The Age of Connectivity: Why Children Thrive in an Emotionally Connected Classroom
April 15, 2022
By Jenny Bondy
Assistant Director & Curriculum Coordinator at Kiddie Academy of O’Fallon
Humans are built for connection. It’s hardwired in our DNA, as important to our survival as food, water, and shelter. Our social and emotional well-being are nurtured through making and maintaining relationships. Unsurprisingly, children’s learning benefits when they feel a strong bond with the key people around them – peers, teachers, and family.
Not being able to gather due to the pandemic highlighted how important socialization is to our lives. The isolation was hard on everyone.
For children, the need for face-to-face interaction is even greater. Spending time with peers and teachers away from home is a building block for success throughout their lives. It’s a top reason many parents want to enroll their children in our academy — they know that supporting social and emotional development is not optional – it’s essential.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), when children play together, they are thinking, innovating, negotiating, and taking risks. They create make-believe scenarios as they practice concepts they’ve learned.
Finding the Importance in Play
Play is the foundation of all learning. Exploring the world through these active experiences nurtures creativity and lets them fully express themselves and grow academically and emotionally.
Being part of a group allows kids to practice skills that are impossible to master alone – such as taking turns, resolving conflicts, and communicating with others. When a group of children does something as simple as playing a game in our classroom, they’re practicing all of these and more.
Time spent together also builds self-confidence so children feel comfortable as they meet challenges in life; and it teaches them to persevere, try new things, and gain character values.
Creating Emotional Intelligence & Empathy
Being able to express and manage feelings appropriately while also respecting others is an important milestone for children to reach. Understanding and regulating emotions is the key to developing friendships and functioning as part of a group.
We help children to build their emotional intelligence along with their academic skills every day in the classroom to help them develop into well-rounded citizens. In fact, we think it’s so important that we have a dedicated Character EssentialsSM curriculum that teaches cornerstones such as respect, sharing, manners, and compassion. Through character-focused books, games, and activities, we guide children in recognizing and handling emotions in a positive way.
In addition to encouraging students to be kind and caring people, studies have shown that children with higher emotional intelligence are better able to pay attention and are more engaged in their schoolwork.
Just like adults, kids can have some big feelings and need to learn how to effectively cope with them and act appropriately in a given situation. We help kids to recognize and describe how they’re feeling. Giving a name to feelings such as impatience or confusion allows kids to better understand them and develop skills to handle them.
We also have a dedicated “Cozy Corner” in our classroom to help students who may be struggling with feeling frustrated, angry, or just plain sad. Stocked with items such as soft toys and books, it’s a quiet space for kids to retreat to when they need a few minutes to process their feelings. As the children choose when and if they visit the cozy corner, we’ve found it to be a terrific tool in helping them develop self-discipline and other positive coping skills.
Learning to Communicate Effectively
Communication is a powerful tool that allows your child to get their needs met and literally, be heard. Learning how to effectively communicate with others is another life skill that is best developed in a social setting. Talking to a friend or asking a question in class are learned behaviors, and we give kids tons of ways to practice them every day. Many parents are amazed at the huge leap in their child’s vocabulary skills after enrolling at Kiddie Academy.
Our teachers narrate everything we do throughout the day to introduce new language skills. For example, we may link the idea of feeling satisfied with a meal by talking about how food provides energy or asking kids to describe how hungry feels. We also model and encourage nonverbal communication skills, such as making eye contact and actively listening.
An added benefit of learning how to communicate with others in a group is the self-confidence boost it provides. Contributing to a conversation, and being respected and listened to are all wonderful feelings that increase your child’s self-esteem.
Guided by our well-rounded philosophy and curriculum, our extraordinary teachers help develop what’s unique in every child—nurturing imagination, fostering creativity, and preparing them for school.
Jenny Bondy is Assistant Director & Curriculum Coordinator at Kiddie Academy of O’Fallon. She is among more than 90 extraordinary educators at three Kiddie Academies in O’Fallon, Chesterfield, and Des Peres. Teachers are the foundation of successful early learning for St. Louis Families, and Kiddie Academy draws the best. The schools are NAEYC accredited, a designation earned by fewer than 10% of all preschools in Missouri.