Tag Archives: brain development

Leave the Costumes at Home

One year for Halloween, I was required to dress in costume at the center where I was teaching. I didn’t want to scare the children, so I decided to choose a costume I thought would be less intimidating: my husband! I dressed in one of his suits with a tie and hat and penciled in a mustache. Before I could leave for work, my 2-year-old daughter saw me in full costume and started to cry, tearing at my clothes and screaming, “You’re not my daddy! You’re my mommy!”

Needless to say, I changed out of my costume and went to work without one that year.

If planning to celebrate Halloween at your center, consider activities that young children will understand.

Children under the age of 4 can focus on only one aspect of the situation, and have difficulty seeing the “big picture.” It isn’t until much later, around age 7, that they begin to develop reason and logic, and even later, around 11, that they begin to understand abstract thinking. No wonder school-agers get so hyped up about Halloween!

For very young children, Halloween can be a stressful holiday. If you’re celebrating in your center, consider what your goals are for children. Teachers and programs intend to provide a safe emotional environment for children, to offer them stability and avoid introducing stress into their lives.

Piaget theorized that a very young child’s reasoning is static, that for them the world is an unchanging place. When change is introduced it is sudden and irreversible. When mommy turns into daddy, for example, a young child will have a very difficult time understanding that this isn’t a permanent change because she can’t focus on anything beyond the current moment. When we consider what Piaget has to say about a very young child’s ability to reason, does it really make any sense to celebrate Halloween with costumes?

It is interesting to note that under the age of 3, most children do not remember holidays like Halloween unless they were traumatic or an adult tells them the story later in their childhood. So when it comes time to celebrate in your center, consider activities that children can understand. Have a special snack, paint a pumpkin or go outside and observe the changes in the season. But leave the costumes at home.


Mind in the Making

I recently had the amazing opportunity to join my southwest Ohio friends at a “Mind in the Making” training in Columbus. A national campaign, “Mind in the Making: The Science of Early Learning” is a collaborative effort between the Families and Work Institute and the New Screen Concepts over the past eight years. It was my privilege to preview the “Mind in the Making” learning modules, which are presented as a series of twelve modules, each with a specific video showing the results of some research or an experiment.

What I liked most about the training is that it gave us, the “experts,” the opportunity to share what we know about child development and use that to connect with what was presented in the material and in the research clips. We were really encouraged to reflect on how we care for children and what we know about how children develop.

The biggest “ah-ha” for me was that many people have inappropriate expectations of young children. When an adult and child are interacting with each other, such as repeating a baby’s babble or mimics what the baby does for his or her enjoyment, the child forms an attachment with their caregiver. In a video that explored this attachment, the infant would make a sound or a face and the mother would make the same sound or face back to the child while smiling. Then, in the middle of the “game” the mother put on a “still-face:” she just stopped engaging in the normal interaction she was having with the infant. At first the infant kept trying to get the mother to respond before the infant became upset and began to cry, all the while looking up at the mother. Eventually the child stopped crying and just gave up; she just looked away.

That particular video really opened my eyes to how very important these connections are. I thought about the times when I was in the classroom as a preschool teacher and how it might have felt to a child when I wasn’t connecting with him or her. There are so many ways to connect and/or reconnect throughout the day that there isn’t a good excuse for it not to happen with each child. Eye contact, smiles, small gestures (and the list could go on) are so important.

Only a few states are offering these learning modules for child care providers and Ohio is one of them. With our first series beginning in less than a month, we’d like to offer readers of the blog an opportunity to win a copy of Ellen Galinsky’s revolutionary book, Mind in the Making. Comment to this blog post for one entry to win, or comment with a link to where you’ve shared this blog post on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll give you two entries! Contest will run through next Wednesday, 23 February, when we’ll announce the winner.

Even if you don’t win the book, take advantage of the opportunity to experience “Mind in the Making” and register today!