The very best thing you can do for your children is offer them love and offer them life. Offer children unconditional and FELT love, the kind that a child does not have to earn or second guess. Our children are very adept at noticing when our attention is elsewhere. Tune in to the child fully, model to them the importance of respect and attention in relationships, and they will go on to be adults who focus and tune into others as a natural way of being.
Does your programme allow for children to not only to be themselves, but also to develop a true knowledge OF themselves? Are there opportunities for them to find out who they are, what they like, and what they don't? Will they learn that we are all different?
Making decisions, freely choosing and having uninterrupted time allows children to truly discover and follow their passions. They can find out what makes their soul happy, and then do that - as often as they want.
Children know what they need in order to develop. Their learning and development comes from their own inner drive. Looking around your environment. Do you see children carrying out an activity because they think this is what Mum and Dad or a teacher wants, or because they have chosen it from their own intrinsic, heart felt need?
A child’s sense of wonder and curiosity are more keenly piqued from their own explorations and questions than from being shown where and what to look at by adults. Out in nature, we must take our lead from the child. They need to make their own discoveries, and their own decisions about what is extraordinary. We can observe, share in the joy, and give our attention, but we don't set the agenda. The beauty of this approach is that the child’s wonder at nature’s miracles rekindles our own and helps us see the world through their eyes!
We have to care for children enough that we cast aside our own preconceived ideas, egos and adult agendas so we can 'follow the child'. The essential task of the teacher is to observe. Only when we observe and seek to know each child can we truly follow them.
The beauty of a quality programme is in the complete respect for the individuality of each child. There is a recognition of universal characteristics among children, but our role is to observe and learn about who each child is. The details in each child are fascinating: What makes their eyes light up? What brings them comfort? Who are they drawn to? What tickles their sense of humour? How do they choose to express themselves? We can only know these things in an environment of freedom, where the child is free to develop as nature intended and fully allow their miraculous self to emerge.
“A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge” - Thomas Carlyle. Caring is as much a part of the curriculum as literacy and mathematics! That which is nurtured, blossoms and grows.
Children are natural inventors, designers and creators. Through play they take what they know of the world, imitate and experiment. They dwell in possibility, and the best materials are those that follow play's golden rule - anything can be anything. A piece of wood can be a thousand things!
If you have faith in your environment you can have faith in your children! We really can't say it enough. Have faith. Trust. Children know what they need. They can, and they will, learn. They will make use of the environment we provide for them.
It is the spirit of the teacher that matters most. It is not about what we DO, but about who and how we ARE when we are with the children. You may remember one of those teachers who shared their passion and joy and who gave you a gift you have enjoyed your whole life. Be one of them!
Authentic experiences are the cornerstone of our programme. Why? Because they go straight into our memory bank. Sensory experiences makes sense and ignite special memory. What opportunities do your children have to build beautiful memories and start magical anniversaries of the heart?
One of the greatest roles we have when we spend our days with young children is to be a role model. Far more than what we say, they absorb who we are and what we do. They notice the small details in our interactions, and even whether what we say and do is in coherence. They want to be like us, and so we have to ensure that we are worthy of being imitated. We have to do the things we expect of them. Kindness, calmness, presence - these are the essentials in our role model kit.
Young children are blessed with a natural curiosity for the world around them. They explore with all their senses, ask questions and observe. They look for connections and relationships between what they already know and what they are discovering for the first time.
There is such beauty in simplicity. Simplicity plays an important role in the child’s environment. Their response to simplicity is often expressed in the way they draw, create, play and design their own aspects of the environment.
“Make a conscious decision to put LOVE behind everything you say and do.” - Pooja Ruprell. How intentional is your environment? Do you actively and consciously decide to live your core values, so your children absorb these into their very being? When the adults in the environment model care and love this becomes natural to the children and they too express these values in their activities. Gentleness, respect, tender care - these all become a part of the programme, and a part of the child when we choose to always live out these values.
There is nothing as magical as seeing a child engrossed in observing one of nature’s miracles. To young children nothing is ordinary, and young hearts are filled with the joys of life’s simple pleasures. Our children have a lot to teach us about being present, being observant and taking nothing for granted!
How does a child find their own sense of peace within an environment filled with children, adults and activities? Do you provide opportunities for stillness? People often think children are uncomfortable with silence, but when given the opportunity, children really enjoy being still and calm.
Children can only be really settled in themselves if their emotional needs for connection and safety are met. Heart deposits are made whenever children are met with kindness from caring adults. Children’s memories will fade over time, and they may not recall their specific interactions and activities, the impressions of kindness, trust and care will remain at the deepest level.
Adults often believe that what children need most is novelty. Yet the familiar actually offers the chance for the child to explore and provide their own novel ideas by asking the important question of "what else could I do with this"? Are your materials a stable presence, are they available to the children, day in and day out?
In a beautiful natural outdoor environment children will have access to a multi-sensory banquet where they can choose from a smorgasbord of offerings. They can use all of their senses to explore and to see beyond what is just on the surface. When a beautiful outdoor setting is both a familiar partof their environment and yet ever changing it will be the perfect place to be a child, to create, to imagine and to dream. It will be a child’s space.
Do your children face struggle in their activities? Struggle is not the same as suffering. Struggle is an appropriate level of challenge, and non interference from adults while the child tries to manage and to solve their own problems. The child gets far more satisfaction from overcoming difficulty and having an "oh, I can do it" moment, than from being rescued.
If we place real value on the little touches, the small things that make a big difference, we speak to the heart of the child. Have all your spaces, indoors and outdoor focus on natural materials, simplicity and beautiful details. These elements allow the child to absorb the beauty and want to protect and maintain it. The beauty brings a calmness to the children's movements and activities.
We want our environment to say to the children - this is a place of beauty. Look how carefully it has been prepared for you. You can blossom here!
Children do not want us to serve them, they want us to show them how they can do something for themselves. They need to make their own discoveries in learning. Deep satisfaction does not come from watching someone else complete a job for you! Satisfaction comes from repeated attempts, personal growth and eventual mastery.
It is time that we use the child's own biology as the compass for 'how' we provide the richest of learning. Have FAITH in the child, and respect their innate wisdom. The path they are on comes from within. We are here to support, remove obstacles, sometimes suggest, but not to lead, direct or dictate. If we tried to set the path we would miss what is essential to that child. Magda Gerber phrased it beautifully when she said, "be careful what you teach, it might interfere with what they are learning".
Do you put relationships above all else? The relationship is the most important 'thing' - the relationship between children, between adults and children, and between the child and nature. The relationship is ALL.
Children instinctively cherish these non-things. They know in their heart of hearts what is important, and what brings the most joy, even in this consumer society of ours. The best things in life aren’t things.
Although aesthetics is subject to one's taste, and is strongly dependent on sense perception, hence the derivation from the Greek aisthetikos, aesthetics or beauty is crucial in any ece environment.
Nature provides many aspects of beauty and aesthetics, if not physical, it is emotional or spiritual, making it a perfect setting.
Meetings! We all have them. What are yours like?
Do you feel inspired after your meeting? Do you look forward to your meeting? Do you have a voice at your meeting? Is your meeting a place to grow? Does your meeting enrich your whole team?
Staff meetings can be so much more than a gathering to ‘tick things of’. They can be a treasure trove for PD. When we consciously choose to spice up our regular staff meetings, we are avoiding the mindset of a once a year ‘retreat’ PD day. We are putting inspiration, interest and bonding into our regular practice which will benefit everyone! Looking for inspiration and ideas? Check out our new Meetings with Heart toolkit. https://www.heartschool.nz/meetings-toolkit
Calmness is an important part of being peaceful. Calmness is nurtured through a harmonious and beautiful environment based on the principles of freedom of choice, respect for ourselves, others and the environment, and cooperation. Give your children full attention in an outdoor environment where they are able to move freely, and where they can engage in activities for unlimited time without being hurried to move on to the next activity. Don’t be an obstacle between the child and their experience.
In a WELL PREPARED environment the children will engage with ideas and with each other, create, and dream over the course of the day. There comes a time of restlessness, but if we wait, we observe and then we notice something magical - the children resettle themselves and with their renewed vitality often show even more imagination, purpose and playfulness than before. Children don't need us to jump in and organise them, or 'rescue' them in case they 'get bored'. Being unsure of what to do next is not a crisis - it's an opportunity!
There is a mistaken belief that young children only respond to busy, cluttered, colour filled, and so called 'stimulating' environments, yet what do we want for our children? For them to overwhelmed and chaotic, or calm and content? Children need emotional safety in order to successfully engage in learning. Safety includes safety from overstimulation.
Richness and nourishment for the soul doesn't come from having lots of stuff around, but from select, carefully chosen items of beauty. As Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"!
You do not need to have a degree in science to connect with nature! The only thing you need to do is to slow down and “just notice”, to be aware, to be open to what is happening right here in front of you. Notice the sparrow taking a bath in the puddle, the raindrops on the petals. Slow down and notice!
It is the child's right to be treated in a loving and caring way each time we share in the loving connection through the vehicle of the CARE. The love and care that is given in and through the CARE is like the GLUE that connects the relationship. All who enter a space where 'full attention' has gone into the CARE of the environment will be touched in their heart and their soul will feel PEACE. Children deserve teachers who are fully prepared head heart and hands.
What is truly best for children? What is it like for the children in our care? How would we like this experience? Our role is to serve children. Not isolate them from the real and natural world, but to SERVE them.
As heart centered teachers we aim to create a wonderful place for children. We consciously put every effort into making it so. It is just as important to create a wonderful place for teachers!
For all our individuality and personal strengths, most of us are above all a team. A collective rev up is always going to be more powerful than when we focus solely on ourselves. It is a less lonely journey too, when we travel it together. It is not an either/or scenario. We can be both strong individuals AND a strong team.
Saying goodbye is hard when you are little and a day seems to last forever. Will you be that person to be there for them? Will you meet them in the heart? Will you go down on your knees for them? Literally! When you go through your knees and open your hands, with full attention, you are not only opening your hands, you are opening your heart. And something magical happens. The invitation your hands send to the child is also an invitation to yourself. The moment you open your hands is the moment you open your heart. And that is the best place to reside in, for anyone, child and adult.
What is the pace of childhood at your centre? Do you offer children a safe haven from unnecessary speed - a peaceful oasis? Stop rushing children and watch how beautifully they blossom when allowed to unfurl at their own pace. We don’t need textbooks to tell us what they need.
Children never forget the teachers who gave them memories that are heartfelt. The rich deposits of love get stamped in the child's heart forever! When a child experiences satisfaction and pleasure through LOVE and CARE then the imprint will indeed be one of the heart.
Children need a relationship more than anything else. It is how they develop a sense of who they are. It is how they learn to trust you, themselves and others. Your interactions shape the child’s future relationships.
Children download what they see and hear. You are the programmer, make sure your coding is right! Rich deposits of full attention goes directly into the child's heart account.
As children absorb the world around them, the values they are surrounded by are absorbed too, and are built into a part of who each child is. Values need to be more than just beliefs. They need to be put into action. Our strength lies in our ability to not be just one thing, but to have a strong living identity that is anchored in the hearts of all of us.
Kindness is critical when working with children. They may forget what they did but they will never forget 'how' they were treated. Kindness is a direct 'deposit' into the child’s 'heart account'. Kindness honours the spirit of the child.
We have to hold the early years as sacred if we are to do the very best for the children in our care.Of all the fundamental gifts we offer to children time is perhaps one of the most important. Magical childhoods are unhurried and protect the children’s natural pace. What is the pace of childhood at your centre?
Teaching is a qualification from the HEART. Children need teachers who concentrate as much on WHO they are as WHAT they do. Let’s strive for all of us to hand on heart say we are seeking and striving with all our heart to be the best we can be with children.
If we spend all our time being busy with children, always feeling the need to “do”, or to “extend” them, then we miss the heart. Create an environment that is paced to allow time for just being with children, observing, listening and being present for what is taking place before us.
Young children are the greatest of all explorers. They look at things differently then we do, they see things through a different window, they hear things we don't hear, they touch, smell and taste things we do not. Children discover the world with their whole heart, their busy minds and their active hands. And they do it all "up close and personal". Join them, you will be amazed at what you discover!
Happiness for your child is giving them experiences that will enrich their lives, create long lasting memories and cultivate wisdom. Experiences with the natural world, inside and outside, is an essential part of children's holistic development. The natural world is a means through which children find well-being and happiness, as well as physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional stimulation. There are infinite treasures in a natural garden. Joy and happiness are abundant, wisdom is nurtured, friendships are formed and memories are created. All in a day's work!
For a moment think about how many authentic interactions you experience in a day? Get back to the basics of it, to the process, not the product. So many things are covered up with unneeded bells and whistles, including our relationships and interactions with the young children in our care. Too much stimulation, too much "stuff". Take all that away, and ask yourself what is left?
Deepak Chopra says it so beautiful. “To make the right choices in life you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitude, ...” Where do your children go for some solitude? Have you created a familiar and homely place where they go to smell the flowers, to watch the bumblebees, to look for worms, and to listen to the birds? A place they trust, but also a place where they trust others in it? A place they know they will find stillness and be respected?
Are you wondering on how to engage your parents as they are rushing in and out of the door? Create a garden! We have noticed how often the children take their parents on a tour, proudly showing them where the best place is to find worms, marvel at the strawberries that are ready to be picked, or looking at the cocoon that is about to hatch.
Animals bring a unique dimension to your place. Caring for animalsfosters a sense of responsibility and compassion. It encourages a respect and reverence for life and other living beings. At The Nest we have a cat. The children have learned to walk around Sassy, to not chase her around and never pull her tail, attitudes that foster a sense of inner discipline and empowerment. They feed and give her water, and gently move her away when she is in the way. They have developed a communal sense of responsibility that comes with taking care of an animal like Sassy. But caring for animals in an early childhood centre should not be taken lightly. Animals do need special care and attention, more than the ‘pet in a cage’ approach. Done well, keeping animals can be a most rewarding addition.
The combination of compliance and regulations, and the new health and safety law has the danger of creating “soulless” outdoor spaces with low maintenance environments, plastic toys and meaningless equipment.
During early childhood the brain is shaped by our daily experiences, necessary for growth. If we create environments that are not over regulated by adult rules and societal priorities, but environments where children learn to manage dangers and risks, and where they can have those lifeshaping experiences, children will not only shape their brain, but also their soul.
Education and learning is inextricably interwoven into life. Pottering around, giving the space a homely feel is what makes a space alive and non clinical. We know from experience that the children's view to caring and loving their place rises if they are able to absorb life unfolding around them as they potter and tinker in their play. And remember, sometimes less is more!
Children in full time care need to be experiencing real life, not artificial activities that are disconnected to life. They need to be able to absorb life unfolding around them as they freely potter and tinker in their play. They need to be able to experience the ordinary with joy, as it is then it becomes extra-ordinary. Seeing the magic in every day moments is the key of ‘being’ a heart centred teacher.
Is your place beautiful but simple, 'carefully' and thoughtfully created? A space where the child's own imagination gets to put life to the passive things? A space that is inviting? Spaces that are prepared with beauty in mind are spaces where we can feel a whole different energy within us. We know someone has prepared this with their head, heart and hands!
We know that an environment speaks volumes. If we were to put into words exactly what we want the children to hear it would be, "you are so welcome here, this is your place, it belongs to you. We know you can find true happiness here and we know that you'll thrive. Come in and make yourself at home"! It is our role as teachers to provide a place where children feel totally 'at home'.
Modeling joy and gratitude is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Take time to wander and wonder! Be joyful. Slow down, laugh, show excitement over a awesome looking cloud in the sky instead of a silly picture on a phone. Don’t judge, just notice, be in-joy with the natural gifts of life. Looking at life with a sense of awe and wonder will bring joy not only in the children’s life, but your life too!
Does your environment offer children a daily diet of real and natural experiences? Do your children bake bread? Gather eggs from the chooks? Harvest veggies? Pick apples? Feed the animals? Water the plants? Do they arrange flowers? Rake the sand? What DO your children do? And what do YOU do? Are there things you do the children could do? Outdoors in a garden or indoors in a homely, safe space? Take a stock take of what you do and what the children (can) do.
Children need to be enveloped by love and care and sense that they are safe and can unfold naturally and confidently. Ask yourselves a few questions about your environment. Take a sensory stocktake of your place. As you create beauty you restore your own soul at the same time.
An education of the heart does not come from a reset or restart at the push of a button, it comes from nature! Only authentic experiences can truly touch the heart. Watching a chick hatch on animal planet is entertaining. Watching, seeing, touching, hearing and smelling a chick hatch in real life is pure magic!
One cannot deny the power of the vibe and how places can vibrate with either good or bad energy. Put energy into the unseen environment. The difference between FEAR or FAIRNESS in an environment: one we feel we belong and are connected the other we feel alone and disconnected. Children must be in environments where the energy is charged with FAIR, atmos-fair, not FEAR, atmos-FEAR.
Children don't seem to feel the cold as we, adults do. While they do need to be wrapped up warmly with suitable clothes that will keep them dry, here in New Zealand, they should be able to play outside in all temperatures. It is a myth that children catch a cold by being out in the cold -only catching a virus causes colds. Actually being outside might protect them from colds, as the viruses are more likely to pass from child to child when they are all kept inside. Make sure you go outside every day. Oh, and if you live in an area where snow is part of your season, share it with the children, as we did a few years ago when snowfall hit Kapiti!
When we consider the formative years of a child's life is all about sensory download, let's be more conscious to provide environments that saturate the senses with beauty as well. Take a sensory stocktake of your place. Ask yourselves a few questions, that really get to the heart of the matter. Is it beautiful? Lets give our children beautiful sensory banquets so they too can have the same cellular memory in years to come.
You reap what you sow! We get given the most beautiful little trinkets from people's garage sales. Inject love and beauty into your space. Let beauty guide you in how you set up your environment, not the ece catalogue.
Heart centred teaching is as much about a mindset as a skill set, and a willingness to be present and tuned in. Be prepared, in head, hand and heart. The children get the gift of presence when we are prepared.
What is calling the children when they arrive at your place? At The Nest most children don’t even make it inside. The beautiful trees are calling to them, whispering, “come closer, come and really see me”, and the children happily oblige!
Harvesting is always a very popular and satisfying activity for children. Ideally they have nurtured and cared for the plants and watched them grow, sometimes from as little as seeds. In a time where people are expecting instant gratification, harvesting gives children the experience of satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time. Caring, kindness and compassion are the biggest harvest in our garden!
Maria Montessori, Emmi Pikler, Rudolph Steiner, read the books, learn from the ‘giants’ you admire in each field, but have the confidence to question what it is our children are experiencing and exposed to. Have a strong living identity that is anchored in your heart!
Do not ask what a child will need for primary school and aim to get them 'ready'. Instead meet the needs of here and now. Laying foundations, the cement has to dry before we can race ahead to the next stage.