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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in young children

Posted by on in Early Childhood

Young children are the mensches of the world. (in Yiddish, a Mensch is a Good Person. Someone who does the honorable thing.) They don't know that their future depends upon teachers who understand child development. but they believe that adults are their guideposts, their role models, their wise ones. If an adult gives them a worksheet to do in the name of learning, they will gamely attempt it, especially if that adult gushes over their “good” result. If they are asked to make a spider from a paper plate and pipe cleaners, one that looks just like their teacher’s, they will, maybe grudgingly, maybe happily, try to do just that. Their teacher may say, “No, the pipe cleaner should be here, not there,” preserving their status as experts on bug-making. You can always depend on children to try to please, even as they secretly internalize the message that they themselves are deficient in some way. They don't know that their arts activities should be for them, not for their teachers.

My college students say that parents are worried about their threes being ready for kindergarten. Threes! The parents want their children to work on letter recognition and phonics. They do not understand child development. This is an agonizing frustration for teachers who understand that a child develops as a whole, in all developmental domains. That they mustn’t be educated as if they are loosely organized piles of parts labeled "Letters," "Numbers," and "Good Handwriting." If those parents decide their children need “academics, ”they might choose to go elsewhere, perhaps to a center that (cynically?) offers excellent preparation for grade school. The mensch/child will go on to please another set of narrowly focused adults.

Parents need to know that learning is best done in the broad context of real life. A program that creates an environment where children can play over reasonably long periods of time, experimenting, building, drawing, and generally feeding their insatiable appetite for novel experience, is a program where children learn what will help them in the future. Doing this under the supervision of expert adults who know how to observe, take note, document, and provide materials is also a necessary component. These adults also must be in love with children, and be willing to mentor to their families. Letters, numbers and handwriting happen, in these excellent programs, because children really do want to learn them in context. They are useful tools in the pursuit of creating, exploring, and then representing what they have accomplished. If their amazing teachers document this learning, demonstrating that learning is, indeed, happening, parents will relax, and, perhaps, be persuaded to be involved in the program rather than fighting it.

Parents, many of us have been where you are now, wanting the best for our precious children. Don’t let programs take advantage of their good will and eagerness to please. Don’t be misled. Educate yourself about what really works in early childhood education, and choose what gives your child the opportunity to create meaningful experiences with their peers. Consult your own child within. Ask that child if a program seems exciting and creative. Then go with that insight. Your little mensch will thank you.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Let’s face it. Parenting is no walk in the park, especially in today’s world, with concerns about things like GMO’s, too much screen time, and pressure to push your child to head of the pack at school and on the sports field. Parents make use of certain strategies in order to cope with and handle these and other concerns. And, in so doing, place themselves into four, fundamental categories. I’m sure you’ve seen all of them and maybe you’re one of them.

Authoritarian parenting

1. Head Honchos

Head Honchos provide lots of rules and structure. They emphasize obedience and set high standards. These parents dole out harsh punishment when their children misbehave, believing this will teach them important life lessons they won’t forget. Unfortunately, children don’t always understand these lessons, because the emphasis has been on obedience, above all else. Instead of being inspired to reach their greatest potential, these children may only follow the rules to stay out of trouble.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

It’s right in your face, 24/7… terrorist attacks, shootings, disasters, accidents, and violence. This can be upsetting for adults, not to mention children.

Last week I couldn’t turn on any screen without seeing the eye-witness phone video of a state fair ride in a neighboring state, breaking apart and hurling riders to the ground. I remember gasping the first time I saw it, kind of surprised to see such graphic coverage on network television. But, as I thought about it more, I realized this was what we are all coming to expect from the news. Later that day, I met my neighbor and her daughter while walking my dogs. Little Megan was so excited to tell me she was going to the fair with Mommy and Daddy. She quickly added, “But we can’t ride on that one ride that broke and people got dead.” Her mother shared that unfortunately, Megan had also seen that video.

When I was growing up, most news coverage was in the newspaper and often a day old. There were grainy photos and copy I was yet unable to read. Television coverage consisted of some film and still photos taken by journalists. Today, everyone is a photojournalist, capturing news as it happens on their phones and there it is… in real time, on the big screen, in living color, and largely uncensored.

You could argue we are much better informed, but this has come at a cost to young children. They just don’t have the ability to comprehend news events in context. It becomes a barrage of disturbing images, voices, and information they can’t fully process. And, many times, parents aren’t around to help them process it at all.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

swing set

On my way to work, I pass no fewer than 6 child care centers. As my life revolves around Early Childhood and young children, I am always interested in seeing what’s happening in programs in the community. It had been puzzling to me, no matter the weather or time of day, how few children I ever saw playing outside. In the winter, when it was approaching 40 degrees, after a fresh snow- no children. In the fall, it was sunny and windy and leaves were everywhere- nobody. In the spring, it had just rained, the sun was out, but all I saw were abandoned play areas.

It first, it was a curiosity, but as the seasons changed and the pattern persisted, I was concerned why there was this lack of outdoor, physical activity in child care.

I decided to do some unofficial investigating and started asking child care staff if they had some answers. Boy, did I get an earful!

The staffers very often cited children’s clothing as the problem. They said parents send their children in clothes not meant to get dirty or in shoes not safe for playground surfaces or equipment. It was also reported that parents, in their hurry to get out the door in the morning, forget jackets or hats or boots. A couple care providers even expressed their belief that some parents did these things on purpose, so their children would have to stay indoors.

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Posted by on in Early Childhood

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This isn’t news for any teacher of young children anywhere. We’ve all experienced it. Four-year-old Carter is a good listener, follows the rules (mostly- he’s 4!), and gets along with the other children. Then, at day's end, Mom arrives and a crazy transformation takes place. For Carter, rules are forgotten, as well as his inside voice and gentle touches. Sometimes there’s whining and even crying, with no apparent trigger.

Mom is at once upset and embarrassed, wondering how in the world his teachers have been dealing with this all day long. When she’s told he has been really good up until right now, Mom looks askance in disbelief. But, it’s true. And, instead of letting Mom feel horrible about causing an uproar, the teacher can explain what’s really happening here.

So, the next time she and the teacher have the opportunity to sit down for a minute, there first needs to be some reassurance. This behavior is normal. Really.

“But why is he doing that?” Well, it’s all about the relationship she has with her child. It is how he perceives his mother. She is his safe place… the one who loves him unconditionally, whether well-behaved or out of control. Mom is the one he can bring all his problems to. She’ll take that baggage and make it go away.

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