I work at a daycare center where we have weekly educational themes and one of the themes was dental health. I knew this was never going to happen, but as I sat in the assembly listening to the dentist lecturing the children on the importance of maintaining good dental health, I couldn’t help but wish that the school would also have a mental health week. We could have a psychologist come talk to the children about the importance of taking care of our mental health. Just like the dentist was showing diagrams of teeth on the screen, a psychologist could show diagrams of the brain on the screen. Diagrams of the brain actually have been shown on the screen before, but they weren’t shown to the children and they weren’t about mental health. They were about the plasticity of the brain in early childhood, and the resulting power we have as early childhood educators to shape a child’s learning for life.
It’s known that it’s far easier to learn a foreign language if you start learning when you’re a small child. When I see the kids being taught Spanish, I find myself wishing I’d been taught Spanish at that age, because then I’d probably be fluent in it, and that skill would come in handy in my life.
It’s not just academic learning that has a greater impact when imparted early in life either. It’s hoped and believed that if children are exposed to different races, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc, they will be accepting of those marginalized groups and won’t succumb to prejudice or attitudes that perpetuate stigma.
Maybe if kids learned about mental health from an early age, the societal stigma towards mental illness would decrease, and maybe mental illness itself would decrease. Maybe visiting a therapist would be as customary as visiting a dentist, and practicing self care to protect your mental health would be as customary as brushing your teeth to prevent cavities.
Any preschool lesson plan requires an arts and crafts component. I’m not sure what arts and crafts you could do for a mental health lesson plan. Maybe kids could trace little pink brains out of pink construction paper, and then put rain clouds over them to represent depression.
My idea seems crazy, but it’s the crazy ideas that change the world. I want to change the world for crazy people.