As a mixed age group setting and a home-based childcare provider, it is no surprise that we are firm advocates of children developing independence from their earliest opportunities and we actively encourage and facilitate this from the outset of the children’s time with us.
Being managers of our own practice and provision allows us to be more confident in the experiences we offer, but in addition to this, we are considerably confident to trust our instincts and in-depth knowledge and understanding of each of our children as individuals in order to provide them with potentially risky and challenging opportunities to allow them to achieve their full potential.
We once heard the wonderful Penny Tassoni speak at an event and a point from her presentation which really resonated with us as we began on our home-based childcare journey, which we still believe to this day that any practitioner from any setting and type of provision could benefit from hearing and reflecting upon, was “If a child is not provided with the opportunity to crack an egg, how will they know if they can crack an egg?”
Such a simple statement had the most incredible effect on our ability to critically reflect and then simultaneously our practice thereafter, and experiences like these are now a firm part of our pedagogy and everyday practice.
Life skills like melting ingredients on a stove, cracking an egg independently, cutting/chopping fruit, building a fire, working with complex tools – how do children know and how do we know that they ‘can’t’ do them safely unless we provide them with the opportunities to try?
So often we pre-judge children’s capabilities based simply upon their age/stage development, which effectively could be holding them back, children are so much more capable of complex tasks and concepts than we think, they just need a safe and supportive space in which to test and develop these skills and understand these concepts.
For us, it doesn’t matter if a child is ‘too young’ to crack an egg from the viewpoint of others, if a child is interested and wants to try to learn this skill, then who are we to stop them? It might make a mess and they may not get it ‘right’ the first time, but these early experiences and opportunities of being exposed to these essential life skills, are laying the foundations for children’s skills and confidence thereafter.
If we tell children ‘no you can’t chop the fruit this time’ and give the task to an older child or a child who we know already possesses this skill, we are telling them sub-conciously that we don’t believe they possess the skills needed to carry out a certain task, which will not only impact upon their confidence in relation to this task, but will then affect their confidence in further tasks and their self-confidence overall.
By allowing children to explore these complex skills when they display an interest, taking nothing else into account, we are showing these children that we believe in them, that we trust them and that we believe they are capable which sends such a positive message to the child and results in the most powerful feelings for that child who will then approach any task set of them positively, and with the confidence that they can complete the task to the best of their ability.
For some, it might just be about providing children with opportunities to explore and learn new but essential life skills, but we must not lose sight of the bigger picture, that not only are these children developing a diverse range of different skills through these experiences, but we are simultaneously enhancing their self-confidence and self-belief as a result which is even more reason to allow our children to explore activities and experience that may scare us as adults/practitioners/parents, the benefits in our opinion, far outweigh the potential risks/mess and concerns.