Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Interacting with the Brain


Tuesday 25 September 2018

As I read last week's Scéalta blog post, I really started to think about the important role of the adult working with children under the age of three. Kathleen Tuite discussed care routines for children under three and how these times are a wonderful opportunity to build trusting relationships with children. I couldn’t agree more. These times are so precious, and we really need to slow down and focus on these interactions. But why? What impact are we really having? Well, we may be having more of an impact than we think.

Although we know that the parent is the primary caregiver and educator of the child, early years educators do spend a considerable amount of time with children in full day care settings, so it is important to build relationships and communications between educator, parent and child. The educator’s role is about supplementing the care of the child, rather than replacing the loving care children need from home. Early years educators become the constant, trustworthy, responsive adult in the parents’ absence and this can be quite challenging. The question remains: does your role matter?

Research conducted by the Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University, tells us that 700 new neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of a child’s life and experiences that children have contribute to the shaping of a child’s brain. They refer to this as the ‘serve and return’ relationship. It is essential that educators working with children respond to the child’s early attempts to converse, as their ability to communicate is still developing. The absence of this ‘serve and return’ interaction can impact on brain architecture and lead to disparities in learning and behaviour. Sue Gerhardt (2004), in her book “Why Love Matters”, tells us that when very young children and their caregivers engage in joint playful experiences, pleasant hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, which support development, are released in the brain. When these ‘feel good’ chemicals are dominant in the brain, children see the world as calm, safe, interesting and wonderful. It is these consistent loving and nurturing interactions which are repeated over time, that teach a child how to trust the caregiver. This insight provided Gerhardt with the subtitle of her book ‘how affection shapes the brain’.

Interactions are more than just talking, listening or having eye contact with the child. They require educators who will consider their feelings, who will interact with them for meaningful lengths of time and who will follow the child’s lead. Bonds are formed through these interactions and it is these bonds that impact on the health of the child’s physical, social, emotional and brain development.

So, as we move forward we must recognise that we play such a vital role in all areas of child development and that caring is educational and education must have elements of caring. A primary goal in early education should be about building secure attachments with children of all ages.



Fiona Kelleher works with Early Childhood Ireland as an Early Childhood Specialist and Siolta Mentor. She has a BA (Hons) degree in early childhood care and education and is currently undertaking her MA in Leadership and Advocacy in the Early years with IT Sligo. Fiona has worked with NCNA/ECI for 13 years. She works with full and part services in delivering the Siolta Quality Assurance programme in the west of Ireland while also delivering training and mentoring across all areas of Early Years Practice. Fiona has recently completed her Marte Meo Colleague Training as this is a particular area of interest for her.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Pen green(1) Playschool(1) Anxiety(2) Laugh(1) Engagement(1) Names(1) Role play(1) Capable(1) maternity health(1) Through the looking glass(1) Little Buddies(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Engineering(3) Orla Kenny(1) Magda Gerber(1) UNCRC(2) Professionalisation(5) Health(2) Youtube Series(1) ReCreate(2) Gratitude(1) Oireachtas(1) social media(1) experience(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Queues(1) Confident(1) UD(1) UN(1) Academics(1) Magnavacchi(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Favouritism(1) RIE philosphy(1) Inspections(1) Wonder(1) Painting(1) Family(1) Magic(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) environments(1) Siolta blog(8) worries(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Traffic Lights(1) Interests(1) Children's Rights(3) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Digital Devices(1) Diversity(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Death(2) memories(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Mental Health(3) early years research(2) bloom app(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Horizon 2020(1) gender stereotype(1) meals(3) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Inspirational(2) gender bias(1) Learning journals(1) NCCA(3) Facebook(1) Reflective Practice(1) AsIAm(2) Training(2) Advocacy(1) Budget 2019(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Reggio(1) Weather(1) Mud kitchens(1) Treasure(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Graduate(1) under 3's(3) Bereavement(2) Syria(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Autism(4) Research Seminar(1) Budget 2018(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Yoga(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Reading Time(1) Affordability(1) Thank you(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Breathing(2) Learning Journal(2) Exploring and Thinking(1) Super Shed Stories(2) United Nations(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Fabric(1) Fee Play(1) Childcare(3) education(2) communication(4) Routines(2) National Childcare Scheme(1) Awards 2018(3) Malaguzzi(1) Trade union(1) Children's Voice(1) life long learning(1) Reggio Children Network(1) supportive environments(2) Buddies(1) Exit interview(1) Light table(1) Qualifications(1) Self Help Skills(1) dining(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Administrative Burden(1) Storytelling(6) Window(1) Workforce(1) Eritrea(1) Academic Skills(1) CCTV(1) Upcycling(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Universal Design(2) early years learning(1) Change(1) Celebrations(4) Belonging(3) research(6) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Photographs(1) Maynooth(1) Valentine's Day(3) Shoes(1) Online(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Afghanistan(1) outdoor space(3) Well-Being(9) outdoors(3) role playing(1) preschool settings(1) play(34) Kids Own(1) bonds(1) curriculum(5) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Performing(1) ECEC Setting(2) science(3) respect(5) Workplace well-being(1) Shapes(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Creativity(4) The Lullaby Book(1) Our Little Seed(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) ERASMUS+(3) development(8) Recycle(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Celebrate(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Spiders(1) SPICE Framework(1) Stress(2) Technology(3) Competent(1) Ceremony(1) Digital(1) Motor neuron disease(1) dublin(2) linc(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) HR(1) Children's Research Network(1) learners(1) Communicating(1) dogs(1) Trade Unions(1) Relaxation(1) Frustrations(1) Aistear(116) Creative(1) Rituals(1) Music(3) TRAP(1) Educators(2) Infectious diseases(1) Maths Week(1) Trigonometry(1) Wesco(1) Body Language(1) Childhood(1) Exploring(1) Brain(1) Plants(1) Certificate(1) Nutrition(1) Drawing(2) Rich Documentation(1) emotional environment(2) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) food(1) curiosity(3) Síolta QAP(1) planning(1) Smiles(1) iOS(1) Mindfulness(2) Valerie Gaynor(1) christmas(9) keezy(1) Treasure Chest(1) Games(1) University(1) Scents(1) Flowers(1) Awards 2019(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Cognitive development(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Seas Suas(1) Giraffe(2) toddlers(3) stories(3) Human Resources(1) relationships(17) Supernanny(1) mushrooms(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Patterns(1) code of ethics(1) Dance(1) Sculptures(1) conference(1) Limerick(1) Loss(1) purpose(1) Environment(2) Map(1) Inclusion(3) Emergent Curriculum(1) Penguins(1) Appreciation(1) Time Out(1) play stories(2) pablo(1) Book Review(1) Family wall(1) childcare services(1) interacting(2) Running(1) Snack Time(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) risk assessment(1) Sustainability(3) Jenga(1) educating(1) structure(1) Policy(2) Margy Whalley(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Inter-generational learning(2) listening(1) Confidence(1) transitions(10) Building Resilience(1) Covid pandemic(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Self-Esteem(1) Meal time(1) Iceland(1) Sweets(1) Biting(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Potential(1) Staff Motivation(1) parents(6) conversations(1) eating(1) Obesity(1) Lego(2) science week(2) collaboration(1) Interaction(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) youdoodle(1) Nonverbal(1) behavioural science(1) National Holiday(1) art of the relationship(1) DES Inspection(1) Arts(1) Settling in(4) Investment(2) Winter(1) Communications(1) phone apps(1) Sustainable(1) early learning(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) budget(1) Maynooth University(2) ECCE(7) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Child mental health(1) community(5) Line-ups(1) feisty(1) Titles(1) Early Childhood Ireland(1) primary education(1) Craft(1) Thinking(1) trust(5) Awards Night(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Design(1) Opportunities(1) babies(7) Study Trip(1) Graduation(1) ICBN(1) opportunity(1) Interactions(2) Montessori(3) Irish(1) overhear(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) EM Standing(1) Santa(2) Participation(2) Touch(1) Learning Story(1) Independence(1) Inter-generational(2) blog(28) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) grandchild(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Leprechauns(1) Traditions(2) Playdough(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Fantasy play(1) Cork(1) Thanks(1) CIT(1) Wendy Lee(3) IGL(1) College(1) Budget 2020(1) Visitors(1) Identity(5) Vertical grouping(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Sleep(1) Children and families(1) Socioemotional development(1) STEM(3) St. Patrick's Day(1) Teamwork(1) MA(1) Pobal sector profile(1) aistear blog(3) Buddy Bench(1) listen(1) Hand Hygiene(1) Home Corner(1) Recycling(2) Behaviour(3) baby room(1) Early Years Educators(3) Whole Group(1) Pobal(1) Vietnam(1) MECPI(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Arithmetic(1) reading(5) Deirdre Rogers(1) Laughter(1) GDPR(1) Italy(1) Love(2) Prexit(1) Mealtimes(1) risky play(2) Identity and Belonging(4) Inspired Practice Award(5) Leaders in Practice(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Norway(2) documentation(4) Children(4) Research and Professional Learning(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) apps for children(1) Halloween(2) books(4) Sequins(1) School Age Childcare(1) Trick or treat(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Gardening(1) Wrapping paper(1) Mount Everest(1) PIP(1) animals(2) Engineers Week(2) DCYA(4) Community involvement(1) Sport(1) Decisions(1) Kerry(1) Iraq(1) COVID-19(4) Easter(1) annual conference(1) emotions(2) ears(1) Xbox(1) continual professional development(1) Grief(1) imotion(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Imagination(3) Builders(1) value(1) Snacks(1) AIM(2) CPD(1) scéalta(30) E.coli(1) Event Guide(1) Mathematicians(1) Blocks(1) learning bias(1) preschool(4) Exclusion(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Positivity(1) Funding(1) RTE Investigates(1) NAEYC(1) Document Learning(1) Kilkenny(1) friendships(1) Quality(4) National Awards 2018(2) Empathy(1) San Miniato(4) Self-regulation(1) Mayo(1) early life(1) child-centred approach(1) Employee(1) Consent(1) The Jelly King(1) refugees(1) Feeding(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Challenges(1) Mantra(1) man up(1) Degree(1) Social Skills(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Performance Management(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) European Project(1) Mark Twain(1) family time(1) Scéalta Blog(99) Plastic(1) Glitter(2) National Awards 2019(1) Primary School(2) social science(1) Support(1) Síolta(111) Leadership(1) TOY Programme(1) First 5 strategy(1) Maternity Leave(1) Care routines(1) early childhood educator(2) Impact(1) routine(2) EECERA 2016(1) Infection Control(1) Sessional service(1) dining experiences(1) Maria Montessori(1) Visual Impairment(1) Decision Making(1) Japan(1) pets(1) ECEC(2) educarer(1) Summer(1) Mixed age groups(2) awards 2020(1) Care-giving routines(1) outdoor play(6) Book Club(2) Growing up Outdoors(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Workplace Relations(3) research submissions(1) Early Years(1) Culture(2) Time(2) Maths(5) story time(2) Snakes(1) Meet the Members(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Art(6) Masterclass(2) learning(19) Elders(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Twitter(1) INTO(1) Albert Einstein(1) Leargas(1) play therapy(1) Wilenski(1) New Appointments(1) Adoption(1) Learning Stories(9) Exercise(1) Awards(2) Intention(1) Party(1) First 5(1) Mo Scéal(1) Story(1) journey(1) Arlene Forster(1) risk(2) children development(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine