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Using More than Language to Communicate with Young Children

Teachers can often be heard asking children to “use their words.” However, more often than not, children use nonverbal methods to communicate their needs and wants. Therefore, teachers must use their child-to-adult intuition translator to interpret what a child needs or is trying to say.

A child who loves Minnie Mouse recently joined our school. She can not speak English, and struggles to understand the support strategies her teachers use to help her feel safe and secure. The teachers’ best intentions to nurture did not help her bond with the class.

Why not use her love of Minnie Mouse as a communication method? While our school is committed to providing noncommercial toys in the classrooms, sometimes it is more important to build trust and connection rather than adhere doggedly to some ideal of quality early childhood practice. To their credit, the teachers correctly believe that a play-based program should provide materials that motivate children to engage and create rather than follow some prescribed prompt created by a commercial product. After all, the best early childhood practice is based on trusting relationships built between teachers, children and their families. And, sometimes, it takes a little Disney magic to make that happen.

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