As a childcare practitioner one of the lessons you will naturally encourage within the children in your care is how to be kind. Children are naturally inclined to feel empathy towards others but sometimes their young minds may not see the bigger picture and they may not realise that certain behaviours are not acceptable or are ‘unkind’. As their childcare provider there are many things you can do to promote kindness in your setting
This year’s National Children’s Day UK is an annual celebration that aims to discuss the importance of a healthy childhood and is a great opportunity for practitioners, carers, and parents alike to raise awareness and open discussions on things that are important in childhood. For NCDUK 2022 the theme of kindness will be explored including the biology of unkindness, celebrating diversity and the lifelong benefits of kindness amongst many more.
PACEY has been a long-time supporter of NCDUK and this year we are encouraging our members to try some of the suggested ideas and activities available from the NCDUK website.
How can you start to encourage kindness in your setting? Pat, a PACEY Advisor and a childminder for over 20 years told us that she taught through example and that consistency is key.
“Children learn through example and so as a childcare practitioner it’s important to be that role model and demonstrate kindness in everything we say and do, whether it’s communication with parents or children.
I avoid using negatives such as “don’t” and instead say what I expect. For example, if a child snatches a toy, my response is to ask a child to give it back, offer an alternative and explain why it’s kind to do so. It takes a while, but a consistent approach does pay off. I’ve noticed this recently with a two, almost three-year-old child who is an only child of a single parent, so he has never needed to share toys with other children. It’s taken a few weeks, but the consistency is now paying off.”
Nurturing and encouraging teamwork are also a great way to teach elements of kindness as children will learn how to share and work together. “My under-5's group meets in a church hall so at the end of each session everything has to be packed away and it’s evolved into the children doing most of the tidying and putting away. This has been a great way of encouraging kindness to each other as well as them negotiating with each other about who will hold which part of the mat to efficiently drag it along the floor to the cupboard. They work as a team and watch out for each other. A great example was one child asking another child to be careful and to watch out, while they were putting the bricks in the box, because a baby was crawling and about to trip up anyone in their way.”
We also spoke to Anne, a PACEY Advisor and practitioner of 21 years, about how communication is key when teaching children about kindness. “I find that often, children do not have the right words to say when they want to have a turn with a toy and so snatching away is their only way of communicating what their needs are. By giving children the right language to use, it helps them to form the relationship with the other child so that they both know what comes next. If a child does snatch, I ask them to say “please can I have a turn” and then tell the other child to say “yes, you can have it when I have finished” So then I facilitate the handing over after a few minutes so that the children both understand this may not happen straight away. I am always delighted when I hear them start to spontaneously use the correct language and follow through with the actions independently.”
There are also ways to transfer this to the younger children that are in your care too. “Building on what children already know is always helpful. Very young children will not have the vocabulary to comfort another child, but you may find that they want to hug another upset child – and this is ok and should be supported. Older children may begin to ask “what is wrong” when they see another child upset and they can be supported to think of ways to help the upset child with their words. Encouraging this knowledge brings a proud moment when you hear them suggesting to a child who is upset that they could play together with a favourite game to help them to feel better.”
Activities you can do to promote kindness
Both PACEY and NCDUK22 have lots of fun activities and resources that you can do to both celebrate National Children’s Day and promote kindness in your setting. The NCDUK website currently has a list of ‘Choose Kind’ ideas which can help you in teaching the little ones, these include different craft activities as well as telling stories and talking about children’s own experiences.
Pat showed us a lovely activity she used to do in her setting which involved the children re-enacting the story of ‘’This is the Bear” with homemade finger puppets! “The story is about a bear who got lost and how lots of people were kind and he eventually arrived home. It's a very simple creative craft - a finger puppet – but the children seem to really enjoy the story and then retelling it with what they have learnt about kindness"
Similarly, Anne also uses toys and play to show how children can display empathy, “I like to use an empathy doll/toy in the setting. An example of using this could be creating the scenario that teddy has a sore tummy today and then ask the children leading questions like ‘how do you think teddy is feeling today?’ or ‘is there anything we can do to help him feel better?’. By taking the focus away from the children themselves they can transfer what they have learnt to another day, time and to a real child when the situation arises – sometimes with some initial support until they begin to be autonomous.”
Teaching children about kindness is probably one of the nicest things you will do as a childcare practitioner, especially as you will be able to see first-hand how the children in your care take on these moments and start to apply them to the other children around them and, hopefully, to those they are in contact with outside of your setting for the rest of their lives.
For more information on National Children’s Day UK 2022, visit the NCDUK22 website
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