Child Development Articles

A Thinking Brain. How Does it Happen?

Some of the children in my class will be here with me again and some will be going to kindergarten next year. One of the biggest developmental milestones is coping skills. How do they move through their morning? Are they able to separate from parents with ease? Can they problem solve with another child? Is their attention span good? Is your child stable? How are their independence skills? How is their self-regulation? There is so much for children to attain before they go to a larger formal learning environment.

The information that I present to you is so powerful. In my class you will see a lot of moving with arms, bodies, and lots of singing. This is very designed music to create moments over and over again to stabilize your child and draw them in. Within this stabilization a child who is settled, relaxed, alert, focused, regardful and engaged “Learns”.

This is so important for the social & emotional stabilization of the brain. This is a requirement, the child’s brain must not be stressed. Thinking does not proceed until the emotional-cognitive brain is stabilized.
A quote from Jane M. Healy, an author of child development books:
Merely trying to shovel in information will serve little purpose unless children also learn how to use their brains to stay mentally focused, put information into perspective, reflect on meaning, plan ahead and follow through constructively- the fundamental components of problem solving.

If your child is having difficulty he or she may be in a fight or flight state. Usually this happens in a child has an argument or feels threatened. His or her brain will produce noradrenaline, a hormone that does not leave the body for 6 hours. At this point the brain cannot learn. Entering a play state can ease the condition, but cannot take it away.

Did you know that children remember negativity more than positivity. Mammals (us) expect nurturance. This is where we find the development of self-regulation. When a child feels nurtured and safe the less reactive they are.
Young children, while involuntarily captured by novelty, really need repetition and familiarity. Anchoring experiences in this way helps them gain a sense of organization and mastery
– Jane Healy

In meaningful “play life” the child increases their alertness and everything becomes easier.

I’m not sure what has happened, but children are expected to learn reading at earlier and earlier ages. Problems in reading have much to do with problems in auditory processing. To know something we can’t just talk about it. You must have experience to “know it”. Then knowing becomes internalized and then can be remembered with ease.

The child’s first 7 years should be consumed with sensory motor activities. This “sense field” should be loaded with play. Images are stored in the brain when the whole body is involved. The more experiences we have the more images get stored in the brain. Then they are in the brain and available for symbolization, or reading. We really do need both sides of our brain. We need them to be involved- see, feel, and organize it all.

According to another well known professional, Vygotsky, “Inner speech develops as the child learns to use language. First to think out loud and then to reason inside his own mind. Eventually, it becomes an instinctive tool with which to think and also communicate thoughts by speech and then writing. I am convinced that a major reason so many students today have difficulty with problem solving, abstract reasoning, and writing coherently is that they have an insufficiently developed mechanism of inner speech.” Young children not given time to develop in those building block years struggle.
I leave you with some things to think about.

  • Does movement help children develop an internal sense of “beat”?
  • Does the inner sense of “beat” correlate with successful reading and math abilities?
  • Do we as a community of play based designed curriculum improve children’s attention?

I hope you have said yes to all three. We’ve got to keep this thinking. We’ve got to get them up, get them physically involved and tune them into the play, designed play.

When you walk into my classroom and hear some of the songs I sing and the movements with them, remember I have studied many years on what works best for young preschoolers and how that little brain is stimulated the most. And I always learn more. Everyday your children are amazing little people.

Relation of Our Program to Growth Characteristics

Physical Growth

Independence is “routines” such as handwashing, taking off and hanging-up coats, and toileting is encouraged. Self help skills in feeding such as spreading and pouring are encouraged.

Much equipment is available to encourage both large and small motor activity. Specific teaching of skills is done in response to the child’s needs and interests. For exapmple, when a child is stuck on top of a jungle gym, guide him in discovering how to get unstuck, rather than just lifting the child down. “Keep holding on with your hands and reach down with this foot,” (and touch the specified foot). “I’ll help your foot find the step,” (and you physically guide his foot to the right step).

The program may encourage development of specific skills by the varied equipment provided, and the way the environment is organized.

Emotional Growth

Listening, sitting at their level, using their names, expressing appreciation for their accomplishments, helping when needed and encouraging independence, are all things that promote the child’s sense of self-worth.

Their ability to stay at school without their mothers; their discovery that there are other friendly adults who will help them; their solutions to physical, social, and intellectual problems will promote independence and self-confidence for the child.

Respect for the child’s feelings, while limiting their expression of those feelings, helps the child to learn self control. You can express these sentiments in many ways, like –”I know you are angry that you cannot have that toy right now, but Billy needs a chance to play with it for a few minutes before he will be ready to give you a turn. It’s alright to feel angry, but I won’t let you grab the toy. You will have to wait.” Or –”Sometimes we are afraid of things that might make loud noises. Do you want to watch the fire truck through the window?” Or –”It is hard to say good-bye sometimes. I will stay with you while your mother leaves. Would you like to sit on my lap until you feel ready to play?”

Social Growth

Some children need to watch for quite a while before they are ready to join in. Do not feel you have to make the child do anything. On-looker activity is a very real form of social behavior. It is participation- a stepping stone of group interaction.

Certain areas/activities of the school promote spontaneous group play. We need to arrange equipment and provide props to encourage such play. Our playhouse, and dramatic play settings such as a McDonald’s, fire hat and hose, and block people and animals, are examples of such areas/activities. Cooperative painting on a large paper turns a usually solitary activity into a social one.
Physical skill activities such as jumping off the board, sliding, bean-bag tossing, etc, teach routines for taking turns as well as physical skill. Negotiation of the use of space and equipment in the sandbox teaches social problem solving.

The adult’s role is primarily in arranging the environment. During play, the adult supervises the observance of a few rules such as “People aren’t for hitting”, “If you didn’t build it you don’t knock it down”, and “We take care of our toys”. The adult also acts as a resource suggesting additional equipment or play roles as the child’s interest indicates. Sometimes the adult may add word- vocabulary-to help the child enrich their play. For example, “The person who adds up your groceries is called the checker”, or “Every grocery store needs a stocker to fill the shelves back up after the people buy things”.

Intellectual Growth

Because Children have a need for self selection, and younger ones need frequent changes and activity, a variety of activities is provided. In order for children to be able to find play spaces independently, a minimum of one and one-half play spaces per child must be available.

Many opportunities are provided for children to use language. Enough adults are present to introduce new words in meaningful contexts. Child to child talk fosters increasing fluency and clarity. Language skills are also developed through music, stories, and language games.

The most effective teaching is done in response to the child’s needs or interests. We sometimes encourage these needs and interests by the materials we provide. Other children will also be stimulating to the child.

The Goose Story

This fall, when you see the geese heading sough for the winter, flying along in a “V” formation, you might be interested to know what science has discovered about why they fly that way.

It has been learned that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. Thus, by flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. (Those who share a common direction and sense of community can accomplish more because they are traveling on the “draft” of one another.)

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly get back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. (Our work is easier when we join with others headed in the same direction.)

The geese at the back of the formation constantly honk to encourage those up front to maintain their speed. (Just like people!)

Finally, and this is very important, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by gunshots and drops from the sky, two other geese immediately fall out of formation and follow it down. Moreover, they stay with their fallen companion until it is either dead or able to fly again. They then launch out on their own again or with another formation to catch up with their group. (Perhaps if we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other and use our cooperation.)


Encourage Creativity

  • Take time with a child’s art.
  • Show respect for the art and the artist’s process.
  • Comment on lines, shapes, & colors: “I see you used these colors.”
  • Show curiosity: “How did you get this effect here?”
  • Comment on changes: “Your drawings look bigger these days.”
  • Ask open-ended questions: “Will you tell me about your picture?”
  • Provide fuel for creativity: “What other materials do you need?”
  • Collect recycled boxes, tubes, and lumber scraps. Make 3D creations.
  • Provide a variety of drawing, painting, and clay materials.
  • Avoid coloring books.

Parent Involvement

  • Research shows that parent involvement in their child’s education is positively related to learning and achievement.
  • How can parents nurture children’s creativity at home? Art can be a wonderful family activity.
  • Parents who understand the value of art are more likely to keep art supplies at home, designate a household area for “messy art”, and become involved in art themselves.
  • Parents and teachers working together to nurture creativity- imagine the possibilities!

Ten Christmas Gift Ideas

1. Strider bike- They have no pedals and kids learn how to balance before they have to deal with the pedals.

2. Imaginext by Fisher Price- Great for imaginative play. This is like Little People of our time. My kids still play with theirs.

3. Games- Memory, Go Fish and High Ho the Cherry O are great games for young children. Playing games with kids gets them used to taking turns and can help them to play together with others.

4. Books- Books are always a great gift. I believe we can never have enough good books. Some of my favorite authors are Mo Willems (the Pigeon books), Ted Arnold (Fly Guy and Parts), and Dr. Seuss is always fun.

5. An Art Cart- It‘s fun for kids to have a set of art supplies at home. Keep crayons, markers and paper in one special container. You could even add glue sticks and stickers for fun.

6. A Bag of Balls- Fill a laundry bag fun of different sized balls. Kids love this.

7. Autoblocks- These are amazing. They are wooden cars that come apart and can be put back together in many different combinations. I like the minis because you have so many options.

8. Dress-Up Bin- Fill a Rubbermaid tub with all kinds of dress up clothes. Remember that dress up does not always have to be princess. Go to the thrift shops and see what you can find. This can help to expand your child’s imagination.

9. Puzzles- Floor puzzles are a great way for children to start to problem solve. Make sure they have big pieces and are not too difficult.

10. Blocks- Kids can build and make all kinds of things. Blocks are a never-ending activity.

Science Project


20 Mule Team Borax        Paper cups
Elmer’s Glue-All        Plastic spoons
Water                Plastic plates
Food color

1.    An adult should mix together 2 cups of glue and 1-1/2 cups of water in a bowl, stirring well.
2.    Dissolve 4 teaspoons Borax in 1-1/3 cups water. (This amount of glue mixture and Borax solution is enough for 18 children)
3.    Pour 3 tablespoons glue mixture into each child’s cup.
4.    Give each child a plastic spoon, a plastic (not paper) plate, and a cup of the glue mixture.
5.    Let the children add 2 or 3 drops of food color to their glue mixture. Have them stir it well.
6.    The adult should pour one tablespoon of the Borax solution into each child’s cup.
7.    Have them immediately stir the contents thoroughly.
8.    Once a solid mass is formed, empty it out onto a plastic plate where the child can squeeze the substance to remove excess moisture.
9.    Let children play with this newly made material. When finished playing with the stuff, keep it in an air-tight container. It will eventually grow mold and need to be thrown away.

Warning: Borax is a toxic material and should not be ingested. Make sure this squeezable stuff is kept off clothing and carpets because it will stick to the fibers.

When the two liquids are combined, their separate properties join to create a solid.

Science Projects

Color Mixing!

Objective: Primary colors mix to make secondary colors

What you need:

  • Six clear containers with lids: test tubes, bottles or jars
  • Red, blue and yellow food coloring
  • Eyedropper
  • Water

To Do and Observe:

  • Fill six clear containers half way with water.
  • Put three drops of food coloring in each container making two red, two yellow, two blue solutions (three stock solutions and three mixing solutions)
  • Add a dropfull of the yellow water to the red. What color do you get? (orange)
  • Add a dropfull of red to the blue. What color do you get? (purple)
  • Add a dropfull of blue to the yellow. What color? (green).
  • What happens when you mix two secondary colors together? (brown)

What’s going on?
Primary colors (red, yellow and blue) can be used to make secondary colors (green, orange and purple). In dyes, inks, paints and pigments.

Formation of a gas!
Objective: an acid and a base react to form a gas.

What you need:

  • Wine or soda bottle with narrow neck
  • Balloon
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

To Do and Observe:

  • Pour a cup of vinegar into the bottle
  • Stretch mouth of the balloon as wide as you can and fill the balloon with baking soda.
  • Keeping the balloon off to the side of the bottle, stretch over the top of the bottle to form a tight seal.
  • Dump the baking soda from the balloon into the bottle and watch it expand.

What’s going on?
An acid (vinegar) and a base (baking soda) react to form a gas (carbon dioxide). When the gas forms it pushes the balloon up just like when you force the gas (air) from your lungs into a balloon to blow it up

Raising an Unspoiled Child

Who is an unspoiled child/unspoiled adult?

  • A child who takes responsibility for his choices (accountability)
  • A child who does not have a sense of entitlement.
  • A child who cares about others beyond himself.
  • A child who is resourceful and can entertain himself.
  • A child who always treats adults respectfully.

Goal of parenting: help a child THRIVE by his:

  • Growing a solid sense of self.
  • Becoming an emotionally and mentally healthy adult.
  • Being able to have and maintain nurturing relationships.
  • Having a life with purpose.
  • Feeling cherished and supported by you.

How to raise an unspoiled child:

  • Have a parent-centered family, not a child-centered family.
  • Allow for failure and disappointment.
  • Allow for and encourage mastery (theirs, not ours).
  • Model charity and kindness-more than talk-take actions.
  • Give all members of a family (12 months and up) family jobs.
  • Set boundaries-follow through with consequences and consistency.
  • Require respectfulness in discourse with adults.
  • Let them develop an attitude of gratitude.
  • Limit giving-so they can live the joy of anticipation-and not feel entitled.
  • Promote family participation, be it values-based, faith-based, family mission statement.
  • Supply needs daily; supply wants discriminately.

Working towards these goals will hopefully keep your child unspoiled and thriving.

Preschoolers can:

  • Make their beds
  • Fold towels and washcloths
  • Put away clothes in drawers
  • Pick up their toys
  • Wipe of front of large appliances using spray bottle of water and sponge.
  • Feed pets
  • Match clean socks
  • Scrub vegetables

Kindergartners can do all of the above, plus:

  • Vacuum small areas with a lightweight vacuum.
  • Sweep porches
  • Straighten plastic dishes in a lower cabinet.
  • Dust furniture
  • Wipe windows (That you have washed) with a clean blackboard eraser to keep them shining!

Younger elementary kids can do the above plus:

  • Take out garbage
  • Sweep stairs and walks
  • Clean out the car.
  • Vacuum their own room
  • Sort and straighten toys
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Sort clothes for washing
  • Clean off outdoor furniture
  • Water a garden
  • Set and clear the table

How we Discipline our Children

We always talk about behaviors and discipline. Moms and Dads of small children are somewhat puzzled at times. Many parents lean too much in one direction or the other. Balance can be lost with a tendency to go overboard.

There are three types of discipline: authoritarian, permissive and authoritative. Authoritarian: even corporal punishment as the guide to conform to the rules. Permissive: child is allowed to do what they want with no boundaries. Authoritative: Natural consequences to behavior –good or bad.

Some parents feel that if you tell your child “no”, it shows the child they aren’t loved. Young children crave boundaries. They want to feel safe and that someone is guiding them in life. But rules and guidelines can be hard work, and keeping consistency in those guidelines can be exhausting.

Children need to feel that good strong adults are in charge. To a child, wise and fair rules mean they are loved. “Someone is watching out for me”. There is one concept that is very important: Children will only do what you let them do.

Don’t be afraid your child will think you are a little strict, it’s a compliment. Be firm and friendly, and really listen to your child. At times, make them part of the process; ask them what they think. They are harder on themselves, more than you think. Let them be responsible for their own behaviors. “I’m really sorry you made that choice”, then walk away.

Be clear, give one warning. The consequences need to be clear. Come back to it; negotiation: “Wow, I really wanted us to go to the park but I can’t be sure you will use your good thinking.” Walk away again. We spend so much time in the negotiation game.

Too many choices are confusing and the message gets lost. Children are designed to go the distance until they get what they want.

You can be firm and strict without using a heavy hand or a harsh tone. Discipline develops through the standards we have, our expectations and reasoning. We do it with the child in mind, to help them understand why society has laws and rules to follow. In my 60 years and 42 of those years being with children I have found that many people feel rules don’t apply to them! They are the exception. Wow! What happened? Without saying a word, your standards, your ways and what you think filters into your child. They want to be just like you.

Some of the most important lessons in discipline occur through “quiet discipline” between parent and child. There are moments when we are not even aware we are disciplining, yet the child is learning how to act.

Parents who nag too much, who punish too much, on their child all the time… never really get the good behavior they want because they don’t use enough “quiet discipline”

Remember to enjoy your children and laugh often. Use humor in a good way, not to make fun of them. All children want is your attention, good or bad! It takes a long time for children to learn good ways of behaving. What kind of parent are you? What kind do you want to be?