Play environments – Rhythm & care moments

Do you often find that your day feels hurried, rushed, and stressful at times? Do you constantly battle with the children in your care to get them to sit and enjoy a meal? Is there food everywhere with very little consumed? Is it a constant battle to change a nappy or take a nap? Does this bring up feelings of guilt, frustration, annoyance? Are you overwhelmed with negative emotion? As a parent and an early childhood teacher I know this feeling all to well!! The question is:

                         “How do we create a more peaceful environment for all?”

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The answer is to be mindful of these feelings, slowing down and ensuring the children feel involved and take part in the care moments. Care moments are just that – moments of care that take place throughout the day. If you slow down, take care, and show respect for the child, then your stress levels and frustration diminish. The child is then more engaged and enjoys spending special time with you.

Early on in my teaching career, when I taught in an infant and toddler room, we found we were being slaves to the clock, so we took it away, and what a difference this made!! Instead of “lunch at 12pm”, we ate when we were hungry. Instead of “bed at 1pm”, we put the children to bed when they showed signs of being tired. We slowed down, we were present, we were engaged, we were mindful. Instead of “nappy time!”, we invited the child when they were ready to come.

                                       Invite the child? But what do you mean?

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Inviting the child to transition from playing into a care moment is a way to show that you respect what they are doing in their play. Imagine if you were deep in thought and someone whipped you away and plopped you on a nanny changing table. An invitation can be as simple as getting down to the child’s level, asking them if they are ready to engage in the care moment, or simply outstretching your hands with palms facing up. This works particularly well with infants. Then all you need to do is simply pause and wait for a response, whether this is verbal or non-verbal. A young child may shake their head and say, “no, I’m not ready”. You would then offer to come back in xxx amount of time. This shows respect for the child’s eventual readiness and removes the power struggle, as you are empowering the child to own the decision. An infant may turn their body towards you or hold their hands out to you. By taking this approach, slowly in time, you will find you will begin to read children’s non-verbal ques, listen to what they are saying, and respect them as little people with feelings and emotions, just like us. The presence of respectful care, natural unfolding, and offering an unhurried pace, is especially crucial in a child’s early learning stage when they are developing a sense of self, as well as making sense of the world around them. By offering choice and our calm respectful presence, we empower children and communicate that there needs, feelings, and interests are important and worthy of respect – setting them up for life-long learning and a healthy self-esteem.

For infants, care and education are inseparable because valuable learning is taking place during routine care times and this learning is hindered if the child does not have a strong reciprocal and consistent relationship with the person who is caring for them. In being cared for, the infant is learning to care for others”, (https://thepiklercollection.weebly.com/uploads/9/4/5/3/9453622/toni_respectful_care.pdf)

Written by Angela Stone