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Posted by on in What If?

Without a doubt, the photo at the beginning of this post would probably evoke a clenched-teeth, inward sucking of air by many parents. Risky play always does. But, in all fairness, it needs to be discussed, examined, and justified. This is especially important since it can help develop a child’s self-confidence, resilience, executive functioning, and even risk-management skills. And, believe it or not, engaging in risky play can actually reduce the risk of injuries, rather than increase it.

Children need the opportunity to figure things out for themselves- to determine their own comfort levels and what they are capable of doing. This, in turn, allows them to develop risk- management skills. Risky play does not mean the play is unsupervised. It simply means the role of adults involves facilitating and supporting how children want to play without over-guiding. We can provide the environment for play… and then get out of the way.

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Play that does the most good requires both physical and psychological space. It requires wide open physical space and psychologically, the child needs to feel the freedom to try things on his own.

In risky play, children experience doses of fear and then practice adapting their behavior to manage it and overcome it. So, according to the emotional regulation theory, play, among other things, assists children in learning to overcome their fears. Then, when they encounter real-life dangers, they will be less likely to give up, become overly fearful, or question their confidence.

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Posted by on in What If?

I continue to be, at once, intensely interested and wholly distressed by the manifestation of early childhood stress, anxiety, and trauma. The signs and symptoms surround the caregivers in child care programs, but can either be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or ignored.

I recently spoke at a national conference to a packed room of Head Start teachers, who do their best, on a daily basis, to provide the best care for the children in their programs. And yet, they are baffled at times by children’s unexplained and unprovoked behaviors and responses. We talked about triggers- a catch word now- meaning something that sets off a memory or flashback that may be imperceptible or innocuous to other people.

I noticed in the conference program, quite a few speakers who would talk about “trauma informed care.” I told my group they should probably attend at least one of these sessions, because it was such an important topic. But, I also told them that the topic of our discussion was actually a precursor… a prequel, if you will, to those sessions. If we are to be successful in providing TIC, we first need to identify, define, understand, and validate the trauma.

And, this is not easy, by any means. The ways young children present symptoms of these issues can easily be set aside as transient behaviors, or missed entirely. One of the most interesting aspects of children’s stress and distress is how it surfaces and becomes apparent.

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Posted by on in What If?

When we think of typical activities for preschoolers that help support their development across multiple domains, what first comes to mind are manipulating playdough, cutting, gluing, climbing, running, and puzzles.

But let’s walk that back some and consider, instead, having children engage in authentic activities. How about working with hammers, nails, saws, and hand drills? Um… Excuse me? Yes, encouraging children to play with traditional carpentry tools can enhance their learning experience and create excitement about learning.

Using real tools provides real-life experiences that plastic, miniature substitutes could never do. Although the idea of heavy tools and sharp edges may initially seem like a bad idea that could pose unnecessary dangers, with careful foresight, planning, and supervision, tools can be an amazing addition to the preschool classroom.

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Children’s natural tendency is to MAKE – they are creative and artistic beings after all. Having tools provides children with the opportunity to bring their ideas to life, but, more than that, it’s an opportunity to create in a way they would usually not have the ability to in their classrooms. The added element of risk and novelty makes it an exciting and alluring task for children, too.

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Posted by on in What If?

Yesterday, in my child development class, one of the students was curious about why people use the term, “terrible twos.” Instead of the automatic response I could have given, I decided maybe this was a good opportunity to clear the air about the second twelve months of a little child’s life.

It seems that age group gets a bad rap at every turn. Sure, we hear some negative comments about senior citizens (“old codgers,” “senile,” blue hairs”). And, for sure, millennials receive a good deal of criticism, too (“snowflakes, “trophy kids,” “entitled”). But usually, those attributes are individually earned and not always the immediate reaction upon hearing the general designation.

           old man                     millenn

The title of Twos, on the other hand, receives an on-the-spot heavy sigh, some snide remarks, and expressions of sympathy for the parents and caregivers. Not fair, I say. Because… although Twos are definitely a different animal, they are not really all that terrible.

I see Twos as being both a baby and a little child… with the benefits of both, including lots of cuddles, still being under a degree of parental control, having independence, and the ability to communicate. Plus, you don’t have many of the unfavorable aspects of either of these stages… the continual arguing over why we can’t wear a flimsy Halloween costume when it’s only 12 degrees outside or the constant needs of an infant.

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Posted by on in What If?

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Every child has his own best way of learning. If our goal is to support that, we can apply two models that address different aspects of learning, to meet each child where he is. But can they be used together? I believe they can and in so doing, will benefit a wide variety of preferences, learning styles, and strengths.

The Learning Style Model, developed by Dr. Rita Dunn, highlights five elements that affect learning: psychological, physical, social, environmental, and emotional. The model was intended to assist teachers in organizing the learning environment, to meet children’s individual needs and styles. Each of the elements encompasses several dimensions that impact each child in a different way. It’s Important to remember that the specific preferences a child may have are not static… they can and will change with age and can certainly be influenced by gender and culture.

Let’s take a look at some of these dimensions:

Psychological

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