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’.
Attention. This is the special ingredient in heart centred relationships. When we give young children our full attention, even in small bursts, we meet their very real needs for connection. They feel seen, heard, and part of a relationship - powerful stuff indeed!
"There is no difference between living and learning... it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate." - John Holt
We have noticed a growing trend to implement ‘teaching programmes’ in an attempt to teach our young ‘pre/before school’ children academic as well as social/emotional skills. Much can be said about how and when to teach children reading/math/writing skills, a topic for another time. What concerns us is the trend to ‘teach’ children social skills and values by way of ‘giving lessons’.
Patience. This is the virtue a heart centred teacher possess that is commented on more than any other. Yes, we are kind and caring, but patience is something others marvel at, perhaps because it feels like something that is harder to come by.
Do you see me? Do you know me? These are the silent questions our children want answered. They want to feel SEEN and they want to feel HEARD. We know about this desire because we have it too.