“We still don’t know what the child has…”, told me a teacher about the difficulties she was experiencing with a child who demonstrated behavioural problems. That sentence kept me wondering. Gathering information about what the child “has”, i.e., trying to know “his/her” diagnosis, underlies a genuine concern. But are those difficulties due primarily to something he/she “has”? To what extent knowing the diagnosis is essential to plan interventions at home, daycare or kindergarten?
“Ooh, too little exercise? No, my preschoolers move more than enough and can hardly sit still!” This is how teacher Nathalie describes her 4-year-olds during my class visit. However… recent research in Flemish preschoolers reveals a completely different picture. Slightly less than 90% of the preschoolers do not reach the international guidelines for physical activity on weekdays.
Teacher, why is that girl so dirty? When young children make such statements, we are inclined to pass over them (‘she does not know what she is saying’), to blame the parents (‘they must have picked it up at home’) or to quickly and generally condemn these statements (‘you cannot say that, that is not nice’). We assume that children will grow up to be unprejudiced adults if we do not talk about ‘it’. Contrary to what we believe, young children are not ‘colour-blind’.
“When I have something on my mind, I just walk to the teacher. Yes, I’ll ask for suggestions like ‘how do I need to do these things at home? Do you have suggestions?’ Yes, I can always count on her..” – Batoul, parent of Dahbi (4 years old).
Conversation is crucial for language acquisition, but talking in the home context is quite different from talking in an ECEC setting. I would like to share 5 tips to enrich those conversations. 1 The type of activity matters. “Language-all-day-long” is a beautiful goal to pursue. However, in practice what really matters is what you do (a.o. Cabell et al., 2014). Excellent contexts to produce rich, language stimulating conversations have been shown to be science activities and storytelling moments. Thus, focussing on these is a first great strategy for language development.
It’s Emma’s first day of teacher training in a nursery school. She quickly observes the classroom. Where do they need me? Emma is everywhere and nowhere in the classroom; she walks – no, she runs – from one corner to another and back. She wants all toddlers to receive all the attention they need at all times… However, is that possible? And more: is it necessary?