In our everyday efforts to prepare children for success in school, it can become natural to focus most of our attention on teaching and promoting cognitive skills. While these skills are extremely important, it is imperative that we not overlook the most basic needs that children have. The work of Abraham Maslow can help us to better understand these needs and how they impact a child’s ability to be successful within a learning environment.
In Maslow’s exploration of human motivation, he outlined a hierarchy of needs that all humans strive to achieve or fulfill. When these needs are not met, it can lead a person to feel insecure, anxious, or stressed.
First on the list are physiological needs – the things our physical bodies need to survive including air, water, food, sleep, health, etc. Maslow proposed that humans will work to meet these needs before any others and that the capacity to respond to situations is influenced by whether these needs are met. Take a moment to think about how you are impacted when you are feeling overly tired or hungry. Do your behaviors change when you are experiencing hunger? Are your reactions to situations when rested the same as your reactions when tired?
The next set of needs humans seek to fulfill is the need for safety and security within the environment. Just as with their physiological needs, children are completely dependent upon the adults in their lives to ensure that homes, schools, and neighborhoods are safe.
In addition to these basic needs, Maslow identified that humans also seek to feel love and belonging. We also work to meet our need for esteem or feelings of accomplishment. At the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is the need for self-actualization – or achieving our fullest potential.
According to Maslow, it can be extremely difficult to meet these higher needs, when one is focused on meeting their most basic needs. For more information about Maslow’s work, click here.
Click on the links below to learn more about meeting children’s needs.
For the article on Children and Toxic Stress, CLICK HERE
For the article on Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Basic Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Emotional Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Director’s Corner: Supporting Families to Meet Children’s Basic Needs, CLICK HERE