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:

Jenga(1) Relaxation(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Time Out(1) baby room(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Prexit(1) grandchild(1) Music(2) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) communication(4) Deirdre Rogers(1) First 5 strategy(1) Confident(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Educators(1) Buddy Bench(1) Touch(1) Engineers Week(2) Research Seminar(1) risk(2) Creative(1) Trigonometry(1) blog(28) respect(4) University(1) emotional environment(1) Light table(1) Mantra(1) stories(2) Craft(1) Challenges(1) Snakes(1) role playing(1) Affordability(1) under 3's(3) Settling in(1) curiosity(3) curriculum(5) Time(1) research(5) Exploring and Thinking(1) IGL(1) Maynooth(1) Imagination(3) Thank you(1) Afghanistan(1) PIP(1) Trick or treat(1) Eritrea(1) mushrooms(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Buddies(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Maynooth University(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Universal Design(1) CIT(1) Exit interview(1) Yoga(1) EECERA 2016(1) science(3) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Advocacy(1) Decisions(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) development(6) Iraq(1) feisty(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Window(1) Environment(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Stress(2) emotions(2) Trade Unions(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) UD(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Twitter(1) Arithmetic(1) Maternity Leave(1) Engineering(2) trust(2) Mental Health(3) Emergent Curriculum(1) Well-Being(6) Spiders(1) National Awards 2019(1) routine(2) ECEC(1) Plastic(1) Thinking(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Magda Gerber(1) educarer(1) Vertical grouping(1) Thanks(1) Recycling(2) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) toddlers(3) Masterclass(2) Facebook(1) interacting(2) SPICE Framework(1) Socioemotional development(1) books(4) worries(1) Celebrate(1) Behaviour(3) Mayo(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Leprechauns(1) Shoes(1) planning(1) Sport(1) Seas Suas(1) Wonder(1) Potential(1) Online(1) Margy Whalley(1) Map(1) Positivity(1) United Nations(1) Games(1) Mathematicians(1) Biting(1) Communications(1) Training(2) science week(2) Names(1) Exercise(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Maria Montessori(1) Inclusion(2) Halloween(2) Magic(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) reading(4) Research Conference 2019(1) Mud kitchens(1) Decision Making(1) supportive environments(1) Learning Story(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Treasure Chest(1) Budget 2019(2) Obesity(1) Kilkenny(1) Policy(2) educating(1) Albert Einstein(1) outdoor play(6) Role play(1) Breathing(2) Exclusion(1) Scents(1) Independence(1) Trade union(1) Weather(1) Party(1) babies(5) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) meals(3) Self-Esteem(1) conversations(1) Lego(2) STEM(2) INTO(1) Pobal(1) Workplace Relations(3) Kerry(1) Sustainability(3) Change(1) Children(1) Titles(1) learning(14) Primary School(2) Painting(1) Loss(1) early years research(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) bonds(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Autism(3) budget(1) outdoors(3) GDPR(1) Death(1) Book Club(2) story time(1) Builders(1) Appreciation(1) Mo Scéal(1) UN(1) Favouritism(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Competent(1) Reggio(1) Wilenski(1) Reggio Emilia(1) community(4) Leargas(1) outdoor space(3) Brain(1) The Jelly King(1) Inter-generational learning(1) Wesco(1) ICBN(1) relationships(11) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Children's Research Network(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) RIE philosphy(1) Ceremony(1) Flowers(1) Learning journals(1) Traditions(2) Culture(2) Performing(1) Meal time(1) San Miniato(4) scéalta(24) MA(1) ERASMUS+(3) Our Little Seed(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Cognitive development(1) Playdough(1) Cork(1) Pen green(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) memories(1) Exploring(1) Quality(3) food(1) Supernanny(1) Traffic Lights(1) Scéalta Blog(74) Oireachtas(1) Identity(4) Síolta QAP(1) Bereavement(1) Line-ups(1) NCCA(2) ECCE(6) Fantasy play(1) Magnavacchi(1) Creativity(4) experience(1) ears(1) Smiles(1) Belonging(3) Learning Story Awards(1) Childhood(1) Tuscan Approach(2) MECPI(1) CPD(1) First 5(1) preschool(2) Through the looking glass(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Playschool(1) overhear(1) Norway(2) Frustrations(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Technology(2) play(28) Growing up in Ireland(3) Malaguzzi(1) Snack Time(1) Care-giving routines(1) Community involvement(1) Orla Kenny(1) Mount Everest(1) Capable(1) Blocks(1) AIM(2) Japan(1) Winter(1) Children's Rights(1) Grief(1) Early Years Educators(1) Wrapping paper(1) UNCRC(1) play stories(1) Interests(1) Home Corner(1) Nutrition(1) Photographs(1) refugees(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Awards 2018(3) Budget 2018(1) transitions(9) risk assessment(1) Communicating(1) Mindfulness(2) Storytelling(2) Kids Own(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Funding(1) Aistear(99) Child mental health(1) Awards(2) ReCreate(2) Rituals(1) Administrative Burden(1) Self Help Skills(1) pets(1) Gratitude(1) Graduate(1) Health(1) linc(1) Qualifications(1) Certificate(1) Giraffe(2) listen(1) journey(1) Early Years(1) Sweets(1) Consent(1) eating(1) AsIAm(1) dogs(1) Family wall(1) Degree(1) Anxiety(2) Drawing(2) Laughter(1) Event Guide(1) Feeding(1) christmas(8) Investment(1) education(2) Arlene Forster(1) dining experiences(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Story(1) Wendy Lee(2) Workplace well-being(1) Identity and Belonging(3) Celebrations(4) Design(1) Self-regulation(1) San Minia(1) Sequins(1) Workforce(1) Graduation(1) Limerick(1) Employee(1) EM Standing(1) Montessori(2) friendships(1) listening(1) Upcycling(1) Valentine's Day(3) Performance Management(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Awards 2019(1) dublin(2) St. Patrick's Day(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Xbox(1) Syria(1) Meet the Members(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Síolta(94) Arts(1) College(1) animals(2) maternity health(1) Irish(1) Professionalisation(4) Family(1) Little Buddies(1) NAEYC(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) documentation(2) Care routines(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Impact(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Recycle(1) Mixed age groups(2) Fabric(1) Adoption(1) Snacks(1) Inspirational(2) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Laugh(1) Teamwork(1) Maths(4) Plants(1) Mark Twain(1) Diversity(1) Childcare(2) Running(1) risky play(2) Interactions(1) Routines(1) environments(1) Sculptures(1) Santa(2) Learning Stories(7) Penguins(1) National Awards 2018(2) early childhood educator(1) Siolta blog(2) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Mealtimes(1) Inter-generational(1) Shapes(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Art(6) DCYA(4) Patterns(1) Treasure(1) Queues(1) Easter(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Empathy(1) Visitors(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Italy(1) Vietnam(1) social media(1) parents(5) TOY Programme(1) Sustainable(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Love(2) Glitter(2) Dance(1) Academics(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Gardening(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) National Holiday(1) Maths Week(1) dining(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine