Monthly Archives: October 2010

Heart tugs

How would you feel when, having let yourself in to your own nursery and greeted staff, you are suddenly accosted by a heart tugging wailing emanating from Older Toddlers? It was my 2 year old nephew F. who, caged behind a stair gate across the room door, was pushing pitiful hands through the bars towards me shouting ‘Uncle David, come back! cuddle me!’

How poignant, how distressing! Of course, 5 minutes later he was going to have forgotten my very existence (he had a fantastically happy day as usual) but for the time being he presented a woeful picture of a wronged and abandoned child, left to the mercies of his carers.

It gives an understanding of how parents must feel on leaving a distressed child.

The other end of the day can often be quite emotional too, children bursting into tears at the sight of a parent.

It is not unreasonable for carers to think as follows – I left a screaming, unconsolable child, I picked up a crying, upset child, the rest of the day must have been the same. What a terrible parent I am to have left him/her here all day!

We work hard to convince parents and win their trust, that their child has been happy all day and that  these very young children are quite capable of emotional blackmail and will put on a show at the drop of a hat, to make everyone feel extremely guilty all day.

The best example of this I have encountered, was girl who clung to her daddy’s legs, every morning, screaming ‘Don’t go, Daddy, don’t leave me here!’ As soon as he had managed to prise her off his leg and escape, she shrugged her shoulders, stopped crying and ran off to play very happily for the rest of the day.

Don’t be fooled! They are often craftier than we give them credit for!!

EYFS Review

We had a mini fashion display at Howard Road preschool this week. I was shown shoes (flashing of course), t shirts and dresses. We then moved onto pants. I was mercifully spared a display of these but everyone decided to tell me what colour or type theirs were – spiderman etc. G announced that he had a pair of ‘Rock’ pants on. Apparently he owns 2 pairs of ‘Rock’ pants. I asked him to elaborate. ‘You know, David’, he said, ‘for when you’re dancing.” I think I need to go and buy some.   

Discussion topic of the moment appears to be the relative importance of each of the 6 areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage. Top contenders are Language and Personal and Social development.

On Friday I attended  a Healthy Early Years pilot meeting at which Physical development was promoted as a key aspect of any proposed accreditation scheme.

That leaves creative development, knowledge and understanding of the world and problem solving, reasoning and numeracy, all to be relegated to the lower reaches. However I am sure advocates can be found for each of these, justifying their primacy as the most important development areas.

I think we need some common sense here. Our motto of Love, Laughter and Learning is based on the premise that until children feel safe, secure and happy, learning cannot take place – you know, the old Maslov’s pyramid. Secondly, the lack of spoken language ability is clearly a potential cause of frustration and inhibition to socialisation and teaching and learning. If this wasn’t the case, then why are we pushing for every child to become a talker? In other words, we have already implicitly promoted language development above other areas. 

Do we really need someone to officially adapt the EYFS before we can comfortably tinker with our planning and activities for children? or are we able to use our brains and do what we should already be doing – meeting the needs of each individual child whilst offering him/her a balanced and holistic currciulum based on a deep knowledge and understanding of his/her abilities, character, interests and temperament.

Might this not mean that at different stages, we focus on specific developmental areas?

The Incredible Years

…the name of the parenting course I am helping deliver with a male dads’ worker at a local Sure Start centre, to a group of about 12 dads.

It’s week 5 out of 12 this week. So far the commitment and contributions have been brilliant, as have the results. They are a great bunch of guys. Last week’s feedback was really positive. Dads have been playing with their children whose behaviour has  improved.

It’s proving to be another privileged role in which to help provide a good start for young lives and positive input to family lives. I didn’t think it could be so rewarding – hard work but very rewarding.

Child Initiated Learning

So much has been written and discussed on this subject. How far should adults lead, teach or initiate learning experiences? At one extreme should adults instruct and convey all  information to children? at the other, should children use their own exclusive free choice in determing their own development? or would this lead to anarchy and no role for the adult?

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development is helpful in describing the role of the adult as scaffolding children’s learning. I take this as meaning that children don’t know what they don’t know. The adult has to support and extend learning. We also need to stimulate and initiate opportunities to encounter new, imaginative and inspirational experiences.  

There is a responsibility on each of us to open the World to each child, the World of  play, digging, building, running, climbing, jumping, laughter, socialisation, stories, rhymes, singing, dance, painting, speech, counting, measuring etc etc etc. We need to give each child a sense of adventure and wonder, to start to build independence skills, a desire to know more about everything and how to be happy and how to make others happy.

There is no way any child is going to achieve any of this on their own. We should not constrain children or force them to conform to our preconceived ideas. We have to join them in a cooperative journey of discovery, bringing our knowledge, enthusiasm and encouragement to help them reach for, achieve and exceed successive steps towards more learning.

As an adult I know that no child will ever ask me to arrange for the fire engine to come to nursery but I can gaurantee that every child will rush out to experience it!