Our highest priority at AlderWood is providing the children with the social and emotional tools to become strong, kind, and driven.
Self-motivated cooperative play is the main focus of the day. The children are able to move freely between areas: art, classroom activities, inside play, outside play, our mini-gym, or our construction zone.
While in these spaces, teachers observe social interactions and offer assistance when needed, helping the children to strengthen their social language and self-regulation.
Being allowed to choose activities and move freely between them, builds strength and self-awareness. Children are so often told what to do and when, a free child knows their interests and can express their wants and needs.
Our space features activities that naturally promote the healthy progress of a child's 4 areas of development: physical, cognitive, language, and social/emotional.
Physical movement is a huge part of our program; children need to run, jump, climb, and dance! Within the limits of safety, children are encouraged to move in any way they desire. Our backyard features swings, climbing walls, climbing trees, open grassy areas; as well as our very own mini gymnasium with impact-mat flooring and a variety of swings and other movement materials. In addition to spending time in our backyard, we take weekly trips to the neighborhood park.
Cognitive development is promoted through fun and challenging activities such as puzzles, games, and our "table activities", which inspire critical thinking, fine motor skills, and identification of colors, letters, and numbers.
Langauge is the thread that ties everything together; it connects us, and it’s how we communicate our needs and ideas. Through stories, books, songs, and letter activities, the children learn how powerful and vital language is, and are able to strengthen their language skills.
Social/emotional development is crucial to achieving success in all other areas of development. Whether it’s wanting something a friend has, wishing to join in on a game, or needing space from a friend, every opportunity to interact with other children is an opportunity to build social skills. Our program plays special attention to fostering social skills by: modeling, scaffolding interactions, and praising positive interactions. We use a model of emotional regulation “zones”: blue is sad or sick, yellow is frustrated or too silly, red is angry, and green is happy, calm and focused. This context has been extremely helpful in promoting self-regulation.
Development in all of these areas is also encouraged by the talented outside instructors that come in to our space to teach yoga and music on alternating weeks.
Conflict as an Educator
At AlderWood we understand that conflict is a natural and necessary element of early childhood development. As teachers, we help promote conflict resolution by observing how conflicts arise, and offering the guidance and proper language to help the children solve the problem. Allowing the children to find their own solution, inspires the confidence and skills to talk through conflict on their own without adult intervention.
In the event of an act of aggression (hitting, biting, pushing, etc), teachers make sure that the children are safe, stepping in if necessary; we keep our voices soft and calm, we remind the aggressor how we should treat our friends, and teach empathy for the victim by bringing attention to their emotions, often through facial expression. We often use a technique called "cross-talking" to verbally describe the situation in the presence of both the victim and the aggressor to inspire understanding of the consequences of hurting our friends. Without excessive adult intervention, which takes attention off of the act and puts it on adult reaction, an aggressive child can easily see the natural consequences that result from hurting people.
We use positive reinforcement, by commenting on kind and gentle behavior that we see throughout the day, hence children learn that positive interactions get them positive attention. When a child is exhibiting attention-seeking negative behavior, we address it and move on quickly without ill feelings or resentment, and then actively find the soonest opportunity for showering that child with love and attention to fulfill their need for attention in a positive way.
Nature as an Educator
Children have an innate ability to connect with the outdoors. We spend lots of time outside, using the inherently educational properties of nature as another teacher, plants teach us about the life cycle, rain illustrates the science of weather, and gardening inspires an understanding and appreciate for agriculture.
We have 2 dwarf goats that the children help care for, getting them hay and water, and feeding them veggie scraps and leaves from the yard. Spending time with animals has a wonderful, therapeutic effect. And loving and respecting earth's other creatures helps diminish selfish human-centric practices.