By Corrine Shipman, M.ED
In early childhood, meaningful connections are formed by following our child’s lead and meeting them at their developmental level. This means allowing our children to take the lead during playtime and engaging in activities that are interesting to them. For example, if they are playing with a toy car and making sounds with their lips, you should do the same. It also means being responsive to their cues and interests. If our child shows an interest in animals, we can engage and support them by creating access to different animals while talking about the different
species, habitats, and characteristics while we are playing together. By actively participating in play in this way, we show our children that we value them and what they find important. Which lays the foundation for positive relationships in the future.
Following our children’s lead is closely linked to connecting with them at their developmental level. This involves understanding their emotional ups and downs, such as the challenges they may face during transitions or the unpredictable tantrums they will have. It also means being flexible and accommodating, such as reading a book out of order if that’s how your child wants to explore it, or putting an extra pair of shoes in their bag to avoid a fight before school. Additionally, it involves adapting our communication to meet their needs, such as simplifying our language (especially if they are displaying elevated behavior or have a language difference) and giving them time adequate ‘wait time’ to respond independently.
Connecting with our children by following their lead– at their developmental level is vital for building strong bonds, fostering autonomy, enhancing communication and language development, supporting social and emotional growth, promoting cognitive development, and nurturing their social skills and relationships. By actively engaging with our children in meaningful ways, we create an environment that values their unique perspectives, strengths, and interests, setting them up for a lifetime of learning and success.