Taken from Training Guides for
the Head Start Learning Community
In this module, participants learn how to tune in to children by learning important child development principles,
recognize how to meet the individual child's developmental needs, and sharing nurturing practices with other staff
Adults teach children, whether they plan to or not, and adults have the opportunity to nurture children and help them
along in their growing up. Adults can begin by tuning in to children, reflecting on what childhood is like, and
considering individual children in their personal and professional lives. Adults have many opportunities to nurture
infants and children who are at various ages and stages: young infants (birth to eight months), mobile infants (eight
to eighteen months), toddlers (eighteen months to three years), and preschoolers (three to five years).
Children vary greatly in their individual development. Therefore, skilled adults must observe children carefully to appreciate the uniqueness of each child's
strengths and abilities. The interplay of several key influences on development contributes to individual differences among children.
Adequate nutrition, rest, and medical attention are just a few of the variables that contribute to a child's overall health: a major factor in growth and development. Clearly, a child's physical development depends on good health, but health plays a role in other aspects of development as well. A child who is hungry or ill is less likely to lose herself in play, focus on an interesting experience, or join enthusiastically in a game.
A child's temperament - shy or outgoing, active or quiet, easily upset or more calm - also plays a role in development. Temperament influences both the choices a child makes as well as the child's basic response to given situations.
Children are conditioned by culture and by family. The values and expectations of those around growing children powerfully influence development. Issues ranging from physical movement to gender roles are strongly impacted. This is one reason to be cautious when describing any universal way that development unfolds.
Children develop in four areas, physical, cognitive, social, and emotional. Skilled early childhood staff observe that development in each of these domains is interrelated and occurs simultaneously. A child on the playground is using muscles (physical), figuring out how to climb higher (cognitive), bringing other children to watch (social), and feeling ambivalent about climbing higher (emotional). It is useful to think about the different domains in order to understand the different ways children develop, but in reality activities always overlap. There is no such thing as a purely physical or purely cognitive experience for a child. Physical activity requires thought; thought is accompanied by interaction; and both build competence and positive self-concept.
Interacting with children requires that an adult respect and remember that children have unique ways of thinking. Young children do not think like little adults, nor should they. Children are very literal (if you have sharp eyes, they might poke you). They think objects are alive (dolls must not be smothered). They assume that if two things happen at once, one caused the other (honking makes the car go; lightening makes it rain). Children are trying very hard to make sense of the world, deciding into which categories things go. (He cannot be a daddy; he is a police officer.) Their thinking processes need to be encouraged and
delighted in, not corrected.
Children develop a sense of trust when the adults who care for them let them know that they are valued human beings. This leads to positive feelings about themselves and the rest of the world. A sense of trust allows children to explore the world, try out new things, and interact with other children and adults.
A sense of independence allows children to do things for themselves and make decisions. Their sense of trust in adults and in their environment allows them to feel safe enough to try new things.
A positive self-concept comes from a child's growing sense of competence through experiences and interaction with significant people in their daily lives. Children acquire this competence when they explore an interesting environment in which their concerns and interests are take seriously on a day-to-day and minute-to-minute basis. An important role for adults is to provide a stimulating environment and to interact respectfully with children. This kind of setting does more to foster a positive self-concept than do reams of paper detailing trivial attributes of what makes a child special.
Child development principles help adults understand and appreciate the growth of children. Adult interventions are helpful if they focus on developmental goals: building trust, promoting independence, and encouraging a positive self-concept. These long-term goals take children much further than short-term goals such as mastering how to use crayons or memorizing songs.
Children do not learn by sitting quietly as vessels to receive knowledge; they learn by vigorous, adventuresome interaction with others and with their environment. This happens mainly through play because children's natural curiosity causes them to observe, explore, and experiment with the people and things around them. Therefore, environments need to be safe, stimulate their needs, and be staffed by adults who value language, experimentation, exploration, and inquisitive behavior.
In fact, focusing on the accomplishment of age-specific milestones, which can be culturally weighted, tends to highlight what is missing rather than what has been done. Instead, if you think about who this child is and what she can do, then you will be on the right track to accommodating diverse expressions of development and recognizing and building on the child's strengths.
Finally, it is vital to remember that Head Start programs positively influence the development of children through their families. This means supporting parents in their primary role and helping them as they nurture their children. You can best accomplish this by focusing on the unique strengths of each parent and family. By noting what each family can offer, you have a starting place for establishing you relationship with them and, more importantly, supporting their relationship with their child.
After completing this instrument, provide your Staff ID number, click you work
"content area" and "job location". Forward to the Training Department. Your name
is verification that you have read and understood the content of this module
and have completed this learning program in good faith, and are
willing to practice the principles outlined.