Thursday, December 28, 2017

Teaching Children about Goal Setting




As an early childhood educator, you have it in your power to create the next generation of goal setters.  Just as with most other skills of successful adults, the foundation skills can be traced back to early childhood.  While Infants and toddlers probably won’t be interested in goal setting, it is possible that some of the preschoolers in your care will be capable of and even excited by setting and achieving goals for themselves. 


The goal setting process for children may look a bit different, but many of the elements of adult goal setting apply.  Children’s goals will most likely need to be concrete, short-term, and related to the children’s immediate interests. 
 
You can introduce goal setting with children by incorporating language associated with goal setting into your everyday language:

  • When children choose a learning center, ask them if they have a plan for their play
  • When they are running on the playground, ask if they have a goal for how fast they want to run
  • When they are creating with playdough, ask if they have an end result in mind
  • When they are building with blocks, ask how many blocks they want to use in their tower
  • When they are at the writing center, ask then what they want to accomplish
If children appear interested in the conversation, continue by asking a few more questions:
  • Is there any way I can help you with your plan?
  • What do you need to do to reach your goal?
  • What tools will help you create your end result?
  • What steps can you make sure that you are successful?
  • Remind them that to achieve some goals takes time and practice
This type of critical thinking is a precursor to more formal goal setting that will take place later in life. 

Ask children to think about the skills they do really well.  See if they can identify how they learned those skills.  Encourage children to think of new skills that they want to learn. Ask the children to think about the steps they need to learn to reach the final skill.  Document all of this information.  Ask children to draw a picture of themselves reaching their goals. Hang the pictures on a classroom goal board.


Here are a few other ways to promote goal setting with children:
  • Record a child’s goal on paper, then take a picture once the goal has been achieved. Ask the child to list the steps they took to achieve the goal.
  • Share goals that you have created and update children as you meet those goals.
  • Create a group goal and plan a celebration once the goal is reached. During the celebration, review the steps the children took to meet the goal. 
  • Read books about characters (fictional and nonfictional) who have set and achieved goals.
  • For older children, ask “What’s Working?” and “What’s Not Working?”  Encourage children to make a plan to fix items on the “What’s Not Working” list.
We would love to hear about your experiences goal setting with children.  Visit us on Facebook to tell us all about it!


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Aligning our Professional Values - Early Childhood Inclusion



Throughout your career, you have most likely been challenged to evaluate your beliefs and practices. This is an excellent practice; one that has hopefully helped you grow as a professional.  One of the most common opportunities early childhood educators have to grow as professionals arises when working with children with special needs. 


Having trained thousands of early care and education professionals, often on topics related to special needs, I understand that very few topics cause as much apprehension as the possibility of working with a child with special needs. On all but the rarest of occasions, this apprehension has be alleviated through knowledge and understanding of specific disabilities and instructional strategies.  Which makes sense – the more information you have, the more confidence you have in your abilities. 
But even before we dig into the specific strategies to use to support children in the classroom, we have the opportunity to examine our personal and professional beliefs about working with children with disabilities. One powerful resource we can use to prompt this examination is the official definition of early childhood inclusion, provided in the Joint Position Statement of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC):

Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports.

Without getting into the jargon, regulations, and laws associated with supporting individuals with special needs we can ask ourselves the following questions:
  • Do I believe in the RIGHT of every child, regardless of ability, to participate as full members of families, communities, and society?
  • Do I believe that all children deserve a sense of belonging and membership?
  • Do I believe that all children deserve positive social relationships and friendships?
  • Do I believe that all children deserve to develop and learn in order to reach their full potential?

Through this reflection, we can align our professional values to the spirit of early childhood inclusion.  With those values firmly in place, we can move forward in our efforts to support all children, regardless of ability.  When we struggle, we can remind ourselves of these values and beliefs.  When we succeed, we reinforce these beliefs, increase our competence, and act as a powerful inspiration for others!

Share with us your inspiring stories of creating inclusive environments in the comments below.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Helping Children Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food



This November, the CCEI newsletter and no-cost trial course are all about promoting nutrition and healthy eating habits. So many of the habits we have as adults were established when we were young children.  Early care and education providers have a great opportunity to teach children about healthy options and to establish healthy habits at an early age. 


Beyond making the healthy choice between a bag of chips or an apple, ECE professionals also help children develop healthy relationships with food.  They do so through the messages they send children about food during interactions as well as modeling signs of healthy relationships as well. 

Here are a few practices that caregivers can put in place that will help children develop a healthy relationship with the food they consume:

Teach children to listen to what their body is telling them about their hunger.
  • Often, children are forced to eat, even when they are not hungry.  Children go through periods when they have small appetites, or they feel hungry at times that do not align with our scheduled meals and snacks.  Be prepared to meet the needs of children if you notice changes in their appetites.
  • Our bodies send messages that we are both hungry and full. Talk with children about how your body feels when you are hungry and when you are satisfied. Encourage them to pay attention to the sensations in their bodies during meals and snacks. 
  • Don’t force children to eat if they are not hungry. Don’t risk the stress and emotional damage that forcing a child to eat can cause. Offer a variety of foods so that if a child does not like one of the foods offered, they can eat more of another option for proper nutrition. 
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 Never use food as a reward or punishment.
  • Withholding food in an early childhood is a form of neglect (defined as failing to provide for a child’s basic needs) and should never be practiced in a child care setting. 
  • Remember the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?  The basic need of every human being includes consistent, unconditional access to food and water. Children who’s basic needs are not met or are inconsistently met have difficulty feeling secure and building relationships with others.
  • Punishing children by withholding food can send a message that children are not worthy of food.  It also causes insecurity around food that could lead to binge eating, hording food, or refusing to eat. 
  • When we reward young children with food, especially sugary treats, we risk sending the message that when you do well in life, you deserve a treat. This can lead to overeating or even instances of children depriving themselves of food when they make mistakes or struggle with tasks.     
  • Using food as punishment and reward can create patterns of behavior that follow a child long into adulthood as they struggle with issues of self-worth and emotional eating.  
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Other things you can do to model a healthy relationship with food: 

  • Eat slowly.
  • Chew your food thoroughly.
  • Talk about the delicious foods you are eating and how they are benefiting your body. 
  • Talk about the appropriate portion sizes that you are enjoying. Use MyPlate resources to help children learn how to build a healthy plate of food. 
  • Avoid eating foods right out of the bag or box.  Pour a few crackers on your plate to model an appropriate portion size.  If you are eating foods from a bag, close the bag and say, “That’s all my body needs right now.”
  • Practice everything in moderation.  It’s OK to have an occasional sweet treat as long as it is balanced with an overall healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein.  
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