Trust triangle: how to build trust with a child in childcare

March 24, 2020


When your child starts at childcare, pre-school or school it can feel strange at first sending them off with people that you don’t know. That’s why the educators at the centre work on building the trust triangle. If you're wondering, "How to build trust with a child in childcare," we sit down with Nick Lewis for insight.

Building attachment

Nick Lewis, director at the OOSH centre known as Big Fat Smile in Bulli, NSW, explains.

‘The triangle of trust is relevant anywhere where children are being cared for by people who aren’t their parents. If the educator and the parent don’t have that link of trust and a visible bond, children pick up on it. A parent leaving their most precious item in the world with a stranger is a big deal. So it’s really important that as educators we get to know the parents and gain their trust. We want parents to know that we’re doing the very best for their children. The amount of information that we get from a parent about a child is amazing. There is nobody that you could get more information from.’

Benefits of attachment

Parents and children form their own secure attachment at home through the early years. For kids, this means they know their parent or caregiver will be available for comfort if needed, and that they have the freedom to go and explore. When kids are in the childcare environment, their educator is a secondary attachment figure. When your child is spending time with this person every week, it’s easy to see why building that trust is so important.

Nick continues,

‘Once you’ve really built that foundation with the parent, children feel instantly more comfortable with you. They pick up on any tension between a parent and an educator. The child will trust you more, open up to you, their interactions will improve and they’ll get more out of each session.’

A secure attachment with the child and educator leads to better outcomes all around. It improves their social and emotional well-being, where they feel safe and happy to explore their environment, ask questions and take in new information.

How do educators get to know your child better?

Educators want to build trust with the parent as well as the child. That’s why, generally, when you enrol at a childcare centre you’ll fill out a form about your child so they can get to know them better and build educator relationships. As well as key information such as allergies, you’ll note down other details such as siblings and household situation, your child’s likes and dislikes, their friends, favourite activities, ideas for soothing them if they are upset, as well as goals that you would like them to focus on.

From there, the educators can tailor their activities to suit your child and build rapport. Day by day, they will be building trust with them by asking questions and noting down observations. They’ll see what activities your child likes taking part in, and can then use these when they see that the child needs to be given some support to focus on their next adventure – that might mean suggesting they come and join in with an art project, or go dig in the sand for pretend dinosaur bones.

Treating kids with respect

Nick explains that educators want to get to know kids as people, and that giving them respect (as we would to adults) helps to build their relationship.

‘Kids are just smaller capable autonomous humans. Giving them that knowledge and showing them that respect makes such a big difference.’

Children benefit from a continuity of care, which is why many centres would have the same key person changing a child’s nappy or putting them down for a nap for instance. All of these steps reinforce the bond between the child and the educator, leading to better outcomes for everyone.

Dealing with different needs and wants

Knowing the kids well means that educators can adapt to changing needs on a daily basis. ‘We have our program but it’s always flexible,’ says Nick. ‘We can work with the kids and what they want. Say for instance we have planned an art activity and the kids come in and say they feel like playing catch, we can change it no problems.’ When children feel seen and heard, it helps to build trust with their educators even more. This in turn leads to better outcomes for all parties involved.

Sign up to our newsletter

The Toddle newsletter contains all the latest updates from our team, including tips and information on child care from our Corkboard blog.

You can unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.

Written by


Toddle is the most comprehensive child care finder in Australia, on a mission to make parents’ lives easier.