What, more than anything, do I strive to cultivate in our Compass Early Learning & Care Kawartha Heights school age program? Is it about having interesting art experiences? Is it about having every imaginable material for the children to build with? What about having a multitude of sports equipment for big body play outside? All of those things are important parts of our program, but I feel it all comes together through the rich, deep and complex relationships and friendships that are sparked and that evolve over time by being together and engaging in the experiences that the staff and children create within our space.
“Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, which affect virtually all aspects of their development.” – National Scientific Council of the Developing Child, 2004
In January I was tasked with stepping into a program I had never visited to begin building relationships and creating trust between the children and their parents and myself. How does one go about that? Thankfully I have a big loud personality and I’m just as comfortable conversing with parents about the highs and lows of their child’s day in our program as I am sitting on the floor building with blocks. I’m not afraid to be silly or let the children see that they can teach me something about the things they are interested in. I get excited about what they are building, or drawing or creating when I feel their enthusiasm.
If you come into the gym at Kawartha Heights you are likely to see educators playing cards with the children, or drawing together or kneeling at the LEGO table either building or inquiring about the play going on. Children call us by name to join in their play outside, to be ‘it’ in a game of tag, or to throw their tennis balls way up high so they can practice catching them. Yes, we have to keep our heads on a swivel to watch everything else that is happening while we are engaged in this play, but it’s by joining these games and experiences that relationships are built with the children.
“Every child deserves to have someone’s eyes light up when they enter the room.” – J. Clinton, Brain development and its impact on early childhood. Presentation, Ontario Ministry of Education, October 2012
Building these relationships is so important to me because it gives the children a sense of belonging. Children come in and the staff at Kawartha Heights after school program can likely tell you where those children are going to want to play, who they are going to want to play with and what some of their favourite things are. A feeling of belonging creates and fosters wellbeing in people. Children know they will be greeted, that we will be excited to hear about the events of their day or what occurred over the weekend. The staff get smiles from the children, we get to have people excited to see us and to spend time in the magical world that is childhood. How often as an adult does one get to play LEGO or draw pictures, and have nearly anything they create met with praise and amazement. We are more than educators and clients, we are friends.
Sure, it’s our job to keep the children in our program safe and to provide opportunities for learning, and to expand their thinking and their play. However, one of the most important things we do is to create and build strong relationships with the children. To give them a place where they feel safe emotionally, and where they can express themselves and be heard.
Chris holds a black belt in Karate and is a karate instructor. He is also a talented artist, as seen here with this self-portrait.
To read previously posted Compass ELC Blogs, please click HERE