Emotional Development: Curriculum and Guidance (page 2)
Toddlers are making rapid advances in the area of emotional development, and it is a time for very sensitive support and guidance from adults. A major focus of development is identity formation accompanied by emotional thinking and ideas, and the ability to express feelings. Observing toddlers at play will provide extensive information about their emotional development. From there, guidance strategies will play a prominent role in nurturing the development.
Identity Formation. Toddlers are working hard to develop a sense of self. Much of their resistance to adult limits, or their "no" responses to requests, are attempts to establish themselves as individuals. When you watch them, you see other signs of this development; for example, they talk about themselves, assign characteristics to themselves, and evaluate themselves. As toddlers explore their room at the Helen Gordon Center, we see them work hard to master a variety of tasks, such as assembling puzzles, forming the play-dough into a specific shape, or arranging the animals in a line. Most of these efforts are accompanied by an acknowledgment of "I can do it" to themselves or to a caregiver or teacher. These toddlers are feeling some power and establishing themselves as capable of doing things.
As children go about their business of play in the toddler room, everything going on about them is contributing to their sense of self. The conversations in the room, the actions and interactions of adults and other children, and the materials and activities are all incorporated into lessons that toddlers integrate into their developing identity formation. Lally (1995) suggests that some of these lessons can include:
- What to fear
- Which of one's behaviors are seen as appropriate
- How one's messages are received and acted upon
- How successful one is at getting one's needs met by others
- What emotions and intensity level of emotions one can safely display
- How interesting one is (p. 61)
The importance of both curriculum and guidance is that they are sending key messages to the children. Toddlers are learning that they are capable, that they are respected, and that they are enjoyable. They are learning that they have choices and that others like to be with them. The next time you see an adult and a child in a grocery store, observe them to determine what messages are being communicated to the child about himself. Do the same as you watch children and adults on the bus, or at the library, or walking down the street. Those messages contribute significantly to the child's overall emotional development and specifically to her identity formation. Equally important are the opportunities for toddlers to try out all kinds of roles and to experiment with their own potential. Toddlers need to build a sense of themselves from their own efforts.
Establishing Independence. Early in the year, as Darren and Jennifer reminded us, the toddlers were asserting their independence by being stubborn or rigid and sometimes negative. "No" was heard throughout the room. Many of their activities were repeated over and over and usually in the exact same way. Any adult who has read and reread a favorite story to a child knows that you don't dare skip a page or change a word, or you will hear vehement complaints. Recently, one of your authors read a book to her granddaughter and was told, "You didn't finish! You forgot to say who wrote it."
Young toddlers often object to routines and requests simply on principle. If you ask them to go outside, they will want to stay in. If you ask them to stay in, they will want to go outside. They are often expressing their developing need for autonomy. Older toddlers continue their expression but in much more enjoyable ways. They want to show what they created or what they can do. As Hughes (1991) describes it, "There is a joy in accomplishment and an interest in showing off one's creations and talents" (p. 75). Ibrahim often approaches Jennifer with, "Teacher, I made a building" or "Look at my snake."
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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