What is crossing the midline and why is it important??

The midline is an imaginary line down the middle of the body  Crossing this line (the middle of the body is when your arms and legs are crossing over to the opposite side of the body like when you fold your arms and legs or when your reach with your left arm over to your right arm to scratch your arm.

Crossing the line of your body is very important because it is a very necessary part of the childs development and for helping accomplish every day tasks like putting on your socks and shoe, building blocks, drawing, writing, reading a book by pointing at pictures and having your left hand reach over to the right side of the book to turn the pages. When your child crosses the midline with their dominant hand, then the dominant hand is getting the practice that it needs to develop and strengthen their fine motor skills.

If your child tries to avoid crossing the midline then both their hands will be equal and won’t be developing these skills properly and they will be delayed at strengthening their handedness. Skills like learning to write will be effected and because they don’t have one hand that’s stronger and more skilled it will become harder for them to accomplish this.

Activities that can help promote crossing the body’s midline could be banging objects together in the midline for example a tambourine. You could throw and kick a ball around which helps keep both sides of the body active and practicing crossing the midline. You can out stickers on one side of the body and get the child to remove them with their opposite hand. Another one that children love is popping bubbles when you blow them. You can also place objects on the left side of the body and get the child to pick up these items by using the right hand. There are many ways that a child can cross their midline and I hope that these ideas can help you at home.The midline is an imaginary line down the middle of the body  Crossing this line (the middle of the body) is when your arms and legs are crossing over to the opposite side of the body like when you fold your arms and legs or when your reach with your left arm over to your right arm to scratch your arm.

Crossing the line of your body is very important because it is a very necessary part of the child’s development and for helping accomplish every day tasks like putting on your socks and shoe, building blocks, drawing, writing, reading a book by pointing at pictures and having your left hand reach over to the right side of the book to turn the pages. When your child crosses the midline with their dominant hand, then the dominant hand is getting the practice that it needs to develop and strengthen their fine motor skills.

If your child tries to avoid crossing the midline then both their hands will be equal and won’t be developing these skills properly and they will be delayed at strengthening their handedness. Skills like learning to write will be effected and because they don’t have one hand that’s stronger and more skilled it will become harder for them to accomplish this.

Activities that can help promote crossing the body’s midline could be banging objects together in the midline for example a tambourine. You could throw and kick a ball around which helps keep both sides of the body active and practicing crossing the midline. You can put stickers on one side of the body and get the child to remove them with their opposite hand. Another one that children love is popping bubbles when you blow them. You can also place objects on the left side of the body and get the child to pick up these items by using the right hand. There are many ways that a child can cross their midline and I hope that these ideas can help you at home.

Tracing with leaves

Tracing leaves:

This is a fun art activity you can do with your toddler that doesn’t involve much mess!  All you need are some leaves, paper and crayons.

1

Collect leaves of various shapes and sizes. You can use fresh leaves or dried fallen ones.

2

Place a leaf with its bottom side facing up.

3

Put a sheet of paper, preferably thin or lightweight, over the leaf.

4

Rub the side of a crayon gently on the area over the leaf.   As you do this, you’ll see the coloured areas start to take the shape of the leaf.

5

Remove the leaf from under the paper. This completes the basic steps for making a leaf tracing.

6

Make more leaf tracings using other colours and different leaf shapes.

The first 1000 days!

The first 1000 days of an infant’s life is regarded the most important stage as this is when the human brain experiences expedential growth. There are many theories and philosophies which explain the importance of the first 1000 days of infants and toddlers. John Bowlbys theory of attachment posits that the development of an affectional bond between a child and an attachment figure is vital and thus plays an important role for kaiako in early childhood education. Healthy attachment is based on meeting a child’s needs for safety, protection and security – these are crucial for infancy and childhood. Developing an emotional bond with an adult, provides a child with a safe and secure environment. Making connections and building realtionships and trust leads to healthy cognitive and physical development. This essay will examine the theory of attachment and how important it is for brain development and biology of infants and toddlers –  which has longlasting implications for living a healthy adult life. I will also discuss how I practice pedagogy as an earlychildhood educator in relation to the first 1000 days of infants and toddlers and Te Whāriki.

Learning about and supporting a child’s first 1000 days is important as a kaiako because we are working with infants and toddlers everyday. We have an impact on their lifelong learning and development. Understanding the development and functions of infants and toddlers is a priority and responsibility of ours as early childhood practitioners. Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 2017) explains how one of the responsibilities of a kaiako is to gain knowledge about our children’s learning and development so that we can identify how they learn, what their strengths and interests are, and support positive learning trajectories. Understanding how our tamariki learn and exploring what makes them unique, will create an environment that will let their imagination and curious selves shine. Relationships are very important for brain development as this is how we learn to communicate. Neuron connectivity in our brain is supported by relationships – the connections between ourselves, others, and the world all contribute to neuron pathway building. The more connections that the brain develops in those first 1000 days the better developmentally for the child. McCaleb & Mikaere-Wallis (2005) explains that when you turn three years of age the limbic system is due to prune away all the unused connections, so if you are not making those neuron connections early, then they will drop off and disappear. That’s why if we have healthy, responsive relationships with whānau, kaiako and the community we are more likely to continue using these learned connections, continually growing developmentally.

A newborn depends on their primary caregivers for safety, protection and security as they cannot yet care for themselves. Wallis (2013) explains how the 0 – 3 year old brain needs to feel safe, secure and in partnership by people who adore them. These relationships will influence the ways people develop (i.e- influence who they are and how they see the world). Early childhood attachments also influence one’s wellbeing – both in infancy/childhood, and adulthood. The building blocks of creating an attachment relationship with an infant comes from feeding, bathing, changing nappies, comforting and holding them. Those are special moments where you connect, engage, make eye contact and nurture your baby. Rowley (2016) explains that when infants form a strong attachment, it lays down connections in the parts of the brain that are associated with memory and emotions. Bredekamp (2018) emphasizes how “early life experiences build the architecture of the brain” (p. 41). This is followed by Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 2017) which explains that responsive and reciprocal relationships will support our tamariki to try out their ideas and refine their working theories. The more time that they have feeling safe, secure and in partnership with a parent, kaiako, whānau, the better outcomes that they will have behaviorally and academically. Therefore, building those early relationships with tamariki and developing a secure attachment with infants and toddlers is incredibly important for them to optimise their capabilities for lifelong-learning.

Basic functions for the brainstem are breathing, heart rate and body temperature, the brainstem also activates the ‘freeze, fight or flight’ survival function. To learn effectively tamariki need to feel calm and safe, this is the first stage of brain development. The mid-brain is connected to motor development, while the limbic brain filters our emotions which helps us interact and communicate effectively with others. Finally, the cortex is part of our brain which has the ability to filter our emotions to think logically and abstractly. It is important for kaiako to understand each component of brain development so that we can understand what our tamariki need.

The foundations of the brain (brainstem), need to have strong and supporting walls (mid-brain, limbic); before the roof (cortix) can be fully developed. Gaining knowledge about brain development as kaiako is important so that we can understand the stages of the brain that will influence the readiness of how our tamariki learn.

Pedagogy is a way of teaching and how kaiako create an enviornment for our tamariki that will nurture and foster their learning and development. Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 2017) explain how curriculum and pedagogy can be practiced within an early childcare setting by influencing, supporting and guidancing a child’s development. Brain development is clearly linked with one of the curriculum principals ‘relationships’.

In conclusion, the first 1000 days of an infant’s life shows how much growth occurrs, especially regarding brain development. John Bowlby’s theory of attachment shows how attachment is a strong influencer of brain developent. If you have a secure attachment with a primary caregiver in the early years of life then your interactions with others develop important neuron connections within the brain. Building those important relationships with our tamariki is a vital part in early childhood education, making them feel included, secure and safe. Extensive research has shown how much the human brain grows in the first 1000 days, the environment that our tamariki are immersed in impacts their life experiences and the way they understand themselves and the world. In saying this, the absence of a supportive emotional environment can have negative effects on adulthood both mentally and physically, which is why early life experiences are so important. My pedagogy and assessment is based around the relationships that I have formed with our whānau and tamariki to create learning experiences that will benefit them and their development. As an early childcare teacher I want to contribute to help shape resilient learners and have an ever lasting impact on childrens’ lives and be apart of those important building foundations of their first 1000 days of life. 

3 simple tips for a calmer bedtime routine

Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word but what does it really mean?  To be put simply, it is the practise of paying attention in the present moment – focussing on what is immediately in front of us.  Not worrying about what we have or haven’t done that day, and certainly not worrying about what we need to do in the future and our huge ‘to do’ list.    We could all benefit by finding ways to use it in our everyday lives, not least in our parenting roles.  2020 has been a tough year for everyone, it’s pretty hard to remain calm when there are so many unknowns.  The bedtime routine can become a gigantic struggle when we enter into it exhausted, stressed and with a cluttered mind.

On the parentingplace.nz website Shirley Pastiroff offers some great tips on how you can achieve a more peaceful bedtime routine with your children.  We all know how having a good sleep is key to having the best start to the next day, and of course for a child’s growth and development.

There are 3 key things that Shirley recommends we establish at bedtime:

  1. A great connection with your child
  2. Empathise with how disappointing it is that it’s bedtime (remember when you were a child and how you felt the same way!?)
  3. Stick to essential boundaries and offer help.

Connection:

We know from research that the most significant ingredient in a child’s development is the quality of the connection with their parent or primary caregiver.  It can feel like a huge responsibility at one level, but it simplifies parenting too.

Connection doesn’t always mean more time, just more eye contact, focus, listening and being curious about there world.   Whether you see them 12 hours a day, or just before and after work, there is usually the opportunity for slowing down and doing life at their pace for a little bit more of the day than we usually do.

Connecting through eye contact, high fives, fist pumps and cuddles are just some examples.

Empathy:

When we prioritise connection with them when they are awake, we still need to get them to bed!  Empathy is given for their emotions and boundaries are for their behaviour.

Examples

“I know you don’t want to put your pajamas on and get ready for bed, it’s annoying isn’t it it?”

“I understand you’d like to just stay up and play, it feels unfair that it is bedtime doesn’t it?”

When we empathise, we are telling our children we understand their emotions and we validate how they are feeling. 

Boundaries:

At bedtime there are a few things that need to happen, and these are the boundaries that we as parents set. 

PJ’s, bottle, nappies, bath and books (bath and books are a bonus – if there is time)

The boundary doesn’t sound cross or dominant, just factual and to the point.  The boundary itself (bedtime) isn’t up for discussion, only the process to get there.  And there are easy ways to involve our children in this process:

Some bedtime boundaries might sound like this:

“Can I help you brush your teeth or would you like to do it on your own?”

“Let’s chose your PJ’s together, which are your favourite ones?”

“Would you like a horseback ride or to be carried to bed toinght?”

Another way of positively enforcing boundaries during the bedtime routine is replacing IF with WHEN.

“If you get into bed, I will read you a book”

vs

“When you get into bed, I will read you a book”

Feel the difference? “If” feels optional and part of a negotiation process, whereas “when” is more direct and helps encourage positive behaviour.  “When you do this” rather than “If you do this”

Good luck with establishing connection, empathy and boundaries with your children at bedtime.  We know that if we’re in a calm state of mind, our children are more likely to be calm too – so it’s worth a shot right?! 

Jolly Phonics and Early Literacy

Do children learn literacy at preschool? Yes, it’s not too early for a 4-year old to learn
the alphabet.
Learning literacy can be fun. One teaching method we are using at Play Learn Grow
is Jolly Phonics, a fun way to learn the sounds of letters. You might have heard your
child singing short songs like “/a/- /a/! Ants on my arm.” That is one of our favourite
children’s songs that they picked up from the Jolly Phonics.
What is Jolly Phonics? Jolly Phonics is a fun, multi-sensory program for teaching the
sounds of letters. For example, for learning the /a/ sound, we sing a short song to the
tune of Skip to My Lou. It goes like this:
/a/- /a/! Ants on my arm.
/a/- /a/! Ants on my arm.
/a/- /a/! Ants on my arm.
They’re causing me alarm.
Our children love singing this song. It comes with the action, pinching your arm as if
the ants are bitting you. It offers an enjoyable way to link letters with their sounds in
a meaningful context. We incorporate Jolly Phonic with Casey the Caterpillar to teach
our children the letter of the week. They love singing these action songs, learning the
shapes of letters and being keen to practice drawing the first character of their own
names.
Jolly Phonic is an effective program for teaching letters and letter sounds to young
children. Each letter comes with a Jolly Song that is short and explicit. Check out a
couple of examples on YouTube and have fun with the Jolly Phonic approach.

Jolly songs A-Z
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euxN7LGOoLc


Jolly Phonics – all songs and actions
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzBoqtayewI&t=22s

Language Development in Babies

Babies skills grow dramatically in their first 2 years of life, including their communication skills. Communication and language skills are a vital part of healthy development for children in their early years. Being able to communicate allows children to engage in social interactions and learn from the environment around them.

During their first-year babies learn the skills required for both speech and language. You may be thinking, what is the difference? Well, speech refers to the sounds produced that form words, it is the physical part of communication controlled by the brain and requires the movements of the tongue, lips, voice box, jaw and lungs. These movements take a lot of practice and begin during an infant’s first year.

Language, however, refers to the rules that put those words together to express thoughts and feelings. Language is made up of four main components, which are as follows:

Phonology: the structure and sequence of speech sounds.

Semantics: vocabulary and how those words express concepts.

Grammar: the rules that determine how words are arranged into full sentences.

and pragmatics: the rules that determine appropriate and effective communication.

Learning language and communication skills sounds complicated, but infants are programmed to develop these skills, and their early years are the most critical to ensure this development is stimulated as the brain at this stage is developing important new connections that serve both the expressive and receptive function of language.

With your child it may seem in the early months that their only form of communication is crying, however it is important to recognize and respond to other signs of communication developing to stimulate this in a healthy way.

From birth – 6 months, your baby should begin to respond to sounds like human voices by turning their head and eyes, respond to their name, respond to changes in tone.

From 6 months – 12 months, your baby should be able to use one or more words, understand very simple instructions (with vocal or visual ques), copy sounds and gestures you make, make longer sequences of sounds that replicate normal speech but may not have meaning.

From 12 months – 18 months, your baby should have an increasing vocabulary (aprox, 5-20 words), become repetitive (one word or phrase over and over), recognize names, put two words together to form short sentences.

While these stages are important indicators to how your baby’s language can develop, every child’s learning journey is unique and their development will vary, which is why stimulation during these months is especially important.

Here are a few quick tips to help you with speech and language stimulation at home with you baby

  • Verbally respond to your baby’s noises, be expressive in both facial expression and voice.
  • Talk to your baby constantly
  • Sing a variety of songs, use expression and feeling.
  • Ensure to use proper vocabulary, baby language can encourage further delays in your child’s language development.
  • Comment on different things in the environment as you explore with your baby.
  • Animate your speech with different actions and movements
  • Read simple books
  • Speak slowly and simply

The importance of motor development

Fine and Gross motor skills are an essential part of infant development and play a huge role in laying a healthy foundation for learning and development in children’s early years. This development begins from the day children are born and there are many reasons as to why this development is so vital.

See the source image

Gross Motor Development

When looking at gross motor development it is important to understand what this means. Gross motor skills refer to the movements related to the large (core stabilizing) muscle groups in our body, like our legs, arms and torso. The development of these skills allows us to perform everyday actions such as running, walking, sitting e.t.c. but this is not the only reason why developing these skills is so important.

Firstly, building on these skills helps children to gain confidence in their bodies as well as help them to develop a sense of self-esteem. This is not only important in their early years but helps build the foundation for confidence and self-esteem as they grow into adults too.

If a child has slower developed gross motor skills, they may not feel confident enough to participate in the more physical activities which in turn means they will miss out on important social development that is rooted in physical activity with their peers.

See the source imageHealthy motor development also encourages healthy brain development for children in their early years. Being mobile and interacting with the environment around them aids children in their early years to form important neural connections which is vital in the early years as this is when the most important brain development occurs.

Fine Motor Development

Of equal importance is the healthy development of fine motor skills, which refers to the smaller muscles that control our hands fingers and thumbs. These skills are more challenging to acquire and develop alongside the development of gross motor skills. There are several reasons why the healthy development of fine motor skills is so important, firstly it gives us the ability to control and manipulate objects in our environment, without the ability to do this we cant perform even the simplest of tasks like zipping a jacket, turning a page, holding a pen or even feeding ourselves.

Through the development of these skills children learn the movements involved with holding a pencil and making marks with that pencil, this is vital for pre-writing skills.

These skills are also related to hand eye coordination, this cognitive function is vital for everyday movements like reaching for something, drinking from a cup, putting on shoes e.t.c. By strengthening and practicing fine motor skills children can strengthen their hand eye coordination.

Development of fine motor skills also fosters independence for children in their early years, as they learn these skills, they can begin to try things for themselves like feeding themselves, dressing themselves, brushing their teeth e.t.c. This will help children to develop confidence and self esteem which as mentioned above is vital for ensuring participation in the challenging environments they will encounter as they grow.

Handwriting

Handwriting is a useful skill to master. Whilst at ECE we don’t expect essays, some of our 4 and 5 year olds can write their names beautifully and the entire alphabet in upper and lower case.  

Let’s start with the basics.  This involves the correct grip.  We see all techniques like the fist grip that can bore a hole through 10 sheets of paper and destroy many a pencil tip, and the double hand grips and many more.  But what is the correct way?

This is useful to practice with. Consider a fun exercise on a piece of paper – draw a sun in the right hand corner of the page. For older kids practice writing your first and last name.

Fun learning activity from home: big/small letters song

{Click the link to the YouTube video on big and small letters please whanau}

Then when you feel confident try to move onto letters like the NZ Curriculum.

NZ Curriculum Handwriting

The techniques to do both upper and lower case letters from the Ministry of Education are set out below.  We realise that there are a number of ways to form letters, but New Zealand schools teach handwriting in the NZ Curriculum with strokes in the following way illustrated below.  You start on the red spot, and move in the direction of the arrow firstly.

Whanau are reminded that this is very difficult for most children and this can be very stressful.  It is often best to focus on just one letter at first.  Perhaps the first letter of their own name.

It is not a race or competition. Learning is meant to be fun for tauira (students). So please be kind and if the writing is illegible or completely incorrect, just say something like “well done, that’s a nice try. Could we perhaps try it again a little differently?” 

We hope your older pre-schoolers have a bit of fun with this blog and enjoy the benefits of handwriting. Learning to write your name is part of giving your child the best start pre-school.

Writing Numbers

Number Practice

Numbers are important in life to help understand things like telling the time, how old people are, money and finance, and so much more.  A good start is learning how to write numbers. 

Our friends teaching in Primary Schools also use the NZ Curriculum. Therefore we teach to the Ministry of Education guidelines. We are not seeking to change how you write numbers, but we wish to teach our children in accordance with the NZ Curriculum. Therefore the strokes start at the red dot and go in the direction of the arrow, as shown below:

We are learning to practise writing our numerals correctly including:

  • Start at the correct starting place
  • Going in the right direction
  • Making our numbers the same size and shape

Writing numbers is so much fun. Often kids do these for a long time as they enjoy the control and mastery they develop.  However initially this can cause a lot of frustration as it is something new and difficult. It is a major accomplishment to be able to write your first number, so let’s be sure to praise our tamariki or mokopuna (child or grandchild), and help them to have fun learning to write numbers.

Here is a fun video link to show them that teaches writing numbers: