If you were to walk into one of our centers (Discovery Days I, II, and III and Kids Connection I and II) you might see that the children spend 80% of their waking hours engaging in play. On a surface level, this might cause the casual observer to be skeptical or to think that the curriculum isn’t very rigorous; however, nothing could be further from the truth.
Our educational philosophy is very simple: children learn best through explorative play in which they are engaging with their environment and other children, with the help of a facilitating teacher. You may be thinking, what constitutes “play?” “Play” is only “play” according to a group of early childhood experts, if it meets three of the following expectations listed below, each of which is taken directly fromscholarly work (Krasnor&Pepler, 1980; Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983, depicted in the “Power of Play” publication):
PLAY IS PLEASURABLE. Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.
PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED. Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.
PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED. When children play, the means are more important than the ends.
PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN. It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.
PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED. Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.
PLAY IS NON-LITERAL. It involves make-believe
What does the research say?
We have all seen children throw temper tantrums, and we can all likely agree that they are not much fun to witness. We have been in the room as a child has punched an adult or anotherchild, or when they’ve said harsh swear words they have no business knowing. Each of these scenarios conveys a universal emotion: Anger. It’s a common emotion, many of us deal with on a daily basis regardless of age. What many probably don’t remember is that when we were children, we were likely taught how to manage anger and try to deal with it in a healthy way. Children who act on their anger in unproductive ways, such as with violence or screaming, have not been taught how to manage their anger in a healthy manner.
This blog has been crafted for the purpose of providing information on the topic of childhood anger, and how we as educators and parents can teach children to handle their anger. Anger plagues humans for their entire life, therefore becoming essential that children are taught from a young age what are appropriate responses to this difficult to handle emotion.
What does a child have to be angry about?
Every weekday children are dropped off at early childhood centers to be cared for and assisted in their development for anywhere from one hour to 12 hours. Children spend a significant number of their 24-hour day in the care of early childcare professional, yet as educators we tend not to think too deeply about their life outside of the center. When they are misbehaving, we tend to blame it on a child’s natural demeanor, rather than think systematically about their familial, social, and community life outside of the center and how those factors may be influencing their actions.This blog post focuses on conveying how childcare providers can more successfully assist in a child’s development by viewing children in their care in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943 which argues that humans have different levels of needs. The needs are tiered as displayed in the image below. At the base of the pyramid are basic human needs (food, water, clothing, etc.), and at the top is self-actualization (the finding of purpose). A picture of the pyramid can be found below. Each intermediary level builds upon the level below it. In other words, in order for a child’s safety and security needs to be met, their basic human needs need to first have been met. Once basic human needs are met, then relationship needs be met, then once relationship needs are met, than achievement needs can be met, and finally once all other needs are met, then the need for self-actualization can be met.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (picture credit: Mendix.com)
How does this apply to early childhood education?
As educators we need a comprehensive understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, because it provides us with a larger context to relate their behaviors and actions. We often view the way a child behaves as singular rather than as a part of their broader life. Are they hungry? Is their home safe? Have they had access to water in the last few hours? By thinking about these questions it forces us as educators to ponder whether or not there may be other reasons for a child’s behavior than the events that have just occurred. When more immediate needs are not met such as one’s needs for food and safety, it becomes increasingly unlikely that a child will be able to behave, learn, and listen to the best of their ability.
Overview of each each of Maslow’s Needs:
Basic Human Needs: These needs are at the core of what is needed to function as a human being. They are essential to our survival. They include but are not limited too: food, water, shelter, and clothing.
Safety and Security: To thrive and live healthy lives humans need a sense of safety and security. The Mandt System (development tool) asserts that safety and security can be summarized as “consistency and predictability.” Humans, and especially kids thrive in routine, and in an environment in which they are comfortable.
Healthy Relationships: A life without healthy relationships is not a healthy life. Children rapidly develop, and a caring adult can make all the difference. Healthy relationships can be defined as relationships that are emotionally, physically, psychologically or spiritually appropriated.
Achievement: We think of achievement as something that adults seek out, but not kids. This is not true. Kids need to achieve just as much as adults do, but their achievements are different and developmentally appropriate. For example an achievement for a five year old may be coloring a picture “within the lines,” which often provides a feeling best characterized by the phrase, “I did it!”
Self Actualization: This sometimes confusing phrase can be thought of as a child’s ability to rise, to act creatively, to dream, to act without fear, and to find purpose.
JUNE 27, 2018 / TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENTChildren struggle with self-control, it’s a fact of life. Humans are not born with the self-control needed to live healthy and successful lives. Self-control must be cultivated, practiced, and valued. This blog post’s purpose is to illustrate the connection between cultivating self-control in children and success later in life. In addition, this post is a continuation on a series of posts on the topic of turning children into successful adults, inspired by my reading of Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed.
“The Marshmallow Study”
in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel completed a study that offered children a choice between eating a marshmallow immediately, or receiving a greater reward if they waited a short period of time. The study was designed to measure self-control among children, and determine whether or not their ability to delay immediate gratification was correlated with better life outcomes as they age (e.g., higher educational attainment, SAT scores, healthy body mass index, etc.). The study found that children who possessed enough self-control to wait the short period of time for the increased rewards tended to have better life outcomes, demonstrating that children who possess higher self-control are more likely to experience better life outcomes. A video displaying how the study was done can be found in the “Additional Resources” section of this blog post.
Why is self-control a character trait?
Self-control is the ability to resist the temptation to live a life that places supreme value on current pleasures, and instead work for the possibility of greater rewards in the future. Self-control helps a child to avoid the temptation to skip homework due tomorrow in favor of playing outside, bringing greater satisfaction in the present time, but will not better the child’s life overall. Self-control is what stops one from stealing, even though it produces immediate results. People who have a strong character have the ability to hold themselves accountable for their actions, to resist temptation. Self-control is an act of cautiousness, that is, skeptical of immediacy.
What are the long-term benefits of teaching a child self-discipline? (Information comes from “Research every teacher should know” published by The Guardian: self-control and learning):
How is self-control increased in children?
Arguably the most effective way to promote self-control in children is to manipulate their environment to work towards their advantage. Every child has triggers that cause them to have lapses in self control. For example, some children may be so distracted by technology in the classroom that all their focus is placed on it, and they cannot control their behaviors otherwise. In this case, teachers can manipulate the environment (i.e., remove technology from the classroom momentarily, or place it out of sight), so that the children who struggle to focus with technology present are able to as a result. Manipulation of the environment gives kids who struggle with self-control a fighting chance to focus, and practice their self-control skills.
Additional Reading Resources:
We want all children in our care to grow up to become successful and productive citizens. We assume our kids will be successful, and why wouldn’t we? Most kids are nice as young children and developmentally on-track. However, not all children do grow up to become successful (to achieve their goals and live a healthy and happy life). Why is that? Is it a lack of intelligence? Poor Schools? Or, maybe even poor nurturing by parents or teachers? Paul Tough, renowned Canadian journalist utilized his book How Children Succeed to introduce readers to the argument that success has little to do with intelligence, but rather with character: exemplified through grit (perseverance), self-control, and optimism. I will dedicate the next three blog posts to discuss each one of these skills in depth, and how we can cultivate the skills in children who are in our care.
Does IQ lead to Success?
Contrary to popular belief, high IQ children are not guaranteed to experience success later in life. Parents and educators put such an emphasis on teaching literacy early, and shaping a child’s ability to reason logically, and while these are important to teach, they are just one part of helping children grow up to attain success. ABC News reports that IQ is a good predictor of school success, but not necessarily for life. Unfortunately, IQ is difficult to change. The good news is that character is much more malleable. Children can be taught character skills like grit, self-control, and optimism and our schools should teach them. In other words, it’s easier to teach someone skills rather than to “be smart.”
What is “grit?”
Grit refers to one’s ability to possess the courage and perseverance necessary to continue working toward one’s goals despite confrontation with difficulties along the way. In short, it’s one’s ability to persist, to keep moving towards a goal, even in the face of resistance.
What does a person with “grit” do differently than one without?
A person with grit sets goals and takes the steps necessary to achieve those goals. A person with grit can fail to achieve their goal, but don’t give up. Failure is not an option to the gritty person. When resistance is faced individuals with grit alter directions, modify their thinking to their advantage, train harder, or breakdown their tasks so that they are more manageable. Gritty people don’t give up on goals they care deeply about.
How to foster grit in children?
Have standards and enforce them: Children lack self-discipline. Like grit, self-discipline is a skill that is learned. By having standards and enforcing them, children become accustomed to working to meet their goals (achieving the standard). For example, teachers can enforce the standard “toys must be cleaned up before a child moves onto the next activity.” To meet this standard, children must persist through forms of resistance: negative emotions having to do with not wanting to clean-up as well as distractions. Achieving the standard despite resistance helps children obtain grit.
Avoid providing the answers to all a child’s questions: Kids ask a lot of questions. While answering regularly is developmentally appropriate, sometimes it’s best not to provide an answer, and encourage a child to find out for themselves. Figuring out the answer serves as the child’s goal, and they must be gritty to achieve the objective.
Focus praise on effort, rather than results: Grit is learned while confronting resistance. If the goal of educators is to help children become gritty, we should praise effort exerted confronting resistance, rather than results.
Allow children to fail: Watching children fail makes adults sad, and it remains uncomfortable. If we can take that sadness away by altering a situation so a child doesn’t fail, we often do it. However, this isn’t helpful. If a child learns that every time they are about to fail someone will swoop in to make things better, they will likely never learn to persist towards a goal despite resistance.
“Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance”- TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth
This video discusses what separates high achievers from their average counterparts, and the role that grit plays. Angela Lee Duckworth is a teacher turned Psychologist, and she brings an interesting perspective to the topic of grit.
“Grit: The Key Ingredient to Your Child’s Success,” Washington Post, Judy Holland
“12 Ways to Raise a Competent, Confident Child with Grit,” Psychology Today, Laura Markham Ph.d
We live in an imperfect world, characterized by pain, suffering and turmoil. Although we don’t like to think about it, often children are the victims of horrific circumstances through no fault of their own. We call these circumstances and experiences “childhood trauma(s).” This blog post is aimed at providing parents and teachers with information and additional resources to help children through traumatic experiences and their aftermath.
What qualifies as “childhood trauma?”
The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies defines “childhood trauma” as “negative events that are emotionally painful and that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope.” The society notes that childhood trauma is most disastrous in its negative effects when it is inflicted by another person, intentionally.
What are some of the types of childhood trauma?
What are the on adults who experienced childhood trauma?
Adults who suffered childhood trauma face many consequences. As stated earlier, trauma “overwhelms a person’s ability cope.” Psychology Today reports that people who experienced childhood trauma often experience these four consequences:
Does childhood trauma affect an individual’s physical health?
Yes! Check out this TED Talk by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.
What are some signs a child may have experienced something traumatic?
TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
American children are in the grips of an overwhelming obesity epidemic that is sweeping the nation and showing no sign of slowing down. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, since the 1970’s, rates of childhood obesity have tripled. In 2015 and 2016, research determined that roughly 20% of children (ages 6-19) were obese. For context, obesity is simply having “excess body fat” (which varies in amount by age).
For a child who experiences obesity, the immediate consequences include decreased social and emotional health, as well as an increased chance they will experience the following conditions later in life: fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, asthma, heart disease, high cholesterol, and orthopedic problems.
As parents, educators and community members, we can make a difference in stymieing the tide of childhood obesity. This blog post will discuss how to do just that.
What are the causes of childhood obesity:
This blog post is focused on providing parents and educators with information relevant to the benefits of incorporating nature into child development, as well as practical ways to accomplish just that.
What are the benefits of incorporating nature into a child’s learning experiences?
The research is clear, incorporating nature in a child’s learning experiences is extremely beneficial for their development. According to the Natural Learning Initiative, outdoor learning experiences benefit children in the following ways:
Children and adults interact with the natural world every day. It is where we make our lives, and it contains the water we drink, the land on which we plant our feet, and the air we breath. Teaching children to love nature will as a result teach them to value it. To value nature is to take steps to conserve it, something society increasingly needs.
According to the National Wildlife Federation: “Cornell University found that children who spend significant amounts of time immersed in nature and the outdoors such as camping, hiking, or other nature activities in their younger years are more incline to be conservationists or at least be conservation-minded as adults.”
What if going outside isn’t a readily available option due to weather or other circumstances?
While it is encouraged that children get outside to play and learn, it is not always an option. Wisconsin winters and wet springs can make outdoor play next to impossible. Here are some resources for how you can incorporate nature indoors.
Conflict isn’t just for adults. Children of all ages experience conflict and it’s unpleasant effects. This post is designed to provide educators with additional resources and information pertaining to helping children in their care build their conflict resolution skills.
What is “conflict resolution?
Blake Kraussel, Director of Administration and Employee Development