom is one of the first steps in advocating for children’s futures, and a good start on ensuring that our communities and schools are caring, supportive places for children and families.