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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Child Development

Posted by on in Early Childhood

 

A rainy Saturday afternoon in Eugene, Memorial Day weekend 2019. Family reflection. 

If you are a preschool, kindergarten teacher, aide, parent, grandparent, everybody, this blog is for you! 

Never did I think I would round out my teaching career in preschool, but I did. The kids taught me so much, a world of hand washing, bandaids, bugs, snails, glitter and a lot of books. Childhood is a precious time, what's the rush?

What if we had some barometers of what a ready kiddo might ideally need to know, be ready to do, to be successful in first big time school experience? Behavior to look for? Attitudes and skills to hope for.

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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?

depression in kids 800x400

This isn’t the kind of thing I typically write about – and it would certainly seem to have nothing to do with early childhood – but, like most of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about school shootings. I’ve found myself asking: What is it that incites such rage in these young people that they see killing as the only resort?

Immediately following all of these incidents, everybody talks about the need for better attention to mental health, in addition to gun control. I couldn’t agree more that that’s essential. But if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking about mental health as it relates to people old enough to purchase or acquire guns. People who have been bullied or ignored for so long that something finally snaps in them.

Upon reflection, however, I’ve realized we can probably assume that the kind of anger, frustration, and helplessness – the mental health issues – evident in school shooters doesn’t just suddenly crop up. It builds! And based on what I know to be happening in the education and lives of today’s young children, I’m firmly convinced that it often begins in early childhood.

Let’s think about it. According to a 2013 report, depression affects approximately 4% of preschoolers in the United States today, with the number diagnosed increasing by 23% every year. And here’s a depressing graphic from 2013:

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Posted by on in What If?

road

When we talk about children’s challenging behavior, there are several conversational roads we take. The first, more old-fashioned and “mindless", instead of "mindful” (Ellen J. Langer) road we take is this: “He’s spoiled. His father does everything for him. They don’t’ discipline him at home.” This is a comment from a very young ECE student about a two-and-a-half year old in her classroom. “We have talked to the parents and they have him in therapy.” Not knowing all the ins and outs of the relationship of the family and center, all I could say was, “He’s two and a half? He hits, and won’t share? Hmmm. Sounds sort of two-ish to me. But has he been screened for vision and hearing? Those issues often make a big difference in behavior."

My response, on the fly, was born of experience. I once had a four who would refuse to look at puzzles and letters. His Dad was frantic that he wouldn’t be ready for kindergarten, and coached the tearful boy at home every night. (Imagine!) I asked about his vision, because his drawing was disconnected, heads and arms floating away from the bodies like helium balloons. The father was military, so they had only visited a military pediatrician. “Let’s wait six months,” they heard, time after time. I consulted with a friend whose daughter had difficulty with her eyes. The mom (who wasn’t, thank God, in the military) took her child to a terrific pediatric ophthalmologist. I recommended that the parents “got out of the service” to get more expert help. They got permission, and the boy was diagnosed with farsightedness! This boy couldn’t see up close, hence no puzzles, no letters. But lots of anxiety due to not being able to perform for his Dad. Did I mention his social skills were poor at school, and he cried in frustration over small things? Do you think his social skills improved after he got glasses? If you think no, you do not yet get the connection between the body and mind in a young child.

Another road that parents and teachers take is to label a child as having a disability without systematic observation by a teacher or other professional. Years after the boy with farsightedness, I had a four-year-old girl in my group with intense behavioral issues (pinching teachers HARD and not letting go, hitting other children). Her mother asked me almost every day, “Do you think she has ADHD?”. That is another quick judgment that parents and teachers make when they face a child who is having trouble fitting in, socially. Noting that I wasn’t qualified to judge, and, indeed, would be practicing medicine without a license to diagnose (which I tell my students, often—don’t diagnose), I suggested we go through the Child Find process to make sure we weren’t missing anything. In this case, the child passed her tests with flying colors, but the Child Find committee wisely recommended parenting classes at a reputable agency run by the school system. No more two hours of television before school. No more self-chosen bedtimes. The girl’s behavior improved.

Every child is an individual. Looking at them as problems isn’t helpful, though, heaven knows, it is terribly easy to do considering the mad pace of the average child care center. Without support from a teaching team with years of experience, a young teacher might flounder in the weeds, or continue to think that a two-year-old who hits is spoiled. End of story.

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