It’s good to listen
- Mums Tips
- Parenting Skills
- Published on Friday, 25 December 2020 14:03
- Last Updated on 23 December 2020
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Whilst 2020 has been a time of upheaval and reflection for many, what did we really learn from our children during these unchartered times? Children know more about themselves and our world than we often give them credit for. It was therefore wonderful to observe the comfort and ease felt as they returned to nursery after the first lockdown earlier this year.
The sheer strength of the relationships, the friendships they had built and the familiarity of the environment made the transition back to nursery much smoother.
Interestingly, Covid-19 became a background noise for many children. Once they arrived at nursery, they just wanted to get back and play with their friends and be in a safe cocoon.
For staff, the children’s own brand of positivity immediately allayed their adult anxieties and fears. So many commented on the children’s love and the magic of their spontaneous joy which eased the most anxious of staff and they soon slipped into their usual loving and nurturing state.
The children loved the informal approach to teaching, where there was much more time to do things like sitting and share stories. They loved the chat, the slowing down of their day as we had more staff and fewer children. They really loved being outdoors all day, climbing, mud play, water fun and all the play-based learning that skilled Early Years teachers weave into the experiences.
“There was a positive buzz around the nursery, and it was down to the magic of children and their positive outlook to life among the pandemic nightmare” – Earl’s Court Nursery Manager
Furthermore, the Home Learning experiences were well received as was the confidence that it rekindled in parents to use all the household tasks as a leverage for fun and learning. For some families it helped create the sort of routine and calm children need to thrive.
Despite the positivity, we also saw some sad children who returned in a fearful state. These were the same children who had picked up their parents fears which translated into separation anxieties. Some came back having reverted to wearing nappies, other were genuinely unhealthy and some were becoming obese. For others, their language and behaviour deteriorated. They came from homes with no savings, limited work opportunities and worried parents.
We helped where we could with practical solutions such as providing food, clothes, shoes and summer clubs but mostly gave reassurance and kindness.
However, what children now need is time – a slow pedagogy which is simply describes how we lead our children to learn. We need to give them room to play and rebuild their confidence. Once they are in that safe place, we can start to extend their learning and introduce new ideas and skills. To do that we need to be knowledgeable about how small children learn and apply the art and science of Early Years teaching with sensitivity and kindness. This is not the time for us bending under political pressure so that children can pass their SATS. This is the time for deep learning and compassion.
The one thing which children continue to tell us is that friends really do matter to them. They also like it when their parents are happy and arrive at nursery with a smile and share a warm conversation with staff. Calm, well- paced days with time to wallow in play remain high on their list.
As we finally approach the end of 2020 which, for many, has been an ‘Annus Horribilis’, let’s make a national promise to listen to our children more in 2021 and give them more of what clearly makes them learn in a happy and contented way. After all, listening costs nothing and does a world of good.
June O’Sullivan is an Early Years consultant, speaker and author. Chief Executive at The London Early Years Foundation – the UK’s largest childcare Social Enterprise.