If you hate violence and living in a violent world, try creating peace for a change. Didn't think it was possible? Think again.
World peace starts with inner peace. And inner peace starts with you. After all, you're the only one you can control, right?
What about self-control? Or self-regulation? When does it start to form? New brain research is telling us that it starts in the amygdala and it starts earlier than we previously thought. How early?
In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second. After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to become more efficient. In light of these findings, focussing on early childhood only makes sense. -Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University-
The amygdalae are two almond-shaped structures that sit at the base of the brain and are thought to be the seat of emotional control. They guide the brain's fight or flight response.
If you are in any way responsible for the care and education of children, the connections you make with them today form the basis for the connections they form for the rest of their lives.
You're really that important. The first few years of a child’s life make a crucial difference in how they view the world and how they interact with it. The opportunity for emotional growth this prolific will not be available again.
So… in light of all of this, how should we proceed with the care and education of our youngest?
There are many early childhood experts in this country and there are many people who have extensive knowledge of the developing mind. (Gramling, Jones, Pica) Unfortunately, they are not the people making the decisions about what experiences our children receive in the first few years of their lives.
If experts were making more decisions, our children would be given more recess, when they lack cognitive test scores, not less. New brain research is showing that both running and REM sleep strengthens brain connections called "splines" from the amygdala to the pre-frontal cortex. (Chen, 2013, Ghosh 2022)
If experts were making more decisions, our children would get long periods of free play (Lai Tong-Lee, 2022 ) in every childcare situation, not just the best ones. Transitions would be minimized and the singing of nursery rhymes would be considered an earmark of quality (national research council 2001) as would long periods of play in water or sand. (nursery world 2009)
Teachers would talk with their children not at them ( Faber & Mazlish 2013) and share real-life experiences with them teaching them as they move through the day, using schedules, auditory cues and visual aids instead of shuffling them from music class to gym time to circle time and then lunch all while threatening time-outs or loss of privilege in order to keep them in line as they move from place to place.
If the top scholars in our field had anything to do with what actually happens to our youngest children, The best, brightest, most qualified, and well-paid teachers would be assigned to the infant rooms while those with less education and experience would work with the slightly older kids.
I’m not saying that these earmarks of quality aren’t happening, just that more people need to know about them and realize that wanting your child to succeed at school and having them do kindergarten a year early, as some lower quality 4-K programs do, just doesn’t work. It may even turn them off to learning in certain situations due to a lack of developmental
Don't let these decisions continue to be made by the wrong people.
What can we do?
Respect early childhood educators, demand people with experience and degrees get paid at least a small portion of their worth to society instead of poverty level wages they're getting today.
Along with this, we need to step up the investment our country is making to its youngest children and their caregivers. We need to join other developed nations and ask our government to pay a percentage of our childcare as long as it goes to high-quality care and education. Then we need to use that money to pay a qualified workforce at least a small portion of what they deserve.
Here’s something for the caregivers from some of the best and most applicable brain research available to us. (Bailey 2000). It’s a way to make that brain/body connection with a young child and teach them a skill that they really need to know in order to feel good in the world. Using our best effort to solve a problem.
Time for a story, can I see your hand?
Press your thumb gently in the center of the child’s palm and massage.
Then move to the child’s pinkie finger saying:
This little finger wanted to learn… (something individual to the child)
And (move to the ring finger) this little finger was afraid to try because…(add some worries).
But this little finger (move to the middle finger) took a little break and a big breath and kept on trying, over and over again.
Until this little finger (ring finger) said, “I think we finally got it right!” Take a look!
And this big thumb took a look (nod thumb) and said. “You worked together (fold 4 fingers in to palm leaving thumb up. And… You did it!” (Show thumbs up and smile making eye contact)
Adapted from pg 167, I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey
And here's a little mantra I use to help with my personal peace of mind. Maybe it can help you, too.
My only goal is inner peace
The only moment is now
My only functions are appreciation and forgiveness, starting with myself.
click photo to copy or download!
Anne., Bailey, Becky A. , Ph.D., Bailey, Rebecca. I Love You Rituals: Fun Activities for Parents and Children. HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2000.
“Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.” Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 4 Dec. 2017, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/.
Chen, Yasheng, et al. “More Insights into Early Brain Development through Statistical Analyses of Eigen-Structural Elements of Diffusion Tensor Imaging Using Multivariate Adaptive Regression Splines.” Brain Structure and Function, vol. 219, no. 2, 2013, pp. 551–569., https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-013-0517-7.
Faber, Adele, and Elaine Mazlish. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Piccadilly, 2013.
Gramling, Michael. Great Disconnect in Early Childhood Education. Redleaf Press, 2015.
Jones, Elizabeth, and John Nimmo. Emergent Curriculum. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1994.
kids that go website
Lee, Regina, et al. “Effects of an Unstructured Free Play and Mindfulness Intervention on Wellbeing in Kindergarten Students.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 15, 2020, p. 5382., https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17155382.
“Learning & Development: Sand Play - under-Threes.” Nursery World, vol. 2009, no. 6, 2009, https://doi.org/10.12968/nuwa.2009.9.6.1092987.
Pica, Rae. What If We Taught the Way Children Learn?: More Straight Talk about Bettering Education and Children's Lives. Corwin, a SAGE Company, 2021.
“Understanding The.” MSU Extension, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/understanding_the_upstairs_and_downstairs_brain.