Happiness. That is perhaps the most common answer when parents or anyone who cares deeply about children are asked what, above all else, they want for them in life. “I just want them to be happy”. And of course that is a lovely thing, and an important one. But we would like to throw another priority out on the table. Our top pick, our 'above all else', wish for children is kindness. For them to experience kindness and offer kindness. Now and in their future.
Play is as innate in our children as pecking is in chickens. They don’t need us to teach them how to play, just to allow them to do what comes so naturally.
There is concern over this generation of children losing the art of playing, and it’s often presented under two misconceptions: that it is somehow the fault of the children, and that it’s just inevitable - nothing can be done about it. We call WRONG on both.
We give our children a great gift when we allow them to truly be IN nature. They have an innate connection with this beautiful earth of ours, but they can only maintain this connection with our support. They need unstructured time outdoors, playing in nature, and with all the treasures it has to offer.
We’ve worked months on our new toolkit about young children in nature. We’ve written tens of thousands of words on multiple related topics, presented them beautifully and created additional resources to accompany. A lot of hard work and a lot of heart work, and then we had a burst of inspiration, the ‘penny dropped’ and we realised the absolute simplicity of the message.
We can take inspiration for how to be with children outdoors by looking at how gardeners nurture the plants in their garden. We can aspire to this more gentle, non-interfering manner than to the traditionally thought of ‘teaching teacher’.
Our children are born with an innate connection to the earth. They are a part of nature, and crave to continue that connection.
When they have freedom in a natural environment you see how authentic their joy is in this type of setting. They want to be outdoors, IN nature, learning WITH and THROUGH nature. They want to keep this bond strong. They know how to, it’s not something we need to ‘teach’, but we absolutely need to allow for it. We need to offer the right space, lots of uninterrupted time, and see the inherent value of young children being truly immersed in a natural setting.
We so often forget that our young children don’t need new, new, new all the time. They find the familiar comforting rather than ‘boring’.
If the environment and materials we offer are stable for them, they can invest their energy in playing, creating, and navigating the social landscape. If each time they arrive there is a new set up their energy goes into orienting themselves instead, into finding the ‘lay of the land’. It is only once they’ve found that sense of security they can engage in play and relationships.
In a society where the ‘novelty bug’ is rife, Christmas offers us a beautiful opportunity to go for tradition instead. Rather than brand new decorations every year we can have recurring ones that can be looked forward to each year. Seeing these back in the environment reminds everyone what time of year it is, while still being ‘special’ enough to light eyes up year after year.
“It must be so sad to see the children move on”, is a comment we hear all the time as teachers.
At a setting so centred on relationships we do build wonderful connections with our children and a child leaving is an occasion for a range of emotions.
Heart centred teaching asks for us to be humble, focus on the child, and leave our adult agenda at the door. It ask us to stop ‘doing’ and focus on how we are with the children.
Let them lead, let us follow. Both approaches call on us to really tune in to the children, really making them the teachers and not us.
As heart centred teachers we focus on nurturing our children to plant their roots with us through strong connected relationships, and a sense of belonging and contributing.
From their earliest days when they enter our setting they know this is their place. It is that security and strong sense of connection that allows our children to 'fly'
Simone Weil said that, "attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity". This is such a refreshing view in a society that often sees children’s need for attention as something irritating.
We hear so much about the “attention seeking” child, as if it is a deficit in the child and something to be stopped before it becomes ingrained in the child.
Being away from loved ones, in the care of others is a big deal. It is asking a lot of a wee person, and we absolutely must be someone they can rely on.
Children will only learn and develop as they should if they feel safe. The child brings so much to the relationship, but this one is on us.
It really is the small things that make the difference. Tiny little touches set apart the ho-hum “just fine” ECE settings from the really special heart filled ones. There may be big differences in size and dollars spent across the sector, but the no price tag items are the things that speak volumes.
"The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice." - Peggy O'Mara
We also believe this powerful (and true) statement is applicable to the way we talk about children in their presence.
We have a society that speaks so negatively of children without even realising, and sadly this is often done in the child's ear shot.
One of the best ways of responding to our children with heart is to remember what it is like to be them. Bring the child-you into focus, and you'll understand what is needed from us.
The spotlight is on the very important topic of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Whether or not we contribute our own voice to the ‘me too’ campaign, we have a really important role to play.
Making deposits in the heart bank. This is what our interactions and environment are aiming to do for our children when we practice from the Heart! As much as young minds need nurturing, so do young hearts.
In our previous article "Nurturing independence - " we briefly discussed the issue of self management expected of our young children. In this article we explore deeper how we can find a balance between nurturing independence and nurturing connection.
Anyone who spends time with young children will tell you they crave independence, and thrive on being able to do things for themselves. Responding to children's natural drives is exactly what our ECE settings should be doing, but sometimes misinterpretation leads us to ‘miss the mark’.