Early Childhood Learning

 Early childhood education includes the child’s learning environments during the ages of birth to five.

(Author:  Tracey Schaeffer)


That environment does not have to be in a preschool setting or include any special curriculum, it is most often the home environment and provided by the family. The things that happen during this time can have an effect of the child’s life, on the choices they make and their ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenges, also called resilience.

There are many people exploring the things that lead people to success in life, those are often called positive protective factors as they can protect a child, and the person they become from making choices that lead to challenges in life. Some examples of positive protective factors include: having your needs met in your home as a young child, having both parents at home, not experiencing violence, a safe and connected community with opportunities for meaningful engagement. 


In rural Alaska, the possibilities for a rich early childhood experience are very abundant! Looking at Inupiaq culture and subsistence there are many traditions and opportunities that will help your child develop resilience and have the opportunity to experience success. Young babies thrive on love and attention. They love to look at your face and taking time to sing and talk to your baby will help your baby feel safe and connected to you. The Inupiaq tradition of nuniaq is a little rhyme/song that a parent or relative makes up for a new baby and it stays with them as they grow, strengthening that attachment and the special bond between them.  


Give your baby opportunities to play on the floor and move around, it will help strengthen their bodies and develop curiosity about their environment. Being exposed to the Inupiaq language is wonderful during the first few years of a child’s life. Their brain is ready to absorb and learn, so getting your baby together with relative who can speak Inupiaq with them is a wonderful opportunity for brain development. Toddlers love to explore, so helping them safely get outside and play in the grass, in the sand, feel the leaves, smell the flowers and even splash in the water and squish mud. Talking about how things look, feel, and smell will help them develop their language, cognitive and sensory skills.  Spending time with them will make this curious exploration even more special. 


As children get older teaching them chores at home and at camp will help them learn responsibility and the satisfaction of a job well done.  Teach them how to do simple chores and give them praise for doing it right. There is always a place for children to get involved in subsistence activities. While it might take more time to have your child involved in the process of picking, skinning, processing and putting away food it will strengthen their self esteem as they will have a strong cultural connection, not to mention the skills to take over as you get ready to retire. 


Last but not least for sure if taking time to have fun and be active, take a walk down the beach when you are at camp, teach your child to skip rocks, play a game of Norwegian, shoot some hoops. The time together and developing a habit of healthy activity will stay with them for a lifetime. 


Children can have full, rich early childhood educational opportunities at home, in your village, at camp and all throughout Alaska!

This Blog Post is Brought to you by Guest Blogger, Tracey Schaeffer.  Thanks Tracey!