Monday, January 23, 2012

Who Am I?: The Developing Sense of Self in Toddlers

Happy Chinese New Year!

Since baby bookworm is half Vietnamese - it's a Vietnamese New Year celebration for us, though!

Children's literature provides a great way to help children not only gain a sense of their own cultural identity, (which will develop throughout their life), but is also helpful in teaching children what makes them unique.  

To get in the spirit of things we read Lucky New Year by Mary Man-Kong and illustrated by Chi Chung.  This is actually the same book we read last year before our festivities at baby bookworm's grandparent's house.  But, rather than selecting a new book, I thought it would be nice to revisit a book that was already familiar to baby bookworm.
Lucky New Year is a story about two children and how they prepare for and celebrate Chinese New Year.  The language used is very appropriate for young children and the interactive aspects of the book like the flaps to lift and tabs to pull, keep even the littlest learner engaged.  The book even includes a scratch n' sniff sticker, a fun pop-up illustration on the last page, and a Chinese calendar with a wheel that you spin to reveal the animal year.

2012 is the year of the dragon.  As a craft this week we made a dragon which was modeled after this page in the book, and a Chinese lantern. 

Chinese Dragon Craft

The inspiration for our Chinese dragon craft

Our dragon! We used a little dot paint and some sequence to decorate
Lots of fun!

 Chinese Lantern Craft

To make the lantern - it's simple! All you need is construction
paper folded in half and then cut slits
Flip it over and decorate

Glue the sides together and add a handle

Children's Understanding of "The Self"

Do young children really have an understanding of their own individuality?  What about an understanding of others?  To ask this another way, have my lessons in diversity and "inner awesomeness" and cultural awareness been in vain?

An awareness of the self is closely related to a child's cognitive abilities.  Self-recognition, or consciously understanding that a mirror or photographic image is "me",  is a milestone in the development of a self-concept.  During the toddler period, when children start to display representational thought, self-recognition begins to emerge.  Research in this area has indicated that by about 20 months of age, children show self-recognition, although some children may show evidence of it as early as 15 months.

With an emerging self-concept also comes a new understanding of others.  In the second year children begin to "take turns" when playing with one another, and by 3 years of age generally understand that people are independent from one another and have different roles, goals, or intentions.  Children who are aware of others as separate agents may also show primitive signs of empathy.

Other evidence that your child is "self-aware":
  • beginning to use "I" phrases such as "I kicked the ball" or "I didn't do that!"
  • seeing a photo of himself and exclaiming "that's me!"
  • displaying new emotions related to the self such as shame, pride, or embarrassment
  • identifying and labeling their own feelings such as "I'm sad when daddy leaves for work"
  • standing up for his/her own rights by exclaiming "it's my turn now"

What books do you read to help your child answer the question "Who Am I?"

This aired on the premier of the 41st season of Sesame Street.  It's not only a fabulous song but has a great message! What I Am by  Trust me, your kid is gonna love this one if you haven't already seen it.

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