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:

Plastic(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Research Seminar(1) National Awards 2018(2) Music(3) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Capable(1) racism(1) preschool(4) Children(8) Pobal sector profile(1) Celebrate(1) Mental Health(4) communication(4) Montessori(3) Cognitive development(1) School Age Childcare(2) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Ceremony(1) E.coli(1) transitions(10) Breathing(2) Patterns(1) Infectious diseases(1) Investment(2) Inspections(1) Engineering(3) Masterclass(2) Frosty the Snowman(1) play pod(1) Party(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Decisions(1) Anxiety(2) Digital(1) MECPI(1) Culture(2) art of the relationship(1) Impact(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) reading(6) Interaction(1) ECEC(3) learning bias(1) Nonverbal(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) emotions(2) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Empathy(1) risk assessment(1) Touch(1) eating(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Family(1) CPD(1) Covid19 crisis(1) reopening ireland(1) Youtube Series(1) Blocks(1) Growing up Outdoors(2) Employee(1) Kerry(1) Obesity(1) Quality(4) Irish(1) Degree(1) early years settings(1) ECEC Setting(2) Through the looking glass(1) Our Little Seed(1) Laughter(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Social Skills(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Smiles(1) Learning Stories(9) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) toddlers(3) SAC(1) Proceedings Journal(1) dining(1) Frustrations(1) Horizon 2020(1) online training(1) upskilling(1) Mathematicians(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Malaguzzi(1) Children's Book Club(1) quarantine(2) Iceland(2) Mantra(1) Learning through Storytelling(2) Croatia(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) scientific and artistic processes(1) childcare services(1) Inspiring Practice(1) Skillnet(1) life long learning(1) GDPR(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Reflective Practice(1) Window(1) democratic citizens(1) New Appointments(1) UNICEF report(1) Self-regulation(1) Sport(1) Gratitude(1) Whole Group(1) social media(2) Thank you(1) NCCA(3) Reggio Children Network(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(2) RIE philosphy(1) social science(1) Your place(1) Kilkenny(1) Hand Hygiene(2) Technology(3) respect(5) child safeguarding(1) Sleep(1) AIM(2) Leaders in Practice(1) Traffic Lights(1) Administrative Burden(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Learning Journal(2) Biting(1) Upcycling(1) GoToMeeting app(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) Child mental health(1) Exploring(1) natural environment(1) Eritrea(1) Time Out(1) Reggio Emilia(2) Child Care(1) Early Childhood Education(1) Creativity(7) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Meal time(1) outdoor space(3) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Infection Control(1) Online(1) annual awards(1) Trick or treat(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) First 5 strategy(1) Maths Week(1) PIP(1) Support(1) Maynooth(1) risky play(2) Mixed age groups(3) Confident(1) Vertical grouping(1) Affordability(1) Budget 2019(2) University(1) Community involvement(1) Maternity Leave(1) Digital Devices(1) Pedagogy(2) Effect of Lockdown(1) Fabric(1) Educators(2) Study Trip(1) Interests(1) Autism(4) Nordic model(1) Drawing(2) Trade union(1) early year’s classrooms(1) DCYA(6) Craft(1) Favouritism(1) Diversity(1) Playdough(1) keezy(1) Graduate(1) Sessional service(1) apps for children(1) learning hub(2) World book day(1) Rituals(1) Belonging(3) Children and families(2) Inter-generational learning(2) Primary School(3) Snakes(1) EM Standing(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Training(3) science week(2) Covid response(2) Arlene Forster(1) Awards Night(1) books(5) dogs(1) Policy(2) Oireachtas(1) Academics(1) Arithmetic(1) Opportunities(1) aistear blog(3) Weather(1) preschool settings(1) routine(2) Syria(1) bonds(1) structure(1) Small World Play(1) Norway(2) listening(1) linc(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Book Review(1) Prexit(1) keep in touch(1) iOS(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) imotion(1) Halloween(2) children development(1) Yoga(1) Europe(1) staying connected(1) Early Years Educators(3) NAEYC(1) Wonder(1) UN(1) Mark Twain(1) peer group(1) Early Childhood Ireland(10) SPICE Framework(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Japan(1) Margy Whalley(1) Children's Voice(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Book Club(2) Summer(2) TRAP(1) Positivity(1) Penguins(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Maths(6) Magda Gerber(1) STEAM(1) man up(1) Advocacy(1) community(5) conversations(1) curriculum(6) Teamwork(1) worries(1) Communications(1) Glitter(2) Love(3) timekeeping skills(1) Sweets(1) dublin(2) Mealtimes(1) Children's Research Network(2) Interactions(3) Plants(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) European Project(1) Trigonometry(1) bloom app(1) educating(1) National Awards 2019(1) learners(1) Meet the Members(1) annual conference(1) behavioural science(1) Inter-generational(2) EECERA(1) Lego(2) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) COVID-19 landscape(1) Engagement(1) Traditions(2) christmas(9) Ariana Pucci(1) developing motor skills(1) Rich Documentation(1) Sculptures(1) Visual Impairment(1) Wesco(1) Awards 2018(3) Women(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Engineers Week(2) Titles(1) HR(1) Childhood(2) Settling in(4) Performing(1) Valentine's Day(3) Certificate(1) Workforce(1) Mount Everest(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) journey(1) Leadership(1) Environment(2) Limerick(1) family time(1) Seas Suas(1) education system(1) outdoors(4) Síolta QAP(1) Workplace well-being(1) Queues(1) Learning Story(1) movement behaviours(1) Twitter(1) Kids Own(1) Well-Being(10) UK(1) Self Help Skills(1) Graduation(1) Early Learning and Care(2) relationships(18) TUSLA(1) UK Government(1) babies(7) Covid pandemic(3) democracy(1) Universal Design(2) Research Conference 2019(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) stories(3) Large Doll Play(1) Independence(1) Thanks(1) Elders(1) homeschool(1) Dance(1) Confidence(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) purpose(1) Stress(2) primary education(1) experience(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Motor neuron disease(1) emotional well-being(1) First 5(1) Supernanny(1) Fee Play(1) Challenges(1) Iraq(1) women in research(1) Online Research Symposium(3) blog(56) story time(2) Inspired Practice Award(6) Wendy Lee(4) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Italy(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Pretend Play(1) early life(1) ICBN(1) youdoodle(1) Maynooth University(2) grandchild(1) Reopening Childcare(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) early childhood educator(2) maternity health(1) Light table(1) feisty(1) Easter(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Visitors(1) Storytelling(8) child led(1) DES Inspection(1) Relaxation(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Children's Rights(3) Body Language(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Event Guide(1) ReCreate(2) environments(1) Looking Forward(1) phone apps(1) Arts(1) ELC(1) Family wall(1) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Treasure(1) curiosity(3) Art(6) UD(1) mental health problems(1) under 3's(3) Learning Story Awards(2) Kindness Challenge(1) Loss(1) listen(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Performance Management(1) play pods(2) emotional environment(2) Behaviour(3) Recycle(1) Kindness(1) Socioemotional development(1) Awards 2019(1) Leargas(1) Scents(1) lockdown(1) learning(19) QRF(1) Gardening(1) Routines(2) Budget 2020(1) Pen green(1) memories(1) Pre-School Services(1) refugees(1) worldbookday(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Aldo Fortunati(4) creche(1) research(8) Time(1) Death(2) Funding(1) continual professional development(1) interacting(2) Academic Skills(1) World Health Organisation(1) Story(2) Mayo(1) science(3) collaboration(1) Sustainability(3) Pedagogical leaders(1) an post(1) healthy eating policies(1) Inclusion(3) early childhood(1) Síolta(139) CIT(1) Feeding(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Identity(5) Photographs(1) Scéalta Blog(106) Learning journals(1) Early Years(1) pets(1) Wrapping paper(1) gender stereotype(1) Mud kitchens(1) Map(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) ERASMUS+(3) gender bias(1) animals(2) Shapes(2) meals(3) Covid-19 lockdown(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) planning(1) Santa(2) First 5 transitions for children award(1) RTE Investigates(1) Sociodramatic play(1) quarantine kids(1) Brain(1) Loving Relationships(2) Reggio(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Fantasy play(1) Consent(1) Design(1) Budget 2018(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) ECCE(7) Irish guidelines(1) Health(2) playleader(1) ECIAwards20(1) Vietnam(1) outdoor environment(1) Grief(1) child-centred approach(1) overhear(1) Fire Safety(1) National Holiday(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) supportive environments(2) Builders(1) Xbox(1) partnership with families(1) Spiders(1) scéalta(58) Little Buddies(1) Early Years Education(1) Magnavacchi(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Participation(2) Recycling(2) role playing(1) Counting(1) Nutrition(1) Siolta blog(8) Educator of the Year Award(3) documentation(4) MA(1) Painting(1) development(9) COVID(3) Bereavement(2) Document Learning(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Exclusion(1) dining experiences(1) Awards(2) Competent(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Anthony Semann(1) Home Corner(1) EECERA 2016(1) Looking Back(1) early years learning(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Unesco(1) built environments(1) Reading Time(2) Care-giving routines(1) awards 2020(1) conference(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Workplace Relations(3) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Treasure Chest(1) play therapy(1) Role play(1) Giraffe(2) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) risk(2) Facebook(1) Maria Montessori(1) code of ethics(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) United Nations(1) Engineering Ireland(1) partnership(1) education(2) Creative(1) research submissions(1) Childcare(3) Exercise(1) College(1) responsive relationships(1) Flowers(1) parents(7) Inspirational(2) Sustainable(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) early childhood ireland research(1) Snacks(1) Appreciation(1) play stories(2) Wilenski(1) Change(1) INTO(1) Adoption(1) outdoor play(7) Names(1) ears(1) budget(1) San Miniato(4) value(1) multi-generational community(1) Self-Esteem(1) Seanchaí(1) Exploratory Play(1) food(1) trust(4) COVID-19(18) Dr. Emer Ring(1) play(37) june29(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Magic(1) Mo Scéal(1) UNCRC(2) early years research(3) reopening(1) Return to Work Training(1) Imagination(3) baby room(1) child-centric(1) Orla Kenny(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Sequins(1) Potential(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) STEM(3) Cork(1) Shoes(1) Return to Work(1) mushrooms(1) Jenga(1) Snack Time(1) The Jelly King(1) Regulation 23(1) IGL(1) social media policy(1) Pobal(1) show and tell(1) Staff Motivation(1) Exit interview(1) Professionalisation(5) Qualifications(1) Playschool(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Line-ups(1) Buddies(1) Care routines(1) International Narratives(1) Buddy Bench(1) Albert Einstein(1) Running(1) CCTV(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) friendships(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Afghanistan(1) educarer(1) inspiring interactions(1) Winter(1) coronavirus(1) Building Resilience(1) pablo(1) Games(2) presentation skills(1) Intention(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Decision Making(1) guardian(1) Laugh(1) Aistear(131) Celebrations(4) TOY Programme(1) Mindfulness(3) Communicating(1) Trade Unions(1) preschools(1) children’s learning(1) Leprechauns(1) Human Resources(1) AsIAm(2) Equality(1) Thinking(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine