Month: September 2018
Toddlerhood is a time of many feelings. It’s a time of discovering new feelings, of not always having the words to put to feelings, and of figuring out how to express feelings. In My Heart does a beautiful job of describing feelings in ways that may feel very familiar to a toddler and it helps them to find the words to put to the multitude of feelings that they are experiencing.
Name of Book:
Summary of Book:
Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside. With language that is lyrical but also direct, toddlers will be empowered by this new vocabulary and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. With whimsical illustrations and an irresistible die-cut heart that extends through each spread, this unique feelings book is gorgeously packaged. (Summary courtesy of goodreads.com)
Recommended Age Range:
2 – 6 years. Note this is a younger age range than is listed by Barnes & Noble. They list the range as 3 – 6 years. We think that it’s a book worth introducing as early as 2 years as this is when toddlers are first starting to struggle with the ability to express their feelings and this book does a great job of introducing various “feeling” words into a young toddler’s vocabulary.
Why We Like It:
Jo Witek’s book, In My Heart, does a beautiful job of addressing the vast array of feelings that a toddler and young child are experiencing. Young children can struggle with putting feelings into words and may express their frustrations or feelings of discomfort or sadness in various non-verbal ways when they don’t know how to express themselves.
It is our job, as parents or caretakers, to create a safe and trusting relationship so a child can feel comfortable enough to work through those struggles. It is our job to be aware of the various manifestations of these feelings, to help children work through them, and give them tools to express them. It is our job to let them HAVE those feelings. Even the ugly, messy, uncomfortable ones. Because all feelings are valid. It is so important for a child to understand that it is ok to have feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, and fear along with all the other wonderful happy feelings we experience. By creating an environment in which a child feels safe to have a wide array of feelings and supporting them as they work through their feelings we validate who they are and what they are going through.
Very little people have very big emotions. And it can be overwhelming for them. It can be overwhelming for us, as the adults in the room as well. In My Heart works through the full gamut of feelings in such a beautiful and fun way. The illustrations in the book are whimsical and playful and the descriptions of the various feelings are spot on and age appropriate. We’ve found this book to be a wonderful tool to introduce vocabulary related to feelings into the lives of little ones.
Having just made a major cross-country move with many bumps and unexpected twists and turns along the way we have gone through many, many feelings in the last few months. Having a book like this was so helpful to open conversations about different feelings as we navigated (and are still navigating!) that journey.
Others in the Series:
- Brave As Can Be: A Book of Courage
- Hello in There!: A Big Sister’s Book of Waiting
- With My Daddy: A Book of Love and Family
- In My Room: A Book of Creativity and Imagination
- All My Treasures: A Book of Joy
We are now into our fifth month here at the BrainFit Kids blog. If you’ve been following along since the beginning you now have a pretty good grasp of the basics that go into creating a well developed and functioning brain. If you’ve been applying those basic concepts with your children you should be seeing some solid results in terms of their development.
Today, we’re going to look at another important core principle that the developing brain adheres to right from the start. Remember, the first core principle is that brain development is progressive. The second core principle that we observe at work in the development of the human brain is that brain development is synergistic.
Synergy is defined as the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.
There is a tendency in the biological and medical sciences to always reduce the whole into its constituent parts. It’s a way of looking at the world that dates to the 16th century and is most commonly known as reductionist thinking or the reductionist paradigm. Most of our modern medical miracles are the result of reductionist thinking. It’s a very useful way of looking at the world. But, it has its problems and it cannot explain everything.
Another way of looking at the world involves seeing how parts relate to one another and influence one another. This is called systems thinking or the systems paradigm. This is how we see the human brain and its development. The human brain is a system unto itself, that is part of the central nervous system, which interacts with and influences other systems (circulatory, digestive, respiratory, etc.), which comprise the human person, who lives in relationship with other human persons, etc., etc.
When thinking about these two seemingly contrarian ways of looking at the world, it is not necessary to reject one in order to embrace the other. Indeed a much fuller understanding of what is actually going on is only achievable when one is able to see the validity of both paradigms.
When we apply systems thinking to our understanding of the human brain we see the brain’s parts (medulla, pons, midbrain, cortex) as not merely individual physical structures with unique responsibilities but also as parts of a greater whole that relate to each other, that influence and affect each other, and that, when working smoothly together, provide for a level of performance that is only possible through the relationship that the parts have with each other. It’s a lot like a symphony orchestra!
By this I mean that as the different parts of the brain develop, all of the brain’s functions develop together simultaneously and work together to produce an overall level of ability. Each function influences the development of the others. If you improve one function, all other functions will improve to some extent. The opposite is also true. If a child loses ability in one area, other areas of ability will suffer. This synergy produces an effect that is different from and greater than the sum of the individual effects of each function alone.
So, what does synergy look like in the real world of young children? Imagine a young baby of between 3 and 7 months of age before you. Typically, assuming development is proceeding as it should, this baby will have a certain level of ability in every area of function.
In vision, the baby will have the ability to converge her eyes as she tries to focus them on an object, a face, etc.
In tactile ability, the baby will have a good appreciation of pleasant touch (caresses, tickling, etc.) as well as some sense of spatial awareness and balance. This spatial awareness will manifest itself in the form of the ability to hold a sitting position and the ability to push up onto hands and knees and then hold that “quadruped” position.
In mobility, the baby will begin to experiment with moving forward in that quadruped position eventually developing the function we call creeping.
Lastly, in manual ability the baby will now have the ability to reach out with one hand and pick up and object using the whole hand, a function known as prehensile grasp.
All of the functions that I just described are functions that are controlled by the part of the brain called the midbrain. Every time the baby uses any of these functions she is developing her midbrain. The more she uses them, the more her midbrain develops. If she is denied the opportunity to develop or use any of these functions, the development of her midbrain will be affected.
So, imagine this little baby is down on the floor getting some tummy time. She pushes herself up into a quadruped position and holds the position. She then looks at a little piece of lint on the floor a few feet in front of her. She may rock back and forth a few times as she focuses her eyes on the piece of lint. She then looks up and sees her favorite toy on the floor on the other side of the room. She starts to creep towards the toy. All the while she has her eyes focused on the object of her desire. Finally, she reaches the toy and with one hand reaches out and picks it up.
What you just witnessed is synergy in action. You saw the functions of vision, hearing (the auditory mechanism is involved in balance), tactile ability, mobility, and manual ability being performed simultaneously; and all the while this little girl’s midbrain is getting a ton of input and producing a ton of responses (output).
The beauty of this principle is that it gives us lots of clues about what to do when development is not proceeding as we might hope. Consider the function of convergence for example. Typically, children with convergence problems are treated with surgery, glasses, patches, and/or eye exercises. These are all reductionist approaches. When we see a child who has convergence problems we use a systems approach and apply the principle of synergy. Why? Remember, convergence is a function of the midbrain. Children cannot converge their eyes at birth. Their vision is monocular. They begin to develop convergence and binocular vision when their midbrain starts to develop. So, rather than focus our efforts on the eyes, we focus on the brain. Makes sense since that’s where the problem is. Specifically, we have the child creep, creep, and creep some more. Over the years, we have completely solved convergence problems in many children who were slated for surgery for strabismus (crossed eyes), just by having them creep… which is to say just by developing their midbrains!
Go ahead and watch some synergy in action! It’s a beautiful thing!