Friday, February 12, 2010

Early Childhood Tidbits

Building Brain Connections        

I can not stress enough, how critical it is to give young children as many experiences and support as possible so they can build as many brain connections as possible . We know that the connections formed during early childhood will have life long effects. There is no shortcut to providing young children with positive, supportive experiences during these critical years. Early childhood is the time to build strong brain connections. I continue to admire all of the wonderful people in the world that devote their lives to young children.

Some great books about brain development are:

Magic Trees of the Mind
What's Going on in There?
Raise a Smarter Child by Kindergarten


Early music integration 

1.  Music has a positive effect on young children’s development!!
New research shows that music has a positive influence on young children’s cognitive skills such as spatial reasoning and memory. Research also shows that providing children with a rich and stimulating environment involving all the senses, including the auditory sense, can support children’s healthy growth and development.
The Nemours Foundation (a non-profit organization founded by philanthropist Alfred DuPont to improve the health of children) notes in a 2008 report that:
Research has shown that children who are actively involved with music (who play it or sing it regularly):
  • do better in reading and math when they start school
  • are better able to focus and control their bodies
  • play better with others and have higher self-esteem
2. Young children enjoy making music with others!!
Making music with others gives children a wonderful feeling of belonging to the group. Children who might have difficulty joining in activities with others because they are shy, have limited English ability (ELLs or language delayed) or special needs, can freely participate when it comes to a music activity. 
3. Music makes young children happy!!
Children seem to experience much pleasure and joy listening to music, making music and moving to music. Whether they are singing along to a CD, playing a rhythm instrument or skipping to music around the classroom, most children seem to thoroughly enjoy participating in a music activity. How wonderful it is that with very little effort, a teacher can bring such happiness to children each day just by providing the opportunity to do a little something with music. 
The Montessori Classroom 
Montessori Education: Brain Development
Montessori Education is based on the discoveries of Dr Maria Montessori in 1917. From her observations she wrote extensively on the needs of the child in reaching their potential. The titles of her numerous books capture a leap in understanding about child development and its importance: The Absorbent Mind, The Secret of Childhood, The Discovery of the Child, Spontaneous Activity in Education & more.

The Montessori approach to education is essentially an aid to life. It is about assisting development in the formative years and therefore goes far beyond the concept of school or curriculum. In Maria Montessori's own words: "our work as adults does not consist in teaching, but in helping the infant mind in its work of development" Montessori believed the first 6 years of life form the foundation for the rest of our lives. When working with children, we need to learn to give help only when it is needed and to understand the importance of standing back and observing the unfolding life of the child before us (Maria Montessori)      
Brain development 

We now recognize that the years from birth to 6 are critically important in shaping a child's capacity and enthusiasm for learning. Although these years were always thought to be vital to human development, new technological advances in brain research further supports this. We also know that it is not genetics alone that determines human development. Nature provides a complex system of brain circuitry, but it is external forces such as diet, surroundings and stimulation that determine how the circuits are wired.
The early wiring of the brain is critical to  young children's development. It is the stimulating and problem solving activities that children are engaged in that build this circuitry. Lack of stimulation will cause less brain wiring to occur. Early brain development affects all aspects of children's development including moral and social development. University of California
Stimulating activities
A Montessori environment has a special atmosphere of cheerful orderliness, calmness and purposeful work. The materials or activities are attractive and stimulating with each piece of equipment: inviting exploration by ease of handling, challenging and self correcting, allowing for unlimited repetition, helping the child to acquire precise vocabulary, focusing on a single quality and correlating with other activities to bring together the whole jigsaw of learning, and being able to be used for simple and complex tasks.

The children work and develop within the prepared environment which provides distinctive, easily accessible materials. Each piece of equipment is designed to develop a specific concept. The Adult guide introduces the children to these materials in a logical sequence.

Brain circuitry  and the hard wiring of a child's brain is the foundation for all later learning. This is a systematic process and Montessori devised these specific materials to aid exploration and discovery that are recognized universal truths about childhood development and learning.


To help your child's development during the first six years you need to be aware of your role in this development, as well as the importance of your attitude toward handling various situations that arise from day to day.

Respect the individuality of the child

Resist imposing your own will and personality on your child

Allow your child to be active, enabling them to learn through exploration of the world around

Recognize the difference between encouraging rather than praising or rewarding.

Parenting isn’t easy.
With love, limits, and lots of involvement, parents can have a major influence in developing happy, healthy and well-behaved children. Parenting education is the key to raising successful children, creating competent, confident parents, and building strong families and communities. We focus on parent-child communication, nurturing relationships, setting limits, and respectful discipline practices. 

We all want the best for our children.
When we bring them home from the hospital, we never imagine how they will be when they reach toddler hood. We are not prepared for the "no's," the messes, the defiance and more! Some days we are at our wits end. Many parents, out of frustration, ultimately resort to methods they said they would never use such as: yelling, grabbing, demeaning their child, spanking and more. This teaches children the person that is bigger can push the "little guy" around. This may lead to bullying behavior later in school, starting at the preschool age! Is that really what we want to teach our children? Do we want to see our toddlers grow to be successful in school and go on to be successful in life? To make good choices for themselves? This course will help you to understand your toddler and see the world through their eyes. Help your child be the positive responsible person you know they can be, by being the positive parent you want to be!!

Here are a few tips to define success, integrate your parenting goals into your daily activities, and shift your thought process to be more proactive and less reactive:

1. Listen. Listen for understanding. In situations that are turning overly difficult, stop and slow down, get on your child's level, and look them in the eye. This will require that you stop what you are doing and think about what your child is saying. Then say, “I am listening. I am trying to understand what you need or want.” Then listen. When your child knows you are listening and care about what they need, you will lessen the chances of temper tantrums.
2. Make a plan and make it easy. For each of the most important success factors, identify ways you can model to your children that value or behavior while you go about your everyday life. Get your children involved in the process. This is your opportunity to be proactive and reinforce positive actions each day.
3. Be Respectful. No matter what, always teach respect by being respectful. Your words and actions are extremely important in interactions with everyone. Treat your child as you want him to treat you and other people. Remember the "Golden Rule."
4. Set an intention to succeed. Set the image of parenting success clearly in your head and act as if it were already accomplished. Make a commitment to make your success image come true.
5. Review at different stages in your child’s life. Find a way to remind yourself of your intention and your action plan. Review it periodically to make sure it is still relevant to you and appropriate to your childrens’ ages and interests. One of the best ways to ensure that you stay on track with any goal is to find an accountability partner – your spouse, a friend, a coach.
6. Be A Playful Parent. When we play with our children we truly get on their level. Play naturally helps children express and understand their feelings and their environment in safe ways. Play encourages imagination and creative tendencies.
7. Use Humor. Having a sense of humor helps your child become less stressed and feel comfortable in communicating with you.
8. Appreciate your child’s unique personality and talents. Children come into the world with their own personality. While we can guide, support, and influence some aspects of their behavior, who they are at the core is pretty well established in utero! That’s part of what makes them unique and precious, and they should be celebrated.
9. Offer Choices. Instead of giving orders, give your child a "sense" of control by offering them two choices. Children are more willing to cooperate if they feel like they have some control over the process. Give them some “control” throughout the day and you will notice a big difference in their level of cooperation.
10. Use Time In. Time in helps your child to see what he or she did wrong, and correct the problem, rather than just punishing.
11. Be Consistent. in making "Family Rules," you should include even the youngest of children . Then stick to them. It's confusing for children when rules are only enforced some of the time. Only set limits you know you can enforce and then be prepared to take a stand.
12. Say Yes! By using the "When . . . Then" method– When seeking cooperation from your child, we all know that yes will always work better than no. Try rephrasing the situation to start the sentence with yes. For example: Your child wants candy but it is almost time for dinner. Instead of saying no and risking a confrontation or temper tantrum, say Yes! “Yes, when you eat your dinner, then you may have ice cream.” Don’t for get to stick to it!
13. Decide what parenting success means to you. Imagine a point in your child’s future (college graduation, wedding, etc.) when you will reflect on the adult your child has become. Set the platform to be proud of the wonderful person they have become, respecting their inherent traits as well as the values they hold and how they treat others and make decisions.

I am the mom of 4 wonderful kids, 3 boys and 1 girl. Looking at them, you know I have had many years working with and enriching the lives of children. I have an Associates (Magna Cum Laude) in Business Management, and a Bachelors in Early childhood Development and Education with a concentration in Child Psychology. I have almost 20 years in the Early Childhood field, and loving every minute of it! You can visit my site here