Creating Classroom Community
Today we are focusing on a how parents and providers prepare children for a school setting by meeting their social and emotional needs in infancy and toddlerhood.
Three areas will be discussed: Secure attachment; Self-Regulation; Strong Sense of Self
Healthy attachment is the most important job of parents and caregivers during infancy. When a baby feels securely attached, the brain is able to grow and develop to its potential. A healthy brain means a healthy school-aged mind. Children who have not been nurtured and learned trust have more difficulty accessing the higher levels of their brain, which is the part of the brain necessary for complex thinking and problem-solving (i.e.- school success). How do we develop strong attachment? A few ideas:
1. Hold Your Baby – babies who are held more cry less. Their stress levels are lower and their heart rate is more regulated. You are developing your child’s sense of TRUST in the world
2. Make Eye Contact – Make as much face-to-face contact as the baby desires. Look in your baby’s eyes, smile to her, tell her you LOVE her
3. Feed your baby his/her bottle – do not prop the bottle and allow the child to feed him/her self
4. Appropriate Physical Touch – Infant massage is a powerful way to communicate love to your baby, as well as to promote healthy circulation, digestion and sensory integration.
5. Use Baby’s Name – Although you baby does not immediately understand her name, as you repeatedly use your child’s name, she recognizes that it is something important that SHE is something important.
Children who can wait in line, listen to a story, respect personal space and share toys have much more success in the institutional school setting. From the beginning of life, we can do things to teach a child self-regulation:
1. Respond to a Baby’s Needs – A child who feels safe, and whose needs have been met, will be able to calm more easily than a child who is insecure about his purpose/value.
2. Bedtime Routine – By 4 months of age, a baby is developing a sense of anticipation. He can anticipate when you are going to tickle him, play with him, sing to him, etc. Once a child can anticipate something, he is ready for a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine affirms the child’s need for security while also allowing the child to learn to calm himself.
3. Sing – You can teach a child to control impulses through song. Every time a child must WAIT for something in a song, he is teaching himself patience. For example, when a child has to WAIT until he “falls down” in “Ring Around a Rosey,” he is developing the skill of self-regulation. You can make up songs or use rhymes that you know, but focus on songs that teach the child to follow directions and wait.
Strong Sense of Self:
Children must know that they are unique and valuable, and that they have a significant role to play on this earth. When children are emotionally secure, they will be more successful in the social and academic setting of school. They can live more selflessly in community, can feel proud of their achievements, have intrinsic motivation to learn and can empathize with others.
1. Meet Your Baby’s Needs – As you respond to your baby’s needs, you are telling your child that she is important. A child cannot learn to respect others until the child has been respected herself. Parents and caregivers are the first ones to teach a child she is important, valuable and unique.
2. Learn Appropriate Affirmation – Affirmation and praise are different. Praise tends to focus on pleasing another party, while affirmation focuses on the pride and accomplishment of the individual. Learn to AFFIRM your child. Say things such as: “You are proud of yourself,” “You tried so hard at…..” “Look how you climbed the ladder all by yourself!”
3. Give Choices – As soon as a baby can comprehend a choice, allow him to make his own choices. The choices can be simple, such as if he wants to eat puffs or pears, or if he wants to read one book or the other, or if he wants to wear the blue shirt of the red shirt. As the child becomes confident making choices, he builds his sense of self.
Good luck! These ideas only represent the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully reminded you of the importance of social-emotional development to school readiness.