Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teething and Biting in Early Childhood Settings

"Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principal one was, that they escaped teething."
-Mark Twain

The teething process in different for every baby. Some babies and toddlers sail through it while others endure many symptoms if illness. This is a milestone in the child's development, and although we want them to be as comfortable as possible, it can be a stressful time for both the child, and the caregivers.

Symptoms of Teething:
*Loose BM's
*Restlessness, irritability and disturbed sleep patterns
*Sore, red gums
*Loss or changes in appetite
*A slight rise in temperature
*Drooling (which may cause a rash or sore, chapped skin on the chin)
*A sudden desire to chew anything they can lay their hands on.
*An urge to bite. This should not be perceived as a sign of aggression or anger, more of a means to ease the pain of teething.
Teething toys and proper precautionary measures must be carried out to keep all children safe if biting occurs in the classroom. A caregiver must be consistent and be calm in the manner in with the situation is handled.
I usually follow kids that love to chop casually around with a teething ring in my apron pocket and get a chance to sharpen my reflexes. I get a first hand and up close look at exactly what sets kids off biting in the first place. When I am there to stop biting and redirect anger toward the teething ring I start doing my own personal documentation on the matter. I can see if there were any particular children he/she aimed for, the times of day it occurred, etc. After about a month there was a definite pattern to the behavior.
I'll ask to meet with families and by then I am armed with data and ready to brainstorm possible solutions. The plan was to incorporate 'feelings' and feelings awareness into the preschool curriculum and to empower any child to use the teething ring on his/her own. It is very important that kids learn to get positive attention and socialization rather than the negative attention they may be accustomed to. We sing songs like, 'If your Happy and You Know It' and acted out feelings of sadness and anger...we talk about being angry and that teachers can help you if you get angry or sad. We bring out and read picture books of feelings and read them in groups and individually. We incorporated them in every aspect of the preschool curriculum we could think of until biting slowly begins to subside. I recall one graduate of this plan one day yelling, "Oooh, I so angry!" He reached on my pocket and chomped down on the teething ring....he then put it back in my pocket and went back to playing. Helping kids become personally aware is a great feeling not only for us but for them!

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