Children Interaction with Adults
Interactions with adults are a frequent and regular part of infants’ daily lives. Infants as young as three months of age have been shown to be able to discriminate between the faces of unfamiliar adults (Barrera and Maurer 1981). Children develop the ability to both respond to adults and engage with them first through predictable interactions in close relationships with parents or other caring adults at home and outside the home. Children use and build upon the skills learned through close relationships to interact with less familiar adults in their lives.
Interactions form the basis for the relationships that are established between teachers and children in the classroom or home and are related to children’s developmental status. How teachers interact with children is at the very heart of early childhood education (Kontos and Wilcox-Herzog 1997, 11).
Foundation: Interactions with Adults
Children Relationships with Adults
Close relationships with adults who provide consistent nurturance strengthen children’s capacity to learn and develop. Moreover, relationships with parents, other family members, caregivers, and teachers provide the key context for infants’ social-emotional development. These special relationships influence the infant’s emerging sense of self and understanding of others. Infants use relationships with adults in many ways: for reassurance that they are safe, for assistance in alleviating distress, for help with emotion regulation, and for social approval or encouragement.
Establishing close relationships with adults is related to children’s emotional security, sense of self, and evolving understanding of the world around them. Concepts from the literature on attachment may be applied to early childhood settings, in considering the infant care teacher’s role in separations and reunions during the day in care, facilitating the child’s exploration, providing comfort, meeting physical needs, modeling positive relationships, and providing support during stressful times (Raikes 1996).
Foundation: Relationships with Adults
Children Interactions with Peers
In early infancy children interact with each other using simple behaviors such as looking at or touching another child. Infants’ social interactions with peers increase in complexity from engaging in repetitive or routine back-and-forth interactions with peers (for example, rolling a ball back and forth) to engaging in cooperative activities such as building a tower of blocks together or acting out different roles during pretend play. Through interactions with peers, infants explore their interest in others and learn about social behavior/social interaction.
Interactions with peers provide the context for social learning and problem solving, including the experience of social exchanges, cooperation, turn-taking, and the demonstration of the beginning of empathy. Social interactions with peers also allow older infants to experiment with different roles in small groups and in different situations such as relating to familiar versus unfamiliar children.
Generally, teachers, need to facilitate the development of a psychologically safe environment that promotes positive social interaction. As children interact openly with their peers, they learn more about each other as individuals, and they begin building a history of interactions.
Foundation: Interaction with Peers
Relationships with Peers
Infants develop close relationships with children they know over a period of time, such as other children in the family child care setting or neighborhood. Relationships with peers provide young children with the opportunity to develop strong social connections. Infants often show a preference for playing and being with friends, as compared with peers with whom they do not have a relationship. Howe’s’ (1983) research suggests that there are distinctive patterns of friendship for the infant, toddler, and preschooler age groups. The three groups vary in the number of friendships, the stability of friendships, and the nature of interaction between friends (for example, the extent to which they involve object exchange or verbal communication).
Foundation: Relationships with Peers