In an effort to understand how child care is evolving throughout the world, we asked our Superloopers what ‘Best Practice’ means to them. In the first of this series, we welcome an awesome response from Hannah Benitez-Moatt from England.
Of course we encourage feedback from all child care providers, lets start a conversation…
The quest for best practice
Just what is best practice? It seems everyone has an opinion on what is ‘best’ in the Early Years. Someone once said to me as an Early Years practitioner we should ensure we give children a balance of what they want and what they need. This seems a good rule of thumb but what about what parents want, or governments, or inspectors?
How do we ever ensure everyone thinks we are delivering ‘best practice’ when their idea of what this is differs so greatly?
The key for me is communication. If we have good lines of communication between the management team, members of staff, children and parents we can all work together to ensure each child is getting what they need.
How do we know what children need? We watch them, listen to them, interact with them, imagine what it’s like to be them, play with them, talk to their parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. All seems quite simple doesn’t it? But what about if a parent is rushing from the setting to a school, onto their job or a child is communicating something through challenging behaviour, or we just have a lot of children’s need to meet?
Then we need systems. A planning observation and assessment cycle which ensures each child is recognised. We have a good understanding of where their development is, what their next steps are likely to be and how we can support them. This is all very well in the setting, but how do we get parents involved? Parents know their child best and have a wealth of information about them but how do we tap into this? To be achieving ‘best practice’ we must be engaging with parents and using their invaluable insights in our practice.
But there’s something else. I know as an Early years practitioner it is the process not the product that matters. The thinking, imagining, problem solving, communicating, concentrating and negotiating children go through in play cannot be packaged up and presented at the end of the day for an anxious parent in the same way a painting or card can be. A child may spend most of the day building a den outside, problem solving how to make it work, collaborating with friends, working out how to fix it together and then playing an intricate role play game with complex rules and story lines . But what can we show parents? There’s no product to take home, nothing to show for the child’s great efforts, skills shown and developments made. Understandably many parents would like something to see at the end of the day, to get a flavour of what their child has ‘learnt’ or enjoyed whilst they’ve been away from them. But here’s the problem, this can lead settings to engage in activities which become about the end product and not the process children go through. This draws us away from best practice. The learning that comes from the process of playing and exploring is stunted.
This is where I get very excited about something that I confess I never expected to…technology. We live in the age of communication and technology, how exciting that the Dans at Kinderloop-far cleverer than me-have combined the two!
Because parents can see virtually real time updates of their children, the evidence of the involvement, enjoyment and learning is very clear. Parents can see their child has been involved in this fantastic play, learning so much in all areas of development virtually as it happens. But more exciting than this, they have their ‘end product’. The pictures and description as it happens. The need for something tangible to take home at the end of the day isn’t there anymore, freeing up the practitioner to enable and allow the child to explore what interests them with skillful support to move their learning on.
So if we ask again what is best practice? We could take the rules of thumb, balance of needs and wants combined with process not product and get a very simple answer. Open ended play opportunities where children have resources which encourage investigating, collaborating, concentrating, negotiating, communicating and all of the other wonderful opportunities true play brings. Good communication between the adults in children’s lives, and an understanding of how to progress children’s learning in a sensitive and appropriate way.
We now have a fantastic tool in Kinderloop which enables us to involve parents in this process, sharing the learning and involvement as it happens. Therefore dispensing of the need for children to ‘produce’ something tangible to take home. To say I’m excited is an understatement!!