Have you noticed on social media sites how many childminders are talking about the behaviour of the children – varying in ages – when playing since the return from lockdown? A childminder contacted Kay saying “The children are all very happy but have forgotten how to share and play so we are concentrating on turn taking, sharing and emotions as well as talking lots about family – generally the same as most first terms but the lack of interaction between kids does seem to be a bit more obvious this term. I guess six months without play groups and play dates has taken its toll.” Many other childminders that I have spoken to have been dealing with the same behaviours being displayed by children since returning back to work after lockdown.
For most children, play is where they learn about social interaction. They learn what is acceptable and what is not, and play is a safe place to act out things they have experienced. With lockdown this was denied to them for what is a long period of time (in their short lives) and deprived them of this important aspect of their learning.
During difficult and stressful times, play allows children to make sense of the world around them and helps to support their emotional wellbeing and build resilience. Returning to settings after a long period of being within their family unit, has heightened childrens anxieties, on top of what is already a stressful time with added pressures at home, such as worry about unemployment, finances, strained relationships, grief.
So what, as childcare professionals, can we do to support the children during these transitions. The following 6 suggestions came from http://www.youngminds.org.uk:
- Talk to the children about their feelings
- Talk to the children about the routines you have; or the rhythm of the day and provide a visual prompt, if this would help (Great for non-verbal or SEN children).
- Reassure the children – they are receiving a lot of messages regarding social distancing, washing hands, germs, illness and death – and this is all scary stuff when you are young.
- Keep things simple – allow children to play – explain that children do not have to give up a toy if they are still playing with it – snatching – patience and taking turns – facilitate play and have strategies in place to deal with any issues (see below).
- Go easy on yourself and ensure that you are looking after your own mental health.
Taking turns is a social skill and http://www.andnextcomesl.com has some great ideas to teach this –
- Use a visual cue ie a talking stick
- Use turn taking language – “my turn, your turn”
- Model turn taking – show them what to do
- Play games that involve turn taking such as board games and card games
- Use a social story – see free link to a free printable and video about sharing
- Use a timer to indicate how long each turn will be – use oven timer/egg timer. This reinforces fairness and acts as a visual or auditory cue.
- Communicating and describing turns – first its x’s turn, then its yours – 5 minutes each.
- Use a fidget between turns such as a spinner, putty or ball.
If a child persists in snatching or aggressive behaviour – remove from the activity, explaining “You were having a hard time (taking turns with your friends) and you were not being kind. You need a break” NB THIS IS NOT TIME OUT!. Sit with the child and calmly talk to them about their feelings, the whys and what ifs. Once the child is calm, say they may rejoin the play but only if they can take turns and act kindly.
Remember sharing and turn taking are hard skills to master! So… work with parents to come up with some strategies; be mindful around the children regarding language and show by example; look after yourself.
Some great resources and further information can be found here:
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About Samantha Boyd
I am a mum of 3, a qualified Forest School Leader and childminder, graded outstanding in 2015 and 2020 and am currently studying a childhood studies degree with the open university. I have a love for loose parts and the outdoors and am currently working through the Curiosity Approach accreditation. I have a passion to allow children the space and time to explore and love setting up ‘invitations to play’ and seeing where the children will take it.
About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
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