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
Case Studies

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)