Dear Provider and/or Parent,
You rock! You really do. And I know you care, otherwise, you wouldn't be reading this. I hope you're finding both large and small things to be grateful for today.
Most people realize that we desperately need more empathy in the world but how many of us know how to provide that and when?
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard tells us to focus on the first few years of life in order to initiate the most lasting change.
I decided to focus on language development today because it seems to be a big concern for many as we realize how much we missed in our attempts to isolate and stay safe over the past few years. I'm also going to share a very important childcare provider trick with you although you may already know it. It's a super simple technique that boosts language skills and empathy at the same time.
Are you worried about your toddler's language development? You're not alone. Here's a good place to start. The CDC website has some basic checklists for you to explore. Please keep in mind that these lists are helpful but may not cover everything you need to know.
The next thing to do is to seek out some professional advice. You might want to ask your pediatrician, physician's assistant, or pediatric nurse your questions. Professional childcare providers typically know a lot about language development for the very young as well. You might also check with your school district for early childhood intervention programs like birth-three, that may be available to you at no cost.
As I mentioned earlier, I want to provide you with some solid, research-based techniques for language and empathy development that you can start using today! These are the types of things that childcare professionals say to the children in their care daily. If you're already saying these things, think of this as a reminder to say them more often and to challenge yourself to develop your own techniques.
Toddlers are always busy so you can provide them with both positive attention and language development at the same time. The trick is that you have to be genuinely interested in them and what they're doing. It's not hard unless you're overworked and overstressed by caring for too many children at once or struggling with mental health issues. Providers who work with good teacher/child ratios can have a lot of fun with this technique.
Try noticing what the children you care for like this:
I see you're lining up cars, Mary. Looks like fun!
Amy's walking down the sidewalk in a Wonder Woman costume!
Raj's cooking in the kitchen. What are you making, Raj?
Beverly's digging in the sand. Are you making something, Beverly?
sing "Howie has brown eyes, brown eyes, brown eyes. Howie wore his brown eyes, all day long"
Emily has lots of yogurt containers. She's taking them somewhere!
Oops! Bernie's down! Are you ok, Bernie? Yes? Bernie's up! She's running again!
I see you smiling, Georgie! It looks like you found something fun to play with.
Missy's wearing a sailor costume.
Priya's looking for Leonard? Where's Leonard? Is he hiding?
Mandy's got a ball. It's a really big red ball! She's throwing it.
Serve and return. We now have a name for a technique that's been used for centuries by parents and other caregivers throughout the world. It looks like this. Serve and return is unique because it builds trust, empathy, and language skills simultaneously.
One phenomenal way to easily increase empathy as well as language during early childhood is through reading or telling stories and talking about emotions in close physical contact with your child. I call this "laptime."
Laptime is time spent reading or talking about emotions. It's time spent together, looking at books or magazines, reading and speculating how characters, ourselves, or others in the world might feel.
t's also chatting about facial, body, and language expressions that help us know what others are experiencing outside of ourselves. It's based on this premise that all feelings are OK, all actions (and words) are not.
Laptime is a time for questioning and wondering about human interaction in the presence of a non-judgmental and trusted person. It's an awesome way to teach emotions to kids ages 0-8+.
And it's information they'll need when it comes to talking about bullies. They'll eventually need to be able to "read" people well in the world they'll be growing up in.
Start by talking about their feelings, Then talk about your own, before you start talking about others. Laptime provides positive attention, language skills, empathy building, trust, and bonding.
One more thing about laptime. Have fun and be dramatic. Kids really appreciate it. Think of it as your 10 minutes of fame!
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics
instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2010.
She lives and teaches in Madison WI.