In my essay I have aimed for the reader to achieve an understanding of what might appear to be some challenges facing early year practitioners working with birth – three years in and out of home care. I undertook three visits to an eight-week-old baby – See Appendix 1 regarding background information. I completed three observation sheets that demonstrate my interaction with a child of that age.
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Before I started my observations I was aware of what experiences could be valuable to . Due to his young age I knew his communication skills would consist of smiling, eye contact and crying. I was also aware he would be completely dependent on adults to support his physical and emotional needs. I also considered Piaget ‘schemes of thought’ as he believed children’s outline of thoughts are apparent from babyhood in their early physical and sensory actions.
During my time observing I was always in his home environment. I began to consider what challenges working with this age group could be in an early years setting. Current ratios in childcare settings are one adult to three babies aged six weeks – two years. Children aged two – three years have the ratio of one adult to five children. These ratios are set by the conditions made by Care Commission when inspecting premises for the first time before it opens. This shows the level of interaction will be limited compared to a 1:1 ratio that a child can receive at home. The quality of the interaction may be limited in a setting depending on the individual personality. This is where it is important for the practitioners to be aware of ‘Getting it right for every child’, (2007). This gives the practitioner the opportunity to look at a child’s best outcomes for their well being regardless of their background or individual needs.
In appendix B:3, column 3 I imitated ‘s sounds and expressions. I picked up on his cue and copied it. This is in-line with Trevarthen, (1977:255) “Play leading to a structured game and laughter, develops hand in hand with primary intersubjectivity”.
Interaction starts very early. Pre-verbal communication is the beginning of child language skills. Schaffer (1996) engaged together using a variety of dialogue between making sounds, movement touch and a variety of facial expressions. Children will also mirror what they are shown. Murray and Andrew, (2000:52) “The parent’s mirroring is a way of conveying their acceptance of the baby and it can both affirm and enrich the baby’s experiences”. In appendix B:2, column 3 mirrored his mum’s face signals.
A baby’s stress level needs to be considered as Lyon et al (2000) suggested a high level of control could affect later emotional life for that child. This will affect their well-being. In my observation I was aware of the importance not to stress baby and to follow his routine. This is evident in B:1, column 2 and B:2, column 2. According to Balbernie, (2001) Relationships are essential to the baby’s health and well-being, and determine their future potential and life chances. This was important for me to understand as I engaged with baby . As a practitioner relationships with children under three years play an important role in the child’s future outcomes.
Challenges for a child being at home may be that they live far away from other children and not have any siblings. Also parents are spending more time away from home due to work commitments. Dryden, (2005) feels practitioners will need to be vigilant of a child who may not be used to sharing or new/loud noises. The child may also not be used to sharing the significant adult.
The setting has to be a high learning environment for children up to three years. Adults have a responsibility to have a knowledge and understanding of child development. Adults do have an influence in a child’s development. As families may also ask for advice, a practitioner needs to be able to support them or have an understanding when they need to seek further advice from another source. These are all aspects that Dryden (2005) considers to be important. “Working in partnership with parents – sharing information and involving them in their child’s continuous learning and development”. This is stated in The Early Years Foundation Stage, point 1.27.
According to Frobel, Montessori and Steiner each stage of a child’s development is important and requires sensitive and appropriate handling. They believed in looking at a child’s achievement rather than what a child struggles to do. However as I was working with a child of a young age I was aware of his brain cells forming rapidly. According to Dowling, (2010) “A young brain grows rapidly through sensory experiences, touch, taste, touch hearing, seeing and smell”. I felt with the experiences B1-B3 I contributed to ‘s learning whilst keeping his routine in place.
Different models can be used to consider a child’s development. The checklist model is where a practitioner can see what a child can or cannot achieve. The medical model is whereby seen if a child is healthy. Another model is the deficit model. This is where an adult will lead activities in order to test whether a child has acquired knowledge or developed a skill. The Early Years Foundation Stage has a profile scale booklet, which practitioners may use to assist them with their observations and assessment of a child’s development.
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Bowlby’s (1969) theory points out babies and young children can become close to a small number of adults. Babies are also born to seek secure attachments; they need comfort and have physical and emotional needs. A child who has a secure attachment may struggle to settle into a nursery setting if not offered opportunities to mix with other adults and children. Bowlby’s (1998) work demonstrates a child in out-of-home setting will look for another adult to be their significant key person. A practitioner will need to be aware a child may feel vulnerable at arrival time, changes within the playroom and other adults in the room.
Dryden, (2005) expresses the importance of a practitioner working with the child and family to develop a close professional relationship. The child will see the family involvement with their key worker and this will enable the child to form a secure attachment to the key worker/practitioner. Whalley and the Pen Green Centre Team, (1997) also believe practitioners and parents should share information about the child’s play behaviour at home and within the setting. This will help to provide a good understanding of the benefits to the child and to enable a close relationship to support their play. A challenge to this would be if parents were unwilling to work alongside the setting and with staff.
In Early Years Foundation Stage Principle 1.4 one of the themes emphasises that every child is unique and has the ability to learn and develop in a confident manner. This will allow practitioners to understand the importance of being in tune with children and this can be done through knowledge of child development and observations. Recording of information is also important for sharing information. This is outlined in the Pre-Birth to Three guidance.
The Pre-Birth to Three, Positive Outcomes for Scottish Children and Families document is the national guidance for practitioners working with children under the age of three and for other adults who are involved with children. It is also to make a smoother transition before children begin to engage with the Curriculum For Excellence. People may challenge if children need a curriculum for such an early age. Dryden, (2005) believes an early years ‘curriculum’ must be examined to consider the experiences that are of most relevance to very young children. Dryden stresses that a curriculum at the age of under three is not appropriate. Researchers Gopnik, Meltzoff and Kuhl (1999) believed babies learn through experience. A practitioner can offer experiences and opportunities in the early years to expand their learning whilst using a curriculum for guidance. Pre-Birth to Three guidance states “Supporting and providing appropriate challenges for babies and young children is key to achieving positive outcomes in the future”.
A curriculum for the children under three according to Manning-Morton and Thorp, (2001) should be about focusing on what children can do either with or without support and not what they should be doing at a certain age.
Children’s experience’s under three years is the foundation of their future. Children need positive relationships, interaction and opportunities to learn to grow to their full potential. Partnerships with parents and agencies offer a community of support to the individual. The role of the adult is vital to the child learning whether it be in the home or a play setting. When planning to meet with baby I communicated well with his mother via the phone and by showing her the information regarding my work at university. This too is important in a setting. This is in-line with the Pre-Birth to Three guidance “developing effective communication systems”. To meet all the children needs, practitioners will face difficulties in large settings. Practitioners should consider Bruce (1987) Principle 7 – What babies and young children can rather than cannot do is the starting point of the child’s play, learning and education. Time will also play an important factor in a practitioner’s ability to meet the needs of children, especially under three years, as they are all individuals and have particular routines.
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