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Beautiful Beginnings: A Developmental Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers / Edition 1 available in Paperback
Developed by two respected research consultants for Early Head Start, this extensive curriculum takes a joyful activity-based approach to enhancing the development of infants and toddlers. Professionals and parents will get more than 350 photocopiable, easy-to-use activity sheets divided into six age ranges between birth to three years that build on each child's natural strengths and interests, recognize and expand on emerging developments, and encourage progress in areas of concern.
|Publisher:||Brookes, Paul H. Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.30(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Beautiful Beginnings: A Developmental Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers, by Helen Raikes, Ph.D., & Jane McCall Whitmer, M.S.
Copyright © 2006 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Makesha is a teacher in an infant care center. Four infants have been assigned to her, and they constitute her â€œfamily.â€ At the center, she is considered their primary caregiver. Makesha is fascinated by, and engaged in, watching and thinking about these four babies, all of whom are between 7 and 10 months old. She loves observing their new developments and finding ways for the babies to exercise their emerging skills. They develop so fast! Makesha often consults the curriculum used by the center for new ideas she can implement for each emerging stage. The curriculum also helps her look for things the babies can do that she might not have noticed.
Layla has just started working in a small child care center operating out of a community center. She is working in the infant room with the young infants, ages 6 weeks to 6 months. She admires their tiny fingers and toes and how the older ones struggle so mightily to master rolling over and sitting up. Layla tries to follow the example set by her coworkers, but sometimes they are busy. To tell the truth, other than carrying the babies around, sheâ€™s not always sure what to do with them. She wonders how she can help them learn and develop.
Rick is a teacher in a toddler center that uses the Beautiful Beginnings curriculum. The toddlers he cares for compose a rambunctious group of four to six, depending on the day of the week. Rick develops a daily schedule that includes new Beautiful Beginnings Experiences for the children that are based on their development and individual differences. His classroom is ready—all of the materials for a curriculum of toys and materials for children from 18 to 36 months are on hand, carefully arranged in baskets, trays, and bins, with their location in the classroom pictorially marked so children can find and return materials. Some are in shelves that only open when Rick can carefully supervise their use, whereas others are available at all times.
Looking around the classroom, an observer sees 28-month-old Tommy pouring water from one container to another, working within the water table to contain any spills as he begins this new Experience of controlled pouring. In another part of the classroom, Zia is carefully carrying a basket of beads to a mat. She sits on the mat and begins to string these large beads. Andrew and Alan are placing large blocks end to end. Rick brings them a basket of two small cars and illustrates pretending that the cars drive down a roadway. The boysâ€™ eyes light up and they begin to imitate him. He is pleased because â€œpretendingâ€ was an Experience he had planned this week for these boys. Heâ€™d observed them putting the blocks end to end several times and thought they might be ready for the new pretending Experiences. He made a mental note to bring out the large steering wheel tomorrow to see if they expanded â€œpretending to driveâ€ from today to this new arena. As Tommy finishes, Rick shows him how to put the two small containers back on the shelf and to select something else.
These stories illustrate why using a curriculum such as Beautiful Beginnings is so important in working with young children. Teachers, home visitors, program directors, and parents may ask, â€œIsnâ€™t it enough just to offer lots of toys and a lot of love and affection? Why is such a curriculum necessary?â€
WHY A CURRICULUM IS NEEDED
Researchers and experts agree that an environment rich in opportunities helps infants and young children develop optimally. Several of the reasons why are detailed here.
Development Happens Quickly and Continually
Babies develop very, very quickly. At each new developmental stage, parents and teachers have opportunities to offer enriching experiences to babies. These experiences create foundations for the next stages of development. Beautiful Beginnings suggests appropriate experiences for infants and toddlers at each stage of development.
Brain Development Is Fostered by Rich Experiences
A well-researched, tested curriculum offers experiences that are well matched to development. Experiences of this nature are believed to stimulate neural connections in a babyâ€™s rapidly developing brain.
The Planning Is Begun
It is difficult for loving, adult caregivers, despite all they may know about child development, to plan for new experiences in every area of development because developmental changes are so many and so frequent. A curriculum keeps developmental expectations in front of teachers, caregivers, and parents and leads them to understand child development and their own special children more deeply. The next section expands on each of these reasons for using a curriculum with infants and toddlers.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS CURRICULUM
Some may still believe that curricula should be used in schools with older children, not with babies. Experienced infant/toddler teachers and directors may be concerned about babies being pushed to do things they do not want to do rather than following their own natural rhythms. The Beautiful Beginnings curriculum for infants and toddlers does not overly structure experiences for babies—just the opposite. Our curriculum provides experiences (to be capitalized as Experiences when describing the Experiences that make up this curriculum) that are to be fitted to very young childrenâ€™s natural rhythms. This curriculum is designed to be individualized to meet the needs of each child in a child care center, home visiting program, teen parenting program, other parenting education program, or home. The Experiences in Beautiful Beginnings are designed to build on each childâ€™s strengths and naturally emerging competencies and interests. But the curriculum can also be used as a safety net for children who may require extra enrichment. For example, some programs may use Beautiful Beginnings in conjunction with a screening system such as the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®(ASQ; Bricker & Squires, 1999) to ensure that children who are vulnerable receive needed developmental experiences.
The Beautiful Beginnings curriculum features six modules (one for each 6–month period from birth to age 3) that include developmentally appropriate activities (Experiences) organized by areas of development (Communication, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Intellectual, Discovery, and Social for all children, and, for infants and toddlers 6 months and older, the addition of Self-Help and then Pretend at 18 months). These Experiences are easy and inexpensive to administer and may be carried out by caregivers, home visitors, or parents. They are generally grouped according to childrenâ€™s ages but are not designed to be followed rigidly. Rather, they provide a â€œmenuâ€ of ideas, generally corresponding to developmental sequences. Each child is unique in his development, so Experiences may be selected across age spans as well as within.
Expanding on Our Curriculum
Let us return to the three reasons we stated earlier for an infant–toddler curriculum: to enrich infantsâ€™ and toddlersâ€™ experiences, to support early development in all areas, and to provide a guide for adults who care for infants and toddlers. Here, we expand on each of these.
Enrich Infantsâ€™ and Toddlersâ€™ Opportunities
Babies seek activities that correspond to their development. Each new stage of infant development offers opportunities for rich interactions with people and objects that also provide foundations for the next stages. Most people have observed that babies seem to want opportunities to practice in areas in which they are developing. Many people notice how babies who are learning to crawl canâ€™t seem to be on the floor enough, how a baby wants the adult to pop the jack-in-the-box again and again, and how toddlers want the same story read over and over in exactly the same way. Many toddlers will even correct an adult if a word is omitted from a beloved story line. Many people have noted that children almost seem to â€œlustâ€ for the opportunities to practice their new skills; in the German language, there is a term that captures this quality that translates to function lust. Observers will note that babies sometimes practice the old skills they learned at earlier stages; however, for the most part, they are attracted to opportunities to practice emerging developmental skills. Part of the allure is that these are skills young children can partially master—but another reason is that they also gravitate toward the challenge and novelty.
Nature has equipped babies to be motivated to practice just what they need to become proficient. After they become good at one skill, they are attracted to the next more difficult stage, enabling one stage to build on the next. A curriculum helps us—the adults who care so much about the babies in our charge—to find good things to put in front of them at just the right time.
Development occurs very quickly in babies. The windows of opportunity are short and require quick responses. Todayâ€™s new skill is boring to the baby a week later because of her development. The baby masters one challenge and is then quickly attracted to a new novelty. A curriculum helps caregivers find the experiences that match what the baby is attracted to today, this week. A curriculum helps caregivers provide the richness of experiences that meets the babyâ€™s rapid (sometimes exploding) development.
Several decades ago, Dr. Burton White (1975) helped parents and caregivers understand the importance of such richness of experience for older infants and toddlers. His study of notably well-developing toddlers in the Boston area, conducted in the 1960s, demonstrated that parents of these children continually expanded on the toddlersâ€™ thinking, events, and conversations.
Parents offered the â€œnext ideaâ€ to the toddlers. Parents didnâ€™t sit down and formally â€œteachâ€ their children (although they did this to some extent), but rather, they mostly taught â€œon the fly.â€ When their child brought them something to show or asked for help, the parent would typically expand on the concept, idea, word, or childâ€™s action. Most of these lessons took about 30 seconds, but they occurred hundreds of time in the course of a normal day. Naturally, parents had to be very attuned to their childâ€™s development to know what was the â€œnext idea.â€ These parents were also great architects of their childâ€™s environment and experiences, providing experiences in the home and outside the home that allowed the child to explore and practice newly emerging developments. Newer work by Hart and Risley (1995) further illustrated the role of richness of experiences (in this case, of language) provided to children by attentive caregivers.
These researchers found that effective parents provide small â€œbitesâ€ of language enrichment hundreds of times on a daily basis. Each day and in all areas of development, little windows of opportunity open for brief moments. During these opportune moments, adults can pro vide experiences that enrich, nourish, and delight the developing infant. A good curriculum can help them be somewhat prepared with new experiences to offer the baby.
Support Early Development
Child development literature is rich with early and more recent findings that support the importance of appropriately timed responses and stimulation to enhance childrenâ€™s early development.
Most early childhood teachers, providers, and parents have now heard about the importance of early brain development. They know that the most rapid phase for brain development in the lifespan is the period from birth to age 3. During this time, new neurons are forming in the brain (more so now than during any other phase) and extensions of the neurons are growing that make it possible for one neuron to â€œtalk toâ€ another one, forming pathways of neural connections. What is particularly exciting to early childhood educators and parents is that newer evidence suggests that the growth in extensions and connections seems to occur in the context of experience. That is, when a baby first makes a connection between two ideas (e.g., â€œIf I use this stick to reach, I can get that toy I wantâ€), experts believe that a neural connection is also formed. When the baby practices a new skill, an initially delicate connection becomes stronger and more robust. Thus, most early childhood experts now agree that stimulation, appropriately timed and matched to the childâ€™s readiness, is an important ingredient in differentiation of neural connections. Some of these ideas are well expressed in an important book called From Neurons to Neighborhoods that interprets what we know about early childhood development (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).
New knowledge also demonstrates that a television set that blares â€œlanguageâ€ is not an effective teacher of language development (Vandewater et al., 2005; Wright et al., 2001) and has little effect on brain development, whereas a parent who talks to communicate with the child does promote language (and brain) development.
Many of these findings are underscored by concepts such as the â€œimportance of the match,â€ This important idea, suggested by Dr. Joseph McVicker Hunt (1961), is still important today to our understanding of optimizing learning. This concept suggsts that children learn best when experiences are timed to match their developmental readiness. Huntâ€™s studies are supported by the idea that a child learns language in the context of small phonemic (i.e., referring to sounds) and syntactic (i.e., referring to the structure of language) â€œbitesâ€ of information that sensitive parents adapt to their perception of the childâ€™s readiness. Discoveries about early brain development and the importance of the match underscore the value of an artfully applied curriculum.
It is important to note that learning occurs in all areas of development, although the mechanisms may be different across areas.
Provide a Guide for Teachers, Providers, and Caregivers
A third purpose of the Beautiful Beginnings curriculum is to provide a guide for teachers, providers, home visitors, and parents as they think of ways to support development. Many adults who have had positive experiences in their own early development bring with them a repository of good responses and little games they learned in their own cradle of development.
Many of the games we introduce are such experiences, drawn from the native games, chants, and play of adults and children through the ages. We donâ€™t pretend to have captured all of the types of social games peoples of all time have played with their babies, but we do reach across a number of them. In addition, some of the games and Experiences we introduce come from science, from the clever experiments scientists have used to learn more about how infants think and learn. The Scientist in the Crib by Gopnick, Meltzoff, and Kuhl (2001), makes the new knowledge about the infantâ€™s strategies for learning accessible to the lay reader. Beautiful Beginnings provides instructions for bringing some of the activities from scientific studies into the nursery and other child care settings so parents and teachers can see for themselves the wonderful things that babies can do when they know what to look for. That is, many of these Experiences seem to reveal skills that babies and toddlers have that we may not have been aware of.
A number of teachers and home visitors who have used Beautiful Beginnings in their classrooms and in working with parents have told us that Beautiful Beginnings helps them to better understand child development. Although some people who work with infants and toddlers have had academic preparation in early development, many others have told us that their courses did not probe deeply enough into infant–toddler development to guide them in how to respond with expanding experiences timed with new developments. Other early childhood teachers and home visitors do not have preparation in infant–toddler development. Beautiful Beginnings assists these emerging professionals in understanding both the nature and timing of appropriate developmental experiences for our youngest children. Some have found that using Beautiful Beginnings in conjunction with a screening system, such as the ASQ, is an excellent way to expand understanding of early development.
Adults who care for and love young children also use Beautiful Beginnings as a guide to equipping environments for early learning. The information provided in the curriculum pertains to teachers in center-based programs, home visitors equipping a lending library, and parents setting up their home to be a great learning environment.
The Experiences in the curriculum can be organized into an appropriately stimulating child development environment, a point we talk more about later. Teachers viewing Beautiful Beginnings in this way say that it guides them in providing a developmentally appropriate environment for the infants and toddlers they care for.
Table of Contents
About the Authors
Section I. Getting to Know Beautiful Beginnings
- Infant and Toddler Development
- Using Beautiful Beginnings: An Individualized Program
Materials and Equipment List
Section II. Beautiful Beginnings Experiences
0–6 Months Overview Goals ChartCommunication
6–12 MonthsOverview Goals ChartCommunication
Self-Help12–18 MonthsOverview Goals ChartCommunication
Self-Help18–24 MonthsOverview Goals ChartCommunication
Pretend24–30 MonthsOverview Goals ChartCommunication
Pretend30–36 MonthsOverview Goals ChartCommunication
About the Authors
About this CD-ROM
Blank Goals Sheet
Beautiful Beginnings Experiences & Overview Goals Charts