“Research shows that good interactions between adults and children make a big difference to how well communication and language skills develop. Children benefit from being with responsive and enthusiastic adults who show interest in talking with them.” DfE Help for Early Years Providers
Recently I was in a Toddler Room when a child came over to show me a small basket of food he was carrying. We held a back and forth ‘conversation’, lasting over 10 minutes. We used words, sounds, actions and phrases and a lot of facial expressions!
This simple moment made me think about the concerns many of us are having about some children’s lack of language development following the pandemic and how, sometimes, we can get lost in the busy day to day of life in the EYFS and miss our most valuable opportunities of real interaction.
Quality interactions are at the heart of Early Years Foundation Stage practice as they are our most powerful tool for furthering children’s learning and development. These interactions will contain meaningful and purposeful engagements between adults and children, but what does this look like?
Here are 6 things to think about in terms of quality interactions in the EYFS:
Quality interactions are language-rich. We engage in meaningful conversations with children all day, every day, using rich vocabulary and open-ended questions to encourage communication and language acquisition. We actively listen and respond to children’s ideas, expanding on their thoughts and encourage them to express themselves. This helps to develop children’s vocabulary, understanding of the world, and others around them.
Quality interactions are adaptive to meet the diverse needs and abilities of all children. Adults modify their interactions and teaching strategies to accommodate individual starting points, interests and strengths. Communication occurs in many ways. We provide additional support or challenge as needed, ensuring that every child can actively participate and make progress in their learning.
Quality interactions create positive and supportive learning environments. We provide specific labelled praise and encouragement, celebrating children’s efforts as well as their achievements. We offer feedback and guidance, helping children to reflect on their learning. By creating a nurturing and non-judgmental atmosphere, adults foster children’s self-esteem, confidence, and motivation to learn.
In quality interactions, we provide appropriate support and guidance to scaffold children’s learning. We break down tasks into manageable steps, offer prompts and cues, and provide modelling and demonstrations. This helps children to develop new skills and knowledge, gradually building their confidence and independence. By not ‘taking over’ for the child we extend children’s thinking and problem solving skills.
Quality interactions are engaging and stimulating, capturing children’s attention and curiosity. We use a variety of activities such as joyful singing, fabulous storytelling, multi-sensory explorations (and hundreds of others), but our best resource is ourselves. We want to spark children’s interest and encourage active participation. We provide opportunities and time for children to discover, experiment and problem-solve, promoting their cognitive and creative development.
Quality interactions are responsive and sensitive to the individual needs and interests of each child. We actively listen to and observe children, tuning into their cues and signals. We respond promptly and appropriately, showing genuine interest and respect for their ideas and contributions. This helps to build trust and a sense of security, fostering a positive relationship between you and the child.
We have many interactions with children throughout the day, how good are yours?
Let us try not to run through these moments, but to make the most of them together.
Be striving for quality in all of our interactions we adults facilitate children’s growth and help them reach their full potential, and who doesn’t want that!
Be well. Early Years Power!