What an intense few months it’s been. Those of us in the early childhood field have undoubtedly been feeling the pressure in multiple ways. Every family, early learning educator and program is at a different place in this challenging journey. As you begin to reopen your programs it’s important to respect personal needs and move forward in a way that’s right for you, your staff, the families and your program.
The Creative Team has used this time to regroup, strategize and begin the work on new products and services. As we move into the “New Normal”, the learning curve has been and will continue to be steep, but all of us are up to the challenge. We are very excited about our new direction.
We are enhancing our website to include:
Creative Business Supports
Online shopping cart
Communities of Practice; Leadership Lounge and ECE Conversation Café
Winning teams have players who make things happen.
Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body
NATIONAL SCIENTIFIC COUNCIL ON THE DEVELOPING CHILD
The environments we create and the experiences we provide for young children and their families affect not just the developing brain, but also many other physiological systems.
A growing understanding of how responsive relationships and language-rich experiences for young children help build a strong foundation for later success in school has driven increased investment and sparked innovation in early learning around the world. The rapidly advancing frontiers of 21st-century biological sciences now provide compelling evidence that the foundations of lifelong health are also built early, with increasing evidence of the importance of the prenatal period and first few years after birth.
The science is clear on two points:
What happens during this period can have substantial effects on both short- and long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.
All of these domains are remarkably interdependent and the potential for learning is inexorably linked to the quality of physical and mental health.
A child who is living in an environment with supportive relationships and consistent routines is more likely to develop well functioning biological systems, including brain circuits, that promote positive development and lifelong health. Children who feel threatened or unsafe may develop physiological responses and coping behaviours that are attuned to the harsh conditions they are experiencing at the time, at the long-term expense of physical and mental well-being, self-regulation, and effective learning.
Policymakers, leaders of human services systems, intervention developers, and practitioners can all use this knowledge to create innovative solutions to reduce disparities in preventable diseases and premature deaths and lower the high costs of health care for chronic illnesses that have their origins in early childhood adversity. Moreover, these costs are likely to grow unless society’s investment in promoting health and preventing disease moves “upstream” to address the sources of these problems in early childhood. Nearly all aspects of early development and later health are affected by interactions among experiences, genes, age, and the environments in which young children live. These interactions influence every biological system in the body, with especially powerful effects in the earliest years.
Systems relating to brain development, heart and lung function, digestion, energy production, fighting infection, and physical growth are all interconnected and influence each other’s development and function. Each system “reads” the environment, prepares to respond, and shares that information with the others. Each system then “signals back” to the others through feedback loops that are already functioning at birth. As an example, higher rates of infection in early childhood can increase the level of anxiety at later ages, which can then compromise school performance. Children living in conditions of threat and deprivation may emerge as adults with a greater risk for multiple forms of cardiometabolic disease.
In short, the environments we create and the experiences we provide for young children and their families affect not just the developing brain, but also many other physiological systems, from cardiovascular function and immune responsiveness to metabolic regulation. All of these systems are responsible for our lifelong health and well-being. The brain and all other organs and systems in the body are like a team of highly skilled athletes, each with a specialized capability that complements the others and all of whom are dedicated to a common goal. The members of a well-functioning team read each other’s actions, adjust their own actions according to what happens around them, and continuously learn from each other. Over time, biological systems in the body mature into a finely tuned unit and respond as one to a multitude of challenges. As their shared experiences or environments change, these systems must adjust, just as players in each position must respond. Each performance builds on what came before and, while adjustments are always possible, it is more difficult—and more costly— to change strategies, patterns, and habits later than to build a well-functioning and efficient team from the beginning. And just as every team is different in how the players respond and adjust to their environment, so is every child.
The core concepts of development apply to every individual, but how these systems adapt and interact can vary, and these differences are essential for developing effective prevention and intervention strategies based on 21st-century science. The policy and practice implications of this knowledge are striking: Strategic investments in young children and the adults who care for them affect long-term physical and mental health as much as they affect early learning. When access to essential resources and supportive relationships is secure, the building blocks of both resilience (e.g., self-regulation and adaptive skills) and wellness (e.g., well-regulated stress response systems) are strengthened. When hardships or threats are extreme or persistent, particularly in the context of intergenerational poverty and/or systemic racism, multiple biological systems can be disrupted. The “downstream” results of these disruptions are poor educational achievement, lower economic productivity, higher rates of crime, and increased health care costs.
It is known as one of the best exercises to connect the mind and body and has been practised for thousands of years. These ancient exercises are easy, fun and beneficial for preschool children!
Today the benefit of yoga for young children is gaining widespread recognition. More and more research suggests that children should participate in activities that develop the whole child - Yoga fits the bill.
Some of the benefits of yoga for preschoolers:
Flexibility & Endurance which helps prevent pull and strain injuries lead to improved athletic performance and a healthier lifestyle.
Balance & Coordination, they learn how their bodies move and gain confidence and balance.
Focus & Concentration helps children to slow down, breathe, focus, to be still and to be less frustrated and distracted.
Reduces anger, depression, and fatigue so that they can better manage the highs and lows of life now and long into the future.
Eases anxiety, stress, and tension so that they can focus on the positive aspects of life and lead happier lives.
Improves stress management and teaches them healthy, productive ways to manage challenging tasks and tension-filled times.
Enhances focus, attention, concentration, comprehension, and memory so they can better perform in activities they enjoy.
Provides opportunities for patience, reflection, and self-insight, reducing problem behaviours.
Increases resilience and coping frequency so that challenges and setbacks don’t derail them.
Increases flexibility, strength, and balance increasing their self-confidence, promoting a healthy body image and creating healthy habits around physical activities.
Here are 3 child friendly animal poses you might want to try with your children
The fun of sticking out the tongue and bellowing a roar is what gives Lion Pose so much appeal for a young audience. Don't forget the sound effects!
What to do: Kneel and sit back on your heels. Press your palms into your knees, splaying out your fingers like claws. As you breathe in through your nose, open your mouth, and try to stretch your tongue to your chin. Breathe out through your mouth and let out a roar!
Who can resist a good balancing pose? Go beyond the standard Tree Pose and guide children to balance on their behinds with legs extended. If another roar slips out, so be it.
What to do: Sit up with the soles of your feet together. Grab your big toes and sit back to balance on your bottom. Slowly extend your legs straight as you gaze up and continue breathing.
This pose may look like simply bending over, but teaching it properly instructs children how to forward fold, which is useful for so many other poses. Kids will enjoy either stepping on the insides of their hands or gripping their toes and sticking out their elbows. Both grips offer fun variations on a basic posture that they can have fun playing with.
What to do: Stand up and fold at your hips, so your hands reach your toes. It’s okay to bend your knees a little. Lift up your toes and slide your hands under them, palms up, fingers parallel to your toes. Now your hands are under your feet. Breathe, focusing on lifting your hips to the sky.
Research about the impact of racism on children’s identity development exposes the damage it inflicts. Early learning educators have a serious responsibility to find ways to prevent and counter the damage before it becomes too deep. If children at to grow up with the attitudes, knowledge, and skills necessary for effective living in this complex, diverse world, early learning educators and programs must actively implement strategies to challenge the impact of bias on children’s development.
An anti-bias early learning and care program puts diversity and equity goals at the center of all aspects of its organization and daily life. It involves much more than adding new materials and activities into the already existing learning environment. Rather, broad systemic changes are necessary. The learning environment and curriculum, as well as program policies, structures, procedures, and processes, all come into play. Change also includes the attitudes of the individuals who serve children and families. In sum, it is “a process, not an event” (Kugelmass 2004, 6).
More than ever, young children need educators who can help them navigate and thrive in a world of great diversity, educators who can give them and their families the tools to make the world a more fair place for themselves and for each other.
An environment that is rich in possibilities for exploring gender, race, ethnicity, and differing abilities set the scene for practising an anti-bias curriculum. The material, resources and educators in the classroom provide children with important information. What’s in the environment also alerts children to what the educator considers important or not important. Children are as vulnerable to omissions as they are to inaccuracies and stereotypes. What isn’t seen can be as powerful a contributor to attitudes as what is seen.
Young children are just beginning the journey that leads to self-identification and understanding of others. As they construct their sense of self as individuals both separate from and interconnected to others. Figuring out who I am and who you are and how I feel and how you feel about me are central pieces of the puzzle. Young children are very open to developing anti-bias attitudes and behaviours if adults actively counteract the negative impact of sexism, racism, and handicaps.
Empowerment Starts Early!
Here are some suggested strategies you might want to implement in your Early Learning and Care Program:
Provide a rich, accurate, non-stereotypic database about gender, race, culture, and physical abilities.
Enable children to become familiar with differences in gender roles, racial characteristics, language, and physical abilities.
Encourage children’s curiosity about their own physical characteristics and social selves.
Provide children with accurate, developmentally appropriate information.
Enable children to feel pride, but not superiority, about their racial identity.
Enable children to feel ease with and respect for differences.
Help children become aware of our shared physical characteristics; what makes us all human beings.
Creating a rich anti-bias environment in the classroom sets the stage for learning about differences and similarities. The richer the environment the more likely the children will ask questions.
In every classroom and community issues arise where inappropriate interactions occur. For children to feel good and confident about themselves, they need to be able to say, “That’s not fair,” or “I don’t like that,” if they are the target of discrimination. Learning to express their feelings to another child who has hurt them and to care when another child has been hurt creates the foundation upon which activism activities build. Teaching children to recognize injustice, teaches them that people can create positive change by working together.
Learning to integrate the anti-bias curriculum into your class or early learning and care program takes a great deal of energy and commitment. It means making it a priority and working on it, bit by bit, over the course of time.
Make the commitment to integrate an anti-bias curriculum into your classroom or early learning and care program.
Use the suggested discussion questions to guide team reflection at scheduled staff meetings.
What goals are we working towards achieving right now?
How will we increase awareness of our attitudes about gender, race, ethnicity, and different physical abilities?
How do racism, sexism, and handicap’s currently affect our program?
How will we gain an understanding of how young children develop identity and attitudes?
How will we plan ways to introduce the anti-bias curriculum into our setting?
Team Reflection and Discussion Process: Integrating an anti-bias curriculum
Provide a copy of discussion questions to each member of the team
Allow everyone a chance to speak, listen respectfully and actively
Commit to learning and moving forward, not debating
Embrace differences of opinion
Now reflect on how you are working towards these goals.
What approach are you taking?
Are you doing it on your own? Or are you building a team to accomplish them?
Identify roles, responsibilities and timelines.
End by making a commitment to move forward on agreed-upon goals.
Increasing your self-awareness
How would you define your racial and/or ethnic identity?
Is it important to you? Why or why not?
How did you learn about your racial and/or ethnical identity? What are your earliest memories?
How do you agree or disagree with your parent’s views about race, ethnicity, gender and abilities?
Write down your list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for males and females.
Write down a time when you were temporarily disabled. What did you learn about other people’s attitudes, environmental limitations, and your feelings about asking for help.
Nature Hunt Treasure
Use these treasure hunt guides with your group of children to explore the wonders of nature, in your own outdoor play space, in a nearby park, a nature preserve or wherever you like to be in the great outdoors!
Find the objects and do the activities in order or mix them up! Have fun!
Find something round.
Jump like a frog, growl like a bear and flap your wings like a bird.
What’s the smoothest thing you can find?
Discover the evidence that an animal has been here.
Find something that smells good … or bad!
Listen for a bird. What else can you hear?
Find a place where an animal would be happy.
How many different colours can you find?
Find something that moves.
Dig into the ground with your hands or flip over a rock or log. What can you find? Don’t forget to put it back!
Find a place where an animal made a home.
Build a tiny home with things from nature (fairy house).
Find a seed.
Make a tool, like a hammer or a drawing stick.
Find or name two things that all living things need to survive.
Listen for five sounds. What sounds come from nature and what sounds come from people?
Find a place where a plant-eater would be happy.
Spy on a bug.
Find a pattern in nature.
Find something that can live in water. Hint: It doesn’t have to be an animal.
Once you have completed the Nature Treasure Hunt, let us know how it went. Share your tips and experiences with us at email@example.com and we will post them on our website.
Taking Care of You
Busyness seems to be a hallmark of our time. But all that busyness can cause stress, both good and bad as we strive to balance work and family time, care for older family members or making sure the children are involved in activities. It’s easy to overextend ourselves to meet life’s demands. Be sure to take care of yourself as well. The self-care wheel below provides practical strategies for dealing with life’s challenges that you can incorporate into your everyday life.
A bit of Childcare humour:
Our Creative Team wishes you all a wonderful, fun-filled, relaxing summer!
Watch for great things to come in our September re-launch
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