Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Power of Babies

"You can touch her hair."
Surrounded by soft friends
About a year ago I read an article in the NY Times in response to the heightened awareness of childhood bullying that is being highlighted in today's society: Fighting Bullying with Babies.  A group called Roots of Empathy began a program with school aged children using babies to build empathy.  A mother and baby are introduced to the classroom and the children are instructed to observe the baby and mother and even place them selves in themselves in the baby.  Role paying involving what it might feel like to be unable to move like you want is a starting point, which then evolved into deeper realizations of what it must feel like to be a baby.  Teachers were amazed at the care and interest simply having a young baby in the classroom caused with all of the children, even those who struggle with attention and awareness of others.  This article struck me because I realized that this was the work that the children at TIH do on a daily basis!  Learning not just how to be safe and aware around young infants, but how to slow down, interact and even understand what being a baby might be like is built into our daily rhythm.  I have always noticed a strong empathy naturally emanating from the children at our school, so it made a lot of sense to  me that this might simply be because of our work with babies. 
Every child at TIH is introduced to even the youngest babies.  We watch them cry and think about why they might be crying.  We talk about the work of the infant teacher and how they care for the babies.  We talk about the basic needs of the babies, often relating them to our own needs.   We practice touching babies in a safe way and notice the similarities and differences.  They sometimes cannot move on their own.  Some can grab a toy and others are happy simply watching.  Some babies can put their fingers in their mouth, while some are trying to walk.  Just the other day when we were observing cohort 5, L rolled over and as I described what was happening all of the boys cheered for her.

Later that week, L joined us in our classroom for a moment.  Our favorite soft friends were arranged around her as the boys came to watch her more closely.  We talked about safe touching, sounds she made and how excited she was to look at the big kids!  It seems like it was just the other day when the boys were being watched by cohort 3!

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