Imagine a time when you didn’t hear laughter from a child or see them dancing. What would the world be like? Well, horrible, obviously. I think all of us aspire to provide children with an environment in which they can be happy, unburdened by the harsh realities of the grown-up world. Childhood should be filled with wonder, laughter and learning. But sometimes we forget that happiness is cultivated. It doesn’t just happen. As families, we should be doing everything we can to create moments that are laughed about and experiences that are encouraging.
For children imagination is something we should foster so they can experience things in their minds that thrill them and get them thinking about the infinite possibilities the world offers, but if imagination is not fostered appropriately, it can bring damaging results. Children are just as good at imagining the worst possibilities as they are the best possibilities.
Why is happiness important in child care? That’s one of those questions that seems almost too silly to ask. Who doesn’t want their kid to be happy? But sometimes it can be helpful to really look at questions like these.
Take the example of studies conducted after the 9/11 attacks. Many survivors of the Twin Towers disaster developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…but not all of them. What was different about the people who didn’t suffer from PTSD?
Well, it turns out that a study conducted at the University of Michigan discovered that people high in happiness before the attack simply bounced back, but those whose pre-attack happiness levels were lower didn’t do well. Habitually unhappy people developed PTSD much more frequently.
Happiness is almost like a shield, an outer shell, that helps kids ward off the unpleasant and downright scary things the world throws at them.
The teachers in child care should not be passive agents in your child’s learning process. I won’t bore you with the academic studies that have shown creating a positive affirming environment is a key foundation toward happiness. Allowing a child to pursue their own happiness through expression, choice and social responsibility will translate into their own pursuit of happiness in their growing lives.
Child care teachers should be pretty awesome at allowing a child to pursue their own happiness. In a center you should find happy children and happy staff. You should hear staff laughing, singing, praising and comforting. The kids should be smiling, dancing, singing, making art, telling stories – that’s when you know that they’re engaged participants who are independent, prosocial, and attached to their care providers.
Sometimes, I think people focus too much on the results, and not enough on how those results are achieved. There’s a quote that really hits home with me from a study I came across this past year: “Even if a program results in considerable developmental progress in children, if the children do not enjoy the preschool experience one would have to question the overall success of the program.”
There are lots of ways for your children to learn their ABCs and develop the fundamental skills they’ll need to be successful in life. Wouldn’t you like them to have fun while they’re doing it?