In Response to “A day in the life of an Educator”

In Response to “A day in the life of an Educator”

I LOVE my job.  Every aspect of it.  I live for it.

I love the relationships with my staff team, with the children that live day to day in our space with us, and with their families – parents, grandparents, carers, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends and other relatives.  It is like this amazingly wonderful community within a community.  A community that thanks to the wonders of technology, reaches to the far corners of the world.  I think this is what I love the most.  But relationships, like everything in this world, don’t come without work.  The work doesn’t need to be a burden though.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I get to work in my heart space every day.

A couple of days ago, I was subjected to yet another (yes, they seem to appear fairly frequently) post written by an educator – outlining a day of stress and poor management of resources and time.  I was left at the end of it, almost in tears for those children and the experience of their every day.  But that wasn’t the worst even –  I was then subjected to viewing the number of times that post was liked and shared.  How can so many people that feel that way be out there working with our precious children?  There was even a comment in there from a parent saying that she would remove her child from a space that was like that one described.

There is part of me that wonders if the conditions really are that horrific, or whether posts such as this, are educators trying to out-martyr one another.  “Oh, look at what I do in the name of my huge responsibility of caring for young children.  But I do it because I love the children so much.”  I would beg people – if this is why you are making such posts – STOP IT!  And if it is not.  If your day truly feels this terrible – please, for the love of God – do something about it!  If you love the children the way you say you do – fight for change to practices that create days like this.  You CAN make a difference.

But now – I also want to write MY response.  Because my days are a far cry from these.

It’s 6.30am.  I arrive at the centre with enough time before we open to make sure that when the first family walks through the door – the atmosphere is welcoming.  There is gentle music, inviting scents, soft lighting, and a sense of calm.  Even before we ‘open’ at 6.45am, families start coming in the door.  This ensures that those families who need to be getting away to work have unhurried time to bring their children in and settle them for the day.  I make sure I am in my office, or close by to greet families with a warm welcome as they come in.  I know all the children in our care, and I know their level of tolerance for greetings early in the morning.  I wait for each child to respond (or not!) and meet them where they are.  I greet younger and older siblings of our precious cargo too! I scan the adults for signs of how their morning has been, and jump to help if I sense stresses or need.  The most important thing at this time (and throughout the morning) is that children begin their day in a calm and relaxed manner.  How they separate from their parents is the biggest influencer on the day ahead.  Circle of security is in full swing at this time.


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids Karana

Educators are ready and waiting to greet children, and to aid in the smooth transition of children from the arms of their adults.  Some sit down to eat breakfast as they arrive, others race to the tank to greet our turtle, some just like a cuddle with their trusted educator, and some run to greet their friends and join in play.  Some children walk back to the front gate with me to wave goodbye to their parent driving off to work for the day – part of a very important separation ritual that has been created with them.  And yes – sometimes there are tears….. and in these cases, we pour our hearts into the child, recognising their emotional state, and helping them to move through it.

As the morning goes on, more children arrive, the doors to outside open up, more educators arrive…… the community is in full swing.  Each child is still treated with the care and respect of the earlier children.  Each child with a different little routine that helps them move into our space.  There are educators spotted around the centre – if not engaging with children, in a space down low that they are accessible.  There are conversations going on, stories being read, songs being sung, play deepening, and a sense of calm and joy of being together in the space we are in.


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids Karana

Here a group of children excitedly talking about their weekend adventures; there an educator sitting on a mat under the trees chatting with children while engaging in a planned experience; close by an educator chatting with a parent who has arrived for the day.  Children might be starting to require changes of nappies….. and a close trusted carer will guide the child to the bathroom, where unhurried special bonding one-on-one time is spent with the child.  Including the child in the routine occurring, talking with them, making sure they do as much to be included in the routine as they are capable of – not just ripping through an unpleasant task.

The day has started.  And throughout the day children march to the beat of their own drums.  Rhythms are important – and we also know that each child has a unique song.  There are spaces to eat, spaces to rest/sleep, spaces to be together, spaces to be alone, spaces to be with adults, spaces to be away from adults.  There is joking and laughter, there are quiet times and cuddles.  We are all here, in this space, living our lives together.  Adults and children alike are expected to give their all to being there.  Sharing their interests, talents, hopes, wishes, emotions……..


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids Karana

The doors to all our three rooms remain open during the day, and children are free to roam and find the space they wish to be in at any point in time.  The majority of children spend the majority of their days outdoors.  This is where connections to the earth are built.  It is where we all ground ourselves.  All children are familiar to all adults – no matter which room they are “attached” to.  Weather doesn’t prevent play from happening.  It just changes the dynamic.  We LOVE rain!  It doesn’t trap us inside.  It opens up a whole different world in the playground.  One filled with puddles and wonder.  When was the last time you stood out in the rain and looked up to the skies?

Tasks are completed throughout the day.  Often children joining in the upkeep of our environment.  And sometimes they don’t – and that is ok too.  They are children, and they are learning.  They’ve got so much growing and developing to do.  We observe them closely in their play, and use our observations to plan environments and our interactions with them.

When families start arriving to collect children, they often find their child deep in play, and actually disappointed to have to be leaving.  There are goodbyes – often a child needing to do the rounds of the whole centre and say goodbye to everyone.  Again – families are scanned for signs of how their day has been.  Sometimes a chat to vent out frustrations is required.  We give excited accounts of our day, and have the goal to send everyone out the front door united and ready to be together.


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids Karana

The end of the day draws near.  We draw the children in close to us.  Sometimes they help with end of day tasks and cleaning.  Sometimes they all huddle up together for a story.  Sometimes they stay outside and enjoy the peacefulness of the evening blanket coming over.  As with the whole day – children have choice as to how they are.

It’s 6.15pm.  The last families have left.  Shortly afterwards  I walk out the front door with the late shift educators.  All of us lifted in togetherness.  This lot are my family – without doubt.

We’ve lived another day together.  Sharing ourselves.  Giving our hearts.  And we head home to our own families and lives…….. knowing we have done everything in our power to give children the best day imaginable.  Yes – sometimes we are exhausted – but it’s a good exhausted.  One that fills us with anticipation of the next time we will be together, and the wondering of what new adventures will await.


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids Karana

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs

Be quiet and learn.

Be quiet and learn.

I believe that childhood, in all its complexity, can actually be the most simple and carefree experience we could ever have in our human lives.  So why is it that childhood in this day and age, seems to be anything BUT simplistic?  We complain about children wanting so much.  We complain that they don’t seem to be satisfied with the simple things we were as children.  But where does this come from?  Does it come from the child?  Or do we in our adult agenda, push children down this path?


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

This morning I was exposed to a heart touching video, made by a parent of a child with autism.  Highlighting the perceptions and wonders of living with a child “on the spectrum”.  You can watch the video here.  I’ve also posted the words to the poem, “Autism Night Before Christmas” by Cindy Waeltermann below.

I’ve worked with children with varying levels of autism over the years. The one thing that touches me more than anything, is their aversion to being affected by the outside world.  I see these children as being so attuned to themselves, that they struggle when things break their barriers.  We have different expectations of children on the spectrum. What I’m proposing though – is why?  Why can’t we have that similar expectation of ALL children?  It is about inclusion.  A child is a child, is a child.  From any angle.  Every child has a place in community.  In their own special way.  It is about accepting that and coming together.  Allowing children to belong as they are.  Our Early Years Learning Framework says it perfectly – “Belonging, being, becoming.”  Do we live by this?  In its true and fundamental quality?


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

A child, in essence, is a being new to this world – filled with awe and wonder.  Learning so many things for the first time that we don’t even remember exist any more.  Too often, their enthusiasm is brushed aside because what they are seeing has become so familiar to us, that we forget how absolutely mind-blowing our world is.  Too often we drag children out of their awe and wonder with our stale adult perspective.

We push aside the fact that we need to allow children space to be in the world, in whatever capacity fits them.  Different for each child, but the same in concept.  We need to stop pushing our adult views onto children.  Stop expecting them to move through the world with the knowledge we possess only from many years experience here.  Stop pushing our materialistic agendas onto them.  Stop stealing their joy.


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

All children, no matter their ability, label, differences……. need just one thing from us.  To be understood.  In order to do that, we must know them as people.  Listen to them.  Allow their idiosyncrasies, in the same way we would for other adults.  We need to know that each child has their own way of being in the world.  Their own personality.  Their own special needs.  What if we could do that for children?  What if we could sometimes just leave them the heck alone, and let them discover and be the amazing person they are?  We need to step back.  Observe closely.  Gain understanding of a child’s culture.

Maybe for ALL children, what we need to do more than anything, is to “be quiet and learn”.


Photo courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre

Autism Night Before Christmas
by Cindy Waeltermann (2008)

Twas the Night Before Christmas
And all through the house
The creatures were stirring
Yes, even the mouse

We tried melatonin
And gave a hot bath
But the holiday jitters
They always distract

The children were finally
All nestled in bed
When nightmares of terror
Ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift
The right color
And style
Would there be a tantrum
Or even, maybe, a smile?

Our relatives come
But they don’t understand
The pleasure he gets
Just from flapping his hands.

“He needs discipline,” they say
“Just a well-needed smack,
You must learn to parent…”
And on goes the attack

We smile and nod
Because we know deep inside
The argument is moot
Let them all take a side

We know what it’s like
To live with the spectrum
The struggles and triumphs
Achievements, regressions…

But what they don’t know
And what they don’t see
Is the joy that we feel
Over simplicity

He said “hello”
He ate something green!
He told his first lie!
He did not cause a scene!

He peed on the potty
Who cares if he’s ten,
He stopped saying the same thing
Again and again!

Others don’t realize
Just how we can cope
How we bravely hang on
At the end of our rope

But what they don’t see
Is the joy we can’t hide
When our children with autism
Make the tiniest stride

We may look at others
Without the problems we face
With jealousy, hatred
Or even distaste,

But what they don’t know
Nor sometimes do we
Is that children with autism
Bring simplicity.

We don’t get excited
Over expensive things
We jump for joy
With the progress work brings

Children with autism
Try hard every day
That they make us proud
More than words can say.

They work even harder
Than you or I
To achieve something small
To reach a star in the sky

So to those who don’t get it
Or can’t get a clue
Take a walk in my shoes
And I’ll assure you

That even 10 minutes
Into the walk
You’ll look at me
With respect, even shock.

You will realize
What it is I go through
And the next time you judge
I can assure you

That you won’t say a thing
You’ll be quiet and learn,
Like the years that I did
When the tables were turned……

Photos courtesy of Eskay Kids, Karana Early Education Centre.


Rest time?

Rest time?


It is a researched fact that from around the age of 3 years, most children stop requiring a day time sleep.  There have been multiple studies done by multiple sources.   Yet, many early childhood services continue to control children and ignore their natural urges.  They use the premise of “children need rest” and “we know best because we are adults” to coerce children into unnatural sleep patterns.  It is then noted that they must need it, otherwise they’d not have fallen asleep.  I wonder – if you are put in a dark room, on a mat or bed, soft music playing, not allowed to move or make a sound – what else IS there, but to go to sleep.  Often there is soothing, rubbing and patting backs involved also.  Quite frankly – this might be categorised as abuse.  Enforcing a child to partake in a routine act that they neither want, nor need.  Usually this is for adult privilege.  Time to do cleaning, paperwork, or just have a break from active supervision in the day.  Is this by any stretch of the imagination ethical practice?

I’m not sure why “now” is a thing either. Like, this time of year?  Why are people talking about culling and reducing rest for children who are going to be starting their transition to school in a few months?  Either children need sleep or they don’t.  Right?  Shouldn’t it be cut and dried and simple?  If children need sleep, they sleep – if not……. well……

By “encouraging” them into sleep, we are breaking the natural human rhythms of life. It is no wonder that parents complain about their child being up at night, not getting good sleep, etc. Because the balance has been interfered with.  Yes, I completely agree that a child who has not had sleep and needs it, is also placed at a disadvantage.  Because once again – the natural rhythms are being interfered with.  It is a fine line we walk.  So how do we get it right?


First things first – are that in a service, we need to build relationships.  With children AND with their family.  We need to spend time getting to know them – who they are, and what their primary care needs are.  What is their normal natural pattern of wake and sleep?  And what are the things that they need for sleep to happen (i.e. – comfort items, etc)?  And this is the base from which we start.  We also need to have some basic trust and knowledge that children are the boss of their body.  Ultimately, they are the only one who knows what they truly need.
We need to know a child.  And we need to be tuned into them.  Very young children are often unable to recognise or give voice to their body’s state of tiredness.  So initially, it really is up to us to recognise the very first sign of tiredness in a child, and act on it straight away.  Getting this right, is key.  There is such a fine line.  If we don’t bring a child to rest when it is needed can be as detrimental as forcing a child to sleep when they don’t need it!  In partnership with families, we need to work with a child’s own rhythms.  It is really for this reason, that a prescribed time of rest for all children in a group does not work.
From the age of 15 months in our service, children are given autonomy over rest. There is no such thing as lying on a bed because it is “rest time”. You lie on a bed if and when you are tired and need a rest or sleep.  We need to tune in to children.  We need to know them well.  Especially for the very young.  I find even at 15 months of age, when you help a child to recognise their need for sleep, they are competently aware of their body’s needs.  They may not come to us and say “I need a sleep”, but they certainly come looking for guidance, displaying all the signs we come to know of each child’s tiredness.
It is likewise our responsibility to stop forcing sleep on children who don’t need it.  Rooms full of beds after lunch are so completely unnecessary.  And what a waste of time!  Getting beds out, cleaning them, putting them away.  All for nothing – and sometimes at a big cost to children’s wellbeing.
So what can rest for young children look like?  Of course – even those who don’t need sleep, will often require periods of down time during the day.  So we need to make sure that there is space for that to occur.  This can be done by thoughtfully providing spaces around our environment for children to just be and give their body and mind the time it needs to refresh a little.  Comfortable couches, swing chairs, mats and cushions, hammocks, trees to climb up and sit in for a while, secluded spots in the outdoors….. anywhere a body can just be in a position of relaxation.  So this means we have to stop thinking that children need to be constantly engaged or entertained.  When we see a child off sitting on their own – we leave them the heck alone!  When we let them take care of their body’s own needs – their body gets what it needs.  It also needs to be, that there ARE spaces for a child to have a bed and sleep in a non-traffic space – when they need it, not when it is convenient for us.
Children are capable human beings.  They have a brain, and like us – they are the best judge of what their body needs.  When we trust them enough to allow them autonomy, we are not just showing them the respect they deserve as a human being, we are setting them up to become confident and resilient.  I am not advocating that we stop being the adult guide that they need through their childhood.  I am not suggesting we just allow them to do “whatever they want”.  As always, children need us, they need firm boundaries, they need order in their life.  They need US to help teach them how to be the makers of their own destiny.  But ultimately they also need to be in charge of just that.



School Ready?


In Australia, we are powering towards the end of the year.  The parents of children who are eligible for school start next year are starting to get anxious.

Some concerns of parents are:

  • Which school?  Am I getting it right?
  • Is my child prepared for school?
  • Can they do all the things they need to be able to do?
  • Will they be with friends and/or make new friends?
  • What should I do?

This is such a big transition in a child’s life.  One of the biggest in fact.  And yes – all those concerns are so valid.  Because really – we have one chance to get it right.  What happens from here, can be the catalyst and shaper of the next 13 years of a child’s schooling career.

There is a lot of information floating around the inter-webs these days, pointing to the many flaws of our education system.  And different words of advice.  Many of them citing research from around the world about what is the best solution for education.

What I want to do – is to acknowledge all that research – which points towards children being advantaged in many ways, by delaying the beginning of formalised learning until a child is seven years old.  Yes, you heard right – SEVEN.

I’m currently watching our group of Kindergarten children, some of whom are turning five…….  some of whom are not long past four!  In six months, the majority of this group of children will be in a primary school setting.  Facing a life of desks, and passive learning.  They will be between four and a half, and five and a half years old.  Their little bodies with still so much developing to do.  Their brains with room to grow.  So many of them not even physically developed enough to successfully execute what school expects.  Their bodies still needing to move.  Neural pathways still being developed.  Emotional regulation still being established.  But they will be expected to have it all together – all their ducks in a row, so to speak.


So what am I getting at here?  What do I advocate?  Well, aside of all those very good developmental reasons – there is one more that we rarely hear about.  What about joy?  The joy of an extra year of childhood.  An extra year to get it all together.  Imagine that!  The gift of a whole year.  365 days more to play and discover the world around you with no academic agenda.  All that time for little bodies and brains to further develop.  At four or five years old – a year is a lifetime.

I’ve watched closely, children whose parents have opted to give them this gift.  And I’ve been delighted to observe little humans just that little bit more ready for what school has in store for them.  Actually – a LOT more ready.  Their executive function is firing on all cylinders.  They are far more ready and resilient.  The are bigger and stronger in every way.  AND, they’ve had a whole extra year of childhood to make wonderful memories.

What if our whole world opted to delay that school entry?  What if every child received the gift of another year of childhood?  I can’t begin to describe the difference this would make.  Instead of being bombarded with figures of record numbers of children being expelled from school, and concerning NAPLAN test results, we might see figures of children excelling in ways we haven’t seen before.

Of course, I will continue to advocate for changes to our schooling system.  Because I believe this too has much to be held accountable for.  I’ve heard that it takes 40 years for changes to a system like this to take place.  Far too long for our children right here, right now.  And many to come.

So, while we are taking the next 40 years to make the changes that will serve our race – let’s think about the small steps we can take.  And one of those, is to stop pushdown of formal academic learning on our little people.  To give them another year.  To let them be children………. for just a little bit longer.




Discipline…. control or love?


I’m currently preparing for a Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) 10 day intensive course.  And in that preparation, I’m doing as much reading as I can cram into the time I have available.  What I’m finding in my preparatory reading, is that while the focus of this information is to apply it to babies and young toddlers, it is applicable far beyond those years. I’m having reinforced many of my philosophies of working with children, as well as deepening my knowledge of theory behind the thinking.

One thing that was opened in my reflective thinking a few days ago, was the concept of “discipline”.  It’s a word that we often shirk away from in our early childhood settings.  Because it conjures up images that are very damaging to our way of thinking.  For me, I start thinking of “corporal punishment” type methods, sending children to a “naughty chair”, and other such horrid experiences for children.

We tend to try and use less threatening words for discipline.  Words like ‘guidelines’ or ‘boundaries’.  And there probably isn’t really anything wrong with this.  But maybe avoiding the stronger term is leaving us with a wish-washy approach, that sees less experienced educators feel like they are not able to enforce disciplines in their spaces.

Children need boundaries.  And there should rightly be “consequences” for breaking those boundaries.  Again – here is another word that we struggle with.  Because sometimes consequences sounds a little too much like ‘punishment’.  Sometimes words can be our worst enemy. Or perhaps not the words, perhaps more our perceptions and thinking that is provoked by words.

According to a ten-year study conducted at Harvard Medical School  (The Science of Early Childhood Development. (2007). National Scientific Council on the Developing Child., there are six factors related to the eventual intellectual capacity of a child:

(1) The most critical period of a child’s mental development is between eight and eighteen months old.

(2) The mother is usually the most important person in the child’s environment.

(3) The amount of ‘live’ language directed to the child between twelve and eighteen months is absolutely critical.

(4) Children given free access to living areas of their homes progressed much faster than those whose movements are restricted.

(5) The family is the most important educational delivery system.

(6) The best parents are those who excel at three key functions: they are superb designers and organisers of their children’s environments; they permit their children to interrupt them for brief thirty-second episodes during which personal comfort and information are exchanged; finally, they are firm disciplinarians while simultaneously showing great affection for their children. In other words, they love their kids, talk to them, treat them with respect, expose them to interesting things, organise their time, discipline them fairly, and raise them in strong stable families. It’s a time-honoured recipe for producing bright (and happy) children.

“Firm disciplinarians”…… I’m sure that conjures up the same feelings for others, as it does for me.  How do we define the term ‘discipline’?  Magda Gerber (1979) writes, “I see discipline as being a social contract, in which family (or community) members agree to accept and obey a particular set of rules.”  We need rules.  Having a mutually agreeable set of rules assists us to coexist in a family or community.  In this context of being with children, these rules are the guide to a child living in a socially acceptable way.  It is how they learn to be a part of community.  We need to be consistent, but not rigid in our approach with young children.  And within these rules, must be some freedom to make choice.  We can establish good habits when we are consistent from the very beginning in our expectations.  Ultimately, we are not looking to be the ruler over children’s lives – but to guide them to develop their own inner discipline.  We will always have some areas that are non-negotiable – but we also need to have things that are negotiable, where children have choice, and there will also be those things we don’t necessarily like, but we tolerate.  Choosing our battles, is one of the toughest things for us at times.  Because we often don’t want to feel like we are not in control.

As the disciplinarian, we need to be very clear ourselves, on what the parameters are.  If we are not convinced of that, then neither will be out children.  Our children need to be motivated through consistency.  Where they have been gently and firmly guided to a place of self-discipline, self-confidence and feeling joy in being part of a community through cooperation.  We should rely on a sense of children understanding that these rules exist, not upon rewards for complying, or punishments for not complying.

“What rewards and punishments do is induce compliance, and this they do very well indeed. If your objective is to get people to obey an order, to show up on time and do what they’re told, then bribing or threatening them may be sensible strategies. But if your objective is to get long-term quality in the workplace, to help students become careful thinkers and self-directed learners, or to support children in developing good values, then rewards, like punishments, are absolutely useless. In fact, as we are beginning to see, they are worse than useless—they are actually counterproductive.”
― Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes

Children need to be treated as competent members of our community, and subjected to rules and disciplines in the same manner as we should expect of ANY member of our community.  Would I bribe a staff member with a sticker if they did their job?  Would I send them off to sit on a chair if they did something less than desirable?  Children deserve our gentle nature, our kindness, our love and our respect.  They deserve us to be the ones to guide discipline, so that they develop into productive members of society.  And at the same time, we need to remember that they are human too – they need to make choices, and they need to learn from the choices they make.  Discipline is not a bad thing when it is defined in the right way – when we look at it from the stance of creating self-discipline and principled habits.

Discipline must come through liberty. . . . We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.     

Maria Montessori

From which realm do your acts of discipline stem – control, or love?


The Birthday Hat…. otherwise known as “Making Memories”

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Sometimes we just do things – and we don’t really think about the impact or the specialness, until somebody else brings it to the fore.
We have always celebrated children’s birthdays in our service, by sharing a cake (or something) with them – that they bring in from home. They usually sit with their room group to do this at afternoon tea time.We’ve always come together as a whole service for staff birthdays to sing and recognise. (When I say always – I am referring to since before I was at my service (so longer than 6 years).
While doing our reflections together late last year, we considered why we didn’t come together as a whole service for children also? Our shift has been to a very open program, that is multi aged. So children spend less and less time in age groupings for us.  Why were we still scaling it back to celebrate birthdays?  Were we really making this a special day for children?  
We decided to try coming together for children also. All of us. It was rather spontaneous the first time we were doing it – and we looked around for something that would bring attention and let everyone know – and be fun.
We plucked the bells that were hanging on a hook on one of the verandahs. They were so perfect, that they immediately took on the new role, as the “Birthday Bells”.  Coupled with the “Birthday Hat” which has also been around for many years…… a new tradition was born.
The birthday child circles the playground and the rooms wearing the Birthday Hat and ringing the Birthday Bells, gathering everyone together.  We all head up to the yarning circle, where there is recognition of the special birthday we are coming together for, coupled with a choir to be reckoned with singing “Happy Birthday”!  The cheers echo throughout the neighbourhood.
A parent approached me recently, quite anxious as to whether her little boy would get to do the birthday bells and hat, because he didn’t come to care on his actual birthday. She said it was all he talked about in relation to his birthday, and his excitement outweighed any requests for gifts.  She was terribly concerned.  And of course – it doesn’t have to be the actual day.  The closest day they come to care is the best pick.
I do really love the creation of our new tradition. And the sense of togetherness it gives us all. But more so, the sense of belonging and specialness a child gets when we recognise their special day with them. They get to be the centre of the universe for just a while.
This custom and tradition has another spin for me too. A child with autism, who has been with us for a few years now – yesterday gave me the warmest glow inside. As he heard the bells ringing – he skipped his way up to the yarning circle. As I got closer to him, I heard the soft singing of Happy Birthday. And the little grin across his face showed me how much he was with us all in that moment.
Having been thrown the opportunity to reflect on this new little tradition, which is now only a few months young – I sit with a tear in my eye. Realising and understanding that we have seamlessly formed something not only very special for children – but something that will likely form one of their early childhood memories.
And that little grin creeps across my face, as I understand fully, that we got this one right.
It is the special times in a child’s life, that will become the memories that stay with them as an adult.
“We didn’t realise we were making memories.  We thought we were just having fun.”
Agency Vs. Being the adult.

Agency Vs. Being the adult.


I call myself a fierce advocate for children’s agency. I like to think that I am current, progressive and contemporary in my thinking and practice.

The children in my world experience a great amount of freedom.  They get to make decisions about their days that many would only dream about.  <insert mental image of a child lying on a grassy green mound, staring up at the sky with a big empty fluffy white thought cloud>  They get to choose when they eat, play, sleep, poop, sing, read, climb…….. you get the picture.  There is an exponential amount of freedom for them.  And they love it.  It facilitates joy.

There are some things they don’t get to choose though.  For instance – they don’t actually get to choose that they come in the very first place.  Very few of them anyway.  They come because the adults in their lives make that very significant decision for them.  For some it is because parents are working, for some it is because parents need their own space for a time for their well-being, for some it is because parents feel they need something more and different than home provides.

While I would be so bold as to say and assume that most children enjoy most of their time with us – they aren’t really given the agency to make that decision.  Don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad thing. It is because we as the adults in the lives of children sometimes have to make choices for them.

Giving children agency, does not mean that we stop being the adult in their lives.

One thing I know about me – is that I am adult.  Just that.  There are times when I have to help children through a situation.  There are other times I need to make decisions FOR children…. in their best interests.  It is my job as an adult to make sure that the children in my world are safe from harm.  It is my job as an adult to ensure they know how to keep themselves safe from harm.  So they don’t always get completely free reign.  There are times when we have to step in.  There are times when we have to direct.  And there are times when we have to say no.  Of course – we can also choose exactly how we go about those things too.  We can certainly do it without creating a dictatorship. or making children feel inferior.  It’s not about superiority – it’s just about having been on this earth for much longer, and knowing more about it – the joys and the perils.

There are several things that speak to me, telling me that no matter how much agency I wish to afford a child – I HAVE to, at certain points, be their rock.

The Early Childhood Australia Code of Ethics calls me to “act in the best interests of children” and to “create and maintain safe, healthy, inclusive environments that support children’s agency and enhance their learning”.

The Early Years Learning Framework states that, “Children’s agency, as well as guidance care and teaching by families and educators shape children’s experiences of becoming.”

Whilst giving many statements around children making decisions in their lives and having control – the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 3:  “States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health…..”

As professionals, many of us use and promote the concepts of the Circle of Security in our work with children.  The top part of which promotes a secure base for children to be in, and experience the agency of their world.  The lower part creating that foundation of a safe haven for children, where adults keep children protected by their very presence.


There are many places that support agency for children, but also rule the line for the need of the existence of adults in children’s lives, and their input.  And aside of all these professional directions – there is the plain old human instinct we are given.  We don’t allow children to put themselves in harm’s way.  We teach them that the world is not an innocent place, and that they need to be and act in certain ways to protect themselves.

As we strive in our work to allow children agency to make decisions – let’s not forget that we have a responsibility to them to keep them safe.  And while I love nothing more than to see children in control of their world, there is a certain specialness allocated to us, to also be their champion, and to be the one to wrap our arms around them at the end of all that is said and done.

“Agency” and “Being the adult” to not have to be in competition with one another.  There can be a harmonious balance.

Whenever possible:  Follow my child’s need.
Whenever necessary:  take charge.”