Developing a Loving, Nurturing Environment in the Early Years Classroom
I have always prided myself on developing a loving, nurturing environment in my classroom – but what makes this type of environment?
- Is it physical items and resources?
- Is it staff relationships between each other and the children?
I believe that there are many aspects that create a loving and nurturing environment and these are just a few..
The appearance of your room, I believe, does have an impact. I have learnt during my teaching career so far, that the children need to see themselves represented in the room – from the moment they walk in. Starting with the cloakroom, does each child have their own peg to hang their personal items? Is their peg labelled with their name and picture/something they are interested in? Is your cloakroom warm and welcoming – not too bright a colour scheme. Does it say to you, and them, that this is a ‘home from home’?
When entering my room, I always like the children to see their work on the wall – preferably at their height. Reflecting on my own practice, I feel I currently don’t have enough pictures of the children on my displays. I attended a course a few years ago which had the idea of creating alphabet posters using the children ‘s names, for example for ‘a’ you would have a picture of the child/children whose names start with ‘a’ etc. Also, similar for number lines – take a photo of one child for number one, group of two children for two etc. In both these cases it is important to remember that every child is included as this will help create a sense of belonging for all children.
Does your room have an atmosphere, and spaces, where the children can be themselves? Comfy, cosy spaces are important in your room – I think of them like being in a big ‘hug’. A space where children can reflect, spend time with their friends and just be themselves. It is also vital that your room has a calm, supportive and emotionally friendly atmosphere – that the children know it is OK not to be OK!
I believe there are two views to this aspect of a loving, nurturing environment; the relationship between staff and children and the relationship between the staff themselves.
Taking the first view – relationships between staff and children. This is a vital part of creating a nurturing environment. The things I consider, (well some of them anyway), when building relationships with children are:
*do I make each child feel special?
*do I always greet them with a warm, welcoming smile and a kind comment e.g. I like your hair today?
*do I notice and comment positively on their achievements (either at home or in the setting) – no matter how small it may seem?
*do I comfort each child, when needed, in a way that is appropriate to them?
*do I offer supportive and encouraging words when they are finding something difficult?
Knowing the ‘nitty gritty’ of each individual child is vital to building a nurturing, loving relationship. If I don’t get called ‘mum’ or ‘nan’ once within the first term and certainly by the end of the year I haven’t done my job properly!
The second view is relationships between your staff. As a leader of your room it is essential that you model good relationships with the rest of your staff – no matter how many are present in your room. Similar to building relationships with the children, knowing the ‘nitty gritty’ of your staff helps create a nurturing approach towards other people which the children will observe and copy the behaviour with their peers. Things I consider; do I have friendly banter throughout the day with them? Do I notice if there is something wrong or help when they are finding something difficult? If you are lucky to have more than one other staff member, do they have a good relationship between themselves? Is this something I need to develop? I take the view that myself and my staff are a team…similar to a strictly come dancing partnership…..dance your way through the day and know each of your staff moves!
So to conclude, there are many aspects to developing a loving environment including;
*creating good relationships with both children and your staff,
*developing a calm, supportive and emotionally friendly atmosphere,
*making comfy, cosy spaces in your room where children can just be themselves.
It is important to remember that developing a loving, nurturing environment isn’t a concept in Early Years…it IS Early Years! It is the basis of what we do everyday and the people we are…it is in OUR nature. Take pride in being called ‘mum’, ‘dad’ and ‘nan’ as this is one way the children in your care are saying they are loved.
By Diane Oldfield
Contact Diane on Twitter @dioldy86