09 Jul 2012

What does it mean to have a sense of self?

No Comments ELECT, Emotional, Infants, Parenting, Socio-Emotional Development
Infants (0-24 months)
Emotional 2.3 Sense of Self
  • sucking fingers, observing own hands
  • showing preference for being held by familiar people
  • beginning to distinguish known people from strangers
  • showing pleasure in mastery
  • playing confidently in the presence of caregiver and frequently checking in with her (social referencing)
  • increasing awareness of opportunities to make things happen yet limited understanding of consequences of own actions
Hold the infant securely when she is meeting a new person. Look at the person and reach out to them.
This helps the infant remain secure with new people and build confidence as she expresses her preference for certain people.

 

Infants are people.

Take a moment and think about that. I know it seems obvious, but I think as adults and as caregivers we can forget that these tiny little humans who depend on us so completely are also individuals. They are unique individuals who are developing their own identities and personalities as well as their “likes” and “dislikes”. Infants are people, just like you and I are people. Now, being conscious of that, how does this affect the way that we engage with infants? How can we not only appreciate them as individuals, but support them in the early stages as they begin to develop a sense of self?

My first tip- allow babies some time to be naked. No joke. Infants are learning about their bodies; they are discovering their hands, their feet and all the different parts of their bodies, but to be able to do that they need access. How will they ever learn they have toes if their feet are always covered with socks or slippers? Additionally, bodies that are free from clothing have freedom of movement. There’s a reason babies love to be naked, so why not turn the heat up a notch and allow your infant some time to explore their bodies freely?

Another suggestion is to provide lots of opportunities for uninterrupted, child-initiated play. By this I mean allowing infants the freedom to select a material to explore and the freedom to explore that material however they choose for as long as possible. Infants learn about themselves and the world around them through exploration. When we allow them to make choices and take initiative in their play, we support their sense of self.

Thinking about your infants interactions with others, strangers in particular, you can support your infant by paying close attention to their cues. “Auntie” might want to hold your infant, but is your infant alright with being held by a stranger? Maybe they need a few minutes to get to know each other before your infant will want to experience close contact. Allow your infant to dictate the pace, which will help them to make choices, to feel secure and will allow this introduction of a stranger to be a positive, and not distressful experience.

An infant who is still developing their sense of self, continues to rely on their caregiver to provide a safe and secure environment. They trust us to provide freedrom to explore, appropriate materials and a safe space. Infants learn how to be secure in themselves by being secure in their caregivers.

Photo from: MGD Photography

29 Jun 2012

The Value in Playing With Mud

1 Comment ELECT, Infants, Preschool/Kindergarten, Toddlers

Today is international mud day, a day when it’s more than okay to get a little messy.

I like the idea of having a mud day for many reasons. First of all, it promotes being messy and sometimes messy play is the most fun. It also promotes being outdoors, no matter what the weather, which I think is important. The beauty of mud day is if it rains, it actually makes more mud and therefore more fun. Finally, I like that mud is completely open ended, you don’t have to be a certain age to play in mud and there are so many possibilities. Once you get into it, playing in mud is freeing, it is an experience for the senses, its a way to let go of “product” activities and keeping things tidy and just allow the children (and yourself) to explore.

Online, I always find myself drawn to blog posts or photos or even videos of mud play. I am always inspired by early childhood programs that made mud a part of their everyday practice or even devote entire days to exploring mud. There is something about mud that fascinates and engages children and I think that they don’t always get enough opportunities to follow that interest and really explore with mud. However, we know that children are always learning and that they learn best when they’re engaged in something that really interests them.

Using the ELECT Continuum, here are just a few of the many different ways that children learn when playing with mud.

Infants

5.3 Tactile Discrimination (touching, rubbing, squeezing materials)

Infants and toddlers love sensory play. They almost always enjoy getting dirty and they learn best when they can completely immerse themselves and use all of their senses in play. Mud might be dirt-y but it’s all natural, so it shouldn’t hurt them if they try to check it out using their sense of taste. Infants don’t need any props in their mud play, just complete access so they can explore with their arms, legs, hands and feet.

Toddlers

4.1 Attention Regulation (maintaining attention for increasing periods of time)

4.4 Spatial Exploration (exploring containment by putting objects in containers and by dumping them)

5.3 Sensory Exploration (using all senses in the exploration of properties and functions of objects and materials)

Society often portrays very young children as having short attention spans, but those of us who have children or work with children know that when something really catches their interest, and we allow them the freedom to play uninterrupted, they can do so for significant lengths of time. Toddlers, like infants will enjoy exploring mud simply with their bodies, but at this age, you might also want to add different sizes of containers or even strainers and funnels to let them fill and empty with mud. At this age, you may also begin to see imitative or pretend play; their first attempts and mud pies or even mud soup.

Preschool/Kindergarten

3.5 Using Descriptive Language to Explain, Explore and Extend (using new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in their descriptive language)

4.3 Representation (using a variety of materials to build with and express their ideas & sustaining and extending their socio-dramatic play with language, additional ideas and props)

4.5 Observing (using all senses to gather information while observing)

Preschool and Kindergarten age children may enjoy exploring mud using a mud kitchen or even a mud laboratory. At this age, they engage in a lot of pretend play and will probably enjoy creating with the mud. They are also doing a lot of experiments, they are able to make predictions and solve problems they encounter in their play. There are many opportunities for language through mud play, just think of all the different ways we can describe mud- gooey, runny, sticky, bumpy, oozing, malleable, etc. They might enjoy making their own mud, experimenting with consistency and adding other elements from nature, such as grass, leaves, sticks or even flowers.

For us adults, I think that we should all spend some time with our hands in the mud. It’s relaxing, it’s freeing and it allows us to recapture the joy of playing and having fun!

Happy Mud Day!

For more mud reading, check out these links:

From Community Playthings: The Mud Center: Recapturing Childhood

From The Imagination Tree: An Outdoor Concoctions (read: mud) Kitchen

From Let The Children Play: Mud Play at Preschool

From Growing a Jeweled Rose: 30+ Mud Activities to Celebrate International Mud Day

Photo from Flickr- FreeLearningLife