Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Remembering who our clients are... the child and their families

I have been wanting to write a post about how important it is to remember who our clients are when working in early childhood. Everything we do must have the best interests of the child and the family at the core.

The reasons it has actually converted into making a post are two-fold. One, we are establishing new centre in my newly re-adopted hometown, Newcastle, Australia. I did grow up here but have spent most of my adult life/career in Sydney - but now I'm back. With this new centre, we have quite a few trainees and as it is a new centre, my Director and I are working really hard to make sure all of our practices put the child and their families first. My directors favorite line at the moment is "where is the child when this is happening?". Secondly, is my new partner (Drew) is having some issues with the preschool his son (my new step-son who's 3) is going to.

Engaging and learning with the child is our core job....
I know we have a job which involves a lot of 'extra tasks' such as cleaning, preparations, washing etc - but at no stage should your interactions with the children be compromised to achieve these tasks during your day. One of the easiest ways of doing this is getting the children involved. In my preschool room, the children help clean and set the tables for meal times, they wash their plates when they are finished and place their cutlery, cup (glass) and crockery (breakable) on the trolley (I would also like to point out here that the majority of breakages of our crockery and glass cups have been the staff - the children have been fantastically responsible). Very soon they will also be wiping over their place and their chair before stacking them - I have had children do this at other centres. The children also assist with sweeping the floors, making and stripping the beds and folding the washing. All these tasks are a really important way of building belonging and ownership at a centre as well as developing a child's ability to take responsibily for themselves and their community.

Are you appropriately using your staff?
Another way of dealing with these extra tasks is looking really closely at your staffing and how staff are allocated. If you do have a lot of 'not directly supervising/interacting with the children activities' then you have to look at your staffing arrangements to ensure your ratios are not being compromised. This can be as simple as sitting down with all staff and working out fair distribution of tasks during the day, utilising rest and other down times appropriately, and getting cleaners. If you are an owner or director of a centre and don't have cleaners - please think really hard about this - early childhood education and care is an important valuable job you should be employing your educators to educate and care for your children primarily not to clean the premises.

Listening to and addressing families' concerns?
The other situation with my partner and his child - is more to do with taking ownership when you have made a mistake and apologising to the family and then taking steps to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again. We all make mistakes -early childhood is a notoriously difficult job, we have huge workloads and a lot of expectations placed on us by families but that is not an excuse and if something gets missed, own up to it, apologise and then make steps to address the issue with staff and work with the family to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Building partnerships with families is a vital component of high quality early education and care and this is recognised in both our Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard - so it is critical to remember at all times the reason you work in this field and the people you are providing for are the children and their families.

What do you think?
How do you make sure the child and family are at the centre of all your practices?
If you are a parent or carer in a early childhood service, what have you observed that you think are good or bad practices in this respect?
Do you feel your concerns are adequately addressed if you raise an issue?


  1. Really good valid points. Thank you for outlining these basic rights that children and their families deserve. Many centre owners don't get it and many do. I hope the ones who are too arogant to care, are shown your blog but will they listen? Probably not but I'm a casualty and I'm cynical for a reason.

  2. "Building partnerships with families is a vital component of high quality early education and care"

    This is so true Wendy. I am a primary teacher and website owner an have made it my mission to support and empower parents. I truly believe that as a teacher, one of my roles is to support and help parents and families in their role as their child's first and most influential teacher.

    In school I ensure that my door is always open and that parents have real opportunities to contribute to their children's education. Parents need to be in the loop in regards to what their children are learning and how they are going, and they also need to know how they can help their children. Te way we teach children changes and what we learned in school is now taught very differently. Spending a few minutes showing a parent how to teach something at home is so easy and makes a big difference.