Most of what we teach at daycare is inseparable from care-giving. Here are a few examples that have been on my mind recently.
A big part of what we teach kids is problem-solving skills. A good and common example is helping them to recognize when a situation calls for a step stool, locating one, and then using it safely. It’s simple but powerful to see children develop pride in their own ability to solve their problems that they identify in the world, to be more self-sufficient, and to develop skills for using tools. In this sense, problem solving is at the intersection of “ways of seeing the world”, “ways of seeing oneself”, and “understanding how technologies transform the relationship between our self and the world”.
We also spend a lot of time and effort helping children to be coming more collaborative partners in their own care. Outsiders are often surprised at how skilled the children who come here are at using glassware and silverware, both the mechanics and the mindfulness needed. We also spend a lot of our time teaching kids how to be more active agents in routines with clothing— shoes in and off, shirts on and off, jackets on and off, and so on. This starts quite early with sportscasting to infants, narrating how you are helping to move their body as clothes come off and on. I have honestly seen 6 month olds who are much better at helping to change their clothes than a two or three year old. Bethany typically expects kids to be able to put on their own jackets before three.
We also teach kids to look for things. This sounds funny, but we are often teaching kids not just the mindset of how to actively look for something (in more and less obvious places), but often the mechanics of how to move one’s eyes across a scene, and how and where to move one’s bodies and hands. Some kids will run into a room to look for a toy, and just move their eyes across the walls of a room (never looking down or focusing anywhere), or open a closet door and actually never look in. Learning to find things involves specific mechanics of coordinated eye and hand movements, searching one’s memories for where something might be or was seen last, and even keeping track of where one has and hasn’t yet looked. Kids get better with practice, support, modeling, and specific skill development.
We teach kids to move their bodies to safety. As soon as babies are crawling, we will have already started a process that seems odd a first. For example, a baby is upset on the floor, perhaps frustrated about a toy, or a very small booboo. Instead of going all the way over to the baby and picking them up or putting them in our lap, we will go almost all the way there, and put our hands within an inch, and kindly and gently say, “I’m right here with you. You can come to me for comfort.” It is difficult, but that small step they have to take in this moments opens a door for them developing more agency in the world, and that they are partners not just recipients in creating safety, giving and taking comfort, and in advocating for one self . It’s, of course, important not to abuse this or to use this maliciously, but instead to be supportive and encouraging. As kids get older, of course, we expect them to broaden their agency and responsibilities, and to collaborate with peers (not just adults) in the creating of safety and the giving and taking of comfort, but it starts very early on.
Of course, there are so many other things we are learning here, but those are a few that have been in my mind this season.