September Rolls Out Special Days

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Beth Pinyerd

The Classroom Observer has been focusing on our early childhood population the past few weeks. Our community offers so many wonderful learning opportunities for young children.

As a community, we are beginning to get glimpses of autumn with some cool breezes, leaves showing autumn colors and squirrels bustling around for nuts and acorns.

First of all, I want to share some characteristics and needs of young children, then share with families a few simple autumn activities that your young child will enjoy.

The early childhood years — from infant to 5 years old — are important years in a person’s life. Young children are so open to learning in their earlier years. What an exciting time, but demanding for parents and caregivers of younger children. As children grow in their curiosity, meet their learning needs by spending individual time with them. Success and outlook in life begin in these very early years, so we do not want to ignore the needs of a young child. Here are some basic needs of younger children:

1. Appreciation: Younger children need people who really understand and appreciate that they are young, with certain age and developmental needs. We meet their needs by providing activities and an environment where they can learn new concepts, apply what they have learned and be successful. It’s important for us to observe the needs of each age group, as well as individual children, in planning activities that are relevant. Also, for children with special needs, we need to carefully plan family activities where they feel included and will succeed. Young children love to take a nature walk. Point out nature items they can easily put in a bag, such as colorful autumn leaves, nuts, acorns, pinecones and other items. It is so much fun to share the nature items that you and your children find. Young children can learn to classify the different items of nature by sorting and gluing them on tagboard or paper.  

2. Secure: Younger children need to feel safe and secure. Keeping young children on a predictable schedule gives them security; they know what to expect. The time we spend with our children gives them a base of security. Also, the way we talk and communicate with our children shows acceptance or rejection. Young children quickly pick up on the tone of our voice and instructions. We want to encourage and not break their spirit as they begin their lives in learning, self-development and social development. A balance of instruction, discipline and praise is so important for the young child. With security, why not include your children in raking up autumn leaves as a family in the yard? Mountains of leaves and straw offer many teachable and playing moments. Let their little imaginations express themselves as you maintain a safe environment.

3. Explore: Younger children learn by exploring. Of course, this means supervised exploring. Children in their toddler years up to 5 years old learn so very much by hands-on, visual learning. Having a variety of different materials that are safe for young hands to explore encourages younger minds to learn new concepts. Materials and adventures don’t have to be expensive, but available. Also, the parent or caregiver needs to make himself or herself available to answer questions. This need can be met in autumn by driving, walking and hiking with your little ones as you point out the birds, ducks and geese gathering in flight as they migrate to other places. I lived in Baldwin County, close to the bay, for 30 years. I saw many ducks and geese migrate over Alabama’s beautiful Mobile Bay, but I am so fascinated now in Lee County seeing birds, ducks and geese gathering in flight as they migrate to other places. Teach your young children that migration means to move to a warmer environment for the winter.

4. Significance and Belonging: As a teacher of young children, I realize firsthand how important it is for our little fellows and gals to feel important and special. As a family, assign tasks or chores that little hands can do. Include your young children in helping prepare autumn snacks, such as simple pizzas, decorating and sprinkling fall sugar cookies and more. Guide your older children in the family to spend time with the younger children.

One fun, simple excursion is to take a blanket and enjoy autumn picnics in favorable weather as you talk about what autumn means for your children. Autumn offers such beautiful, rich blue skies and breathtaking sunsets that the whole family can enjoy. It offers teachable moments of what is happening as the sun goes down.

Good relationships with caring adults and family can be a foundation for learning, adjustment and development in the early childhood years. Enjoy your young children. As autumn approaches, plan ways to celebrate your young child and the season. 

Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer

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