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Article 1. Connection with children

Over the past decade there has been an enormous amount of research informing us on how the brain develops, and technology now brings this information into the palm of our hand. We know that the first 1000 days are critical in a child’s development and that the first five years is the most impactful time to positively influence the developing brain. As early childhood teachers we have an incredible opportunity to make a meaningful difference for children through the power of connection. This series of three blog articles will explore connection from three different angles and how we can apply this to our important work supporting children’s healthy brain development.

From birth an infant’s behaviour is designed to draw in and keep an adult close. Infants cannot survive without a someone to care for them; this is an in-built biological survival mechanism. Children’s attachment systems are always “on”; therefore, an infant will seek connection with an adult that is in close proximity and is emotionally available. This means that an infant will provide attachment seeking cues and if these cues are met with a sensitive and predictable response, the infant will start to develop trust, and an emotional connection will be formed.

Emotional connection creates the biochemistry that optimises the function of the brain. An infant learns how to feel about themselves, how to be in a relationship, and how to regulate their own emotions through being in a sensitive, responsive and predictable relationship.

Forming a meaningful connection with a child is one of the most powerful ways that early childhood teachers can support children’s social and emotional wellbeing. In doing so, we are creating the opportunity for the growth of neural connections that lay the foundation for future relationships, learning and development.

When the brain activates certain pathways, the connection is strengthened. This explains why when we practice something, we get better at it, and when we don’t practice a skill for a long period of time, the brain prunes this connection and we lose it. When a connection is repeatedly activated the brain lays down a special coating over the neural connection, which turns it into a superhighway for transmitting information.

As a teacher in the early learning environment there are many opportunities for meaningful connection throughout the day. Children travel around the circle of security hundreds of times in a day. If we are attuned to children’s needs, read their cues and are emotionally available, then we can respond appropriately with connection moments of shared delight, comfort and care.

Conscious discipline discusses four elements of connection, eye contact, touch, presence and playfulness. Our bodies produce a chemical called oxytocin, this is sometimes known as the hormone of love, every time we share a connection moment our brain and body is flooded with the chemistry that tells us that we are safe, connected and loved. https://consciousdiscipline.com/the-power-of-connection/ accessed 02/03/20

“every time we share a connection moment our brain and body is flooded with the chemistry that tells us that we are safe, connected and loved.”

Forming meaningful connections with the children in our care is foundational to building healthy brain architecture. In this article we have explored the importance of building relationships with children, the power of meaningful connection.

About

Sonia is the founder and director of CHILD SA. CHILD SA aims to provide education and support for families, educators and organisations in order to foster a deep understanding of the social and emotional development and wellbeing of babies and children in the early years. Sonia holds a Graduate Certificate in Child and Family Health Nursing from Flinders University and has worked with children and families in the community for over 16 years.

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