Cameo said it like it is. Don’t worry about anyone watching, just glide by, as it’s not about them or you. All you are thinking about is the children and what they are asking you to do and be, at that moment in time.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation with Cathy (not her real name), from a nursery in Wales, and that conversation was the inspiration for this article. We started to chat about how new team members develop their confidence with role-play and make-believe and how they initially respond to it when they see it. Cathy then set the scene for what had happened a few days before:

Cathy was lying on the floor snoring with the children wandering around her going “sshh” to each other.

Then the door opened and one of the new team members popped their head around the door to ask if she was OK and what was happening.

Cathy’s response to the question was “I am being a panther”.

That to me summed it up as she was doing what the children wanted in their make-believe world of fun and adventure and the new team member was trying to understand why she was on the floor. To me and Cathy, it was the most normal thing to do, lying on the floor being a hungry panther snoring and growling when the children came too close!

This started the conversation of how hard it can be for some when they first start working with young children.

Some strategies to help

When you are new to early years, playing alongside the children using make-believe, for the first time, don’t think about the other adults in the room. Honestly, they aren’t judging you or thinking about how you look, they are worried about what they need to do or wishing they could join in and have fun as well!

Just focus on the children and their needs and then you will be an amazing educator and role model. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

We all had to start somewhere

Remember that everyone you think is amazing at being creative and makes it look so easy and fun, had to start somewhere. They will have gone through the same anxieties and insecurities as you. It is so hard to do something outside your comfort zone especially when you have spent your teenage years trying to be an adult suppressing your inner child.

The only critic is you!

You are your biggest critic, not the children or any other adult in the room. This all comes down to your negative ‘self-talk’ telling you that you are not good at this or that.

To help yourself, just focus on what went well. Ask yourself some questions, when you are on the ground crawling and rolling around, with the children, being a very hungry green turtle:

Are the children smiling and happy?

Are the children engaging in the role-play?

Are the children starting to lead the role-play?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then what are you worrying about? This is a success, and you are fabulous!

Imposter syndrome

Some of the most amazing and creative people still have feelings of inadequacy and that is known as “imposter syndrome” definitely worth reading the article “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome” by Gill Corkindale in the Harvard Business Review.

Remember this doesn’t equate to low self-esteem or lack of confidence, it can in fact be linked with perfectionism. I can relate to this. I have run sessions and while I am doing them, I feel they are awful, but the children and team loved them. After the session, I rack my brain with ways I could have done it better. I haven’t yet found the solution to my inner narrative but am still working on it and trying to do better!

No one is perfect

We all get it wrong sometimes but that’s how we learn. I have had some sessions when I just wanted the ground to open and swallow me up. We all go through that at work, especially when working with children. Remember that the most successful people in the world make mistakes and it is their failures that make them who they are. It’s all about getting up and dusting yourself off to start again.

Making a mistake or getting something wrong doesn’t mean you are a failure as everyone experiences this. It is about how you overcome it and continue to learn.

Your take-away

Perfection is overrated. Accept that you may not be able to achieve what you want immediately, and it is totally OK. Don’t dwell on things, be proactive, ask for help and guidance.

Remember you were given your job because of your unique skills and abilities – be proud of what you have already achieved. Remember your worth to the team and don’t compare yourself to others.

If there is one message from this, it’s “don’t worry about anyone else, just do it and have fun” as we all bring something unique to the setting and if we were all the same, it would be really boring.

Yes, it can be hard forgetting about the other adults in the room when your inner-narrative tells you they are judging you. It is just you being your worst critic! Remember, those who don’t play are, according to Cameo, trying to “act real cool. But you got to realise that you’re acting like fools. If there’s music we can use it, we need to dance”.

So, what do you say when you get the call to role-play and dance?

“Ah, word up, everybody say when you hear the call you got to get it underway”. https://youtu.be/MZjAantupsA



  • Word Up! Songwriters: Jenkins Thomas Michael /Black Lawrence Ernest
  • Word Up! lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Int. B.v., Rueckbank, Edition Tromo
  • G. Corkindale, “Overcoming imposter syndrome”, Harvard Business Review, 2008, May

“Wave your hands in the air like you don’t care, glide by the people as they start to look and stare.” From “Word up” by Cameo https://youtu.be/MZjAantupsA

About the author:

Gina’s background was originally ballet, but she has spent the last 27 years teaching movement and dance in mainstream, early years and SEND settings as well as dance schools.

Whilst teaching, Gina found the time to has create the ‘Hi-5’ dance programme to run alongside the Australian Children’s TV series and the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy for Hit Entertainment. 

Her proudest achievement to date is her baby Littlemagictrain.  She created this specifically to help children learn through make-believe, music and movement.  One of the highlights has been seeing Littlemagictrain delivered by Butlin’s famous Redcoats with the gorgeous ‘Bonnie Bear’ on the Skyline stage.

Gina has qualifications of teaching movement and dance from the Royal Ballet School, Trinity College and Royal Academy of Dance.

Use the code ‘PARENTA’ for a 20% discount on Littlemagictrain downloads from ‘Special Editions’, ‘Speech and Language Activities’, ‘Games’ and ‘Certificates’.

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