Discovering the power and potential of a child’s mind

How do adults become better attuned to children to better meet their needs?

To answer this question, the Ounce Educational Seminar on February 10, 2017 helped attendees imagine what it’s like to be a child—and see the world from the eyes of a child.

Speaker Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups explored how starting a revolution in early learning begins with understanding how children think. Pulling from a wealth of research and clinical experience, she explained how children need:

1. Responsive caregivers

“What children need from adults is relatedness, competence and autonomy,” Christakis said. “Children in poverty—and all children—need emotionally responsive caregivers.”

Children benefit from adults who are responsive to the signals that they are giving them. Having a nurturing, responsive relationship with adults helps children build strong social and emotional skills.

2. Supportive programs

“Our task as adults is to convey hope and encouragement to the next generation,” Christakis said. “That’s only possible when we feel nurtured and supported ourselves.”

Early childhood professionals need to feel trusted and empowered in their programs in order to best support the children and their development.

Ounce president Diana Mendley Rauner also stressed the importance of programs providing professional development and reflection time for early childhood teachers, so that they can best serve the children in their classroom.

“Teachers are not born, they’re made—and they need the time and support to build their craft,” Rauner said.

3. Nurturing environments

It’s important to be aware of children’s environment, Christakis said, defining environment as “the psychological and physical space in which children play, discover and feel loved.”

Many early childhood classrooms have lost a sense of wonder, Christakis explained. This is a detriment to children’s learning, but can be fixed by creating spaces where “children feel safe, creative and powerful,” she said.