Did you know much of our early learning begins with personal connections? Positive human connection during early childhood creates boundless benefits for a developing child. Research tells us healthy connections with teachers and caregivers influence a child’s growing brain, strengthening their capacity to handle stress, communicate effectively, sustain attention and think about the future.
Why are connections outside of the home so important? According to the U.S. Department of Education, approximately 59% of children under age six spend part or all their day in the care of someone other than their primary caregiver. Childcare providers and teachers are essential to creating personal connection, thus having a profound developmental impact on the children they care for.
Here are four simple ways connection can be created in the classroom:
Presence: Being present in the moment means you are solely focused on the child. You are there to give them your full attention and to see what the moment brings. Presence is about accepting all the emotions of that time with a child.
Strategy: Create curiosity spaces in your classroom. Use objects, such as pots and pans or leaves, which inspire conversations and creativity. Sit with the child and wonder and create with these objects, which can be found in nature or in your home. Try to use items in creative ways to make something new together, using imagination.
Playfulness: Actively playing lets children know you want to be there with them and that they are important to you.
Strategy: Get down on the child’s level and engage in play to learn more about their interests. Follow the child’s lead in play and conversation. Floor play is effective when used frequently during the day even for just a few minutes at a time.
Eye Contact: Getting down on the child’s level and making eye contact creates connection. Eye contact helps to improve shared experience and empathy between people.
Strategy: Play simple early childhood games which encourage eye contact. Create different versions for different ages. Use blankets, pillows and other items to keep it fun and novel. Peek-a-boo and patty cake are simple and fun for many children.
Touch: Touch is the first sensation we experience with our primary caregiver. Physical touch helps to regulate emotions when it is provided appropriately and safely. For babies, this might include being held or rocked. For toddlers, preschool and elementary-aged children, this might include a hug or a high five.
- Strategy: For children in daycare, use your environment to create spaces where children can relax and access soft, comforting objects, such as blankets and pillows. Place a rocking chair in the library or calm down area so children can rock to calm themselves. For preschool children, create special rituals, like a hug at the end of the day, a special handshake or a high-five between activities. Always respect a child’s boundaries if they indicate not wanting to be hugged or held.
The good news is these elements are often already happening in many classrooms and early learning settings.
Free Download For Your Classroom
Use this Activity for Daily Routines in your classroom. Print out icons for the various activities that are part of the daily routine.