Happy Days Childcare, Ratoath winning the Inspired Practice Award has been a tremendous boost to everyone involved in our service and most especially in this difficult Covid dominated year. It is personally a huge boost as it gives recognition to all my team’s and my own hard work over these past 7 years in establishing a totally transformed pre-school creche that I was tasked with turning around from a lowly point back in 2013. Over that time, we firstly restructured the service as a Montessori and then we have continually expanded its scope each year to that of a setting that focusses on our role as Educators in the broadest sense rather than just teachers of pre-school children.
Our service is part of a wider community organisation so in thinking of this award, we had focussed on an activity which involved not just the children and their parents but also the wider multi-generational community. This has really brought joy to that wider community also. As an educator, I am always looking at how we can integrate our little pre-school childcare service into the larger overall community and this has required us to be creative, innovative and active in our wider community. So our children have learned citizenship in practical little ways over these past years – from regular visits to our local nursing home and interaction with its residents to help keep our town tidy, to visits from the Fire Service, Gardai, to putting on a show for our town’s Christmas Tree Lighting. And so the development of our Kindness Elves was a natural outflow from all of these other initiatives and was even more special in that its origin came from the children themselves and then as it developed it linked in with all the other initiatives we had already in place.
When parents visit the service of Happy Days unquestionably the first thing I am always asked is ‘What do you teach the children?’ What is the curriculum?’ My response without a doubt will always be ‘We teach them kindness’. We teach the children to empathise and help one another. We help them to care for one another. How to share amongst others and respect each other. Most importantly though my service teaches the children to never leave anyone out no matter what.
Back in early September 2018, the class of Happy Days read a book called ‘The Kindness Elves’ by Anna Ranson and Benjamin Byrne. This is the book that helps develop the children’s understanding of kindness and joy. It shows them how delivering random acts of kindness gives people that warm and fuzzy inside feeling.
My team and I decided to make the ‘Random Acts of Kindness Challenge’. Each child got a card that had 8 acts of kindness. As each child completed their acts of kindness card, they brought the card back and the whole class would discuss how they carried out their acts of kindness. It quickly became the children’s favourite thing to do. What started out as small acts of kindness began to grow.
I distinctly remember having a conversation with one of the children who came up to me and said inquisitively ‘Imagine we were turned into the kindness elves Teacher Eilish.’ I was intrigued by this and asked, ‘What would you do if you were the kindness elves?’ The child with no hesitation answered, ‘I would carry out our missions as we do with the cards from the book, spread kindness.’ And really from that little acorn grew our entire Kindness Elves project. To observe how it grew and grew and how it has now progressed to our award allows us to put all the worries and hassles of these Covid times aside for just a little while and make us realise how significant a contribution as educators we can make to not just our children and their families but also our communities.
You can see the full story of the Kindness Elves by watching the video here.
Eilish Balfe, Happy Days Childcare, Ratoath holds a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and Care. She has worked in early years for 13 years after making the switch from Special Needs Teaching. She’s the manager and room leader of a community setting. Throughout the years my passion for the early years has evolved and grown to link our setting into the community we live in. The connections that we have made has grown into the foundation of our pedagogy.