Tag Archives: early education

Promoting Social and Emotional Development

I had the opportunity to attend Lumenocity at Washington Park, and the show was absolutely amazing. The music, the lights, the food trucks. It was estimated that there were 15,000 people in attendance, so as you might imagine, we were elbow to elbow. This lead to some tense situations, and I was prompted to wonder about the early experiences of some of the adults in the audience.

Children who are given the opportunity practice crucial life skills like critical thinking and problem solving grow up to be more functional adults.

Right before the show started a fight almost broke out because someone put a chair on another person’s blanket. The person in the chair was refusing to move.  Another person approached and threatened to “help” the person out of the chair.  The situation was resolved by yet another person mediating and finding the person in the chair another space.

I couldn’t help but wonder about everyone involved and their experiences with confrontation and problem-solving. I came to the conclusion that with quality early childhood experiences, this situation may not have happened. Had these adults been given the opportunity as young child to practice critical thinking and problem-solving?  Were they taught as young children how to negotiate with others?  Were they given opportunities to function successfully in a group setting?  Were they taught how to reflect on another person’s perspective?  Were they encouraged to use words instead of bodies to get their needs met?

I think it’s important for teachers of young children to have the adult the child will become in mind.  We can’t control everything, but we can provide opportunities for children to practice life skills. How? Let’s go through some scenarios.

Sophie takes a rattle from Max. The teacher can wait to see if Max is upset about the situation before intervening. If Max wants the rattle he may cry. The teacher can model the words that may be used: “Sophie, Max is using the rattle.  Give the rattle back to Max. Let’s find you a different rattle.” Max and Sophie may be too young to communicate by verbal language, but communication did happen.  So did problem solving. Max was upset and got his needs met by vocalizing his want. Sophie was also communicating by taking the rattle. She wanted to play with that toy, too.

Here’s another example. Children are told to line up at the door to go outside. There’s a mark on the floor showing children where to start the line.  Ingrid stands at that line because she wants to be first. John gets in front of her. Ingrid takes a deep breath then says, “John, we can’t open the door if you are there. I am standing at the line. You have to move.”  The teacher, who is standing nearby, validates Ingrid for using her words and waits for John to move. Conflict averted.

Healthy emotional development is a life long process.  Just like we don’t teach toddlers algebra, we shouldn’t expect them to share consistently. We don’t teach first graders chemistry formulas, and we shouldn’t expect them to not get upset when someone takes their seat. But when we start healthy behaviors at a young age, we are assisting in forming healthy adults.

– Christine

Holidays Can Be Teachable Moments

One thing I love about our society right now is that the typical family unit is anything but! Our family fits nicely into that category. We have four children total; one is his, two are mine and the baby is ours. But my favorite part of our blended family is that I come from a VERY Christian home (my father being a United Methodist Minister may have something to do with that) and my husband is Jewish. This calls for an extremely busy, not to mention expensive, holiday season.

Photo courtesy of techne.

Photo courtesy of techne.

If you were a little mouse peeking into our home during the holidays you would see a Christmas tree and stockings, the nativity and an advent wreath. You would also see a Menorah, about 25 Dreidels and loads of chocolate coins. Things can get complicated. When my middle son was explaining to his class that he is Christian who celebrates Hanukkah, they dubbed him “Hannuikan.” Both of our families had a good laugh over that one and his outstanding teacher took the opportunity for a “teachable moment” and had a lesson over the two holidays. Randy was able to bring in our Menorah and of course we provided Dreidels and chocolate coins for the

class.

I know I never played with a Dreidel until I met my husband. Now I sing the song at the top of my lungs with my children as we spin it and wait to see who is going to have the biggest pile of chocolate coins. I had never experienced Latkes or Sufganiyot and now my life (and my thighs) wouldn’t be the same without them!

My children are truly lucky to not just read about different faiths at school, but experience them. I am partnering now with his teacher so that throughout the year we can share the different Jewish holidays with his class and they can experience the traditions and stories that the Jewish faith has to offer. We have such a responsibility as educators to enlighten our students to the world around them. Bringing the experiences to them and letting them “live it” is what learning is all about.

– Joy

School Readiness: What Can You Do to Help?

What does it mean for a child to be ready for kindergarten?  Everyone, from families, schools, politicians and community members, has a different idea about what it means for a child to be ready for school. One thread I hope they all have in common is that idea that readiness to learn is based on relationships.   If you ask a kindergarten teacher what she needs packed into a child’s backpack on the first day of school, most will say a love for learning, self-regulation and curiosity. All of these things are taught through relationships.

Because all children learn at different rates, early childhood professionals must meet each child’s developmental needs at their pace. We have to get to know them, to understand what they need and how they need to learn. There are very few children who enter second grade without knowing their letters and sounds, but each child should be given the respect and support to learn them in their own time and in their own way.

It’s just as important for schools to be ready for the children that are entering them as it is for the child to be ready for their first day of school. Change is hard for adults, and it’s hard for children, too! There are a few simple things we can do to ease the transition and boost children’s confidence:

  • Because many early childhood classrooms have children going to multiple schools, it would be beneficial for children to know which of the friendly faces from their class they might see at their new school. Make a picture and name chart that lists all the children going to the same school. Children will see they won’t be alone!
  • Attend open houses at the new school either as a class.
  • Create a photo book of all the people that the children will encounter at their new school. This should include teachers, principals, office staff, custodial staff and the lunch crew. Once the photo book is created for each school the children will be attending, it can be kept in the book area year after year.
  • Read picture books about children going to kindergarten and leave plenty of time for questions.
  • Allow children to practice carrying items on trays during activities. The lunch room trays can be tricky to maneuver in the beginning of school.

Beginning kindergarten is a transition for everyone involved. Providing developmentally appropriate activities for children that build their confidence, their curiosity and their love for learning is the key to success… and you’re building on that relationship that will help them to be school-ready, too!