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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in developmentally appropriate practice
Posted by on in Early Childhood

young boy writing with pencil

I once had a reading specialist tell me that the only way for children to learn to read is for them to read. I never have figured out how one learns to do something she can’t yet do by doing it! But I sometimes feel as though I’m in the minority here, as this attitude seems to be a fairly prevalent one – and not just in the area of reading.

recently I had the opportunity to talk with pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom and early childhood specialist Amanda Morgan on my radio show, Studentcentricity. As I told these two dedicated professionals at the beginning of the discussion, while doing some instructional coaching last fall, I watched as a kindergarten teacher handed out pencils to the children, along with some lined paper, and instructed them to practice their writing. And what I witnessed made me sad. Not only were these children not prepared to write; also, their little hands were having a terrible time controlling those long, skinny, yellow things. But despite those two overwhelmingly obvious facts, it was clear that the teacher believed that the only way these students could learn to write was by writing.

For those who understand child development, however, it’s clear that this is a serious misconception. All forms of development, including the fine motor development required to manipulate a pencil, involve a process. And unless a child has progressed through the stages necessary to ensure the appropriate hand strength and fine motor control, trying to write is an exercise in futility and frustration.

Motor skills develop from the inside to the outside of the body, and from the large to the small muscles. That means that until a child has control over such body parts as the trunk and arms, control of the hands and fingers just ain’t happening. And it is due to this progression, put in place by none other than Mother Nature, that it’s been said – believe it or not -- that the best way to prepare children to write is to let them swing on monkey bars. Or, as Angela recommended during our conversation, to let them hang from tree limbs, because the limbs stimulate more parts of the hands than do the monkey bars. She also recommended crawling, particularly in the outdoors, where the arches of the hands will contact far different surfaces than they would indoors. And, of course, hanging from tree limbs and crawling have the added benefit of strengthening the body’s large muscles, which must take place before the hands and fingers are ready to write!

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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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Posted by on in Early Childhood

letter flashcards

It’s becoming more and more commonplace to see programs using flashcards and worksheets in their attempt to jumpstart literacy development. These early academic activities are touted as best approaches and provide tangible take-homes for anxious parents who don’t want their children to “get behind.”

Unfortunately, what’s really important to early literacy is largely being overlooked and the best opportunities to make learning matter are going unnoticed.

These programs need to stop the nonsense and expense of fancy and unnecessary academic curriculum. Instead, there needs to be a focus on just 5 things, using an approach that is age-appropriate, meaningful, and purposeful to young children.  Research tells us that these 5 are the best predictors of early literacy:

speaking to child

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

annoying kids on airplane

I do a lot of air travel throughout the year and just returned from multi-stop flights over the holidays. And, of course, there were young children a-plenty.

Now, for some, this is an anticipated nightmare, requiring logic and strategic planning to avoid the same aisle, let alone the dreaded seat adjacent to a baby or little kid. If these fail, the inevitable leads to the classic stink eye being cast towards parent and child, along with hushed, but still audible remarks about, “If I were that child’s parent…”

bitchy resting face

First off, I do respect a person’s desire for some peace and quiet and personal space during a flight. That being said, I believe a few things about public air travel with small children need to be understood.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

child_20161121-214212_1.jpg

A few years ago, the Gesell Institute, named for developmental pioneer Dr. Arnold Gesell, decided to test the premise that kids today develop more quickly than they used to.  They took the developmental norms established by the work of Dr. Gesell in the 1940s and launched a three year study concluding in 2010 to gauge whether or not the same framework still holds up.  What they found, of course, is that even over the span of decades, the developmental norms remain the same.

(Read more about that study and the follow up interview with the director of the Gesell Institute, Dr. Marcy Guddemi.)

While there are many, many quotes from that study’s roll out that caught my attention, one that particularly made me think was when Dr. Guddemi responded to the question of why it may sometimes appear that children are capable of skills beyond their developmental level:

You can train them, but the knowledge and understanding—the true learning—has not happened.  Our country has this hang up that if the child can perform, that they know.”

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