Creating a positive climate
The development of a climate that provides for and supports learning and development will minimise the need for overt guidance or control.
The environment involves a range of factors which change over time. For example, the ratio of younger to older or male to female children, the number of new children to be settled at any one time, and family or community changes will impact on the environment.
On-going as well as regular assessment should be carried out to determine whether the early childhood environment provides a positive climate for learning and development. Assessment should include all information that may be relevant including changes to the roll and involve parents as well as staff.
Observations, including time sampling, event recording and duration recording plus informal observations should be made at different times and in different situations to gain a well-rounded picture.
Organisational and management factors
Factors to consider include:
- Mobile infants and toddlers have a need for uncluttered and open spaces to allow them confidently to practise their developing skills unhindered.
- Are there sufficient spaces for adults to work with small groups of children; for children to play without interference from others; and for children to have ready access to an adult wherever they are?
- Is there space for large muscle activities to take place indoors in wet or winter conditions?
The weather can affect children’s behaviour. Surveys have found that wide variations in temperature, for example from 0 degrees to 10 degrees over the day can affect children’s behaviour more than a small variation, although the average temperature may be the same.
- Is the early childhood setting comfortable, neither stuffy nor chilly?
- Are the centre activities ‘in tune’ with the weather conditions, e.g. relaxing and soothing activities in humid or windy weather?
- Is children’s clothing appropriate for the weather? Clothing that is too hot or too cold for the situation can affect behaviour, particularly with infants.
Noise levels can influence behaviour in young children and the tolerance of children’s behaviour by adults.
- Does the centre environment absorb noise effectively. Are there sufficient carpets, curtains and soft floor coverings?
- Are there opportunities for energetic play? Lack of an outlet for energy can increase children’s noise level. Include rhythmic games and dance or playing appropriate music to regulate or modify noise levels.
Opportunities for on-looking
Observing before interacting is an important way for children to develop an understanding of accepted behaviour and of limits and boundaries. Research has shown toddlers may spend as much as 20% of their time in observation.
- Are both time and space available for children to be on-lookers before joining in a group? Does the environment include equipment and furniture of different heights and comfortable places for children to sit apart and observe the group in action?
- Are familiar activities, such as dough, drawing, water play, sited so that children can observe other children as they play?
Access to familiar adults
As children begin to take responsibility for their actions, they need the reassurance of knowing that a supportive familiar adult is available and aware of what they are doing. Adults who are knowledgeable about, and known to individual children, are a key to anticipating and avoiding unacceptable behaviour.
- Are adult:child ratios sufficient to enable adults to relate to each child as an individual? Management should ensure that staffing and organisation of the programme provide opportunities for children and staff or caregivers to play and talk together.
- Are routine activities, such as greetings and farewells, meals, nappy changes or tidying the centre, relaxed and unhurried opportunities for adults and children to interact?
- Is there a primary caregiving system for infants and children under two years that enables them to relate closely to one or a few adults?
- Is the environment organised so that the children can see the adults as easily as they can be seen?
The adults as a team
The climate of the early childhood centre depends on a team of adults working together to meet the needs of the children. When this team is not working smoothly there is an added potential for difficulties to arise in working with children.
- Do all the adults in the centre consistently interact sympathetically and positively with children and with each other?
- Are staff non-contact time and meal breaks adequate and restful?
- Do the staff rosters ensure close supervision for the ages, play preferences and numbers of children?
- Are staff relationships friendly and supportive?
- Do parents feel welcome and that they are part of the ‘education and care team’?
Small group opportunities
The overall size of the group of children enrolled is not the only factor to be considered. Within the centre there should be opportunities for children to interact in small groups. The greater the percentage of young or newly enrolled children, the greater the need will be for small group interactions.
- Are there spaces and opportunities for children to work in small groups or individually without interference?
- Are there sufficient adults available to provide opportunities and support for stable adult:child and child:child relationships to develop within small group or one to one situations?
Conflict can arise where equipment is restricted in type and scope or if there are scarce amounts of sought-after equipment or materials.
- Are equipment and play materials able to be accessed by the children?
- Are equipment and materials in good order, clearly and attractively displayed and presented?
- Is there enough of each type of equipment to meet children’s current needs and preferences?
- Is the equipment versatile, age-appropriate, and of sufficient variety?
- Is new equipment regularly introduced and is equipment available sometimes presented in different ways and settings?
EXAMPLE - Policy: positive guidance methods
Positive methods should be used. These include:
Providing a safe and interesting environment - all children (including babies) need stimulation from things that are familiar and loved, combined with stimulation from things that are new and interesting. Each day should include a variety of quiet and noisy, busy and restful, single and group, physical and thoughtful. - Behaviour Management policy, Childcare Centre