The Dance of Toddler Relationships

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By Lauren: During my planning time, I have been reading the book “Extending the Dance in Infant and Toddler Caregiving” by Helen H. Raikes and Carolyn Pope Edwards. This book uses a beautiful metaphor to describe relationships during the early years of life, that relationships are a dance. “The rhythms of close relationships with parents, caregivers and teachers—back and forth, need and response, with gentle rhythms moving to a synchronous inner beat—support emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development” (Raikes & Edwards, p. 2).

The book discusses three relationships, or dances. The child-parent relationship or the first dance, the child-teacher relationship or the extended dance, and the teacher-parent relationship or the supportive dance.

The child-teacher relationship is often characterized as a secondary attachment, with child-parent relationships being the primary attachment. However, many of the signs of a secure primary attachment can be used to define a secure secondary attachment. And, secure attachments to both parents and teachers are essential to healthy development in the toddler years. As I enter my second month at Elm House, I have been focusing much of my attention on learning the steps of the extended dance with the children so that we can form secure secondary attachments. Each child is such an individual, and therefore I have been learning many different dances. Here are some of the steps I have been learning about as I work towards better supporting the development of all the Elm House children:

I have learned that SM delights in being asked, “What are you doing?” and eagerly awaits any opportunity to share her creative ideas.

I have learned that JL, on the other hand, loves being the one to ask “What doing?” or “What that?” and seems to blossom during the teacher-child interaction that unfolds after these questions.

I have learned that WS always has a smile ready and finds great joy in the reciprocity of smiles from teachers. He often smiles, leaves to play, and then returns for another round of smiles.

I’ve delighted in ML’s daily check ins. He always says “Good morning!” and asks how I’m doing.

I’m learning that FBA delights in joint-attention. Often pointing to things around our yard and smiling as he receives acknowledgement for his observations.

Although these seem like small moments in the overall lives of the children in my care, and although this is just a small snap-shot of the children at Elm House, these small moments create the foundation of a secure caregiver attachment. I can’t wait to continue learning about your children and finding ways to support my relationships with them! What have you noticed about your child and the way they seek relationship with you? What would you like to learn about the dance of relationship in toddlerhood?

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