Posted in Preschools The Marigold School of Early Learning (Marigold)

Understanding Early Learning

This is an excellent article written by a long-time Early Childhood Educator. She has a blog post you can join if you would like to read more of her articles and insights. Here is a link to her blog posting

Posted in Preschools The Marigold School of Early Learning (Marigold)

Overstimulation and what it looks sounds and feels like in the early years.

Lately, I have been reading some wonderful articles from parenting experts to see if they are saying anything different from what I know as an educator. I like to keep up on current things going on in the niche of education I am involved in daily. Halloween came and went as fast as it does every year. This year, in particular, Halloween was on a school night. Needless to say, weeks leading up to this super fun and creative holiday, children were getting ready with costume choices and observing their homes turn into spooky fun with decorations inside and out. There is a ton of positivity involved in this scary holiday, but there also are some huge developmental aspects and in particular, emotional skills and self-regulation comes into play.

Your young child is still very new to this world and taking in a huge amount of information each day. When we add holiday fun in the forms of decorations, costumes, events, parties, well, let’s just say, that can be overstimulating for many sensitive little senses. You may be experiencing your child having mood swings, being more irritable, crying, breaking down, not wanting to do some of the self-managing things they usually do, like putting on their own shoes or coat. I want to emphasize that your child is not misbehaving, or purposely being “naughty”. Right now, your child is experiencing overstimulation from the super fun Halloween excitement. Your children are also overtired, and at this time they are unable to self-regulate their emerging emotions. In the early years, children are still developing their complex emotions. They do not have experience with an overabundance of feelings that they have just gone through with this super fun holiday.

A couple of my little students had some breakdowns this week already due to their overstimulated minds. They were tired and still overwhelmed from their exciting Halloween experience, and came to school using their minds in complex ways for a long period of time. I want to mention some behaviors that are common, that I see every year and throughout the year when we have holidays or big events in young children’s lives. When young children are still developing both their social skills and their emotional skills, they use a lot of brainpower. Each day my students come to school they are practicing how to communicate with their friends in a variety of ways. They are using their body language, their facial expressions, jesters, and figuring out what type of speech to use. Language development is no simple task and takes years to fully mature. Young children are navigating taking turns, sharing, trusting, which the latter, I often mention as being extremely important in my opinion. They are also getting used to our school routines, figuring out how to help their friends when they need some assistance, and really just discovering who they are as people at this very young and tendar age. Communicating is still a big mountain each child is figuring out. Often, I listen to their conversations and will give them words or short phrases to use with their friends. We also talk a little about the tone of speech. If our tone of speech in any way sounds mean or threatening, the other child/ children will immediately not trust the child who took a negative tone with them. So, we work on how to say things in a kind manner. I like to emphasize kindness and respect for each little friend. In terms of behaviors during this time of year, I notice that at arrival times, and going home times, some of my little friends completely meltdown for their Mommy or Daddy. Your precious little one is not misbehaving or purposely embarrassing you, or defying you. Your young child at that moment is communicating in the only way they can while being overstimulated and too tired to communicate the way they normally do about how they feel. They do not have the ability to self-regulate those very raw emotions. So, they revert to acting like a toddler especially if they have a younger sibling in that age range, or they will cry and get angry and cling to their Mommy or Daddy. At that moment your child feels strongly that they need you for emotional support. They also are in a way asking you why they feel the way they do.

If any of you parents out there are of a highly sensitive personality type, or particularly sensitive socially, you may fully understand what I mean when I say, children when overstimulated emotionally do not understand why they feel this way or how to identify the multiply feelings that are coursing through their minds. As parents, remember you are doing the best you can. Leaving your child to go to work or to run errands is something important and part of your responsibilities. Most of the time your child will quite quickly find other interests once your leave. If you can stay and help them transition to an interest area or provocation, that is wonderful, but not everyone has the actual time to do this. Luckily, as an educator, it is my job to find ways to help your child transition when they are feeling this way. No, I cannot make everything better, because I am not the parent, but I can communicate to your child that I do care, their friends care, and we want them to stay and play with us. And, when a child is inconsolable, you, their ever strong, stable, loving parents will be contacted so you can come and help your child feel better. Little people, as I’ve mentioned before are new to this world, their emotions are just developing. Overstimulation of the mind, body, nerves, is real and does not feel good. It is natural for your child to not know how to self-regulate their emotions, or self-manage their time when their young minds are overwhelmed with these strange feelings. Your child expresses the way they are feeling by crying, being angry, frustrated, and sometimes reverting to toddler-like behavior. This is okay as long as you stay in the moment, recognize what they are feeling, and validate those real emotions. I wish more employers out there would be more educated on children, so they could be more supportive of their workforce that has children, that way you aren’t as stressed about getting to work on time if that is something you have to contend with.

Returning to normal daily routines after a super fun event /holiday like Halloween is important to your child’s mental and emotional health, even if your child did not have any visible repercussions. I purposely do not over decorate with holiday things and keep our routines the same, just for these reasons. I like for your child to be able to give their mind a break. To be able to take the time they need to adjust from being overstimulated. They can do this by finding joy in the interests they usually engage in while at school with their friends. Playing is a wonderful way for your child to relax, become focused on their friends, and return to common interests like dinosaurs and cooking. in the play kitchen. I like to have art available every day, so your child can be as alert, creative, and talkative as they wish, and as relaxed, lost in thought, and gaining therapeutic benefits from the experience. Calming the mind through sensory is one way to ground an anxious and overstimulated mind. As parents, please rest assured that your child may have a hard time with these big holiday events, but this is all part of human development, and the human experience in our society, in our culture. You are there for them at every step. I also want to say that you can feel hurt, frustrated, sad, angry too. When you are in the moment trying to help your child calm down, trying to figure out how to be there for your child in the times I mentioned before, you have a right to your feelings too. Do not just push them aside, they are real and valid. Once you go through your emotions, you will be better able to look at your child’s emotional experience in a more objective and empathetic way. And know that you have done nothing wrong in how you parent your child. Each family is like a mini-culture within our super large culture. The most important thing is that you always take the time to listen to not just what your child says, but how they are actually feeling. And they will show you through their actions, and behaviors,

Posted in Preschools The Marigold School of Early Learning (Marigold)

The Complexities of Friendship Building in the Early Years

How many of you have stories to tell of when you were a young child and either your parents, older family members, or friends of the family teased you about having a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”? Do you remember how it felt when at first it was just a question, to when it became a topic that was brought up and laughed about regularly? I do. Back in the day, which for me was the late 70’s, I was a young child and if the question was not being put to me it was being put to one of my siblings or my friends. At the time I remember feeling embarrassed, uncomfortable, and not understanding how to respond. I also remember the feeling of not knowing how to talk to my Mom and Dad about it.

When I first started my teaching career it was pretty common for my colleagues to “joke” about the students they saw forming friendships to be “boyfriend and girlfriend”. Sometimes the people joking about this were really just joking, yet other times I was around co-workers who were not joking. They would continue to make comments about how certain children looked like they were in a real romantic relationship, and yes, still laugh about it. I admit that early on in my career I also took part in joking about this topic, but the difference was I really was just joking. Young children are new to the world. Being new to the world also means they are new to relationship building. Social skills are complex and young people are consistently working on these skills daily with whoever they interact with. Young children’s emotional growth is still formulating and has years to grow, understand, and master. I am so happy that I stopped “joking” about young children having boyfriends or girlfriends almost as soon as I joined my older peers who were engaging in this toxic behavior. Implying even in a joking manner that young children of the opposite or same sex are involved in a romantic relationship is toxic and harmful to young children’s psyche.

When children grow up in households in which they see their parents and loved ones expressing their love for one another, they observe how to show affection. They are witnessing hugging, snuggling, and telling each other how they feel. And children are experiencing these same affectionate actions from their loved ones. This is healthy growth and development for children to be a part of. What is not healthy is when adults choose to tease young children about their very sensitive, fragile relationship-building skills, and their emerging emotional senses. If you have ever been around when a young child is being questioned about their new “boyfriend or girlfriend” you may have witnessed the child becoming red, shouting back, “he’s not!”. The child may also look down and away, fidget, and reluctantly seem to agree with the person teasing. At that moment in time, the child is stating through pure body language that they are very uncomfortable with the interaction. Romantic relationships are not in the world of a young child. Friendships are the only types of relationships outside of their familial roles.

Social skill development takes years to master. Emotional development/ intelligence also takes years to master, and quite frankly not all adults have matured in those areas often lumped together. For young children making friends is a delicate and time-consuming process. Firstly, young minds tend to focus on more concrete characteristics of the person they are becoming friends with, such as, the color shirt they wear, the types of play interests they have, and the sheer joy they feel when interacting with this child. Emotionally children are figuring out how to read what they are feeling and how to respond to those complex emotions. Sorting out likes, dislikes, feelings of laughter, etc. are all a part of this process. When children have found a “friend” that they play often with it may mean both children are on the same level of building their relationship. However, there are times when through the journey of building friendships one child may be more interested in getting to know another child than that child is about getting to know them. An example is currently happening in my class. I have one student who I will call Emily, and another child I will call Tommy. Emily really wants to get to know Tommy better. She recognizes they have similar personalities, they both enjoy quieter play. She also is a very empathetic child, so when Tommy has been quieter than his peers Emily thinks he is sad and wants to help him feel better with a hug. Tommy is not comfortable with his personal space being invaded without his permission, which is a good thing. Emily is learning to ask permission before she comes up and hugs him. There is disequilibrium in their early stages of friendship building, yet the disequilibrium is different for both.

For Emily disequilibrium is not as steep a hill to climb, she already has decided Tommy is her friend and that they have similar interests. Tommy on the other hand has a much steeper mountain to climb. The disequilibrium for Tommy is wider than for Emily. Tommy is still figuring out how to take steps towards building a friendship. Making friends is new to him and he does not know how to respond to another child who is more advanced in the friendship building department. For these two children, the level of learning how to be friends is very different. Each rung on the ladder that is being formed takes time, positive interactions, practice communicating, and internal interest in both children wanting to get to know each other. At the heart of this process is trust. Trust takes years to develop in young children when it involves other children. Young children automatically and unconditionally trust their parents, guardian, and teachers most of the time. Trusting peers is a different story. Just as easily as trust can be formed it can quickly come crashing down with one word, look, or action. Misunderstandings are very common in the early years because social and emotional skills are in their infancy. Emily and Tommy are on their way to becoming friends, they are not boyfriend and girlfriend. The “love” Emily shows towards Tommy is her way of saying I am ready to be friends and get to know you better. She is communicating that she has fun when she is playing with Tommy and likes how she feels when she is with another person who has similar interests as hers. I love watching these types of friendships develop, but no matter how adorable, sweet and wonderful I find this life process, I do not see it in any way as a romantic relationship. And I would never tease that they are boyfriend or girlfriend.

Returning to the topic of body language. My school is inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Education. I follow the school of thought that children have 100 ways of expressing themselves. One hundred ways of communicating what they are curious about, what they want to discover, in what ways they want to learn more about their topic of interest, and making all of those discoveries. through play. Think about any time in your life when either you experienced this or you have witnessed a child reacting in an uncomfortable way when someone teases them about having a boyfriend or girlfriend. How did you feel when this happened to you or how did you feel when you observed this happening to another child? As I mentioned earlier, when a child turns red, gets angry, smiles laughs, fidgets, or tries to hide, these are body languages the child is expressing, which is the only way the child feels they are able to respond. It is up to us adults to understand how to read those signals and stop teasing in this manner. If you are an adult family member or friend, step in to make sure the child involved is being not only protected but respected. These uncomfortable situations for young children are also much worse if the teasing is coming from their own family or a close relative or family friend. In our society, we tend to give in to the “guest” rather than step up and protect a child who is being unfairly treated. Our society pressures us to bend over backward to make the “guest ” feel comfortable, yet when the child involved in this type of teasing is clearly uncomfortable, society wants the child to not only comply in a kind and complicit manner but to put up with it because it is deemed polite.

In today’s day and age, we must stop encouraging and supporting those who romanticize friendship building in young children. Instead, we must support children emotionally and socially. We must not be afraid to offend another adult who thinks it is okay to teas in this manner. We must be committed to helping those people understand why it is not okay to romanticize young children’s early and new friendships. As children grow they see their parents, grandparents, extended family, and friends all engage in romance to a certain degree. From these experiences, they learn what is acceptable and what is not. Let children be children. When they grow into teenagers and are ready for romantic relationships let’s support those new experiences as well by not teasing them when they are showing how uncomfortable they are with it. If we want children to form healthy relationships we must first support and respect them in the early years and throughout their developmental journey. Let us always step up to support young children and be there for them when they need us. If you want to joke about “boyfriend and girlfriend” stuff make sure you know it is a joke and do not share it with the young children it is in reference to. And if you are a parent of young children please make sure you are not dressing and setting your child up for such teasing. I am not shaming the different styles young children wear, but I think most of us can agree that certain styles of clothing are simply not meant for young children. Children are children so let them be the young carefree people they deserve to be at this point in their lives.

Please feel free to share your experiences with this particular type of teasing. And I will say that if you disagree with my posting explain the experiences you had that cause you to feel differently. We only grow and learn frome understanding different viewpoints.