The Early Learning Framework is supported by the idea that children’s lives are shaped by the 3 B’s – Being, Belonging and Becoming. These three attributes are closely intertwined. To be and become a confident and happy individual, a child first has to first belong.
But how can a childcare centre support children to develop a sense of belonging that inspires them to grow and learn?
Educators can actively support children in their learning and development journey through promoting a sense of belonging in childcare.
What is a sense of belonging in childcare?
“Experiencing belonging – knowing where and with whom you belong is integral to human existence.”
Belonging is closely tied to a personalised approach to childcare and creating a comfortable environment that encourages children to be and become. It is responsive to children’s ideas and play, letting the children’s evolving interests guide curriculum-decision making. This flexible approach to learning provides an excellent basis to anticipate children’s needs and make the most out of spontaneous teaching moments.
Why is a sense of belonging important for children?
Humans are interdependent creatures and the Early Years Learning Framework takes this into account by emphasising how relationships drive childhood development.
Children belong to numerous groups – their family, their cultural group and the broader community. Recognising the unique importance of each relationship in a child’s life is integral to instilling a sense of belonging. Children who feel as if they belong are happier, less anxious and are more motivated to learn.
6 ways childcare centres can create a sense of belonging
According to the Early Years Learning Framework, belonging is a purposeful mindset held by educators that informs every aspect of how they navigate their relationships with the children in their care.
Here are 6 meaningful ways that educators can support children to be and become by creating a sense of belonging within an early childhood learning environment:
1. Educators learn each child’s name from the get go
Warm relationships that are built on mutual respect are a critical part of creating a sense of belonging in childcare. Part of the educator’s role in childcare is to take into account the fact that every figure in a child’s life plays a key role in teaching the child how to connect and maintain positive relationships.
If a child is greeted by their name when they enter a childcare centre by team members and other children, they will immediately feel much more at ease. The purposeful use of names in conversation helps build stronger connections amongst the children and educators.
2. Centres have a poster of children and their families
Incorporating a child’s family into the childcare space through posters and artwork can further bridge the gap between childcare and family, fostering an overall sense of community and belonging.
Posters of children and their families also infuse an atmosphere of homeliness into the childcare centre, which can act as a source of comfort for children. This is especially helpful for children who are still getting used to the idea of spending time away from their parents and home.
3. Educators create a routine that children are comfortable with
Belonging is a by-product of a responsive environment that actively listens to the children’s needs. No two children are alike, so it’s unrealistic to expect a child to automatically feel as if they belong to an environment without taking into consideration their unique interests and needs. By creating a routine that children are comfortable with, educators can better support each child and provide them with the guidance they need to adapt to the childcare environment. A childcare routine should make full use of the importance of play in child development and fully appreciate how play promotes a sense of belonging.
Routines also create an environment that is familiar and relaxing. This in turn helps to create predictable and memorable experiences that children will look back on positively long after they leave childcare. Routines can include hello and goodbye songs, special visitors, community projects or annual/ monthly celebrations.
4. Educators get to know children during activities
Learning is a social experience. This is especially true for children who gain a large amount of learning through play as they improvise, invent and imagine. By carefully observing children’s play, educators can pick up on children’s interests, current knowledge and possible knowledge gaps.
These insights allow the educators to add value to the children’s learning experiences, ensuring that they are designed in a purposeful way that speaks to each individual child. Of course, this personalised approach to learning will look different from child to child. From supporting their bilingual education or cultural practices to encouraging children to develop their talents, educators can take a more active role in creating a sense of belonging in childcare.
5. Educators organise excursions around the local community
Belonging also includes building relationships with the local community. Engaging with the local community encourages children to recognise the reciprocal relationship between them and society and better develop their social skills.
At Aurrum Kids, we embrace the importance of the local community in early childhood education through our Grandfriends Program. In this program, the children visit their Grandfriends at a local aged care home. During these visits, children form sincere friendships with their Grandfriends while engaging in fun activities that teach both the older folks and the children something new.
6. Educators connect with families
The Early Years Learning Framework emphasises the importance of families as the primary source of belonging in a child’s life. When educators build relationships with the child’s families, they gain valuable knowledge about the child that they can then use to deliver a personalised childcare experience.
Families who feel that they belong to the childcare community contribute to the positive and warm atmosphere that in turn inspires the children to feel right at home the moment they walk through their childcare centre’s door.
Find a childcare centre where your child can feel at home
Aurrum Kids understands that before children can experience the numerous benefits of early childhood education, they must first feel comfortable and supported with a communal sense of belonging. If you would like to discover more about our holistic approach to childcare, enquire about arranging a tour at one of our childcare centres in Victoria or New South Wales.