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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.

Picture1

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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.

hammer

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?

toddler music site 117 w640

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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Posted by on in What If?

When children are little, they worry, but may not understand why. There may be no logical evidence to support it, but it is real to them, nonetheless. It is real enough to provoke a real nervous system response. Worry is anxiety.

It sometimes surfaces with a barrage of questions that seem to come out of nowhere. I remember one evening when my 5-year-old son started asking, “What if the chickens didn’t want to give their feathers away for people’s pillows?” “What if they get really cold because they have no more feathers?” “What if they come looking for their feathers and want them back?” “What if they’re really, really mad?” He had certainly worked up a good deal of anxiety about this. The next morning, when I came out of my bedroom, I saw his pillow on the floor, outside his door.

pillow

Our first response to something like this is always reassurance, followed by trying to invoke logic. When this doesn’t work (it seldom does), we become frustrated and give the child the message (through words and body language) they’re being silly and need to move on.

Let’s think of some of the knee-jerk comments we make to children who are anxious.

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