“But…How are the Children?” A post on Our Communities x Young Children by Exchange fellow Becky Blacklock

By Becky Blacklock

Black and white photo taken behind  two children in sweaters walking down a dirt road with their arms around each other
Image from Annie Spratt via Unsplash
Please participate in the survey found linked in the conclusion of this blog to help inform how we can more deeply explore child wellbeing and development within our communities and practice.  Thank you.

The world around us has changed rapidly over the past two and a half years, as we all worked through navigating the vast ebbs and flows of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Illness, insecurity, fear and isolation are all powerful factors in one’s well being. We are striving today toward rebuilding and reconnecting. Yet we are left with a critical task in looking deeply at the long-term impacts of this period of unrest and separation in our communities. This is especially true for those who are young and vulnerable. It is time we stop and ask, “How are the children?”

We know that social interaction plays an important role on child well being. In her extensive research review, “Young Children’s Mental Health: Impact of Social Isolation During The COVID-19 Lockdown and Effective Strategies,” Angel Urbina-Garcia, PhD, writes,   (Urbina-Garcia, A., 2020).  Urbina-Garcia also shares that her review of research concludes, “from a developmental perspective, socialization in the early stages of life are paramount since they have shown to have long-term impact across the lifespan not only regarding the socioemotional domain, but also cognitive and physical domains. Children, just like adults, need to have positive social interactions to help them develop a healthy socioemotional well-being, given that the lack or absence of such social interactions could jeopardize children’s wellbeing.”

How do we begin to create communities that support healthy child development ?

Considering what research shows about social relationships and interactions within communities on child development, it seems urgent that we take action and invest in supporting the health of young children and the building of strong communities. How do we begin to forge ahead with supports, resources, interventions and interactions that promote healthy development for young children and families, when we are fresh from a time when so much of that was lost?  

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University is one place invested in doing just that.

“The Center on the Developing Child’s diverse activities align around building an R&D (research and development) platform for science-based innovation, and transforming the policy and practice landscape that supports and even demands change. We do this because society pays a huge price when children do not reach their potential, because half a century of policies and programs have not produced breakthrough outcomes, and because dramatic advances in science are ready to be used to achieve a promising future for every child.” (https://developingchild.harvard.edu/about/what-we-do/)

The work of Dr. Jack Shonkoff and his multidisciplinary team at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University are using science to modify the way we look at child development, to share with us a deeper sense of how children develop and the important role their community, community resources and policy play.

To capture some of the work of the Center on the Developing Child please view this short series of videos. As you watch, consider:  What lasting impression do these videos make for me? How can I apply this to my practice/work/interactions with children within my community? What greater support(s) do I recognize are needed for children and families in my community? Who do I know that would benefit from this information?

In Brief: The Foundations of Lifelong Health – What do we know about how community and relationships impact child development?

InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development – What have we learned about how the interaction between genetics and experiences affect childrens’ brain architecture?

InBrief: Early Childhood Mental Health – What does “mental health” mean and look like for young children?

Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change

and How Children and Adults Can Build Core Capabilities for Life – How do we strengthen the capabilities of caregivers and communities to improve the outcomes of child development?

As we reflect on the science of development and the critical role that relationships and community play, I wonder… what can the early childhood community do to foster relationships for young children and strengthen the communities around them?  What do we ourselves need to learn more about to understand how knowledge of child development is evolving and to develop or own skills and practice?  How do we forge a path of well being for ourselves to be best able to support children in our care?  I hope that you will join me in deciding which elements seem critical for the children in your care and community. I will be embarking on a journey to seek out training and information around the issues of child wellbeing and I would love your input on what you would like to learn more about!

Please follow the link below and fill out the quick survey to help drive the direction of future entries, information opportunities, and trainings shared to the Our Communities x Young Children Exchange site. Thank you!

Additional Resources, Supports and Opportunities

Community Events:
  • Ever wonder what it would be like to learn about science concepts while practicing yoga?  Check it out at the whole family event every Wednesday and Friday at the Montshire Museum. Science Yoga
  •  A community experience to gather, learn and play in nature.  Join the Robin’s Nest Nature playgroup Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 pm. Robin’s Nest Nature Playgroup
Informational Resources:
  • Cradle to Community:  A Focus on Community Safety and Healthy Child Development – Read this insightful report from the Prevention Institute to learn more about the importance of safe communities to child development and visit the Prevention Institute and the Center for the Study of Social Policy to see how the The Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities is “helping communities build result-oriented, integrated early childhood systems that improve outcomes for young children and their families.” 

Prevention Institute and Center for the Study of Social Policy

PI_Cradle to Community_121317_0.pdf

  • How do music, curiosity and relationships help create community for children?  Read this offering below to find out more.

Benefits of Community Involvement in Early Childhood

  • An interesting article examining the lack of early childhood minded infrastructure in the United States and the role libraries are taking in creating change.

The US Has No Early Childhood Infrastructure. Libraries Are Picking Up the Slack

Children’s Literature on Community:
Adult Literature:
  • For those interested in a deep read on the science of early child development from the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development.  

From Neurons to Neighborhoods:  The Science of Early Childhood Development; Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips, Editors


Becky Blacklock is a VTAEYC Exchange Fellow with a focus on Our Communities x Young Children. Click here to learn more about Jackie and the Fellowship program, and click here to learn more about the VTAEYC Exchange.