Monday, February 8, 2016

Nothing is more Important than the Relationship

Relationships in toddler and infant early childhood settings matter.

More than matter.  Relationships are crucial for children's well-being and learning, not just now but in the future.  So why when I look at curriculum plans for nursery and toddler rooms do I struggle to find any mention of relationships amongst the colour recognition, farm animals, numbers and Under the Sea themes?

Do we still lack confidence in sharing what we know to be important?

Do we struggle to find a way to record our planning cycle for infants and toddlers in a way that is meaningful and effective, and not just a watered down version of the preschool curriculum??

  • My challenge to you is to challenge yourself to write about young children's relationships - with self, with others, with their learning environment, with the natural world.

  • My challenge to you is to learn as much as you can about how young children learn and develop, so that you can confidently share it.  So that you can see the little moments for what they are - the big moments. So you can gather a rich record of your discoveries and wonderings about each child.  Educational approaches such as Magda Gerber's Educaring approach; brain research; attachment theory - become an expert and then shout it to the rooftops.

  • My challenge to you is to throw away the box system of planning that just beckons you to fill it with busy work, and experiment with new ways of planning that follow the needs of your primary care group of children.  Keep going until you find something that works for you (Hint - there is no magic template!)

Make relationships so central that when you walk into the room you can see it, read about it, feel it, understand it, hear it.  Put the relationships back where they belong - at the very heart of your curriculum.

Please feel free to copy and print the image in this post to display for families - it might make a great starting point for discussion, or a springboard for your pedagogical documentation.  

Or build on it with quotes and snippets of educational research and theory.  Illustrate it with photographic examples from your own room, of different times of the day.  Or pop it up in your team room to prompt documentation about relationships.

How do relationships guide your curriculum decision making?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My pick of Australian Early Childhood Sites

It seems fitting on Australia day to celebrate the Australian Early Childhood Educators who celebrate play.

I encourage you to add them to your "go to" list of blogs and Facebook pages.

Together, we are strong!

Flights of Whimsy

Inspired EC

Aunt Annie's Childcare
Males in Early Childhood
Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning
Anarchy and the EYLF Pirates

Phoenix Support for Educators

Teacher's Ink
Playing my Way
Niki Buchan Natural Learning
A new Facebook group on the block:

And for giggles:

That should keep you busy for a while!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I'm not just cute

"See babies as people in their own right, naturally deserving of our respect.  See babies not as helpless beings but as active, phenomenal learners with an innate urge to explore their world and the people in it, from birth.  When we see babies in this way, our practice will naturally change for the better." - Lisa Sunbury Gerber

Dear Educators,

There is no denying that I'm irresistible.  Nature has been very clever to design me that way so that you take good care of me.  

But let me make it abundantly clear.  I am not just cute.

I am a phenomenal learner.  I am a curious, active and enthusiastic explorer of my world, and the people in it.  I am absorbing new information at an incredible rate. By the time I am 3, my brain will have grown dramatically by producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections between these cells.

"Even the youngest children know, experience and learn far more than scientists ever thought possible." - Alison Gopnik

I am a skilled communicator. I've been communicating with you from the moment I am born, through sound, expression, gesture and movement.
"...encouraging language development is about the quality and quantity of the words we speak. The great news is that both come naturally when we perceive babies as whole people — able communicators ready to be informed about the happenings in their lives, and in turn share their thoughts and feelings. Comprehend this simple truth, interact naturally, and we've got the language lessons nailed." - Janet Lansbury

I know how to learn. Trust me - I was born curious, creative, persistent, motivated, focused and driven to figure things out. I know what I'm doing, and I can do it best when I feel safe and secure, and have the time and space for lots of play.
“All babies are motivated from the beginning in any environment. They find things to explore. All children achieve their own milestones in their own way at the proper time and they they do not need to be taught.” – Magda Gerber

I am a human being.  I am not a play thing.  And while it is true that I need lots of loving care and attention, I am not helpless.  I am worthy of respect in the same way that you are, and I can actively participate in my own care and learning if you give the the chance to do so.  

"If we believe them to be helpless, dependent, needy (albeit lovely) creatures, their behaviour will confirm those beliefs.   Alternatively, if we see our infants as capable, intelligent, responsive people ready to participate in life, initiate activity, receive and return our efforts to communicate with them, then we find that they are all of those things.  I am not suggesting that we treat infants as small adults. They need a baby’s life, but they deserve the same level of human respect that we give to adults. " - Janet Lansbury
 I am not just cute.

The experiences that I have now will have an impact on how my brain is developing, and influence my my learning, well being and relationships now and in the future.  You can make a very real difference to my life.  

See me and trust me as a phenomenal learner.  Don't fill my days with busy work or cutesy craft.  Don't babysit or entertain me.  Let me make my own play choices.  Give me time to play, uninterrupted.  Create a safe, emotionally secure space with interesting challenges and open ended materials for me to discover and explore.  

Keep things predictable and familiar so I can practice and experiment.  Understand that learning happens all day, in everyday routines like when I am having my lunch or when my nappy needs changing.  Slow down and observe, and I promise that you will see magic, even in the little things.   

Create a calm, safe, challenging environment where I can do all those things I love to do naturally.  I don't need art cluttering the walls - this creates visual noise.  I don't need the wiggles playing in the background.  I don't need to jump from novelty to novelty.  The whole world is new to me, and I want to explore it safely, at my own pace, with you close by.

Talk to me authentically.  There is no need for baby talk.  Tell me what you are going to do to me, before you do it.  Wait for me to respond to you, even when I don't yet have words.  Observe me, and get to know how I am communicating with you.  Keep your voice low and gentle.  

"We speak in our authentic voices (though a bit more slowly with babies and toddlers), use real words and talk about real things, especially things that directly pertain to our babies and that are happening now. We encourage babies to build communication skills by asking them questions, affording them plenty of time to respond, always acknowledging their communication." - Janet Lansbury

Respect me.  Show me that I am worthy of respect through your words and actions.  I'm sure you mean to, but when you pick me up without telling me first; interrupt my play for a plan of your own - or even a cuddle; talk about me while I am there; feed me without giving me your full attention; rush through that nappy change or dangle that toy in front of my face you are telling me that you don't see me.  You don't hear me.  You don't understand me.

" start changing what you do so that you behave as though the baby is a free and equal human being. The easiest way to work out how to do this is ask yourself, “As a free and equal human being, would I like it if this were done to me?” - Pennie Brownlee

Dear Educator, I need you to be the best you can. I need you to keep learning and discovering more about how children learn and develop. I need you to be professional and ethical and practice with authenticity and integrity. I need you to keep working hard toward high quality care. When you do, you help me reach for the stars.

Great places to learn more:

Regarding Baby

Elevating Child Care
Magda Gerber, Seeing Babies with New Eyes
Pennie Browlee
Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

You might also enjoy:

Let's Slow Down: Reflections on RIE

The wonderful World of Educaring