Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of materials, resources and "Pinterest Perfect" early childhood activities and plans that are out there? So often, we as early childhood educators can get lost in the overwhelming ocean of opportunities that the world claims children MUST experience. As a child care provider, this can leave me lost with feelings of exhaustion and complete discouragement! How about you? Instead of drowning in doubt about our capabilities, let's work together and support one another in our passion for growing children!
I think it's of great benefit for early childhood educators to share about the natural ways they incorporate childhood development into their time spent with kids. It's important to motivate each other to see the value and the success found in simplicity. In preparing to celebrate Week of the Young Child, I want to share a bundle of basics that can help kick off a week of intentionality without the internal anxiety of "Perfection Planning." I love this week of celebrating, because having a theme is always a great way to stay focused. We are planning a full week of fun that is themed from start to finish including Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday and Family Friday. I have found a few helpful tips to take each theme a step further during the planning process and for bringing these about naturally to children in your care.
To get started, for each day's theme, consider the following:
For so many early childhood educators, we can feel limited by our space or lack thereof. For each day's theme, find a spot in your program that is workable to go along with your theme. It doesn't have to be the super-sized play place, equipped with ball-pits and slides, etc. Rather, just a space that has enough room and has been created with intentional thoughts of your specific theme. For example, Music Monday: find a small corner of your play area to set up as a "Stage of Performing Arts." Read a rhyming book or teach a finger play, then allow children some time on stage to perform their favorite part. This stage can be created with the simplest of materials. And let the children's imagination and creativity take off from there!
Next, take time to grow your understanding of early childhood brain development.
Physical Development - Social Development - Language Development - Cognitive Development
Knowing the WHY behind our work keeps us passionate and positive. It also reassures us of our purpose. If we stay intentional with these early years, we plan for children in our care to grow and succeed in all levels of their development. Peter Mangione of West Ed recommends a great video for understanding early childhood brain development and the significance of a responsive relationship between children and their caregivers.
Child Care Teacher Tool! Video "Brain Architecture"
Take some time to pause your planning and soak in some new or refresher information about why we do what we do. The week of early childhood activities and care of children in general both require a relationship between the caregiver and child. Being responsive to a child affects all areas of that child's development. Remember: Our work is their play - TOGETHER WE ARE BUILDING BRAINS!
Moving on to daily essentials - this requires taking a look into our child care activity and meal prep routines.
A, B, C's that meet the Dietary Guidelines for American children.
A: Aim for Fitness. Find time in your program to be physically active every day. Promoting physical activity and healthy living early on will create beneficial habits for the children and families you care for.
B: Build a Healthy Base. Let the USDA My Plate guide your meal and snack choices for kids. Choose a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables daily.
C: Choose Sensibly. Choose snacks and meals with less saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Fresh is best and remember it is always a fun activity when you allow kids to help with the prep!
Child Care Teacher Tool! Check out USDA My Plate website for recipes, fun activities, games for kids, videos, songs and more!
Lastly, consider cultural sensitivity in your child care program.
Fun with Families!
It has been said that helping children learn about their culture is the first step in helping a child learn who they can become. It is essential for child care educators to embrace that children receive gifts of confidence, competence and connection when they are firmly grounded in their home culture. An easy way for caregivers to make an environment culturally unique and relevant to each child is to have a "show and tell" or "circle" time of some sort. Again, this is not a formula that has to be followed step-by-step. You can create a weekly child spotlight OR daily time together that rotates sharing from one child to the next child. When a child is allowed to share family traditions, stories or even recipes and show favorite toys, pictures, books or songs in your program with others, you are supporting the cultural learning needed to encourage each child's development of identity, security and competence.
It is evident in the work we do with children that we all need somebody to lean on! It is my pleasure to share and encourage other early childhood professionals, as so many before me have done. We pave the path for those who will continue in our passionate work with children. I just know your action in taking these small steps with children now will build a better future and better world for our children!
This year's event is April 16–20, 2018! Discover more about Week of the Young Child here.