How children’s learning and development can be affected by their stage of development and individual circumstances such as moving school, birth of a sibling, family breakdown and adoption and care.

As experienced and knowledgeable practitioners, it’s important for us to consider and observe a child’s learning and development holistically, but are we taking a holistic view of the individual child and their individual circumstances and experiences?

Observing learning and development in children is a fundamental part of our curriculum and the children’s learning journey. However, before we can make these observations and link them to the children’s age and stage of development, we must ‘build a picture’ of a child holistically too, to ensure that the observations we are making are relevant and a true reflection of the child and their individual circumstances, their age and stage of development.

The process of ‘building a picture’ of the child should begin from the moment the child steps foot into the setting; and practitioners should endeavour to find out as much necessary information as possible about the child, the family and the child’s home life and family history.

For many children, ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and other life events can have a detrimental impact on the child’s overall wellbeing and, as a result, have a significant impact on their learning and development. ACEs such as childhood trauma, family breakdown, parental death or being placed into care or adoption, can seriously impact a child’s life, even from an incredibly early age. Children who have experienced any trauma like this will need significant levels of understanding and support from us as professionals.

For these children, it is also essential that we look at the bigger, holistic picture of the child when observing and thinking about the child’s learning and developmental progress, as these events will have a significant impact on the child cognitively as well as emotionally, which may result in an overall negative impact on their early years experience and opportunities for learning. If we, as knowledgeable and supportive practitioners, are aware of the difficult circumstances a child has experienced prior to their time with us, we may be able to put plans in place to provide more specialised, individual support based upon the child’s individual circumstances and our developing knowledge and understanding of that child holistically. 

It is important to be aware that it is not just significant, adverse traumas that can have a significant and detrimental impact on children’s learning and development; any process of change or transition can have a negative impact on our children’s wellbeing and as a result, on their learning and development. 

Transitions like moving house or attending an additional setting or common life events like a new sibling or a parental separation can all have the same negative impact on a child’s learning and development, in various ways, depending on the child and their circumstance. If we are not equipped to deal with these individual circumstances and adapt our approach to meet the needs of the specific child, then the bigger the potential risk of impact becomes. 

Each child is unique and similarly, life events, ACEs and circumstances are unique too and so there will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to providing support to minimise the impact on learning and development.

A concept or strategy that worked for one child whose parents separated, may not be suitable or successful when supporting another child with a family breakdown and this is where an individual approach and a practitioner’s own knowledge and understanding of their key children, truly holds its own.

By merely acknowledging that significant traumas or life events such as the aforementioned can have an impact on children’s learning and development regardless of their age and stage, is the stepping stone to better support, knowledge and understanding. As we have discussed, strategies, resources and varying levels of support will be needed for each individual child but it is essential that all members of a staff team have some experience, knowledge or training in supporting children with transitions, as with any event that can impact on learning and development, early intervention is key.

This is why being responsive, attuned and connected with our children from the outset is key, from the time they arrive in the setting to the time they leave you, we must provide consistency and stability for all children in order to promote a positive impact on their learning and development.

Some of these events may happen to children before they arrive in your setting and they may seem to be unaffected by such events, but we must not be complacent and wait until children show signs of distress or their learning experience is impacted; we must use the knowledge we have of the child’s past experience, and view the child’s learning journey holistically, whilst being mindful of their experience and the impact this could have on their wellbeing and development.

If we ensure our teams are equipped with a diverse range of knowledge, skills, experience and resources to support children who have or may be experiencing traumatic events and/or transitions, then we are already a step in the right direction for bettering outcomes for these children and thus minimising the potential impact on a child’s learning and development.

About the author:

Chloe Webster is an OFSTED “Outstanding” childminder at Pebbles Childcare, Worthing, West Sussex. With over 10 years experience in the sector, Chloe has written for a number of early years’ magazines and journals. 

Chloe works for Bridgit Brown at Pebbles Childcare and together they were awarded Nursery World’s ‘Childminding Business of The Year’ in 2018 and pride themselves on their child-led, natural, outdoor pedagogy and are advocates of the home based childcare profession and work tirelessly to champion HBC across the sector.

Website: www.pebbleschildcare.co.uk

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