Our latest guest post is from Beth Clements from Affinity Education Group in Australia. Beth is a passionate educator who works as a consultant in the Early Years framework with a mission to empower educators to change the lives of children one connection at a time.
A child arrives into this world with knowledge and capabilities, they are wired to learn and do so from the first moments of life. Studies show that a newborn will respond to and mimic a tongue poking out within a 45-minute time frame from birth (1977 study Meltzoff and Moore).
When children enter an early learning environment, educators must recognise that these children have already had exposure to experiences and from these experiences, they are beginning to develop their sense of self. We need to view a child as competent and capable (Early Years Learning Framework).
The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is much more prevalent in today’s society. The village looked a little different in my childhood however its role is just as important now. As a child of single income parents and 5 children under 9, our parents didn’t know where we were from daylight to dusk most days. They relied on siblings, neighbours, extended family and friends to watch out for the children, this was our village. Today the dynamics are very different and we have two income families, working long hours, who don’t know their neighbours, extended family don’t live close by, friends are working and the outdoor environment is considered unsafe. With this in mind our role in early education is more vitally important than ever.
As children, our social and emotional development was achieved through interactions with our siblings, outdoor exploration, risk assessment and interactions with adults.
What has changed so much?
Personally I think that parents of today have it very tough, they are available 24/7 to their job due to technology. Social media can provide an overabundance of parenting information and the news is available to us 24 hours a day confirming the world is not safe for our children. The facts are that children are as safe if not safer than we were as children.
“Children are born with a strong intuitive sense: it is adults who play havoc with it and often distort it.” (Maggie Dent Nurturing Kids hearts and souls).
We learnt all of these things without our parents being around, in the playground you soon learnt that the slide was too hot or that the person on the bottom of the see saw was about to exit and you needed to prepare for the fall. We also learnt that our bodies responded to someone we didn’t like, we felt unsettled in the stomach, or suddenly very frightened and usually our fight or flight kicked in and we got out of that situation quick smart. We were also not desensitised to being “present” and “aware” with no gadgets and gizmos to entertain us just each other and the great outdoors.
What could be possibly missing in the children of today is intuition, resilience, risk assessment and perseverance. Let look at those more closely:
- Intuition is the ability to read a situation, that gut feeling or the flight or fight instinct. We exercised this all the time: “Is that tree to high? Is this person safe on the other end of the see saw? Is the slide too high to hot? Am I safe with this person”. We see the flight or fight instinct a lot in children and we sometimes see it as “challenging behaviour”.
- Resilience is the ability to fall and then get back up to handle change and adversity. It meant not being picked first, not getting a prize in pass the parcel and not always winning. What we say is fairness in our society and the building of self-esteem is actually prevention of developing the resilience muscle
- Risk assessment is closely linked to intuition “If I climb really high can I get down? Will I be safe? If we play tennis on the road we need to get off when someone yells “car.” How hot is too hot? How fast is too fast?“
- And last but not least perseverance. Trying again and again and telling myself that I just haven’t got it yet! Not dramatizing about not being able to achieve something with little effort.
What risks do children get to assess in today’s world?
As educators we need to assist children in partnership with families and other members of the village, to guide and nurture children to practice these skills. They are not characteristics of their personalities, but muscles that need to be exercised daily. This is a workout that needs to be practiced daily.
Here is a workout to support children to develop perseverance, intuition, resilience and the ability to conduct their own risk assessments.
Intuition 1×10 repetitions – “what if” scenarios, role play, labelling what “gut feeling” feels like.
Self-regulation 1×10 reps – describing emotions, strategies on how to regulate and managing big emotions like frustration, patience, empathy, caring, love and understanding.
Resilience 1×10 Repetitions – challenging experiences that support children’s learning and extend their thinking, problem solving, trial and error.
Risk assessment 1x 10 repetitions – discuss scenarios risking danger, rules around safety, personal safety strategies
Perseverance 1×10 – supporting and encouraging effort, you haven’t got it YET
Cool down of yoga and mindfulness, Rest, relax and reset