nurturing childhood in the early years

Nurturing Childhood in the Early years

Children today have lived through some unprecedented times, with a yet unknown impact on their lives.  But in a time of catch-up programmes and concern for children’s future academic abilities, are you finding children’s development of personal, emotional and social skills more of a concern? 

As September approaches, another fresh-faced year group of four-year-olds are buying school uniform and eagerly anticipating their transition through the school gates.  These children, born between September 2017 and August 2018 were just toddlers in March 2020.  Many of whom had not yet reached their second birthday when life as they had known it changed enormously.   

As their language and communication was seeing monumental development, lip movements and expression became covered by masks.  As their social skills were beginning to develop, trips to the park and playing with friends stopped.  And the groups they had been enjoying became more “computer” than “communication” as mixing with other children, learning to have a voice and making friends became a post-pandemic privilege.  Not to mention the worries and fears of their big people that they were picking up on. 

Now this generation of children are looking towards the school gates, they are doing so without many of the experiences that would ordinarily have been an expected feature of their early years.  But before we can begin to support the limitless potential of our children, we need to understand the holistic nature of learning and development that is occurring and the practices and opportunities that need to be in place.

A child’s development through their early years is staggering.  And this foundational period of growth must be viewed with more reverence than simply as preparations for an adult-imposed future curriculum.  Or limited to their demonstrated ability within a set of learning goals.  The experiences children are being afforded are impacting a wide range of emotional, physical and developmental issues.  All of which combine to determine how equipped for success they are when they transition beyond this foundational time.  But to support this requires a deeper and more reflective understanding of a child’s wide-ranging growth and potential.  Both for the impact of every experience on a child’s mind and body, the potential magic within each interaction and the effects all this has on their developing character, attitudes and responses. 

We need to think about how we are helping children to feel safe and secure, to feel that they have a voice along with the social skills and confidence to use it.  We need to unpick the common practices we have become used to if we are to consider (for example) how mealtimes, sleep and care routines are experienced and the impact this has on a child’s social skills and emotional well-being.  We need to think about how our planning and routine is affecting autonomy and engagement and the true impact of outdoor play on physical and mental growth.  Only then can we offer our children the very best start to a lifelong journey, the foundations of which are embedding through everything that you do.

However, this level of understanding is missing from typical childcare qualifications and therefore a lot of practice that is seen within childcare settings.  And the situation is only set to worsen as the impact of prolonged periods of universal lockdown and interruption to the essential experiences of early childhood are felt.  But rather than allowing focus to become trained on children’s missing academic preparation, it is a step backwards that our children need.  Rather than any accelerated leap forward.

So, join me for the new Nurturing Childhoods MA in October where we will explore the underpinning child development and theory that will allow you to reflect on the practices your children need.  

  • In this module we will explore the importance of nurturing happiness and security as we reflect on the impact this has on a child’s experiences of learning.
  • We will look at what it means for a child to develop the sense of security and well-being that are essential before focus can turn elsewhere.
  • We will look at the mechanisms driving children’s emotions and behaviours.
  • And how we can empower resilience, self-esteem and the confidence children need to thrive.
  • And we will examine the dispositions a child needs before they can secure a positive introduction to formal learning.

All the while developing the confidence to rethink practice with a child centric view as we understand the needs of children that this is rooted in.  Along with the convincing arguments and powerful voice we need to develop if we are to retain our focus in the early years.