5 tips for… Responsiveness to Children

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The second in the Practices series looks at responding to children. Here are 5 tips to help with this practice …

  1. Allow the children to take the lead: In order to respond to children they must be allowed the opportunity to lead. Sometimes it can be easy to take over an experience if it isn’t going ‘the way we had planned’, or the finished product doesn’t ‘look like it should’ however both of those examples are evidence of Responsiveness to Children not being utilised. The learning is what is important not the finished outcome, so if children want to take an experience in a different direction ask yourself ‘are they still learning?’ and if the answer is yes, then let them lead.
  2. Build relationships with the children: Relationships are key when it comes to this practice because if children do not have secure attachments they are unlikely to take the lead. If educators do not have quality relationships with children they are unlikely to trust children to take the lead because of assumptions that they may ‘do it wrong’, or ‘mess it up’. The more trusting and nurturing the relationships the more likely it is that educators will respond to children’s ideas and value them for what they can bring to the curriculum.
  3. Ensure you are giving children equal opportunities: Some children are confident in seeking out an educator’s attention and make it easy for their voice to be heard while other are less obvious and direct in their approaches. Younger children also use more subtle gestures and non-verbal communication to express their wants and needs. It is our job to ensure that all children have a voice and get the same amount of responsiveness. Again, your relationships will help to ensure this by not only valuing every child but also by recognising how each child communicates. An infant who moves a resource in front of them is saying ‘I have not finished with this yet’, and a child who is sitting at the back door quietly, with their hat in their hand, is saying ‘I want to go outside’. Both of these children deserve as much of a response as those who actively seek out an educator or communicate their wants and needs loudly.
  4. Reflect on your practices: It is important to use critical reflection to ensure that your practices in your service support responsiveness to children and allow work to be done with children, not to children. What percentage of your program allows children to take the lead? Why? How do you ensure each child is responded to appropriately and positively? Do you actively seek the voice of those children who are less vocal in their communication? Is responsiveness to children role modelled in all aspects of the curriculum?
  5. Demonstrate this in your program: By stating how experiences are driven by children’s play/suggestions/ideas/requests in your documentation you can provide evidence of responsiveness to children. Allowing the children choice in setting up the environment and how resources are used provides evidence of a commitment to child directed learning. Documenting in observations how children’s approaches to an experience prompted different levels of response (e.g. role modelling, questioning, getting additional resources etc) shows how this practice is implemented in the service.

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