Updated: Jul 3
If you are, you really deserve a day off this week! You may or may not be getting one, depending on your circumstances. But I know two things for sure. You deserve much more money and much more respect than you're getting now.
So if you can help it at all, don’t settle for any situation that lacks those 2 critical components. That's because the mental health of our population depends on how we treat our youngest.
and our own mental health depends on how we treat ourselves!
No blame or shame to anyone who's currently in a not-so-great situation, I just want to encourage you to make some plans for future change if your situation isn't the best possible.
The hand that rocks the cradles rocks the world! -Nanci J Bradley-
Let me ask you some very important questions to help you figure out if you're an elite provider or not:
Do you deal directly with children ages 0-8?
Are you intentional about teaching them what they need to know through PLAY!
Do you take the time to connect with them and teach them to understand their own emotions?
Do you teach self-regulation and impulse control through modeling and coaching using simple and positive language, songs, and fingerplays?
Do you know the importance of brain breaks (exercise) to learning?
Do you know the effect that early childhood stress can have on the developing brain?
Do you understand how environment and schedule can be your magic tools for helping our youngest to thrive? Learn about pyramid training for social and emotional development here.
Do you strive to create an environment that supports all children's cultures, and unique family lives and values? (Derman-Sparks 2020 )
Are you interested in learning more about antibias experiences for our youngest?
If these ideas sound familiar, you know the importance of nurturing the developing brains of our youngest, and that makes you an elite caregiver. Congratulation!
Let’s look at the facts from current brain research that support our importance to society.
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-
Things have to change, now. This is a pivot point for early childhood education and if you’re an elite parent or provider, you're involved whether you like it or not.
Providers are leaving the field in droves. This makes it harder for everyone. If the current trends continue, elite providers will move on to other careers, or decide not to go into early childhood altogether. If that happens the quality of early childhood education will plummet.
The only solution I can see is for all early childhood positions to require a degree and to pay accordingly. And for our government to pay at least 35% of childcare costs for parents who choose high-quality situations. This is more commonly done in countries other than the US.
How bad will it be if the quality of early childhood experiences takes a nosedive? Well, quality wasn't in a healthy state to begin with. Some studies estimate that only 15% of all childcare in America can be considered high-quality. This isn't surprising to anyone whose been in the field for a while. Imagine what it will be like if things keep getting worse?
Let’s talk about violence in adults. Could that have anything to do with what happens to a child in the first 3 years of their life?
That's when we develop our ability to control our impulses as well as our basic attitudes about learning and socialization. It's also when more neural connections form than will for the entire rest of our lifespans.
We're born with mirror neurons that allow us to learn easily by watching and imitating what others do around us. In light of that, how important are the values and behaviors of the people assigned to care for our youngest?
Should we continue not to require much education but somehow justify paying people who care for our youngest less than we pay parking attendants or dog groomers? How do we expect to attract quality people? There's got to be a better way! ( Bailey, 2003 )
One simple idea for everybody that spends time with our youngest humans is to remember the role of repetition in the developing brain.
In order to form connections, our brains require repetition. When a neural connection is formed and then used repeatedly, it's chosen more often as a response. When used successfully enough times, that pathway becomes our brains' default response in that situation.
Our job in the first three years is to use language and other forms of communication to make connections between the emotional region of the brain (right hemisphere) to the newly developing logic and language region (left hemisphere).
This might sound complicated but it's really not!
When we rely on music, rhymes, stories, and repetition to keep children engaged and learning social and emotional skills we're utilizing the concepts gleaned from brain research for optimal learning. Trying to force cognitive skills on a toddler's emotional brain just doesn't work. Learning through play and fun, however, does.
Today I'm going to share a really simple idea that I learned about during a high-level Pyramid (social and emotional foundations for early learning) training.
While it's best for the developing brain to have only a few all-encompassing rules to keep track of, there are many minor infractions that we don't necessarily want to ignore. We were taught to call those infractions "limits" and save the rules for the major things
This is the poster and song I developed to maximize the use of repetition and fun along with the goal of defining a few clear and understandable rules.
I shared it on Canva so you can click on it and print it if you like it. Or make up your own. If you work with a team, make sure you develop your rules together.
Just keep it simple, Sally. (KISS).
I've spent a lifetime and a lot of study time trying to find the simplest ways to communicate big concepts to kids 0-8. Over the years I found words that children can understand to illustrate developmental concepts that work with their brains, not against them. When you join our community, you can have my 22-page guide How To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling Or Time-Outs (49. 00 value) for free right away.
Join us now, it won't be free forever and I think you'll get a lot of good use out of it. Once you've joined keep clicking on my posts and you'll get a new idea every week that you can use right away.
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 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI.
Bailey, Rebecca Anne. There's Got to Be a Better Way: Discipline That Works! Loving Guidance, 2003.
Center for the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, Pyramid Model
“Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.” Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 4 Dec. 2017, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/.
Derman-Sparks, Louise, et al. Anti-Bias Education for Young Children & Ourselves. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2020.
Siegel, Daniel J., and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. Brilliance Audio, 2012.