In early childhood education, fostering social-emotional development is the foundation of most curriculum. When students and teachers come together to form a classroom community, providing outlets to discuss, express, and share emotions is both important and necessary to support the ongoing creation of that community as a safe and inclusive space for all. In school and in life, we are are connected in our humanity. As humans, we feel things. This is the central thread that binds us all together.
How do CNS teachers support the social-emotional development of children?
A child’s self portrait reveals many things, including the development of fine motor, observation and focusing skills, and the child’s own perception of his or her self. By participating in this project several times over the course of the year, children are able to deepen the aforementioned skills at their own pace. As time passes, it is empowering for children to see how far they’ve come with their skills, and more importantly, to see how much they’ve grown inside and out.
Exploring emotions through tactile, sensory experiences allows children to express themselves in a way that makes sense to them. Angry? Squeezing play dough tightly can help to release tension. Anxious? Rolling small pieces of play dough into a smooth ball may help to calm nerves. Children are feelers. Allow them to feel things (literally!).
Children and teachers come together to share ideas and conversation during morning circle time. Providing children with the space to name and acknowledge their emotions helps foster a collective environment in which everybody's feelings are validated and accepted.
"Loose parts" are an integral element of the Reggio Emilia approach in large part because of their potential for creative self-expression. Here, children were invited to design a representation of self utilizing a variety of collected loose parts, such as popsicle sticks, gemstones, small rocks, buttons, and wood pieces. How does this representation make you feel? How do you think the child was feeling? What kind of conversation could come about while children are connecting with their feelings and each other's feelings in this way?
Feelings do not exist to be pushed aside or conquered. They exist to be engaged and expressed, and to deepen our understanding of other people and the world around us. At CNS, we celebrate humanity in its many forms. We celebrate childhood. We celebrate feelings.