S.P.I.C.E. - The Five Developmental Domains

At the bottom of each Safari S.P.I.C.E.  activity page, you will find a section that outlines how the activity aligns with all five of the developmental domains. This allows professionals such as yourself to communicate with families and community members how everything you do with the children in your care supports their Social, Physical, Interactive, Cognitive, and Emotional development.

Social Competence

As children grow, they experience a variety of social interactions. At first these interactions involve close family and friends, but they quickly expand to include alternative caregivers, teachers, other children, and community members.

By observing and participating in these interactions, children begin to construct an understanding of social norms and experiment with different behaviours. Social competence, however, doesn't develop naturally. Children need support and guidance in order to learn how to work and play with others, feel comfortable in social situations, respect diversity, and develop independence.

The way children learn social competence is the way they learn almost everything else, through observation and experimentation. The children in your care are constantly watching you for cues about how the world works and how to be a part of it. By providing an example of social competence through your words and actions, you are showing them how to wait their turn, how to listen when others are speaking, and to respect others' opinions. Practicing these skills with you and their peers each day through Safari S.P.I.C.E. activities ensures their social development learning becomes a permanent part of their collection of life skills.

Physical Health and Well-Being

Physical health and well-being is a life-long journey. Building a strong foundation of healthy eating and exercise habits with children sets them up to stay healthy throughout their life.

As children grow, they learn the capabilities and limits of their bodies through physical play. Jumping, running, skipping, balancing, and hanging all contribute to the proper development of bones, muscles, and body systems. Furthermore, children who are physically active and well nourished are better equipped to focus and learn.

An aspect of physical development that is often overlooked is fine motor development. Being able to grasp objects and control small muscles is essential for learning to write, paint, draw, and manipulate objects. Fine motor strength will also support children in their journey towards physical independence. Being able to dress, feed, and otherwise begin to meet their own needs is vital for developing confidence and independence.

Finally, practicing techniques for self-calming and relaxation helps children learn to manage stress positively and live a long, healthy, and happy life.

Interactive Skills

Being able to communicate effectively with others is a vital skill in our world. Each day we speak, read, write, listen, and observe in order to gather and share information with those around us. Children do the same, but with one key difference. Children not only interact with others to share or receive information, but also to learn how to communicate effectively.

Infants are born being able to communicate. Caregivers respond to their cries, babbles, and body language all the while helping them to learn language by responding to their developing communications, encouraging their attempts to mimic, and modeling language.

As children grow, they continue to require support from those around them in order to develop into effective communicators. For a child to develop strong interactive skills, they need to be able to speak clearly, understand nonverbal cues, read, write, and actively listen. These are skills that are often taken for granted until miscommunication occurs.

Effective communication is fundamental to almost every aspect of life from communicating needs, to success in school and the workplace, and personal relationships. In order to develop these skills, children need to observe them being modeled and have plenty of time to practice them authentically in a variety of situations.

Cognitive Skills

The developmental domain of cognitive skills can be broken down into two broad categories: specific learning concepts and more generalized cognitive skills.

Specific learning concepts include information, facts, rules, and theories in areas such as mathematics, language, and sciences. However, cognition is the process of gaining and understanding knowledge, and more important than teaching children specific concepts is teaching them how to learn.

The second category is made up of the more general cognitive skills such as problem solving, interpreting information, reasoning, forming conclusions, decision making, and creativity. In today's world, there is no shortage of information, and by developing these cognitive skills, children will be able to utilize it to reach their full potential.

As an early childhood professional, you can help children in your care to develop these skills by providing a variety of experiences in which they can be practiced. For example, allowing children to explore new materials on their own rather than providing instructions for their use promotes creativity and problem solving.

Setting aside time for unstructured play allows children to make decisions and to explore their world in the ways that make sense to them. More structured activities are also helpful for learning certain concepts and skills, but it is essential to have a balance between these and more open ended learning experiences.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence encompasses a range of skills including recognizing emotions in oneself and others, being able to reflect before acting, self-calming, empathy, and self-esteem.

In order to develop these skills, children need to feel safe and valued by the people in their life. By including children in daily routines, listening when they speak, and taking time to do things that are important to them, you are helping lay the foundation of strong emotional intelligence.

One of the best ways to support the development of emotional maturity is to be a role model. When children see emotions expressed in positive ways it has a profound impact on how they manage their own emotions. Taking time to relax and check in with yourself at least once a day will support your own emotional well-being while communicating to children that it is important for them to do the same.

Other ways to aid in the development of emotional intelligence are recognizing and labeling children's emotions (You're looking sad today. What happened?), fostering empathy (asking questions about how characters in a story feel at different moments), and providing strategies for dealing with strong emotions (I can see you're angry that they won't let you play the game. How about we take a few deep breaths and then go talk to them about it?).

Emotional intelligence is more and more being found to be a predictor of success, however you define it, in relationships, academics, and life in general. Helping children to develop the skills they need to be emotionally healthy now will ensure they grow into emotionally healthy adults.