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:

mushrooms(1) Wendy Lee(3) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) National Awards 2019(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Anthony Semann(1) Communicating(1) Light table(1) Mathematicians(1) Brain(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Eritrea(1) Awards(2) Care routines(1) aistear blog(3) communication(4) Lego(2) education(2) coronavirus(1) outdoor play(6) Shapes(1) early years learning(1) Quality(4) Graduation(1) Twitter(1) Infectious diseases(1) Interaction(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Childcare(3) Afghanistan(1) Reading Time(1) ECEC(3) Laugh(1) Early Years(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) apps for children(1) NAEYC(1) Mixed age groups(2) Shoes(1) Craft(1) Learning Stories(9) play stories(2) Positivity(1) Rich Documentation(1) Meet the Members(1) Covid19 crisis(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Names(1) Maynooth(1) Your place(1) Self-Esteem(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) RIE philosphy(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Snakes(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Maths Week(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Visitors(1) Care-giving routines(1) science week(2) Painting(1) UN(1) play therapy(1) Family(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Buddies(1) Cognitive development(1) Learning Story(1) Children and families(1) Photographs(1) under 3's(3) Reopening Childcare(1) supportive environments(2) Challenges(1) Support(1) Japan(1) Performance Management(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Building Resilience(1) Arts(1) Mount Everest(1) Wrapping paper(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Smiles(1) Study Trip(1) racism(1) Vietnam(1) overhear(1) value(1) risk(2) listen(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Learning journals(1) emotional environment(2) child-centred approach(1) Learning Journal(2) Exclusion(1) ICBN(1) Staff Motivation(1) Mud kitchens(1) play pod(1) SAC(1) community(5) St. Patrick's Day(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Meal time(1) Funding(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Trick or treat(1) Snacks(1) play(34) Employee(1) Trigonometry(1) Fantasy play(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Ariana Pucci(1) early life(1) Digital(1) UNCRC(2) staying connected(1) Siolta blog(8) Aistear(122) GDPR(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Capable(1) reading(5) Socioemotional development(1) Facebook(1) Death(2) Visual Impairment(1) christmas(9) MECPI(1) Mental Health(4) story time(2) Norway(2) CPD(1) Story(1) Exit interview(1) worries(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Penguins(1) Pre-School Services(1) Awards Night(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) ECCE(7) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) reopening ireland(1) The Lullaby Book(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) planning(1) Window(1) books(4) Teamwork(1) blog(36) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Scents(1) respect(5) man up(1) Touch(1) conference(1) Workplace well-being(1) structure(1) collaboration(1) Technology(3) curiosity(3) risk assessment(1) Celebrations(4) annual conference(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Line-ups(1) Participation(2) preschool settings(1) Traffic Lights(1) Síolta QAP(1) Flowers(1) Budget 2020(1) Investment(2) ELC(1) Role play(1) Interests(1) Magic(1) behavioural science(1) reopening(1) show and tell(1) outdoor space(3) Pedagogical leaders(1) Community involvement(1) Event Guide(1) Autism(4) Summer(1) Feeding(1) Wesco(1) Biting(1) Running(1) Youtube Series(1) Policy(2) Breathing(2) babies(7) iOS(1) Syria(1) Prexit(1) Design(1) environments(1) Orla Kenny(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Interactions(2) refugees(1) Graduate(1) Drawing(2) New Appointments(1) Nutrition(1) Limerick(1) Change(1) Early Years Educators(3) movement behaviours(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Educators(2) Culture(2) journey(1) Workplace Relations(3) Vertical grouping(1) Map(1) San Miniato(4) TOY Programme(1) Reflective Practice(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Imagination(3) keep in touch(1) Yoga(1) Potential(1) childcare services(1) Pen green(1) pablo(1) Buddy Bench(1) CIT(1) Traditions(2) social science(1) Albert Einstein(1) Halloween(2) interacting(2) Decision Making(1) responsive relationships(1) Jenga(1) Research Seminar(1) E.coli(1) Iceland(1) Anxiety(2) Awards 2018(3) Upcycling(1) Affordability(1) Weather(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Appreciation(1) parents(6) Valentine's Day(3) research submissions(1) Recycling(2) AsIAm(2) COVID-19 Reopening(1) ears(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) DES Inspection(1) Queues(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) INTO(1) Infection Control(1) play pods(1) Confident(1) Sleep(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Research Conference 2019(1) AIM(2) UD(1) Oireachtas(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Gardening(1) Routines(2) Fee Play(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Primary School(2) Stress(2) Diversity(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Irish(1) Exercise(1) Laughter(1) social media(1) routine(2) Equality(1) Human Resources(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Sustainability(3) Favouritism(1) Games(1) Body Language(1) conversations(1) Trade Unions(1) children development(1) educarer(1) Arlene Forster(1) Mantra(1) Awards 2019(1) keezy(1) Maths(5) Magnavacchi(1) ERASMUS+(3) Opportunities(1) preschool(4) Treasure(1) animals(2) COVID-19(7) Behaviour(3) TRAP(1) Trade union(1) Kerry(1) Exploring(1) Maria Montessori(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Thank you(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Inspired Practice Award(5) bonds(1) family time(1) Consent(1) scéalta(40) Giraffe(2) EECERA 2016(1) Childhood(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Dance(1) Online(1) Sculptures(1) Elders(1) HR(1) Certificate(1) experience(1) Mealtimes(1) development(8) Nonverbal(1) feisty(1) Inspections(1) curriculum(5) Family wall(1) life long learning(1) Children's Research Network(1) Inspirational(2) Playschool(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Degree(1) Sweets(1) Treasure Chest(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Sequins(1) Magda Gerber(1) documentation(4) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Engineering(3) Independence(1) dining(1) Builders(1) College(1) maternity health(1) NCCA(3) Irish guidelines(1) Ceremony(1) Administrative Burden(1) healthy eating policies(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) early childhood educator(2) baby room(1) Sport(1) pets(1) Love(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Well-Being(10) Workforce(1) science(3) Empathy(1) Engineers Week(2) Our Little Seed(1) Frustrations(1) Bereavement(2) Early Learning and Care(1) Time Out(1) Winter(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Pobal(1) Leadership(1) Settling in(4) Through the looking glass(1) Supernanny(1) Mo Scéal(1) PIP(1) child-centric(1) Sustainable(1) listening(1) Arithmetic(1) University(1) Little Buddies(1) Communications(1) Reggio Emilia(1) Margy Whalley(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Inclusion(3) Titles(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Child Care(1) developing motor skills(1) ECEC Setting(2) linc(1) Adoption(1) Maynooth University(2) Universal Design(2) United Nations(1) Social Skills(1) Performing(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Qualifications(1) ReCreate(2) budget(1) Leprechauns(1) Identity(5) Leargas(1) meals(3) emotions(2) RTE Investigates(1) Wonder(1) Relaxation(1) code of professional responsibility(1) learners(1) Budget 2018(1) learning bias(1) Home Corner(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Engagement(1) Children(4) Reggio(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Cork(1) Thanks(1) educating(1) Recycle(1) Snack Time(1) primary education(1) Intention(1) gender stereotype(1) friendships(1) Health(2) Easter(1) dogs(1) relationships(17) COVID-19 crisis(1) DCYA(6) Creative(1) june29(1) Children's Rights(3) Sessional service(1) Impact(1) Book Club(2) Decisions(1) transitions(10) Maths Week Ireland(1) Hand Hygiene(2) learning(19) trust(4) continual professional development(1) Self-regulation(1) Spiders(1) Belonging(3) Pedagogy(1) Maternity Leave(1) SPICE Framework(1) Patterns(1) Mark Twain(1) gender bias(1) Thinking(1) Inter-generational(2) mental health problems(1) Gratitude(1) bloom app(1) Confidence(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Horizon 2020(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) role playing(1) Child mental health(1) stories(3) Whole Group(1) youdoodle(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Academic Skills(1) outdoors(3) awards 2020(1) Document Learning(1) Book Review(1) First 5(1) food(1) The Jelly King(1) grandchild(1) IGL(1) phone apps(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Mindfulness(2) National Holiday(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Montessori(3) Competent(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Celebrate(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Obesity(1) Xbox(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) eating(1) CCTV(1) Italy(1) Wilenski(1) risky play(2) memories(1) Blocks(1) dining experiences(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Early Childhood Ireland(4) Professionalisation(5) Academics(1) imotion(1) World Health Organisation(1) Síolta(120) purpose(1) Identity and Belonging(4) code of ethics(1) First 5 strategy(1) Mayo(1) School Age Childcare(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Budget 2019(2) Grief(1) Plants(1) Iraq(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Rituals(1) toddlers(3) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Plastic(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Creativity(4) Party(1) research(6) Environment(2) Glitter(2) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) art of the relationship(1) Santa(2) Playdough(1) STEM(3) Music(3) Fabric(1) Training(2) Valerie Gaynor(1) Digital Devices(1) Kids Own(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) European Project(1) lockdown(1) Kilkenny(1) Time(1) Scéalta Blog(99) Art(6) National Awards 2018(2) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) EM Standing(1) Covid pandemic(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Children's Voice(1) Malaguzzi(1) Self Help Skills(1) MA(1) Seas Suas(1) Masterclass(2) Loss(1) dublin(2) Advocacy(1) Storytelling(6) Research and Professional Learning(1) early years research(2)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine