We are born to connect.
During early childhood we learn to connect and create patterns, this is how our understanding of concepts develops. Young children need patterns and experiences to understand how the world works. They provide tamariki with an appreciation of what to expect throughout life in terms of possibilities and opportunities. Psychiatrist Rene Spitz studied infants and young children during the 1930's and found that even if children received adequate nutrition and health care they would still fail to thrive from a lack of loving contact.
Attachment is a relational process which builds throughout infancy and is established at about 8 months of age when infants develop significant cognitive skills. Children at this age develop the capacity to cognitively understand what is often referred to as object permanence - the understanding of cause and effect and the appreciation that objects (including people) can still exist even if we can't see them at the time. Children who love playing 'peekaboo' are in this exciting stage of development! Once a child is able to understand object permanence they are able to understand a different way of thinking, have feelings about themselves and others, and this allows the first learning's in relationships and how they work.
Spitz found that how children learn to connect and engage with their caregivers was how they then interacted with people their whole lives. This is a pretty fundamental finding and one that we can often here in adult conversations being 'you're just like your mother' or 'you are just like your father'!
Regardless of who we are acting like (in my case it's definitely my father!), the framework of interactions we have from infancy that continues throughout our whole life does define how we understand love. There is a reason for positive guidance being a major part of the Ministry of Education guidelines for all ages and it is something we definitely support at Cherry Grove. It makes teaching routines, boundaries, and rhythms much harder and the social commenting required is far great but it is worth the time and effort for our tamariki to understand they are loved regardless of how far they have dipped their toes over the edge!
The first week of Summer is here and we are embracing the warmer temperatures. What a fantastic day we had on Friday exploring hundreds of kilos of ice in all sorts of different ways all over Cherry Grove! There were ice sculptures, ice cups, sandpits filled with ice, ice bricks with all sorts of loose parts frozen into them, and ice blocks for tasting!
Summer is filled with so many opportunities for learning and development because the weather allows so much exploring to be done without fear of cold or illness. Research consistently shows that during the Summer months the mind is sharper and more open to stimulation, which leads to children exploring more. Exploration helps children build self-confidence and gives them a great feeling of accomplishment as they try new things and succeed at a level that has incredible meaning to them. When children have more control over what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, the outcomes for development are better than when we try and contrive a learning experience for them.
This is especially true with sensory development. Children who can explore their senses and what appeals to them in their own time are more willing to give new experiences and opportunities to explore further a go. We have some children at Cherry Grove that will take every opportunity to participate in messy play, and definitely create their own messy play if the opportunity presents!
It's a wonderful practice of independence when a child can follow their interest and it also gives them more chances to make age-appropriate decisions, care for the things they are using, and problem solving using their knowledge of the world.
We will have loose parts available to our tamariki in all our environments through the summer.
The Ministry of Education have released new resources that support kaiako to develop the social and emotional wellbeing of young children. He Maapuna te Tamaiti takes a holistic approach to a child's development to encompass the social, emotional, and communication skills they will need through life. The strategies are flexible and organised around creating a supportive environment, emotional competence, social competence, and supporting learning and engagement. The resources are aimed at encouraging self-management and regulation in children so they can grow their abilities to successfully contribute to them own social interactions and their capacity to learn.
The Ministry defines self-management as having the cognitive control needed for learning. That is, the ability to focus attention, persevere, plan, choose, and decide what to do next. These are all foundation blocks that we encourage our tamariki to learn at Cherry Grove to encourage self-help so our Cherry Grover's become their own problem solvers. Knowing a child well, understanding what they already know and are capable of defines how we can effectively grow and support each child's development and sense of self worth.
There are many things we can do to help children with their social and emotional competence and get their communication flourishing at the same time. Social coaching or commenting is the source of so much wonderful development in children and uses the following techniques to create learning opportunities:
Describing and Modelling - providing verbal narrations of a child's play to all the tamariki around the play so it is clear what is happening. This provides the perfect opportunity to also model verbal feedback, praise, and positive reinforcement to support children's understanding and their ability to communicate their own feelings, emotions.
Encouraging and Praising - using positive cues, comments, and visual guidance to encourage persistence, especially with new skills or challenges.
Scaffolding - collaborations with children that are done to encourage learning and/or social and emotional competence, it's like a 'leg up' for children, especially those tamariki that shy away from trying new things. It's important to gradually remove this help and replace it with prompts and reminders of support instead.
Feedback - acknowledge a child's actions and behaviours to continue motivation and their willingness to continue trialing and participating in social transactions, these can be verbal or gesture based encouragement.
Thinking Out Loud - talk about what you are doing, why you are doing it, what you are thinking, and demonstrate verbally things that promote learning, like attitudes and ways of speaking.
Positive Forecasting - talking optimistically about a child's ability to do something in the short term (you went to the toilet so well this morning, let's try that again soon) so there is an expectation that the outcome will be good. Preparing children to transition to new things or keep trialing something that is challenging allows them to have a positive approach to it and be ready for what is to come.
Tuakana-Teina Relationships - allow children to learn from older peers through supporting relationships and verbally acknowledge when a child shows support and awareness of the children around them. We can help children to learn to be interested in others when we model positive attention and curiosity at what others are doing around us.
Prompts and Reminders - Children love and learn from expectations and/or routines, it enables them to use recall in situations that have had positive outcomes or where they have solved a problem. Using cues whether verbal or visual helps a children to remember and practice social and emotional expectations.
As an adult, it takes a lot of practice to help children learn through consistent verbalising and coaching but the outcomes are so worth it and we encourage you to join us and give it a go! If you would like further information on this, please do not hesitate to talk with us.
Play is something we talk about all the time at Cherry Grove! Those that know me well, know that I am a devoted follower of Albert Einstein and his biggest mantra with regards to the importance of play. I have often talked to parents about how we define play as something that is purely for amusement and that we struggle to see the importance of it as grown ups. Nathan Wallis writes on Family Times (familytimes.co.nz),
"we understand the word play to mean the opposite of serious work ... that is easy and trivial. Often grown-ups use the 'P word' to dismiss what children are doing as unimportant - when it's time to tidy up or do some 'real' learning. Yet, for kids, play is challenging and important: its how they learn".
Let's think about it contextually as an adult who play's a sport, then we can begin to see the worth in 'playing' for children learning and developing - without the experience WE have enjoyed over the years! We know that being actively engaged in a sport as an adult requires focus, commitment, and practice if we want to continue getting better at it. Repetitious play allows us to improve, to try new things, to use the knowledge and adapt if we play at different venues or on different surfaces - it gives us a better understanding of how we can do better. Children have this same model during their play, especially if it is 'free' or 'open ended' play where they get to determine their own purpose and not someone else's desired outcome. Children are amazing at adapting their limited experience into meaningful play in differing environments to help them better understanding and learn all the nuances that come with life and the would around them.
Children learn through adapting their play as their experiences grow and fine tune their learning through trial and error. The cause and effect that comes from trialing different ideas is a natural part of a child's play that we take for granted. Not only does experience through trial and error encourage children to keep investigating, it also builds resilience. Children unable to understand the disappointment of failure leave themselves vulnerable to anxiety and a lack of understanding when outcomes don't go their way. Children also appreciate success a lot more when it's earned and when they have had an appreciation of what a 'misfire' looks and feels like. Don't get me wrong, it's hard watching your child fail - incredibly hard and you just want to save them - but the reality is that we all need to understand the ebbs and flows of daily life and be able to bounce back with an understanding that the glitches which take place are all opportunities to extend learning.
And if you take all the above and apply it to a social setting, the amount of learning that happens with regards to a child's social competence is amazing. Interpersonal relationships all require problem solving - something as adults we are constantly aware of thanks to our amazing verbal and written communication skills! Children achieve so much understanding through watching and learning along side others - social transactions are learnt through role modeling most effectively. We use social coaching constantly at Cherry Grove to provide a solid exemplars. Using clear, step-by-step instructions through play we are demonstrating what acceptable social transactions look like in a positive environment that has meaning and context to a child.
Play is a universal language for children and we need to ensure we are maximising the opportunities associated with it to give children every chance to grow their understanding of the world around them, while also developing emotionally and socially. The 'P' word is a currency that works so embrace it and have fun doing it, because the outcomes for our children are so dependent on it!
What does the word 'QUALITY' mean when you think about childcare? It doesn't matter what Centre you are looking at, the promotional material will inevitably use quality to assure you they are a great solution for all your childcare and kindergarten needs! I look all over the world at education websites because I am genuinely interested to learn how other places provide and deliver learning and development. I have been so taken in by some websites that I have enrolled in all sorts of interesting courses, including beekeeping - yes, I am a living testament to when advertising works well! But I digress, if we all have 'quality' what does it really mean?
Our New Zealand ECE regulations mean there is a level of quality that we have to maintain over a wide ranging set of standards in order to open our doors for tamariki. Like most things, there's a vast spectrum to the definition of quality and I don't wish to enter into any discrediting anyone else's quality - that's not my job, that's the Ministry of Educations! But what I can do is say I don't think a broad definition of quality is right for children in childcare. Would you chose to go and stay at a 1-star motel just because it's registered and in business?! As a backpacker I have certainly done that but I wouldn't have said it was a quality stay and it definitely wasn't memorable for all the right reasons - I can now laugh about the rat that ran across the floor and the hat I wore to bed so I didn't have to touch the pillow! My point is, our tamariki deserve a better standard of quality across the board. I'd love to provide my business owners with outstanding profit but that comes at a cost I'm not comfortable with. Quality has to mean more than just ratios, surely it must also be about satisfaction, relationships that are meaningful, genuine care, welfare, and continuity. Please, don't get me wrong quality is something that can swing throughout any given day and I am always wondering how we can do better as it's what drives me - no person or place is perfect, being human is what we all have in common.
All of my musings on our Cherry Grove blog come as a result of experiences that have left me thinking. I recently bumped into someone I haven't seen in a long time, she has now relocated to Hawke's Bay and has gone from working in primary to teaching early childcare. I, of course, asked where she was working. She laughed and said there were 5 centres owned by her employers and the daily numbers at each place determined where she would end up working for the day. There was a lot more to this story but I won't bore you with the details or hop on an soapbox about continuity but it did make me realise how lucky I am that I know and adore the teaching team that turns up to Cherry Grove every day. They provide me with quality that I trust, admire, and am proud of - sure that looks different in terms of our outcomes each day but I know they are continuing to strive to make our quality better every day because they have strong relationships with all our families and each other.
Quality is certainly hard to define and even harder to measure as you can certainly be a 1-star childcare centre and still consider you are offering the same quality as everyone else because you are abiding by the regulations. But don't our most vulnerable New Zealanders deserve better quality control? Like I said this is not me judging anyone else but wondering if we can do better as a country to assess the quality of childcare by more than just ratios and learning stories. Something to ponder!
Cherry Grove is set on over an acre and a half of wide open land made for playing and exploring. We are heavily invested in providing small home-like indoor environments that children can be nurtured, understood, and have all their learning and development needs taken care of.
At Cherry Grove we have eight rooms that cater for small groups to ensure care and development is age-appropriate and children are given the individual guidance and attention they deserve. Each room provides for a developmental stage and the ages of each room are a guide rather specific time-frames as all tamariki grow and learn at varying paces:
Seeds: Our Nursery Room for 0-12 month old's
Sprouts: Our Nursery Room for 12-18 month old's
Budlets: Our Nursery Room for 18-24 month old's
Buds: Our Toddler Room for 2-2.5 year old's
Blossom: Our Toddler Room for 2.5-3 year old's
Cherry: Our Toddler Room for 3-3.5 year old's
Busy Bees: Our Kindergarten Room for 3.5-4.5 year old's
Honey Bees: Our Kindergarten Transition to School Room for 4.5-6 year old's
Cherry Grove also has a Family Centre that provides for families wishing to learn and play alongside their child/ren. This designated building is perfect for those families that have the ability to share in the learning journey together through the early stages of a child's life.
We are very proud of our environment at Cherry Grove and the opportunities the uniqueness of our Centre provides to children and their families alike. The small numbers in all our rooms allow us to spend time understanding the needs and interests of every child and, just as importantly, the aspirations of their whanau. If you would like to know more about our philosophy and what makes Cherry Grove so unique, please do not hesitate to contact me as I'm passionate about what we have to offer!