Every Preschooler's Favorite Topic, or The Developmental Benefits of a Little Navel-Gazing

Eliza Clark
June 2, 2008

Remember back to the time when your scrumptious baby discovered her own belly-button? Her tummy was so round in those days that it was actually a feat for her to bend all the way over so as to take a good look. At every opportunity (whenever the onesie was off), she would jab her middle with that poky little index finger, exclaiming "buh!" and then look up at you with an expression of sheer pride, self-love, and delight.

And there never was anything more adorable, was there?

Slightly less adorable: the stage following on just a few short months later when every other word becomes "Mine!" and later "Me, me, me!" or "My turn!" Don't preschoolers sometimes (on the rough days) seem like the most self-absorbed little creatures that ever were? But as jarring as those refrains can be to parents, they're just as necessary a part of our kids' development as was the discovery of that oh-so-kissable belly-b. One of our most trusted early childhood experts, Louise Bates Ames, puts it well: "a child must first learn 'mine' before he can appreciate 'thine.'"

Preschool teachers (no fools they) understand this perfectly -- in many preschools, the very first theme or learning topic to which children are introduced is "All About Me." Teachers know that the best way to get young children comfortable at school is to talk about something they know and love -- themselves. So many basic preschool concepts like numbers (my age), colors (my eyes) and letters (my name) flow easily from there. And, of course, that most crucial goal of the preschool years -- fostering self-confidence in our littlest learners.

This month at Being Savvy, we'll take our little ones' lead, and explore what all this preschooler navel-gazing is about. What do they learn from it and how does is evolve? We find it ever amazing to watch these small beings begin, from the earliest age, to form their own identities, with likes and dislikes, opinions and interests, a sense of who they are and where they come from, of their friends, family, and community. And we'll do a little parental navel-gazing as well, and ask, what is our role in all of this? They keep growing and growing -- let's try to keep up!

From the Parents

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