Working with children
Meeting children and young people’s needs
- Adopt a child-centred approach when working with children and give appropriate consideration to the needs and interests of each child. Children’s needs are affected by a range of factors including physical, emotional and intellectual development, personal interests and circumstances, contextual factors of time and place and day to day fluctuations in energy and interests.
- Listen to children when they voice their needs/ interests and observe behaviour for non-verbal cues.
- Provide support in the activities children choose to undertake rather than imposing activities not suited to the child’s needs/ interests in that particular moment in time. The greatest tool children can apply to learning is their own curiosity.
- Base relationships between children and adults on mutual trust and respect. Children and young people have a lot to offer adults, in the same way that adults have much to offer children and young people.
- Respect children’s agency and self-determination when offering support. Children value our creativity, skills and experience and offering our support enhances the learning process.
- Support children’s choices and they will learn to see adults as a resource and will seek out collaboration. This provides an equitable platform for engagement, as children feel more confident to share their ideas and ask for your support.
- Develop observational skills and dedicate time to observing children before and during play. Some of the most effective support adults can give children is to sit in quiet observation, fully engaged in what the child is doing. Through careful observation you will identify key moments where your support will be valued. This could be as simple as moving a box of crayons closer when a child is reaching for it, or offering a blanket to help complete the construction of a dolls bed. Support can also be offered by asking questions. For example, “Would you like me to pass you the crayons?” Or “What else does the doll need for her bed?”
- Play alongside children to model creativity, immersion and joy. Play is about immersing yourself in an enjoyable activity, experimenting with ideas, materials, words, movement and sound and following ideas as they naturally unfold.
- Loosen your hold on adult logic and the limitations of reality. As they say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Children learn through play - it is natural for them so follow their lead.
- Think aloud as you play to give children access to your thought processes and also to enhance language development. Talk about what you are doing, how you have made a decision, what you think might happen next, feelings, predictions, inferences and playful descriptions. Use task/topic specific vocabulary and ask interesting questions.
- Relax and maintain an informal conversational style. Children are people too.
- Get down to children’s eye level when talking with children.
- Build discussion from the child’s interests and comfort zone (familiar to less familiar) and open up by eliciting your own thoughts and stories.
- Listen carefully to children’s responses and allow time between responses for children to formulate their thoughts and sentences.
Learning experiences are most successful when they involve children in hands on, minds on activity. Whether supporting children in play or designing a specific learning experience, it is crucial to consider what the child’s experience of the activity will be.
- What personal choice will the child have over the content and process?
- What decisions will they be able to make? What opportunities will they have for self-expression? What actions will they perform?
Consider different levels of engagement. For instance, colouring-in sheets provide children with choice about the colours they use and children perform the action of colouring in. On the other hand, a drawing activity provides children with choice over the content and process and an opportunity to express their ideas. They decide what to draw, what materials to use and how to use them. By giving children ownership of the process, they will feel more connected throughout the process and will feel a sense of ownership over the end product. By giving them opportunities to think for themselves they will also learn more from the experience.
When supporting children it is also important to stay mindful of what the child’s experience is. For instance, is it more important for the child to experience building a tower of blocks in their own way that will inevitably fall over or to watch you build a perfect tower of blocks that they have minimal input into?
Joy: freedom, fun, laughter and play
Inclusion: a sense of belonging, trust and acceptance
Collaboration: active partnerships, dialogue and interaction
Challenge: imagination, critical thinking, creative risk taking and problem solving
Immersion: time and space for practice and deep thinking
Agency: personal choice, initiative and investigation
Self-awareness: self reflection, dimensions of self identity and evaluation
Multiple literacies: opportunities for the development of multiliteracies including critical and information literacy
- Provide joy through playful interaction. Laugh with children, be silly and have fun. Let go of preconceptions and play in the moment.
- Provide engaging and exciting activities that appeal to children.
- Be flexible and give children freedom to change the plan.
- Provide children with choice about what to do, where, how and when.
- Adopt a child centred approach to develop positive relationships with children based on mutual respect.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for communication. Listen to children. Take their ideas seriously and have open and honest conversations with them.
- Consider children’s needs for safety and a sense of belonging- Make them feel welcome and get down to their eye level to assist communication.
- Model interaction with others and shared game play. Children learn a lot about how to initiate games and play with others through observation of adults and older children.
- Provide activities that encourage children to collaborate with each other and with parents/carers.
- Model creative dialogue by using interesting and imaginative words, asking questions, listening to others and responding to their ideas.
- Model creative risk taking, imagination and creativity.
- Model critical and creative thinking by thinking aloud so children get an insight into how thinking happens and how decisions are made.
- Encourage creative problem solving through strategic questions. Asking questions is also a great way to help children solve their own problems and therefore retain agency.
- Follow up and encourage connection over a period of time.
- Model immersion – engross yourself in activity, overcome problems with creativity, show children how to see an idea through and follow it where it goes.
- Operate as a resource for children, providing the knowledge and skills they need to see their ideas through.
- Utilise children and young people’s ideas, knowledge and experiences as a primary tool for engaging with them. Celebrate what they can do and want to know.
- When assisting children, focus on supporting them to do things for themselves - give them the tools they need, make suggestions, model actions, let them know that they can ask for help, demonstrate new skills and encourage them to try. Children feel more connected to what they are doing and learn more from their experiences when they retain agency and control.
- Ask questions that encourage reflection and model reflection out loud.
- Provide opportunities for children to develop self awareness and personal identity through questions and activities that explore personal preferences, experiences, hopes and ideas.
- Invest in cycles of practice, reflection, evaluation, review and new implementation in all aspects of your work with children.
- Develop children’s and young people’s skills and confidence in interpreting and creating across multiple media.
- Provide opportunities for children to create through multiple media, For example, you could re-create a storm using sound, texture, colour and movement.
- Explore the meaning and emotions associated with symbols, colours, textures, movement and sound through questions and discussions.
Last updated: 8th July 2013
Creatively engaging people with information, knowledge and community