Values need to be lived out loud

I said at the start of this series on values in early childhood education:

Children pick up on an awful lot without us saying it – they learn to talk, walk and jump without specific lessons, and they’ll pick up on lots of ‘the way we do things at our centre/in our family’ unconsciously.

But for some things, especially in the area of values, virtues, and character development, it’s necessary for us to live them out loud.

Children benefit from discussing and practising things like generosity, kindness and care for the environment, if they’re going to grow into the people we hope they will be.

So today we’re continuing a series brainstorming different ways an early childhood education centre could live their values out loud, make a big noise about these wonderful things we want our children to pick up on, and in doing so, also strengthen connections with religious families – and, indeed, all families.

Today we’re looking at hospitality, and we’d love to hear your ideas and tips in the comments below, and on our Facebook page, to share around.

Talking about Hospitality

Hospitality is all about making people feel welcome.

What are some ways your children can think of that people sometimes make them feel welcome? What would make them not feel welcome somewhere new?

Hospitality is also about hosting visitors. Who are the visitors that sometimes come into your centre? How can you all make them feel welcome?


Role-Playing Activities

Invite children to pretend to be hosts, or pretend to be visitors. They might want to dress up!

What are some kind things to say and do when we open the door to a visitor? What are some kind things to say or do if we are the visitor?

How about a good old-fashioned tea party, where some children take the role of hosts, and others are guests? Children can practise offering food and drink to their friends, and using whatever hospitable phrases are common in your part of the world, such as:

  • Would you like some more?
  • Can you please pass me the sandwiches?
  • This is delicious!
  • Thank you for coming.

Letting Children Practise Hospitality in Real Life

What scope do you have in real life at your centre for children to practise hospitality to real people?

Could they open doors to parents, or greet them at the door? Could they practise saying ‘Welcome to our centre!’ whenever someone comes in the door?

At meal and snack times, perhaps they can practise serving each other cups of water, with kind words.

What else can you think of together?

Stories about Hospitality

What picture books can you think of that show hospitality in action?

Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary and Rich Chamberlin, is a delightful book for every centre. Adika and Mama are walking to market to get ingredients for pancakes. Adika enthusiastically invites everyone he meets to come and enjoy pancakes with their family, but Mama is worried her two small coins won’t stretch far enough for all the people he’s inviting. But generosity breeds generosity, and all the guests end up bringing something, so there’s more than enough after all. There’s language and geography information in the back of the book, and even a pancake recipe to follow.

Wrapping it Up, by Jill MacGregor, is a non-fiction, glossy photographic book about siblings in Sāmoa who make a feast for their grandmother for Mother’s Day. There’s lots of lovely detail about the recipes and the different kinds of leaves used to cook and serve the dishes, and all the different family members who help, as well as extra information about Sāmoa in the back.

In Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Sophie and her Mummy are extremely hospitable to a visiting tiger, offering him all the food in their house!

My Name is Not Refugee, by Kate Milner, is a gentle but realistic conversation between a mother and a young child about what it is like to have to leave your home and find a new one. There are questions on each page to help children who haven’t been through this to relate to the situations.

In the classic Christmas story, Room for a Little One, by Martin Waddell, the animals make room, one by one, for each other, and even for a special baby.

In Jeanne Willis’ catchy rhyming book, There’s an Ouch in my Pouch, Willaby Wallaby feels a kick in his mum’s pouch, so he goes looking for someone else to take him in. This will be a real favourite for most children.

Home at Last, by Vera B Williams and Chris Raschke, tells, in a fair bit of detail, the story of a little boy whose parents have died, and how he is eventually adopted and goes to live with Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert. It takes a while to settle into his new home, but Lester the dog really helps.

Please let us know your favourites that other centres could hunt down.

Making the most of finding common ground

In this recent article on spirituality and religious life in early childhood education, I talked about finding common ground and making the most of it. Families from all religious – and secular – backgrounds will appreciate a centre focusing on values and virtues.

It’s worth remembering that every time you focus on positive character development, you will be further endearing your centre to parents. Make the most of this! Make sure families know that you care about helping their children practise hospitality, and celebrate their hospitable successes in your learning stories.

If you have families with a particular religious affiliation, don’t be afraid of mentioning the connection to both adults and children. Most religious families will be delighted to find that their strongly-held values are being supported by your centre.

Similarly, the cultural background of all your families will be rich with their own traditions of hospitality they could tell you about if you ask.

Here’s an example of the kind of note you could pop in your next newsletter:

‘This month we are focusing on hospitality. We will be doing X, Y and Z, and we would also like to include beliefs and practices of hospitality from all our children’s cultures and religions. How do people in your family welcome people into your home? What are some of the words and customs that guests and hosts follow? Please let us know anything we can share and work into our planning.’

What other ideas do you have that you could share with other readers? How do your children show hospitality at your centre and at home? Let us know in a comment below, or on our Facebook page.

Thalia Kehoe Rowden was a Playcentre kid before attending St John’s Hill Kindergarten in Whanganui, New Zealand. Some time later, she became a Baptist church minister, then a mother and a writer. She now lives with her husband and two small children in Wellington, New Zealand, and knows more about dinosaurs and astronomy than ever before. You can follow her on TwitterFacebook, and her parenting, spirituality and social justice website, Sacraparental.

Posted by Sonya McIntyre

Sonya was born in Lower Hutt and went to Rata Street Kindergarten and Petone Kindergarten. A qualified ECE, she studied at Victoria University in Wellington and has worked with home-based educators, in community-based childcare and in kindergarten. With childhood memories of reading books and writing stories, combined with her passion for all things social media, Sonya segued into her role with us at Storypark as social media manager.

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