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An end to line-ups!


Tuesday 23 January 2018

I was very fortunate to be invited to attend a study visit to Norway with Early Childhood Ireland a few years ago. Of course, the visit was very exciting. I had never visited Norway and had always admired the country’s reputation for high quality early years experiences especially in risk taking and outdoor play. However, it was a throw away comment from an Early Years Educator in Trondheim that stayed with me and really made me think. A very fit looking educator was guiding us around their forest area. He strode out in front of us and 25 Early Years Educators and trainers practising in Ireland dutifully formed a line behind. Our guide stopped and turned to look at us and he chuckled how the Irish loved to form a line and make queues.


I still think back on this. I remember being quite close to the front of the line and I followed the educator turning back also and smiled at his observation as we all dutifully followed each other’s footsteps. Now it has since been said to me that there is environmental merit to this approach. I’m not so sure on this as surely trampling along the same piece of ground means more damage to the plants along that path but, leaving that aside, it did make me think.

Returning to my service I shared my thoughts. First, I was struck how I had been affected by a throw away comment. Why were the words in this moment so thought provoking? I’m not sure the educator was even aware that I was processing them as they certainly were not planned… it was just that they had hit a chord with me. I wondered in how many moments had I had a similar effect on the children in my care and the staff team? Of course, I will never know, unless they were in some way shared with me.  I am also aware that sometimes messages or signals I have given have been interpreted in ways I did not plan or intend. I think we never have complete control on how a message is heard, as so much depends on the recipient. However, I feel this is also something to be aware of and deserves reflection. So, following reflection as a team, we asked the following questions: 

Why did we form queues as adults?

When did we encourage children to form lines?

Was lining up in the best interests of the children?

Did forming an “orderly queue” reduce conflicts?

Looking at our practice we thought about how we used queues in the setting and how their use affected the children. At this time, we used queues mainly for transitions: moving rooms after breakfast, going outside, washing hands for meal times for example. We sang songs to make this more enjoyable for the children and felt it helped us to manage the transitions in our service. However, we also observed that it was a time the children were relatively inactive, a time of higher conflicts and a time where the children were expected to be compliant and wait.


Based on these observations we decided to change things a little. When moving rooms during the day children now head off to the new room individually. Our rooms are connected by a shared outdoor area so really this flow is much easier to manage. We no longer queue to wait for children getting dressed to go out. Instead when each child is dressed they go outside. The big call for meal times is now gone as each child individually washes their hands and snack is available for children when they are ready. Children are more active as waiting times are reduced. There are fewer conflicts as each child maintains their own space more easily and the children have more freedom within boundaries.


These relatively small changes have been so effective for creating a flow between the indoors and outdoors and also during transitions. I am not saying these changes have come easily to us as adults as we have needed to battle our urge to make lines. Perhaps this is something instilled in most of us from our own school days. However, we believe the changes have been in the interests of the children. At times I have felt frustrated when a new team member joins our team and I witness a queue being formed to manage a transition. At this point I take a breath, and remember my Norwegian guide in Trondheim and then tell my story!

For more Scéalta posts on Transitions read:


Sarah Twohig is Manager at Crawford Childcare in Glanmire, Co. Cork. Sarah began her career in Early Years Education after her own children started school. Returning to education after a break she studied Early Years at FETAC level 5 and continued to complete a HETAC level 8 in Early Childhood Studies and LINC. Sarah joined Crawford Childcare in 2010. Her areas of interest in the early years include the benefits of outdoor play, supporting children’s social competence and inclusion. In this post Sarah talks about some of the influences which led her service to change their approach to transitions and lining up.

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Paula Conlon says:

    This makes me feel a little guilty, just today I felt a sense of pride of our preschoolers who formed a very orderly straight line while waiting to go back indoors, all 22 of them. Now I’m questioning my own motives. Oh dear!

  2. Maire Corbett says:

    Thank you so much Paula for your comments on Sarah’s blog, it is wonderful to hear how early years educators are ‘thinking about’ their practice and always putting the best interests of children first. Don’t feel guilty…. Just keep reflecting and remember all we can do is strive to keep the balance! Knowing that it was always in the best interests of children, we can continue to feel proud…..

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