The first two years of a child’s life is a time for incredible development and growth in all areas.  As parents and practitioners at Third Door (Workhub & Nursery) we want to do what we can to support and nurture both. This article aims to demonstrate the important role we all play in preparing under twos for future success, in developing self-confidence and motivated learners.

Learning to read and write does not start once a child turns three – language and literacy development begins at birth through loving interactions shared every day. In the Nursery environment similarly to home, we share books, tell stories, sing songs and talk to one another. There are also endless opportunities to develop skills during play in our Nursery with the under 2’s lifting, pouring, bouncing, looking, hiding, building and knocking down items.

Children are learning mathematical concepts such as balancing blocks to create a tower, or the scientific notion for example of what floats and sinks.  However play does not only support the more educational elements of development but also the social and emotional aspects.  As our Early Years Practitioners  play with the children, they are understanding that they are important, loved and fun to be around.  Such social, emotional skills provide self-esteem and self-confidence that the children require to continue building supportive and loving relationships throughout their lives.

Babies are born with a determination to relate and connect with others, and they will continue to develop the skills needed to form strong, healthy relationships.  For example I recently observed a 6 month old baby gazing at her mother’s face as she was breastfed.  The baby recognised her mum as the loving, special person who is always there, the child had calmed down almost immediately as she was picked up by her mother and held close. The baby is learning that she is loved and that she can trust others to care and look after her.  Also last week when we were in the park, when a child tripped over and began crying, another child just under two years ran over and started to rub their back (like she had seen her parents or practitioners do).  The child is learning how to empathise with and understand another’s emotions and feelings.

Below are some ideas for developing relationship-building skills in under twos, we ensure we adapt each bullet point within the Third Door Nursery setting…

  • Allow for some unstructured, uninterrupted time with your child every day – let the child be the leader in deciding what to play.  Do not multi task during this playtime.  When you have to return to daily chores with your baby, narrate what you are doing and offer interesting, related objects to keep that connection with you, for example a wooden spoon when cooking.
  • Let your child know you’re interested in their activities – display a genuine interest, whatever they are doing. Often adult attention (particularly that from parents) is what they desire and are over the moon to receive.  This morning I watched a child placing blocks into a large bowl, I joined and we took in turns to do it, giving a small scream each time we dropped one.  By doing this I was encouraging him to experience and value the enjoyment of back and forth play which is an important aspect of effective relationships.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to develop relationships with peers – It is the perfect time when attending nursery to practice skills such as sharing, taking turns, resolving conflict, this not only helps develop friendships and relationships with others, but develops their social and emotional development.

When I recruit staff to care for the younger children I look for some special traits, I look for warmth and that they empathise and look through the child’s eyes and through their feelings, so they know how to interact playfully and lovingly on a child’s level.  Also that they are relaxed and caring when ensuring the child’s physical needs and daily routines are followed.

We are lucky to have a room that is flexible and can be rearranged as often or as little as we wish. Recently we rearranged the Nursery environment to enhance the feeling of security for the younger babies.  We wanted to allow all age groups to be able to explore and experiment with resources and materials that are age appropriate, and stimulate and motivate the children.  However, we wanted to ensure that we still allowed for all the children to interact and communicate between the different age groups and to guarantee the family group ethos we promote at Third Door (Workhub & Nursery).

We believe we have now created a truly enabling environment, where children relax, play and learn in their age groups and can also come together in a family environment, thus allowing older children to learn how to care for younger children and younger children emulate and learn from the older children.