If you would like to continue the discussion from earlier today than stick around! 🙂
Emotional development is often paired together with social development, yet just as social can stand alone somewhat, so can emotional. Emotional development is just what it reads as; the process by which human beings acquire an understanding of the wide range of emotions within. As young children grow and gain life experience they live through an array of emotions. These emotions each child experiences are all a part of being human and a part of being seen as a “whole child”. However, young children are new to life and do not yet possess an understanding of the wide array of emotions they experience. They need adult guidance and support to help them understand the feelings they go through. And they need peers and older children to assist them in this life journey of developing an understanding of the emotions they have and will gain. Emotional development is not an individualistic process, it develops as we interact with others. So that is where the social does somewhat stick to emotional.
We can support children as they develop emotions and learn the meaning behind how they feel at different times. In a preschool setting, we can value this development by including provocations, reading material and opportunities for discussions all centered around how a child is feeling that day and moment. I like to really listen to, watch facial expressions and body language to really gauge how a child is feeling and to know whether to ask or comment in order for the child to express themselves. Sometimes they really don’t know how to tell you, so they may need a creative outlet that will support the time they need to process what I am asking. I’ve often mentioned the supreme importance of play dough and how it is an anxiety calming outlet. Play dough is a form of sensory exploration that often times gives children the time they need to orient themselves to the classroom and other students. It is also a way for children to calm down, process incoming information and divulge what is happening in their lives. Here is where feelings often pour out!
When children feel safe and know that you care about them, they will let you know what is happening in their lives that are causing them to be happy, sad, mad or frustrated. This is the time to be a good listener, yet give them the vocabulary to help them understand and describe for themselves how they are feeling. We are scaffolding emotional development when we take the important time to listen and respect a child’s feelings. Here are some questions I’ve often asked, “Can you tell me what happened?”, “How are you feeling today?”, “Do you know that what you are feeling is frustration?”. I often use stories and role model to help teach the concept of emotions. Dramatic play is a wonderful support to emotional development and using dolls and puppets can support this learning process. With peers children can move on from the sensory experience of play dough, which allowed them to open up, to actually engaging in a dramatization of the social situation which is causing them to either feel happy, sad, mad or frustrated. Always remember young children can not consistently answer you as to why or what they are feeling. So as caring and understanding adults we must be patient and give them the words they need to help them communicate their feelings, so they feel supported in that moment they most need it.
As we move from emotional development I want to talk more about viewing children through the idea of “the whole child”. When I refer to this term I am talking about all aspects of what I do in my preschool and have done in my past teaching experiences. When I look at a child, I am deciding how to create a curriculum that supports every aspect of their cognitive, creative, physical and natural development. So I’ve planned my school to be a space that changes with the groups that come and go. I also allow the curriculum to emerge with each child’s interests and support their construction of knowledge and understanding by providing a varied curriculum that covers all content areas.
My school has interest areas that overlap with the areas of development needed to support the whole child. When we go outdoors, again content areas can overlap to support learning. Children are often labeled loosely, as being obsessive compulsive, because of how rapidly the first five years of growth and development and assimilation of knowledge happens. So when children start playing in one area only for a long period of time, say a few weeks or a month, it is my job to draw them out of the small bubble they’ve contained themselves in by adding some different materials to stimulate new thinking. By taking their current obsession or interest to a different art medium I can draw them away from what they’ve been doing and maybe help them bridge that interest and transfer the information they’ve gained. We must remember that a child’s obsession with certain materials also means that child is gaining new information. The longer they interact with certain materials the more information they are constructing. So we don’t want to hinder their learning process just because we may be sick of them building the same house. We want to support their learning by adding new things to stimulate more thinking to stretch their minds. We draw them away from that area they’ve been in for a long time so they can transfer their newly gained knowledge to different areas and continue opening their minds.
Supporting the development of the whole child through an emergent curriculum really does communicate that we care about each child’s interests and capacity to learn. If we only focus on skills and the idea of tests and measurement and comparing and competitiveness, we are allowing the development of the whole child to whither away. We are restricting learning and preventing children from stretching their minds as far as they wish. The Reggio Emilia approach to education really has supported my understanding of the whole child and has enabled me to value young children’s abilities and capacity for learning. I respect the developmental stages children go through and I support their development into a “whole child”. Do you? 🙂
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