Never in a lifetime does a human brain develop as rapidly as the period of birth- 5 years old. When we think about investment in early childhood education, we usually think in terms of financial returns, with research supporting a nearly 15% ROI for investment in quality early childhood education experiences.
At Treehouse Learning, we view the fiscal concept of Internal Rate of Return (IRR) through a whole-person development approach where Intentional, Responsive, and Respectful relationship-based learning experiences serve as the basis for supporting optimal brain, body, and emotional development.
Humans readily access these tools from a place of physical and emotional safety, when we’re in community and relationship with one another, and when we’re engaging in the sorts of activities through which nature designed children’s brains to optimally develop and all humans to optimally thrive!
IRR: Intentional, Responsive, and Respectful
Whole-person learning and positive/optimal development occur intentionally through play, movement, music, and creative arts. Nature designed children to learn through embodied experiences and encountering the world.
These activities support whole-body engagement that stimulates our physical senses and efficiently targets distinct domains of learning, including our cognitive/thinking abilities, our social-emotional/feeling capacities, and our physical/body-based development.
Children, like all humans, are whole-people with brains, bodies, and hearts, and optimal early childhood experiences develop all of these areas in a simultaneous and integrated way.
Responsive learning experiences are research-based and developmentally appropriate for young children. Every human on the planet is a distinct and unique learner with individual strengths and gifts to share with the world, while each also shares collective human needs for significance and belonging.
Respectful learning experiences begin from the premise that every human ever born, including the youngest ones who just arrived on the planet, are equally deserving of dignity, respect, and their needs being met, and that true respect is something we learn by experience in the way we speak to children, the ways we invite them to engage in their own learning and growing, and through our belief in their capacity to contribute to the world in meaningful ways.
We believe our investment in early childhood education through responsive, respectful, and intentional learning experiences have the potential to change the world. We believe that the youngest humans to arrive on the planet are the most valuable resource our world has and that there are no greater investments we can make in our world than through the intentional nurturing and nourishing of children into capable and compassionate contributors who engage with the world from a state of an integrated brain, a regulated nervous system, and an “upstairs brain” that is lit up and ready to learn. We believe that no one on the planet has as much potential to shape the course of the world going forward as those who work with young children!
Serve and Return: Quality Interactions and Connecting Rituals to Try at Home
At the end of a long day, our children come home simply wanting to be with us and wanting us to be fully present with them. Because we each have a limited quantity of home-based family time, the daily rituals are opportunities to make the necessary completion of necessary tasks “quality time.”
- Diaper time and bedtime are activities around which we can build intentional “relationship rituals” like singing, naming body parts, and counting fingers/toes.
- Older infants can wipe the floor or highchair or hold a small dustpan/brush after meals. Building children’s capacity as helpers is both empowering and connecting- humans of all ages are born seeking belonging and significance. The emphasis is on the process, not the end result!
- For older children, a clean dishwasher contains the potential for amazing sorting and counting games with the silverware tray. Training happens through modeling and doing the task alongside our children, and practicing the skill by completing the task together is the connecting opportunity.
Serve and Return is a concept related to back-and-forth responsive interactions between an adult and child signified by child-directed engagement that is fun and capacity-building. Shared positive interactions fill children’s“relationship buckets” and are the foundations of brain architecture by developing cognitive function, language acquisition and more.
These exchanges are easily built into routine activities. Here is a short video with some examples with infants, though children of all ages benefit. This is our invitation to see the world through our child’s eyes, discover the things that delight them, and feed that delight with our intention and connection. This investment in quality interactions and learning experiences will have a lifetime of returns!