– By Máire Corbett, Early Childhood Ireland
This is the time of year our thoughts start to turn to moving on and transitioning from and within an Early Years environment. Big school beckons for the children in their second ECCE year and the younger children will be preparing for moving ‘up’ a room. If you’re wondering how best to support children and their families with some of these transitions ahead, we’ve put together a ‘round-up’ of some past Scéalta blog posts and podcast episodes that may help you plan for the few weeks ahead.
Back in March 2017, Dr Mary O’Kane, lecturer in Psychology and Early Childhood Education with the Open University, wrote about transitions and outlined that ‘Numerous studies have found that a positive experience in the transition to school is a predictor of future success in terms of social, emotional and educational outcomes. Indeed, this transition can be characterised as a time of opportunity, aspiration, expectation and entitlement’. She goes on to say that well-handled, this time of change and disequilibrium can be a positive learning experience for children.
Of course, we need to be mindful that transitions are a feature of daily life for children. In August 2016, Kathleen Tuite, from Early Childhood Ireland, discussed how and why we can make transitions smoother and more predictable for toddlers. She says, ‘Any of the transition times within the day can be handled by toddlers, firstly knowing there is some level of predictability, having adequate time to prepare for a move and minimising waiting times when a change is indicated.’
We all know that parents are the first educators of their children and that working in partnership with them can be rewarding and really good for children. It’s lovely when parents give positive feedback and show their appreciation for the work educators do with their young children. In a Scéalta blog post called, ‘Prexit; the preschool exit’ in June 2018, Aisling Hearne from Early Childhood Ireland, wrote movingly of the appreciation she had as a parent for the care and love her son had received from the educators in his preschool.
She writes ‘Surrounded by professional educators, he flourished in his uniqueness. Last week I watched him walk into his new school. Awe struck, I followed his lead as he walked straight up to his new teacher. He shook his hand, introduced himself and gushed about all the things he enjoys doing. Through his preschool practitioner’s time and expertise, I can positively say that he now moves forward as an extremely confident and capable young boy.’ What a lovely tribute!
The school year ends in June and ‘big school’ starts a few months later. Sometimes parents wonder should they do things during the summer months to prepare children for the start of primary school. In a Scéalta blog post in June 2019, Dr Suzanne Egan and Dr Jennifer Pope from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick gave advice, based on their research, that the best thing to do is give lots of opportunities for outdoor play. Their final message? ‘We need to encourage parents to support and allow their children to engage in various forms of outdoor play including climbing, jumping, chasing and having fun. Building resilience, strengthening social connections with other children and exploring the natural environment are key skills our children need, not just for school but for lifelong learning and well-being. Playing outdoors is crucial so spread the word, especially when school is but a hop skip and a jump away!’
In June 2021 Early Childhood Ireland’s podcast covered Transitions. In the first episode of the series we spoke to Dr Derek Grant, from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, who talks about how the use of the Mo Scéal transition materials can help with the roles, relationships and change the transition to Big School entails. The Mo Scéal materials Derek refers to can be explored here.
The second episode of this series was very practical and gave some great ideas from Early Childhood Ireland members Kathleen Cash and Lorraine Cash. Their setting, Tír na Óg in Athy, Co Kildare had won the National Award for Transitions in 2020 and you can listen to their approach to Transitions in practice here.
In the third and final episode of Early Childhood Ireland’s podcast series relating to Transitions, our colleagues Milica Atanackovic and Fiona Kelleher discussed the TRAP project. They outlined the development of the programme and the materials resulting from this EU project with Croatia, Iceland and Sweden.
We hope the reflections and ideas in these materials help you support the children in your setting as they move to the next stage of their journey.