Research shows that children have a need to be outside, taking opportunities to explore, discover, climb and run. Make sure you involve children in using your outdoor space by asking them to help create obstacle courses for one another, asking them to think about what tools and resources they will need. Or you could provide materials for the children to make dens outdoors. Could they have a picnic in their den?
Another idea is to ask older children to help make a treasure hunt and map for the younger children. Ask them to draw the map and plan out the route. They can also think about what the treasure will be.
Use emotional language
We need to help children understand their feelings and using emotional language will help give them the vocabulary they need to understand their own feelings, as well as other people’s. Even when children are babies we can start talking about their feelings. For example, when a baby is crying to be fed, we can say: “It’s okay, I know you are feeling hungry. I am going to feed you now.”
When a toddler is crying because their parent has left them at nursery, we can say: “I can see that you are really sad that Mummy has gone. She will be back later but I am here for you now.”
Our lives are often very busy, and our children’s lives can often be busy too. We need to help children find the time to rest and experience moments of stillness. Are there spaces in your setting where your child can lay back and relax or daydream? You can also use yoga and mindfulness with young children. Both of these practices help children to find stillness.
Creativity is an essential part of well-being. We need to give children the space to be creative and join in the process with them. Find times to sing and dance with children, this can be a joyful experience. Give children the opportunity to experiment with a wide range of materials and mark-making tools. Creativity should be about enjoying the activity and not about having a finished product.
Children have a passion for learning and discovering. They need adults around them who want to learn and explore with them. I believe one of our roles as practitioners is to be a co-explorer and adventurer with children. Children are great at becoming fascinated by something – this might be the snail and sticks you see on the road as you are walking to the shops, or it might be a keen interest in dinosaurs. As adults we can express our own interests and delight our children by learning alongside them, allowing their natural interests to shape our daily activities.
Sources (websites or cite DHS rules, or CFOC standards, etc.)
This article originally appeared in the Alliance's Under 5 membership magazine