We all have very busy schedules and so many different things we need to achieve in our services that sometimes we get caught up in the “jobs” and forget the purpose of out job. We are there for the children and we should be with them as much as possible.
Sure things needs cleaning, filing, documenting, displaying and so much more, but sometimes this takes up so much of our time we end up merely supervising, or may leave only one educator with the children.
Now, when I say play, I don’t mean ask a million questions like you are interviewing the child for a job. Would you be relaxed if every time you explored your environment, tried something new, or even picked something up someone asked “What are you doing?”, “What colour is that?”, “What do you think will happen next?”, “How many do you have?”. Or would you feel overwhelmed, anxious and possibly put off from doing anything around that person?
You might already know all of this, which is great, but you also might have got consumed by the “jobs” or even be new to child care in which case this might help you engage with the children more.
Here are some tips on playing with children that help increase their learning and build relationships:
- Get down to the children’s levels: When you are at a child’s level not only do they feel safe and comfortable with your presence but you can also start to see things from their perspective. Whether it be understanding how they are thinking, what they are doing, or how you can challenge or support them. Being at the children’s level also allows you to pre-empt and prevent behavioural issues from occurring as you are right there on hand to support children.
- Role model: If you are playing along side the children you are likely to demonstrate ways to use the resources that they might not have thought of yet. This challenges their thinking and allows you to scaffold their learning by providing options in a non-threatening and child-focused way. If you were to say “look at the tower I built, who can build one like me? I will show you have I did it..” then that could intimidate children who are not yet confident to try. By just building a stronger base, or perhaps saying “oh no, it fell down, maybe I need a stronger base” then this can help children observe what you are doing and why, to store that information for when they are ready. In this example you have also role-modelled the appropriate emotional response to a tower falling down.
- Put down the technology: There is almost no reason that mobiles, laptops, tablets etc. need to be constantly on the floor with the children. They are a distraction and often the answers they give in response to children’s questions are very technical and not really child friendly. Another piece of technology that gets in the way when it comes to relationships with children is cameras. We do not need to take photos of everything that happens in our services, and often to take a photo we go hunting for the camera or ask someone to bring it over which interrupts the engagement and relationships with the children (both for us and the other educators who are hunting for the camera on our behalf). You may have seen my previous challenge to take no photos for a week and see what impact it has on relationships with the children.
- Look at the roster/routine: See whether there are better times in the day that jobs could be done so they don’t interfere with interactions and play time with the children. Whether it be waiting until rest time, waiting until educators are back from lunch breaks or during the quiet morning and evening times. Also see whether things can be done with the children’s help. Get them involved in cutting out photos and putting them into documentation, or choosing items to refill craft pots, all of this is meaningful and build relationships while providing learning opportunities for the children.
Play time for children is about them, becoming confident, resilient and secure in themselves, so we do not need to be interrupting their play constantly and trying to play alongside everyone. But it is also not a time to “get stuff done” while the children are busy playing. There needs to be a balance between the two and hopefully these points will help you achieve this if you feel you are not finding the balance.
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