Each of us try to figure out why our children do what they do. A child may throw a fit for no apparent reason so we naturally try to come up with an explanation for the fit. How we come up with those explanation will make a big difference on how we react as parents. Most of the time, our reaction and explanations for our child’s behavior is based on our personal experiences, development centered parenting is geared to educating parents on what is going on with their child based on their brain’s current growth stage. The goal is to help parents understand why their kids do what they do based on their age and development.
It is so much easier for a parent to deal with issues both big and small if you understand how your child’s brain works. For example, you may notice that your toddler throws their food on the floor every day at dinner, or purposely spills their milk at breakfast. Most people would think that this is bad behavior and punish their child, but in reality, a toddler’s brain is trying to figure out how everything works. They don’t understand what gravity is, but they are trying to figure it out, so they continuously want to see things fall. A good way to avoid this problem is to give them opportunities to drop appropriate items from their high chair. Right before dinner, you could take 2 minutes and give them a ball to drop to the floor. Talk to them about what is happening:
”Balls fall to the floor, but food stays on our plate!”
“The ball fell down!”
“The ball was up and now it’s down!”
This technique is called redirecting. Our goal is to replace a negative behavior with a positive behavior. It is important to remember that none of us are born knowing what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. Our focus as parents and early childhood teachers should always be to help children learn what appropriate behavior looks like. The only way we can accomplish this is by understanding basic development.
Do you ever wonder why your preschoolers never make a face that has eyes, nose and mouth in the correct spots? There are several reasons why they create their art this way and why it is good for them. The first and most important reason is because they are developing their perceptual abilities, but until both hemispheres of the brain connect (between age 4-6) they will not be able to create anatomically correct art.
Preschool art should be about the process not the end results. In fact, the National Association of Young Children warns parents that one sign of a preschool that is not developmentally appropriate is art that comes out looking correct. Who wants art that their child didn't really create? Many people also confuse crafts with art in the preschool world. That is one reason it is important to have a staff that is trained on preschool aged children.
Process art allows children to simply create. Children are given several different mediums and opportunities to just create. Crafts in preschool are not a bad thing, as long as they are accompanied by process art and the teachers are not correcting the child’s work. Here are some of the characteristics of process art:
Characteristics of product focused art:
- There is no right or wrong way, it is about creating
- There are no step-by step instructions
- The end product is entirely the child’s creation, so there are no samples or patterns to follow
- You can’t find ideas online
- The entire experience is the child’s choice
Why do children learn from process art and not from product art?
- There is usually a sample that children are instructed to copy
- There is a right or wrong way which eliminates creativity
- All finished work will look similar
- There is a finished product in mind which again eliminates creativity
- Teachers usually correct or ‘help’ the child which can lead to poor self-esteem and loss of initiative
- Children are more relaxed because they cannot make a mistake. This allows them to focus and feel more confident. As a result, they feel successful and can express their feelings. This helps to build confidence, self-esteem and initiative.
- Children often want to discuss their art which leads to better language and literacy skills. This also empowers children and sends the message that their opinions and feelings are important.
- Process art helps children learn how to plan and think about what they are trying to create or express.
- It also helps children learn how to problem solve by creating opportunities for them to figure out how to accomplish their intentions on their own.
- Process art helps children gain concepts of special awareness and self-expression
- It helps develop motor skills and eye- hand coordination.
Did you know that in the early childhood years, the body is actually teaching the brain? Young children learn through their brain stem and experiences help their brain form synaptic connections which are responsible for the development of the brain. Brain growth is primarily happening in the right hemisphere of the brain during the first 5 years of life, which focuses on social, emotional, musical, artistic and basic personality and temperament traits.
So many of the activities you see your toddler or preschoolers do that may seem silly, are actually helping the brain grow! Here is an example of some of these activities and how they help the brain grow:
Grasping, Pushing, pulling, stroking, reaching lead to better hand-eye coordination and toning fine motor which are the building blocks of hand writing
Spinning, Swinging, Rolling, Tumbling, Dancing, Balancing and Listening lead to better coordination and sporting abilities. These area also to learn skills children will need to learn how to read and write.
Stacking, sorting, mixing, and mimicking all lead to building memory, math logic, vocabulary, fluency and general problem solving.
Play is work for the young child. What seems like fun and games is actually a brain in formation!
Here's an interesting fact, school teachers are not required to have any child development training. Unless they personally choose to become educated on child development or brain development, they may never learn how a child's brain develops, learns and grows. On the other hand, preschool teachers focus a lot of time and training on child development during the early years.
Many people don't seem to understand how babies, toddlers and young children's brains develop and they often fall for marketing techniques that sell a product that may seem to give a child a jump in their education, but is actually not good for their brain development. Tools like flash cards, tracing sheets and any Television education program are not developmentally appropriate for children under 5.
During the first 5 years of life, the brain is developing in specific areas. These areas are often referred to as 'sensitive periods'. During these periods, parents and caregivers should focus on what the brain is trying to learn and make sure each child is given plenty of opportunities to develop these areas. I will go into more detail about theses areas and their specific ages in more detail during the next few posts.
My name is Evelyn Knight and I am the owner and director of Zoo'n Around. I started working with children when I was 15 years old, and never looked back. I have over 15 years experience in Early Education and I have degrees in Early Childhood Education (ECE), Psychology and Human Development (with an emphasis in child development). I am an Early Child Education trainer with the Nevada Registry which regulates preschool teachers and childcare providers in the state of Nevada.
My passion for the ECE world goes beyond the 2 preschools that I own. Early on in my career, I noticed that many daycare centers did not put child development and what is best for the children first. They were more concerned in looking good for parents rather than doing what was best for the children. I began to wonder why these centers didn't just educate their families so that they could understand why they used the methods they used. The more education I received the more I realized that children were in need of more a developmentally appropriate preschools so I decided to open my own.
My husband and I opened our first preschool, Little Knights & Maidens, in 2008. In 2010 we were approached to take over Zoo'n Around and combine our 2 centers. Since this facility was much nicer than the one we occupied, we jumped on the opportunity. We are so blessed to have been able to develop our own developmentally appropriate preschool, nursery and childcare center. In 2013 we expanded to Lovelock where we have a second preschool.
On a personal note, I have 2 wonderful boys who have who have outgrown our center, but still love coming for a visit. I am a native Northern Nevadan and I love Nevada and it's rich history.
The need for quality early childhood education is becoming more apparent during our struggling economic times. After a century of leading the world in supplying the educated worker force needed for technology fields, the U.S. has fallen behind in education. Preparing our future workforce begins with early childhood education. During the first five years of life children develop language, motor, social, emotional and cognitive skills. With the proper growth and development in these areas, they are more likely to succeed in school and are better equipped to contribute to society later in life.
It may seem hard to believe that quality care and education for a child under 5 years old can determine their future success as an adult, but it does. Understanding brain development can explain why the early years are so important to the future success of our children. During the first 5 years of life 90% of the brain is developed. The skills each of us need in order to function in society, our executive brain functions, are formed. While the brain of an elementary school aged child are geared more towards learning math, science and how to read, a preschoolers mind is geared towards building executive brain functions such as: focus, self control, communication, social skills, time management and self-direction. Of course early literacy and math skills are also important during the preschool years, but nothing is more important than helping children to enhance their executive brain function.
According to Aurthur J. Rolnick Director of Research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and professor of economics for the University of Minnesota, children who attend a quality early childcare center during their first five years of life are 80% more likely to graduate from high school and are 60% more likely to graduate from college. Why do the preschool years make such a difference?
The skills that we learn during the first 6 years of life are the skills we need to succeed. A child who can focus longer and can be self directed will be able to stay on task longer and complete assignments in school more effectively. As an adult, communication skills and good time management are vital to making it through college and excelling in a career. So while it may seem very important to teach your 2 year old their ABC's and how to count, it is more important to help them establish a strong social and emotional foundation.