Aistear reminds us that relationships are at the very heart of early learning and development. Through positive early attachments and interactions babies learn to feel secure, to communicate and to enjoy being with people.
Some years ago I was in a baby room in a crèche. The room was quiet; many of the babies were asleep. There were two adults and one baby awake. One of the adults was sitting on the floor playing with the baby. A second baby woke up and needed to be picked up. The adult who was standing said ‘I’ll sit with Oscar, Laoise knows you better, so you should go and take her up.’ (not real names)
This simple story shows how respected these young children were and how the adults understood how important close consistent relationships are for the development of the babies and toddlers in their care.
Being with adults who know you, who care about you and who understand you is a key foundation for children’s learning and development. Adults who know what makes you comfortable and soothed, who know what makes you feel unsure, who know what makes you giggle and laugh and who know how you like to go to sleep and how you wake up. The security this brings is immeasurable, and it is from this secure base that babies and toddlers develop the confidence to communicate, explore and think and have a good sense of their own identity and belonging.
These relationships take time and consistency. Here are a few things to think about:
>> The same staff in rooms all the time, and this includes lunch cover and relief staff. Within this consistent group, slow down, spend time in companionship, observing, listening to and responding to babies and toddlers.
>> Having a key person approach, whereby the same person takes care of the same group of children as much as possible. The Aistear Síolta Practice Guide www.aistearsiolta.ie has a nice Tip Sheet on the key person approach here.
>> Taking time to just be with babies and toddlers, getting to know them and what makes them ‘tick’.
>> Avoiding moving babies and toddlers from one room to another too many times, unless a key person can make the move with them.
>> Building close relationships with parents, telling them about how their young child spend their day. Share stories and anecdotes about their children with parents. Invite parents to share their stories with you. One setting told me about a toddler who loved music… when they told his parents that he enjoyed moving to music and beating blocks and cans rhythmically, the parents were delighted and the educator found out that the family were very involved in music. This simple sharing helps deepen relationships.
>> Through stories parents know that you like their children and they in turn like you. The end result is that you create of triangle of warm, supportive relationships around the child.
We would love to hear your feedback on this topic, so please leave a comment below.