Meeting Children Where They’re At
Meeting Children Where They’re At
Meeting children where they’re at means that as professionals, we understand what individual children need and what they are currently capable of doing.
Let’s focus on INDIVIDUAL children. Often professionals expect children to do things that are not developmentally appropriate. Then others assume because children fall within a specific developmental range that they are capable of doing certain things. These assumptions do a massive disservice to the children in our care.
As professionals, it is our responsibility to create deep and meaningful relationships with each child. When planning
for our groups, we should look at all the children and ask ourselves:
- What are each child’s strengths, and how can we challenge them?
- What are each child’s challenges, and how can we support them?
- What interests each child, and how can we encourage their exploration?
- What goals have we set for each child, and what will successful outcomes look like?
As professionals, we require a strong knowledge base around child development. This development includes how a child’s brain grows. Many of us did not have brain development education when we were in school studying ECE. Great leaps have been made in brain science, and now more than ever, we can take into account how an individual’s brain development guides their behaviour, social interactions and emotional state.
We need to start with building a respectful and honest relationship with the child. They look to us for emotional support and role modelling when it comes to experiences that are new and unfamiliar. We need to build trust and to learn about each child’s life as much as possible.
The children in our care are experiencing extraordinary and remarkable growth every day. Factors out of our control can positively or negatively impact their development. Our role is to provide the best possible experiences for children while they are in our care. This is the only thing that we can control for children. Engaging, low-stress environments are ideal for maximum growth and development!
If a four-year-old has never held a pair of scissors, we cannot expect them to know 1.) how to hold them, 2.) how to use them safely or 3.) be interested in using them. When we meet children where they are, we provide the opportunity for that child to be interested in trying to cut things successfully and guide them while they are learning how to use scissors. Perhaps you know that this child is fascinated by snakes and reptiles. A great strategy would be to offer paper plates and markers as a provocation to cut out snakes. Another task could be offering green playdough to make snakes and have scissors on standby to cut many little snakes out of one large play dough snake.
Perhaps you have a 2 ½-year-old who falls into a crying heap every morning at drop off. You have learned that this is a difficult time because the child’s father often leaves for business trips during the day, and the child doesn’t discover this until they are picked up. The child is stressed because he doesn’t know if his daddy will be gone again. Because we have built great relationships with the child and family, we see the source of the problem. We also understand where this child is with his brain development and know that logical thinking in a child this age isn’t. Instead of trying to reason with this child, we need to comfort him. Telling a child that they are okay is not comforting; it is condescending. A better tactic is to acknowledge that they are sad and sit with them until they are calmer. If daddy is going away, perhaps the child will want to “write” a letter. If the father is not leaving, you can encourage the child to create something to give daddy when he picks the child up. Another possibility is that once the child has had the opportunity to calm, they might be ready to engage with their friends. The child can decide how they wish to proceed.
In both of the above scenarios, the children are being respected, honoured and supported. The educators understand what the child’s perspective is and have created strategies to help the child learn a new skill. With the scissor situation, the child learns how to use scissors. With the toddler, you are helping the child build their emotional intelligence.
The work we do is impactful, but it isn’t easy. It may seem easier to push children to where you think they need to be, but in the long run, it makes our work much more difficult. Taking the time to meet the child where they are can strengthen your relationships and offer opportunities for children to build essential skills.