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Last month, Early Years author Sue Asquith broke down the new Development Matters and explained one of the most critical points – Partnerships with Parents. But this time, Sue takes a closer look at another of the points – High Quality Care.
I don’t need to tell you that early childhood is an absolutely critical time in terms of growth and brain development. You definitely know that already! But it’s important that we give the right kind of care, so our little ones have the building blocks they need to succeed in later life.
If we do a quick google search of ‘high quality child care,’ up pop ideas on how to be inclusive, as well as creating stimulating, safe and nurturing environments. And for good reason.
The EYFS principles place a big emphasis on ‘positive relationships’ and ‘enabling environments,’ and these are two big pillars of high quality care. Meaningful connections with grown ups and providing a safe space are essential ingredients to help children learn, as they need a little help to take those first steps.
So what exactly is high quality care in action? Page 5 of Development Matters highlights 6 bullet points – let’s dive into these points to really understand what high quality care means, and what little changes you can make to make sure you’re doing everything you can do to deliver it.
‘The child’s experience must always be central to the thinking of every practitioner’.
Let’s think back to the EYFS principle of A Unique Child: ‘Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured’.
I recently saw a social media post saying that popcorn is made in the same pan using the same oil, yet not all the kernels pop at the same time. Children will ‘pop’ (learn and develop) at their own rate with supportive relationships and environments. By observing them and keeping in contact with a child’s parents, you’ll be able to see what stage they’re at, and how they’re developing.
Have a think about the points below to gauge if you’re putting the unique child at the centre of their own learning:
‘Babies, toddlers and young children thrive when they are loved and well cared for’.
Babies, toddlers and young children need their trusted adults to meet their basic needs. This is exactly where the EYFS principle of positive relationships comes into play.
‘Positive relationships’ between the key person in childcare, parents/carers and children are crucial. It’s all hands on deck to understand and identify a child’s routines and next steps. Communicating about routines, such as milk feeds for example, will inform when weaning might start, or about toddlers’ sleep routines might influence when to stop afternoon naps in the setting.
The revised Development Matters states ‘The top priority is for the key person to develop a strong and loving relationship with the young child.’ It’s incredibly important that everyone working in Early Years has a thorough understanding of attachment, and that they’re trained in the care of babies.
Let’s have a look at the points below, as they’ll help you understand if you’re doing everything you can do to help children thrive:
‘High-quality care is consistent. Every practitioner needs to enjoy spending time with young children’.
Babies respond and react to the voices and facial expressions of the people caring for them, as it’s their way of understanding the brand-new world they’ve just come into.
That’s why it’s so crucial that practitioners really enjoy spending time with them – children can pick up if an adult is stressed, negative or doesn’t want to interact. Not only is this unpleasant for the child, but it may actually leave them very unsettled or distressed.
The time you spend with children helps them learn about themselves and to slowly develop a sense of self. When you think about it, that’s going to be a whole lot trickier if you don’t engage or even want to engage with them in the first place.
And not only that – the way we show our own emotions rubs off on children when we co-regulate with them. Co-regulation, a fancier term for helping children understand those big scary emotions, will be very difficult if we can’t control our own.
The road to helping children process and eventually control their own feelings is a tricky one, so those early interactions are really key. Providing a calm, welcoming and positive environment is the first step in that, and we need to be calm, welcoming and positive, too.
A few things to keep in mind:
‘Effective practitioners are responsive to children and babies. They notice when a baby looks towards them and gurgles and respond with pleasure’.
Babies are very skilful communicators. It always fascinates me how they can change their cries to communicate exactly what they want!
Before they move and communicate, babies rely on adults to pick up their body language. Responsive practitioners recognise the different ways babies communicate, and take action following this. Here are some examples and actions you can take to get started:
‘Practitioners understand that toddlers are learning to be independent, so they will sometimes get frustrated’.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember what it is like to be a toddler. But I am a Mum and have cared for many children throughout their toddler years.
It’s an inquisitive stage where children are constantly learning about the world and their place within it – a time of huge feelings, emotions and frustration. Toddlers can be furiously independent, and need time and choices so that they feel in control.
It’s usually the parents picking out the child’s clothes, the ones dressing them, feeding them breakfast and then carrying them to the car to their childcare setting. When you think about it, it’s no wonder that they have the odd tantrum! They don’t really get a say in any of that.
There are quite a few ways we can manage this frustration and let the children become more involved in the decision-making, and nurture this budding independence:
I will never forget the day my son proudly shouted out that he was ready for us to go pick up his brother. I found him standing at the door with his trousers stuffed into his wellies, wearing his Gillet, his sunglasses and his sun hat with his little football tucked under one arm.
Can you imagine the trauma if I had said that he needed to swap his wellies for trainers and put a coat on? It wasn’t worth it, and the photo I took still makes me smile 14 years later!
‘Practitioners know that starting school, and all the other transitions in the early years, are big steps for small children’.
When the word ‘transition’ crops up, Early Years providers often think about preparing children for school, or moving rooms if they’re in a setting.
But there are so many transitions in early childhood – milk feeds to weaning, bottle to cup, nappies to using the potty or toilet, maybe moving to a new house. While it’s important to prepare children for these steps, we often forget these are also transitions for parents. Sometimes parents need your reassurance with transitions, too.
What can you do to help?
Remember: we’re not preparing a baby for starting school – we’re supporting their growth and learning through each age and stage. If we can support each unique child with positive relationships and enabling environments to give this high quality care, we’re making sure that children only ‘pop’ when they’re ready!
It’s all about giving that support to both children and parents when and if they need it.
Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.