Monday, May 23, 2011

Intention and Interpretation

Recently I was reminded how important it is to ask children to share their artwork without influencing them with the adult's interpretation. Upon asking the preschooler who made this beautiful chalk drawing she explained that it was, "a circle of Es." The more circular part at the bottom is a place to jump in with both feet. The trapezoid shape to the left of that is a place to jump with one foot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Changing Brains at University of Oregon's Brain Development Lab

I always get very excited when I watch the news at night and I hear things like 'brain plasticity' and listening to parents who talk about how they consider the considerable growth their young children's brains go through and how they can help shape it positively.

The segment focused on the brain research being done at the University of Oregon in Eugene and a DVD that they recently released for parents talking about how the environment in which children are raised directly affects brain development. Helen Neville, Director of the Brain Development Lab, says "A major goal of brain research is to find out how to establish a healthy brain architecture that will give children a strong foundation for future growth and development." She goes on to explain what brain plasticity is, what a sensitive period is and how we can support each of these ideas. "Different parts of the brain are most plastic, or changeable by experience at different times. These time periods are called sensitive periods. And it is during these sensitive periods that noral, positive experiences can lead to a strong brain architecture. "

On their website you can find videos from their DVD or purchase the entire DVD which gives you the information from their research and the facts about brain plasticity, sensitive periods and how we can help build a strong foundation with the children we interact with. At the end of the DVD they provide a listing of their references as well as an extensive list of resources for more information on each subject. The videos are full of great information, given in a eloquent and accessible way, making it easy for anyone to become inspired.

I get especially excited when I hear about the scientific community supporting the work that we do with scientific evidence, especially when it is directly related to the child's, growing brain. By adding this new knowledge to what we already know from the work of Maria Montessori over 100 years ago to the work of Emmi Pikler at the Loczy Institute more recently, and all of the other well known pioneers in early childhood philosophies, we are able to support our new view of who the child is in an even more holistic and authentic way.

I enjoy finding inspirations like Changing Brains, because it challenges me to enhance my own knowledge of who the child is, and how I can directly support brain development.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Joy of "No!"

A parent sent me this quote a while back, and I just rediscovered it. I love it because it brings the joy to the child's discovery of the power of their words, and describes why I get so excited when a child can tell me 'no' finally.

"To hold the world no in my mouth like a gold coin, something valued, something possible. To teach the no to our daughters (sons). To value their no more than their compliant yes. To celebrate no. To grasp the word no in your fist and refuse to give it up. To support the boy who says no to violence, the girl who will not be violated, the woman who says no, no, I will not. To love the no, to cherish the no which is so often our first word. No - the means to transformation." - Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay's Dance

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Feeding Infants: An Intro with Resources

At TIH we are committed to following the child's authentic self, and offering opportunities whenever possible to give the child the ability to experience our world in the most natural way possible. When we do this, we support our trust in the child's competence to do for themselves and build a respectful and loving relationship between child and caregiver.

I think about this concept constantly, and when I was faced with feeding my new group of infants I got really excited with offering foods in the most natural state possible, yet still creating ways that the children could feel successful. After talking to a few parents and doing some research online I discovered the idea of Baby Led Weaning. The central concept is that children as young as 6 months are able to bring things to their mouth then they can eat non-pureed foods. This can look different for different caregivers. Some people feel comfortable giving a child a quarter of an apple to gnaw on, and others might feel more comfortable with steaming them first. The part of feeding infants this way that speaks to me the most is that it allows the child to choose what they want to put into their mouth, when they're ready and even eat as much as they like.

Here are my favorite resources:
Wholesome Baby Food - Has some great ideas for foods to start with and ways to prepare, as well as a basic overview of what Baby Led Weaning is
Baby Led Weaning Blog - Here's a great resource for seeing the reality of feeding your child whole foods from Mamas who are trying it with their children and documenting it for our enjoyment. This is especially great for photos of messy, eating babies!
Baby Led - From Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, the creators of the book Baby-Led Weaning:Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food
BLW Recipes - Really any recipe for food works, but it's always fun to see what people come up with with babies in mind. Any Google search for finger foods is also a great place to start.