Free Rangers Forest School Nursery has made it to the grand old age of seven (despite the Government’s best efforts to underfund us to within an inch of our lives.)
We’re also celebrating an ever so small “proposed’ yet significant change to the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum.
The reason for this celebration is mainly because it’s starting to feel like someone with a good understanding of learning and development has infiltrated Cyril Sneer Towers and amended some of the paperwork that drives decision making with regards to the delivery of Early Years Education in this country.
Let us explain.
The term “self-regulation” and the importance of young children developing this skill has made it into the proposed changes of the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is the curriculum we all work from in the Early Years.
We learnt of this news on our birthday and we jumped for joy and did a little celebratory jig, or floss if you’re down with the kids like we are.
We’re telling you about this because the following information might help you choose the right nursery setting for your child.
We promise not to use too much teacher speak. Our friends who aren’t teachers have told us it’s basically quite boring when we throw in loads of acronyms.
What is Self-regulation and why is it important for my child?
Self-regulation is the ability an individual possesses to manage their emotions, thinking, learning, social interactions and their own bodies. Self-regulation skills are central to all human experience, therefore it’s no surprise that if we get this cornerstone of development strong, we’re looking at future academic and general life success; we might even win a World Cup off the back of it. And guess what? Self-regulation develops in the very early years of a child’s life. Oh yes, if your child attends nursery, their setting should be all over this. So, you know when Beckham did that lash out kick manoeuvre during the 1998 World Cup and got sent off; that was not good self-regulation of his emotions; boy came good though, no-one’s perfect, but we just wanted to give you an example.
Self-regulation at our nursery.
Much of our ethos stems from our Forest School practice, where building empathy, emotional intelligence and being outdoors are at the core of all the activities we run. We light fires, use tools and do lots of cool stuff but the magic happens during the interactions and the experiential learning that take place for every individual child during these sessions. From around two years of age, we’ll start laying the foundations and prompts for our impulsive little ones to start gaining some conscious control over the part of their brain that acts as “mission control’ also known as their executive function.
Here's a list detailing the sorts of things you might see within an Early Years setting that will let you know if your child has access to opportunities that will build and develop their capacity to self-regulate.
1) Do the practitioners know your child? Do you feel they are expecting behaviour that is developmentally correct for your child’s age? Have a chat with your child’s key person about this to gauge where they feel your child “is.” If your child has special or behavioural needs, ensure they aren’t being made to sit for too long, how are their needs being met with regards to things like impulse control? Talk to the setting’s SENCo about this. It’s an acronym, but you need to know it; it stands for Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator and every setting has one.
2) Does the setting promote engagement and concentration by planning to your child’s interests and do you feel activities are age appropriate? Ask your setting how they plan, so that you can offer up some of the same interests at home.
3) Does music play a part in the nursery day? We have some really talented parents and carers who give up an hour of their time here and there to play various types of music. There are studies that have shown playing music; even humming can really help a child to self-regulate during transition times or stressful situations. I nearly always play Dolly Parton’s “9-5” whilst loading the dishwasher and singing gets me through the trauma of completing that task, so there’s something in it! I jest, but seriously humming can really help children centre themselves; a little like focussed breathing in yoga.
4) Emotion coaching. We live and breathe this method of enabling children to name and navigate their emotions at Free Rangers; reassuring children that all emotions have their place and talking about them helps us to understand our own emotions and those of others’. Finally we’re moving away from antiquated phrases like, “Big boys don’t cry” and “That’s not a very ladylike way to speak,’ to make way for discussions around feelings that are positive and respectful.
5) Physical exploration. Let them run wild (you know we mean within reason here, we’re not condoning drawing on Grandma’s sitting room wall!) From freedom to explore their own environment, children will develop physical control over their own bodies. You know the drill, inside and outside voices, that sort of thing. Children will only develop this type of self-regulation if they’ve been able to race around (preferably outside) and be 101 different types of roaring dinosaur. Oh and yoga, more yoga please, or just time to ‘be’ outside.
6) Risky, independent play. You want your children to be safe at nursery, but you also want them to develop a sense of “I can do this.” We foster this resilience by enabling the children to take perceived risks and therefore managing their own risks on a daily basis. Should I wear shoes to do this activity, can I jump off this log safely or is it too high for me, is this a stinging nettle? They learn that one quickly! If children can be independent and exercise the chance to be independent, then self-regulation will naturally develop alongside.
7) It is hard work nurturing self-regulation amongst ego centric (this is totally developmentally normal) two and three year olds. So ask your child’s nursery setting how they keep team moral high and fully charged. Answers might include the chance to discuss challenging interactions in meetings, peer support, training, wellbeing perks of the job and an approachable SENCo and Manager.
8) Children having undergone trauma. These children might struggle to self-regulate or develop sound self-regulating strategies. Work with parents and fellow professionals to help these children get back to a place whereby they feel safe and secure enough to engage in all the points above.
What can you do?
When you visit a nursery setting or reception class at school, have a discussion around where the setting feels its focus lies. Here’s a clue, if every child comes out at the end of the day with a pasta plate face, the same as his / her friend’s creation, the setting isn’t really child centred and that’s old school and not cool school.
We’re seven years into our Free Rangers’ journey and I’m pleased to say from day one we’ve always thought that our role as Early Years Practitioners the development of self-regulation in children should be nurtured and supported between families and the setting their children attend.
On our birthday we’re super duper excited to think that the Government might be giving more importance over to the solidly researched notion that before you focus on pencil grip and your nine times table, you need to focus on the individual child and meeting their developmental and learning needs, because let’s face it, if this isn’t done properly, everything can become a barrier to learning in later life.
Thanks for reading, we’re here to help if you have any questions.