What implications are there for caring for young children? A lot depends on what our mindset is and how we view our role. What do we understand our job to be? What we think, affects how we feel, affects how we act. For example, if we think that our job is to teach children all we can, so that they learn their numbers and letters and how to behave, then we may feel that kids need to do lots of things to learn and keep busy. We may act by setting up a program that mainly consists of adults directing the children through activities. This is concerning for several reasons. An adult-led emphasis on literacy and numeracy means other things need to be left out and what too often gets left out are the opportunities for learning through play.
As the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) so clearly states:“Experts recognize that play and academic work are not distinct categories for young children: creating, doing, and learning are inextricably linked. When children are engaged in purposeful play, they are discovering, creating, improvising, and expanding their learning. Viewing children as active participants in their own development and learning allows educators to move beyond preconceived expectations about what children should be learning, and focus on what they are learning” (CMEC, 2012).
In reflecting on this, some very well-meaning early learning centres noted they had been putting children through many transitions in the day, in one example, as many as 19. The challenge is, how can you build relationships with children if you are always interrupting their work, directing them to the new activity or routine, and correcting them if they don’t follow your expectations for following the schedule? In contrast, among a growing number of early learning and child care programs, fostering relationships with the children is a top priority. They feel that children learn best in an environment that focuses on relationships, and that if kids are strongly connected to their teachers they will learn more and have less challenging behaviours. They think through the lens of “how will this affect our relationships with the children”. They look at how many transitions children go through and work to reduce transitions, and allow lengthy blocks of time where they can be connecting with the children through individualized care and play (Ministry of Education, 2007).