Early Childhood Education / Early Years

Debra Laxton and Marilyn Leask with inputs from the MESH Early Years Editorial Board | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
Early Childhood Education / Early Years
Effective learning
Activities and Types of Play
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Personal, social, emotional development and mental health

Advice from therapists working with refugee children and parents waiting on the French/British border in Calais and Dunkerque is to focus on building resilience by working to try and elicit survival strategies and ways children have coped and to build on these. A lot of work on trauma has come from work with the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is unhelpful for refugees (and others in ongoing stressful contexts) as there is no 'post-trauma', they are living with ongoing trauma.

Element Experiences/ Strategies/ Knowledge
Background, theory (attachment)
  • Provide a secure base/ maintain a sense of security (Bowlby, 1998; Ainsworth, 1970)
  • Key person approach – Warm, responsive, consistent carers (Elfer, Goldschmied & Selleck, 2012; DCSF, 2008a; DfE, 2017)
  • Dance of dialogue - attuned to the child’s needs/ treat as communicating being from birth (Read, 2014; Sharma & Cockerill, 2014)
  • Impact of care/ responsiveness/ neglect on brain development and short and long term outcomes. Minimise stress levels – impact on cortisol, myelin breakdown (Thompson, 2008; Music, 2011; Gerhardt, 2014)
  • Emotionally enabling environments/ create a sense of belonging (Gunner & Donzella 2002; Early Education, 2012)
Working with parents
  • Key person approach – triangle of trust & communication. Practitioner, child, parent (Goldschmied & Selleck, 1996).
  • Parental engagement - helpers & volunteers (self-efficacy, agency) Bandura, 1995)
  • Parents valued & respected as experts of their child(ren) (QCA, 2000). ERGO (Empathy, Respect, Genuineness, Optimism) (Scott et al, 2007)
  • Share children’s everyday successes
  • Share concerns sensitively and honestly
Transitions & Building resilience
  • Transitional objects (Winnicott, 1953)
  • Create personal stories for individual children using talk, drawings by adult or child and scribed by adult or child (Masten, 2014).
Understanding and regulating emotions & behaviour

Warm reciprocal relationships, opportunities for autonomy, encouraging ‘talk’ (Whitebread, 2013)

Conflict resolution – 6 steps to conflict resolution (Holt, 2010)

  • Opportunities for gaining the perspectives of others – stories, personal experiences
  • Observe children to identify A, B, C of behaviour
  • Model sharing and caring skills & behaviours
  • Provide images that show feelings being expressed – emotions on carved branches, emotion stones
  • Talk about feelings and provide key vocabulary as opportunities arise
  • Use situation stories
  • Provide consistent fair boundaries whilst allowing for risk and challenge
  • Opportunities to be physically active
Making relationships
  • Key Person Approach (Elfer, Goldschmied & Selleck, 2012; DCSF, 2008a; DfE, 2017)
  • Engage in playful interactions (DCSF, 2008b)
  • Social stages of play – Range of play opportunities including imaginative play, sharing stories, turn taking games, time for 1:1 with key persons & small groups (Parten, 1932; Bronfenbrenner 1979)
  • Communication Friendly Spaces (Jarman, 2013)
  • Value all children, listen, give time to express/ respond
  • Short, small meaningful circle times
  • Learn the names of others through songs and rhymes
Self-confidence, self-awareness & independence
  • Provide opportunities for children to have small responsibilities (Bandura, 1995)
  • Provide spaces for quiet reflection e.g. dens
  • Use every day routines to promote independence e.g. mealtimes, dressing (Casey & Robertson 2016; DfE, 2017)
  • Time to self-initiate play and exploration with open ended materials that have many possibilities (no right or wrong) e.g. loose parts.
  • Psychological safety & psychological freedom
  • Use specific praise, share achievements, WOW moments
  • Encourage children to support others (scaffold) (Bruner 1978; Rogers, 1961)
  • Positive comments/ expressions need to significantly outweigh negatives
  • Take a genuine interest in children, listen to them
  • Allow children to take decisions, express preferences & make choices
  • Creating & Thinking Critically (DfE, 2017)
  • Risk and challenge (Gill, 2006)