Sonoma educator Barbara Pappas demystifies early childhood
“For seven days, turn it off.”
That is educator and early childhood development specialist Barbara Pappas’ advice for parents with young children.
“Turn off the TV and the iPad – tell everyone it broke if you have to. Then, see what it’s like. Ask yourself: How do I feel as an adult? How are my children behaving? How are siblings interacting? On the eighth day, decide for yourself how you want to proceed.”
Born in Germany, Pappas graduated from high school and came to the U.S. as a physical therapist. In 1985 she was accepted into the Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation continuing education program at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo. Until 1991, she worked at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
After the birth of her first child, Pappas switched to the field of education, captivated by the beauty and complexity of early childhood development. In the early 2000s, Pappas became a Montessori teacher, and she currently teaches at the Spring Hill School in Petaluma.
A Sonoma resident for more than 30 years, Pappas recently embarked on a new Sonoma-centered educational undertaking, further pursuing her passion for early childhood education. Since late April, Papas has been periodically posting educational podcasts aimed at Sonoma parents of children six and under.
The podcasts, titled “Sonoma Parenting 101”, tackle the challenges and opportunities presented to young parents in this day and age. With eight 14- to 20-minute podcasts already available (for free) on her website, Pappas covers topics from “Brain Development in the Young Child” to “the Toddler Years” to “Fundamental Needs of Man.”
From the inception of the program, Pappas aimed to structure the podcasts “like building a house; the first podcasts are like the foundation. I wanted to make basic information available for parents, so they could listen from anywhere at any time,” she said.
Following the rapid development of technology since Pappas began pursuing ECE, she has noticed many symptoms in young children that she believes are indisputably related. ADHD, mood swings and trouble sleeping, among other things, Pappas explained, are undeniably linked to what has effectively become a technology “addiction.”
“The ability to relate, to have eye contact, to have a meal together at the table is a rarity now,” she explained.
She noted that oftentimes when families spend just one week away from their devices – especially avoiding their use as a means to supplement valuable time together – a child’s “attention improves, behavior improves, sleeping improves; everyone is happier and more relaxed.”
When asked how much exposure to technology is appropriate for young children, Pappas said, “10 seconds is better than a minute, which is better than an hour. I tell families not to turn electronics into a babysitter. Instead of the iPad, have a puzzle, have Play-Doh, take a walk. Concrete experiences are the most important thing in early childhood.”
Speaking as a parent and educator, Pappas said, “We have to be the advocates for our children. It’s our job to keep their best interests and their health in mind and make the best decisions for them – because no one else will.”
The “Sonoma Parenting 101” podcast series, information about Pappas’ other services and useful links related to parenting and ECE are available for new parents (or those simply interested in learning about the fascinating inner-workings of early childhood) at sonomaparenting101.com.