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Posted by on in Early Childhood

We know that during the first 5 years of life, there is significant brain development. However, some areas of the brain are slower to mature than others. One such area is the prefrontal cortex, which is the center for executive function. This is why young children often have difficulty with emotional and impulse control.

But, some of the features of executive function can be encouraged and groomed, even with preschoolers! These features would include the working or short-term memory, self-regulation of actions, and ability to focus attention. This can be done by means of direct teaching, practice, and support.

Just how important is the development of self-control in the early years? Well, according to research, it carries a load of significance. Preschoolers who are encouraged to exhibit self-regulation are more likely to avoid risky behaviors as adolescents and to experience more success in school.

So, when is a good time to start supporting self-regulation? Preschoolers begin to get a handle on their behavior and emotions between the ages of 3 and 7. Parents and teachers can take advantage of this active stage of brain development and help guide things in the right direction. We can gently push the message that they can focus their attention, interact with their peers in more positive ways, and be better listeners if they think about what they’re doing and purposefully take control of things.

Now, that sounds like a tall order for a little child, but if we break it down into a few do-able strategies, we can make some headway.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

preschool children

I just returned from our state’s annual Early Childhood Higher Education Summit feeling a mix of angry and frustrated. Our NAEYC state affiliate maintains a staff of attorneys and advocates who actively participate in legislative conversations and hearings dealing with early childhood education. This month, a bill comes up for a vote on whether or not to increase funding for our state-supported preschool programs. This has stirred considerable debate, as I know exists in other states around the country, as well. A spokesman from our advocacy team highlighted conversations she had with legislators and said there is still a good number who aren’t convinced preschool makes any difference- and therefore may not be worth the money.

This seems unbelievable to me, considering the past, current, and ongoing available research to the contrary. What don’t these people understand? Can we just break it down into terms they are capable of processing? This isn’t just blind spending. This is a real investment in everyone’s future.

meeting

How about some simple facts:

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Statistics and family studies provide us with some answers to why some dads will never see the inside of their child’s classroom. One in three children don’t have a father present in the home. That’s a little over 24 million and the number is growing.

Some dads, for various reasons, have learned to mistrust schools. They may have had a rough school experience themselves with teacher or administrators who were less than supportive. Other dads could feel wary of stepping into an active dad role due to present or past issues with the law or substance abuse. These dads may even get to a point where their self-esteem bottoms out and they feel they have nothing left to give their children.

If a dad is working all day, he may not have the opportunity to spend time in the classroom. Teachers will see him briefly at the beginning or end of the day, as he drops off or picks up his child. But, if a carpool line is in place, he may only be a face in the car window.

There is also still a stigma attached to dads who are actively involved in their young children’s education, especially for those dads whose own father was not an active participant. I think this is diminishing, but there is still the lingering belief that a mom holds the primary role of involvement in a child’s early education. It is important that we, as teachers, ensure this next generation of children understands that the early childhood environment is for everybody.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Development progresses proximodistally, from the body core outward. Toddlers are newly gaining control over their arms, hands, and fingers. They have moved from palmar to pincer grasp and now have the ability to use their fingers with more precision.

We can provide activities to prepare little hands to someday play a musical instrument, fly across a computer keyboard, or perform delicate surgery! Exercising those small muscles are easily a part of everyday routines and play- the way it should be. As we interact with and observe toddlers, we can make the most of what they’re already doing and interested in.

tearing paper

Tear paper. Now you have two sets of fingers grasping and pulling! Provide a variety of papers, some thin and some thick. Magazine pages are easier to rip and a good choice for beginners. Tearing paper is a sensory activity that very young children enjoy. They will notice the different sounds the paper makes as they tear it fast or slow and usually stay engaged quite a while.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

preschool math2

When we think about developing math and pre-math skills with preschool children, we usually imagine some explicit, teacher-directed activities that lead children to a correct answer. However, a lot of really significant math learning takes place within the context of classroom play, when teachers are talking with children about problems involving number, quantity, or size.

Young children are developmentally tuned-in to learn number sense in preschool. And, the more we talk with them about number, the more they learn. This can be done in just about any context.

juice

During snack time:

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