The Importance of Social Development

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Infants (0-24 months)

Social

 

1.1 Social Interest

• preferring human faces to inanimate objects or animals

 

• smiling at an adult

• returning the gaze of an adult

• seeking adults for play, stretching arms to be picked up

• examining objects with others as a means of forming relationships

• observing peers

Play with the infant on her physical level. 

This tells her that you are available as a respectful partner in play.

 

First of all I have to say that I love the order in which the developmental domains are presented in the ELECT continuum. Social is first, followed by Emotional, then Communication/Language, Cognitive and Physical. I like that the Social and Emotional domains aren’t lumped together as they often are and I really appreciate that they come first in the continuum. I don’t know how the order of domains was decided but I like to believe that Social and Emotional were put first to remind us of their importance.
The relationships that we develop with young children are so important. One of the most significant tasks that we have as caregivers is to support infants and young children in developing healthy relationships. This isn’t something that we can plan for on a weekly programming sheet but developing secure and supportive relationships with the children in our care is what takes up most of our time and will form the basis for other learning experiences. Infants thrive when they feel safe and supported to explore and learn and develop at their own pace.
It is my hope that this part of the continuum will support caregivers in making the children’s learning visible to parents in these “harder to observe” domains. Also that caregivers will be able to take the words from the ELECT and use them in their conversations with parents to share their observations of the children’s development.

Early Learning For Every Child Today

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Early Learning for Every Child Today or ELECT, as it is better known, is a document that was created a few years back by the Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning, through the Ministry of Children and Youth Services here in Ontario. It is meant to be a framework for Early Childhood Settings within the province. Not all Early Childhood Educators (ECE) have had the opportunity to become familiar with the document, however, it is being passed around and professional development opportunities that center around the ELECT are starting to occur. I facilitated one such event this evening. It was a make and take workshop geared towards infant educators, however, it was enhanced in that we also included information on the ELECT and how to incorporate it’s framework into our practices.

Here’s the thing about the ELECT. It’s long, it’s about 110 pages and it’s not exactly light reading. However, I think it’s a great document and could be effectively used as a framework for early childhood practices. Still, my favorite part of the ELECT is tucked right in the middle. It’s a continuum of development. It’s broken down by age groups (which very smartly, overlap) and into the typically identified domains of development, Social, Emotional, Communication (Language and Literacy), Cognitive and Physical. What I’m really happy about is the way that they put this together, it’s written in simple to understand language, it’s easy to read and user friendly, it includes both indicators of the skills as well as sample interactions that would relate to the skill. The whole continuum is put together in a really open and inclusive way. Some skills, such as turn-taking are found in more than one domain, and none of the domains get more attention than the others. I also like that more specific ages weren’t applied to each of the skills, which I think recognizes the path that development follows, without so much emphasis on the “rat race” of development. I think it really values the interconnectedness of children’s development and definitely highlights the importance of supportive interactions and relationships between children and their caregivers.

Anyway, I said all of this to say, firstly, that if you’re in Ontario, or Canada, or anywhere really, you should check out the ELECT, because it’s great. And secondly, that I’m going to let the ELECT motivate me on this blog. For the next little while anyway, I’m going to spend some time reflecting on the continuum within the ELECT and share my thoughts and ideas here. In this way, I hope that the ELECT can reach out and motivate or inspire other individuals who work with young children.

How do you teach compassion?

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Last week I broke from my usual routine to stop at the local Tim Horton’s for a coffee. There was a homeless man outside the store, holding out a cup for change. I met his eyes and said I would give him some money when I came out. When I said this his face lit up. I wondered if it was the promise of the change from my coffee that made him smile or simply the acknowledgment that he was there. On my way out I dropped in my change as promised and wished him a good day. As I walked away his smile stayed with me, and I’ve thought about it periodically since then.

This experience made me wonder- what do we teach children about compassion?

So many people have become cynical about charities and goodwill and I have to wonder if we are raising a generation with less instead of more compassion. Personally, I know that I’m not as generous or compassionate as I’d like to be. That morning I gave that man my change, but that’s not always the case. Working in a large city with a lot of needy people, you learn to avert your eyes. If the change is in my pocket, then I’ll probably give it, but if I have to get it out of my wallet, then usually I’ll just walk by. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but unfortunately it’s the truth.

We live in a country where the vast majority of us will go through our lives with all of our instrumental needs taken care of. Most of the children that we work with, won’t know what’s it’s like to go hungry or to not have a home. So, the question is, how do we talk to very young children about something that is so difficult for them to even imagine? If our hope is that in the future, no one will go hungry or die of thirst or have to live on the streets- then how do we raise this next generation to do something about that?

I don’t have the answer. In fact, I’m still formulating the questions, but I wanted to put it out there.

How do we teach the generous to be compassionate and to live to help others? Especially when we ourselves still struggle to do so?

A.N. I do realize that there are children that we will work with who may have experienced poverty and homelessness. This is why I think it’s so important that we are conscious of what we are doing to help.

My Lifelong Journey of Learning

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There is this misconception about Early Childhood Educators. People seem to think that the reason we work with young children is because we “like children.” Now that’s not to say that we don’t like children, but let’s face it, for the most part everyone likes children. That’s what keeps the human race going. Personally, I love children, but that’s not the reason I became an ECE.  Other people seem to think it’s  because we’re “good with children.” To be honest, I’m not even sure what people mean by that. What does it mean to be “good” with children. I sometimes feel like people say that when they really mean I know how to get kids to behave well or to do what they’re told.

I became an Early Childhood Educator because I believe in the importance of early learning and the significance of the early years. I became an ECE not because I like children (which I do) but because I am fascinated by them. When I think about the amount of learning and development that goes on in those first years I am absolutely amazed. In two short years we go from being tiny helpless creatures that can barely control the movements of our bodies and struggle to communicate our wants and needs to little individuals with personality who walk and talk and are constantly learning new things. When I think back to the past two years of my life, I’m sure I learned a few things, but nothing compared to the amount of growth and learning in those early years.

I like to think of myself as a lifelong learner. I’m always reading and talking to people, trying to expand my horizons in every aspect of my life. It’s no different in my journey as an Early Childhood Educator. I want to learn and understand why children do the things they do and how we can support them in the amazing journey of growth and development that they go through. Then, I want to share that with as many people as possible, because I want us all to be able to support our children as they learn and grow.

I hope that you will join me on my journey as I hopefully help the next generation to learn and grow and as I learn and grow alongside them.