When you are trusting someone to take care of your child, you want to know that it is a safe place where your child feels safe. From the perspective of the child care centre, your child’s safety and the comfort of the family is the most important part of their job.
Toddle spoke to Danielle McConnell, Educational Leader at Brighton Street Early Learning in Richmond to find out more about how her centre helps children settle in and feel safe.
Why does a child need to feel safe in order to have a good experience at child care?
‘There is probably nothing more important for educators and parents alike than knowing children feel safe and secure where they are spending their day,’ shares Danielle.
‘We believe every child feels safe and secure at our centre and a real sense of belonging. If a child isn’t feeling like this, and are in any way not calm, or relaxed, they will be unable to concentrate or enjoy their day, and furthermore, be unable to access the fun activities in the program with their peers and educators.’
‘I think there’s a strong sense of positivity and happiness that radiates from our centre as soon as you walk in the building.’
How does your centre make a child feel safe and welcomed?
‘Each child feeling safe and welcome at our centre is of utmost importance to us,’ says Danielle. ‘We strive to create a safe and welcoming feeling for all, every day!
- We ensure that on arrival, we have one of our directors or myself at the Reception desk, to greet our families with a warm and sunny “good morning!”
- We aim to keep the same educators in the children’s room each day to keep consistency and to promote a feeling of routine and regularity for everyone. The relationships between families and children with the educators is most certainly the biggest factor in contributing towards a feeling of safety and feeling welcome.
- We keep the senses covered also, with calm and happy music playing in the rooms and diffusers in the rooms running with aromatherapy oils. The senses are a big thing to little people and we find the combination of those things sets off the day right!
- In the rooms, photographs are displayed in a gallery of the children and their families to promote a sense of belonging, as are the child’s individual birthdays with a photograph next to the correlating month. Photographs of the staff in the room are also displayed on the doors of each room.
- Our educators plan often for interest-based activities, so, for example, a child who has shown an interest in dinosaurs may arrive to a dinosaur “small world” set-up that harnesses their interests. This is just another way of helping children feel seen, important and welcome to play and learn at Brighton Street!’
Is it important to make the parents feel the same way?
‘Absolutely!’ says Danielle. ‘We have a big focus on community and strive to ensure parents feel a sense of not only a common community spirit, but also one which is welcoming and safe.
The bonds that are created between the educator, families and child are imperative to develop upon and something we see between our educators and families centre-wide.
We build relationships with a strong foundation-based trust which feeds into families feeling confident that their child will be safe and cared for. As mentioned before, there is always someone on the front desk with a smile to greet our families and wider community, for example, if a grandparent is collecting instead.
We value our families’ input on things like our menu, and view them as the most important educator in their child’s life. We build on our centre’s community engagement through our monthly newsletter, full of tips and recipes. We have a book club for staff and families, and we plan regular get togethers with our families.
We are also in the process of setting up our very own Brighton Street mother’s group for our families who would have missed out because of the pandemic.’
Why do you think children need routine and structure to help them feel safe?
‘Children need routine and predictability in their lives just as we do, which builds upon a sense of security,’ shares Danielle. ‘For example, at morning tea time, the kindergarten children know there will be a circle time run by their educators, then it’s time to wash their hands, and then morning tea can be served by themselves using the tongs.
The children’s own sense of autonomy and independence contributes much to their sense of routine in the things they are able to do for themselves, such as putting on their shoes to go outside, or applying their own sunscreen in the mirror, for example.
Having the same educators where possible helps the children in creating strong bonds, and trust. This is easily buildable when the educators here respect and care for the children in the way they do, with their wellbeing at the forefront. All of these things contribute to a child’s sense of belonging to their groups and the wider Brighton Street community.
We have visual timetables on the walls so the children can follow the events of the day as they unfold. These types of things that we incorporate into the children's daily routine promotes a sense of safety and security which in turns help them to have a fantastic day.’
How can a parent tell if their child feels safe in a child care environment?
‘It’s easy to know when a child is feeling safe - even from the youngest babies in our centre,’ explains Danielle. ‘Key cues can be seen from a child’s facial expression and body language, in their enthusiasm and engagement in the program, and in their interactions with their educators and their peers.
When babies hold their arms out to our gorgeous educators in the nursery rooms we take that as a good sign! Children always arrive excited and happy for the day ahead at Brighton Street and can often be spotted skipping along the road on the way. Happy noise fills the corridors in the mornings at drop-off time which is another good indicator!’
You can read more about Brighton Street Early Learning here, or search for child care in your area by entering your postcode in the search box at the top of the page.
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