Transitions: What effects do these have on children’s learning and how can be best manage them?

As we are ending the end of the year it is the time that many of our children will be making a major transition in their educational learning, be it leaving to attend school or kindergarten or even making the move to the ELC from the ITC. There is lots of research around regarding the effect these transitions can have on children and their learning and how best to manage so this to ensure there is a continuity of learning for the child.

In Carla Rinaldi’s Thinker in Residence Re-Imagining Childhood The inspiration of Reggio Emilia education principles in South Australia Report 2012-13 she discussed the effect of the many transitions a child can have which creates a very fragmented week for them. She advocates that it is “among the rights of children and in particular the very small ones, there is the right to live and be in situations in which it is possible to build long lasting, constant relationships.

In these relationships, time and space are structuring themselves in order to help the child to recognise and be recognised, to give and to have continuity, and helping him be orientated in the affective environment and in his relationships. In this way, the child builds his own identity and his security: at home and in the situations in which he is welcomed.”

If a child is attending many situations, such as home, grandparents, early learning centre and/or kindergarten in just one week the ability for the child to create this continuity and long lasting constant relationships is compromised and therefore can affect their ability to create an identity and to be recognised at their full potential. Giving a child “rituality, rhythms, relationships and continuity it gives him the possibility to recognise himself and to overcome small and big stresses and unpredicted change” Rinaldi 2012-13.

Rinaldi (2012-13) continues to site that “if early childhood services are considered just as places to meet the needs of working families, and the right of children to build strong and constant relationships and friendships is not taken into consideration, there is a risk of environmental, cognitive and affective fragmentation that could disorient children”.

We see this commonly at the centre for those children who attend only one day where they may take longer to form strong secure relationships with educators and peers and find it hard to settle on that day they attend. These are useful points to note when planning a return to work or the move to other educational site for your child that considers the child’s perspective instead of just the parents working needs, however we do understand that other factors will also influence this decision such as monetary constraints and time.

So for those children who are about to make a major transition or will be utilizing more than one option of early childhood education “more than any other element of transition, relationships between and among children, families and educators are the basis for continuity between home, prior to school, school and school age care“(Dockett, S. & Perry, B. (2007). With this in mind it is important that the relationship between educators and families provides the opportunities for open communication about the child and the planned transitions and to discuss any concerns they may arise.

The Early Years Learning Framework also outlines that our practice must allow for a continuity of learning for the following outcomes:

  • Building on children’s prior and current experiences helps them to feel secure, confident and connected to familiar people, places, events and understandings
  • As children make transitions to new settings educators from early childhood settings and schools commit to sharing information about each child’s knowledge and skills so learning can build on foundations of earlier learning
  • Educators work collaboratively with each child’s new educator and other professionals to ensure a successful transition.

Our transition programs between rooms and centres ensures that our teachers and educators are working collaboratively together before the child’s transition. Part of this process is that the Teachers of both groups meet and discuss the child along with preparing a transition report that aids this conversation. For those children leaving to attend school or kindergarten we prepare our year end development and learning reports that can be forwarded to their teacher.

We work in collaboration with local kindergartens by meeting each term and discussing the programs both sites were delivering along with individual child developmental progress. This allowes us to work together in ensuring a successful transition at the beginning of the year and that both sites are able to build on the child’s foundations of learning at either site. We also working to create to stronger relationships with the local schools for those children choosing to use only Ranges for their child’s preschool education to assist in the transition to school.


The Child’s Right to an Education

As a result of the then Premier Weatherill’s commitment to quality early childhood education as well as a substantial push from non-government educational sectors a decision was made to attract Professor Carla Rinaldi as Adelaide‘s Thinker in Residence. In 2012 and 2013 she visited our state on three occasions. Professor Rinaldi is the President of the Reggio Children-Loris Malaguzzi Centre Foundation in Italy. She is also a Professor at the Universities of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She has presented numerous lectures at seminars and conferences across Europe, in the United States, Australia, and Asia.

The city of Reggio Emilia hosts international groups of teachers and professionals in the Early Childhood sector several times a year. These study tours provide educators the opportunity to visit several of their schools, get to know the city and community, and be engaged with hands on activities at the Loris Malaguzzi Centre. The study tour also includes lectures where knowledgeable teachers, Atelieristas, and Pedagogical Consultants share their expertise and experiences, in applying the Reggio Emilia principles in Early Childhood Teaching.

Professor Carla Rinaldi has extensive knowledge of children, childhood and learning and she challenges educators to think critically about deeply engrained beliefs about the “culture of childhood and the value of the child as citizen from birth” (Rinaldi, 2013).

Carla noted that in our culture there appears to be a sense of guilt in sending children to Early Childhood settings. She perceived that there was an expectation on mothers to stay at home and raise their children. Carla strongly disagrees with this notion and states that…

“It is the right of the children to go to school not about the needs of the parent to stay at home with their child.
Always going back to the right of the child” (Rinaldi, 2015)

Carla also challenges us to think about the community as a whole. To consider the children not only as our future leaders but as integral members of our community. “The children are our common good and their education is our common responsibility. The big vision of childhood. Childhood as a part of politics and investment and the priority of the community to make visible the child that is not your child. They are not property they are human beings” (Rinaldi, 2015). In Reggio Emilia the children and the community interact regularly. Much of their leaning, enquiry and development occurs as a result of interacting with people, places and things in their city. Their final works are displayed in public places and include not only the children’s and teachers voices but those of members of their community too.

For a final thought about challenging the way we view childhood, education and development; let’s remember the traditional African adage of ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. This proverb has been readily quoted by professionals and researchers as they support the necessity to examine all the contributing factors which effect maturation.

Thanks to our commitment and engagement with our partners in Reggio Emilia and Carla’s residency South Australia has a critical mass of people who are researching the principles from the Reggio Emilia approach and are continually learning as they trial various ways of implementing the principles in the South Australian context.

At the Ranges ELC we are continually challenging our practice and beliefs to align with the principles of Reggio Emilia teaching. Of significant importance to us is family and community involvement. We will endeavor to improve our ability to combine our children’s learning into the broader community in a truly meaningful manner.


Managing Challenging Behaviours including Biting

As young children navigate their way through many developmental hurdles, many find it difficult to express their frustrations in social interactions due to limited language, lack of understanding with turn taking and the ability to deal with conflicts. The predominant behaviours presenting themselves include biting, pushing and hitting. When this occurs children need guidance to enable them to begin to self-regulate their emotions, be empathetic to one another and understand how their behaviour impacts those around them. It is vital for children’s development that adults take a positive approach by using behaviour guidance in order to understand what is the root cause of the behaviour such as biting (is it teething, an act to gain attention, exploring the world around them by mouthing and investigating cause and effect, frustration due to wanting a desired object or lack of verbal communication? (NCAC, 2012)

When undesirable social behaviours occur from, or to a child many families may feel a mix of anger, guilt, frustration and concern for the level of supervision provided by educators. Unfortunately these behaviours can take place extremely quickly despite an adult being next to the children and quite often without any warning signs being presented. Biting is a developmental norm for children under three years of age and not an indication that something is “wrong” with the child, home or Centre. It is important to maintain open communication and develop mutual trust between parents and Educators. By creating this open dialogue parents and educators are able to provide consistency in expectations and explanations. Managing these behaviours by explaining to a child how that behaviour hurts their peers and that it is not a kind thing to do, is an appropriate discussion with a child under the age of three years of age. (NCAC, 2012)

Labelling a child as a “hitter, biter or pusher” can be detrimental to solving the behaviour, as children feel as though that is their identity, thus intensifying the behaviour. In an article titled ‘The Zero to Three’ discusses that there are strategies that can help to prevent undesirable behaviours by distracting the child. Such strategies may include:

Supporting the children through the situation by helping them structure simple sentences, asking a child to move out of their personal space or with biting you can supply the child with objects to support their need for oral stimulation such as a teething ring.

  • Taking the child for a walk in order to reduce the tension that the child is feeling and focus their attention onto something else.

  • Another social situation that often can result in these undesirable behaviours is sharing where adults can give visual reminders such as sand timers as well as their support through this learning experience.

  • Another suggestion from the article is to read stories about the behaviour with your child which are able to be found through libraries, book shops and online. This is a fantastic way for you and your child to discuss how the characters are feeling throughout the book and how we navigate through different situations. (Zero to Three, 2016)

ACECQA has also highlighted how adults can assist children in day to day interactions that lay foundations for the child’s development of self, attitudes, values and behaviour patterns

  • Being consistent, fair and understanding and supporting and guiding all children’s behaviour positively, such as giving a child positive feedback and attention when participating in interactions with peers in a desirable way.

  • Sometimes Educators may use their tone of voice which may indicate being firm, using words and their manner in which they communicate to a child that a behaviour such as biting is not acceptable. At no time will an Educator think a child is “bad” or “naughty”, rather they are trying to aid the child in stopping the undesirable behaviour.

  • By discovering what the trigger of the behaviour is for an individual child, enables an adult to create a plan to prevent and avoid the child being put into a position where they feel they need to display that behaviour. (NCAC, 2012) This is a crucial element of knowing how and when to support the child. An adult needs to be able to observe the signs where the child may need adult intervention before resorting to a past behaviour if they are struggling to use their new skills.

One of the most important things to remember is that it takes time for a child to learn a new behaviour or response and they will need lots of support, patience and positive feedback to guide them through this developmental phase. This may be done by spending one-on-one time with the child and closely observing their interactions, whilst giving them the communication and language skills to assert themselves in a more appropriate manner. It is also important to create a space where a child is able to go to sit on cushions away from where majority of the children are. This creates a safe space where a child can easily access if they feel overwhelmed due to sounds, lights and overcrowding, be scaffolded to continually discuss how their actions affect those around them, ensure they are having quality sleep and providing opportunities for them to participate in active play. (Zero to Three, 2016)

Young children have an amazing capacity to learn quickly which is highly beneficial in negotiating and problem solving when interacting with others. All children will require different levels of adult support throughout their days and these moments can be viewed as “teachable moments” as children are able to use skills that adults have given them, in order to build their own strategies when responding to a variety of challenging situations throughout their lives. (NCAC, 2012)

ACECQA 2012, Embracing quality child care: A collection of NCAC’s Family Factsheets, NCAC, viewed 25 November 2016
Stonehouse, A 2008, Biting in Child Care, NCAC, viewed 23 Novemeber 2016
Toddlers and Biting: Finding the Right Response 2016, Zero to Three, viewed 23 November 2016

Self-Regulation – What every child needs to learn


The importance of children developing their self-regulation in the early years is a vital tool which allows them to navigate their way through life. This tool enables an individual to have the ability to return to a relaxed and calm emotional state as well as, manage their behaviour, energy and attention after experiencing external interferences such as noise, stress, trauma, lack of sleep, lighting, and food and nutrition.
Children learn through observing the world around them and seek adults who have the ability to be calm, and provide a safe and secure environment. Children need adults who can provide a predictable routine, listen to them and acknowledge their needs and wants. They also carefully watch adults who are able to steer their way through obstacles, observing how they react to these challenges and their ability to acknowledge and label their own emotions.
Children begin to learn to self-regulate from infancy known as other-regulated. During this time, children depend on adults to feed them, soothe them and aid them in falling asleep. As children grow older they then move into the next stage which is co-regulation. During this period, a child spends time with an adult as they teach, talk, listen, coach, sooth the child, before gradually ‘stepping back’ as the child progresses in developing their full self-regulation skills. In order for a child to develop self-regulation, they must participate in co-regulation first. An example of this for most toddler aged children is ensuring that it is developmentally appropriate, such as ensuring they do not sit for long periods of time, rather short periods of time that engage the children in an activity that’s of their interest.

There are several ways that we can support children in successfully developing self-regulation by offering activities such as:

  • Explaining how and why our behaviours affect others

  • Exploring calming strategies using movement such as yoga and slowed breathing exercises (“zipper breathing” and “hissing breathing”)

  • Inviting children to problem solve by encouraging deep breaths to calm themselves. This will begin to enable them to talk about what’s bothering them so you are able to try to solve this problem together by listening to the different perspectives involved. This strategy can be modified to be used with younger children by an adult supporting them through these steps.

  • Encouraging children to use prior knowledge of a similar situation, such as saying ”lets think back to last time this happened, how did you work through this problem?”

  • Ensuring that you congratulate children who ask for help from an adult to work through an issue, where they may have issues may have escalated in the past.
    Sense of agency and control in the environment, able to work in this space with others in order to self-regulate whilst playing in this space, otherwise it won’t work as they need to share the space, planning what you’re going to need in that space, making sure other people have things that they can use
    It is also important to encourage children to continue to persist in the task is difficult or if there are distractions or if they are briefly interrupted e.g. supporting a child through a tricky puzzle and for persisting for a age appropriate time, even if the puzzle was not completed.

  • Having a soft sensory space that children who are feeling overwhelmed can go to if they are feeling distressed, where they can explore a variety of sensory toys such as visual objects and stimulating tactile pieces. These objects allow children to have the opportunity to slow their bodies down gradually. This is a strategy for children to calm themselves, but an adult who has a trusting relationship with the child may cue them when to use the space in order to calm themselves.
    Adults can model self-regulation language through self-talk, such as talking aloud while you solve a problem by trying to think of different perspectives in order to solve the problem. This can also be done by reading stories to children about exploring a characters emotions and how the character reacts to these emotions.

  • Supporting children through pretend play as it enables a child to build the skills to problem solve whilst staying in character throughout their play. Adults can support this skill development by extending their play and aiding their needs e.g. helping children with turn taking, listening to their peers, cooperation skills etc.
    Inviting children to use music and participate in a variety of physical activity as it challenges fitness, continues to develop balance and stimulates coordination


Dealing with Tantrums


How often do you go to a supermarket and witness a child screaming and throwing themselves to the ground? These meltdowns or tantrums are common in children aged under 5 so how are we supporting the children in their learning and development and how do we deal with such meltdowns or tantrums at the centres?

Tantrums are described as “an episode of extreme anger and frustration characterized by crying, screaming, and violent body motions, including throwing things, falling to the floor, and banging one's head, hands, and feet against the floor.

There are many strategies that can be used to deal with tantrums, below are some of the strategies we are using to support the children cope with frustrating situations.

Routines - To avoid or minimise the meltdowns at both centres, we have regular routines where we aim to have a calm environment with predictable and clear consistent expectations. In our group meetings at the beginning of the day, we have conversations about positive behaviour and what our day would look like so the children know what is expected of them. If unwanted behaviour arises, we revisit these conversations with the concerned child.

Relationships - We have responsive and reciprocal interactions with the children that allows us to get to know each child. Knowing each child gives us the opportunities to develop individualised experiences within our programs where we follow their interests and allow for independent exploration. Opportunities for independent exploration are supporting children to cope with frustration as they have control of their play experiences and enhances sense of self-worth and confidence.

Planned Transitions - We have developed transition procedures between routines to minimise frustrations when children move from one experience to another. Sometimes changes from one routine to another can trigger frustrations if enough warning is not given – a child engaged in play in the sandpit making a birthday cake can get frustrated when asked to go for a nappy change without prior warning. We support the children to cope with change by giving them enough time to process the expectation on them and the time to finish what they are doing. We find that letting the child know what we are going to do: ‘I am coming to take you for a nappy change once you finish what you are doing’ often removes the chance of a tantrum.

Partnerships - working in partnership with the parents is our biggest asset. The more we share information about what triggers tantrums and what strategies works, the more effective we are in dealing with meltdowns. Through conversations with parents, we know what triggers most of the frustrations and more importantly, we can provide consistent strategies to help the children cope with frustrating situations both at and away from the centre.

Language Development - tantrums are often trigged by a breakdown of communication due to language barriers. Supporting the children’s language development is crucial in providing a child with the necessary skills to be able to manage their frustration and hence reduce the chance of a tantrum. A child’s desires are often ahead of their language and physical capabilities so by supporting children’s language development, we are empowering them with confidence and ability to express thoughts and feelings. When the child is frustrated, we acknowledge the feeling and support the child with appropriate language to use under the circumstances. ´I can see you are sad but we need to ask Peter “may I have a turn after you?” As a child grows older and their language and cognitive skills increase the number of tantrums start to decrease as they are able to express how they are feeling in more calm ways instead. The programmes at both centres support language and speech development that is appropriate for the various age groups to help them manage these big feelings.

Distraction - if we can see a child’s frustration building we try to remove the child out of the situation before a tantrum takes place. Some of the strategies we use can be watching the fish or chickens, reading a book, music and dance activity or ask them to help the educators and provide them some responsibilities.

As each child is unique, one blanket doesn’t fit all. We use all these different strategies depending on the child and situation.