“It’s okay to get it wrong” should be heard in childcare settings
It is argued that parents and childcare practitioners are creating ‘cotton wool’ kids who have little experience of risk, challenge, danger and failure. Children are starting to become scared to try new things due to the fear of getting it wrong or being unsuccessful. This goes against everything recommended in the early years foundation stage which informs practitioners they should be supporting children in developing confidence and esteem.
Fear of getting it wrong
Children should be able to play and explore, actively learn, create and critically think but many argue children are doing this less and less instead of more. These are crucial characteristics needed by children for them to successfully learn, but fear is often holding children back. For example, some children do not want to read a book because they might get a word wrong or do not want to complete mathematical activities such as counting in case they forget a number. This can often be made worse from pressure from parents to have the highest achieving child. It is important therefore that changes are made, and strong parent partnerships create an environment where taking risks and failing is okay. The saying ‘try, try and try again’ should be something children and childcare practitioners should encourage and practice.
Childcare practitioners should tune into children’s interest
Putting trust into children is a key element in allowing them to develop in confidence and discover their boundaries. Giving children the choice and freedom to explore what interests them for as long as possible is one the most effective way of creating confidence. Children within childcare settings should not be forced to participate in any activities or moved along to explore something else if they are truly engaged in an activity. A routine which is too strict can cut true learning short by moving children on. Practitioners should tune into interests and follow them; all learning can be incorporated into any activity or interest. Comments such as ‘they are spending too much time playing in Lego’ are often echoed by parents and early years practitioners. However, there is a wealth or learning and experience happening for a child. They are building up resilience to keep exploring and building even if they don’t get it right the first time, they are developing confidence as they are proud of their creations. With a little adult support space, shape, measure, numbers, colours, knowledge of the world and many other things can be incorporated into such activities.
Childcare settings allowing children to take risk
Allowing children to take some risks is another area in which children should have more freedom to make some mistakes and learn about consequences. Many childcare settings allow children to cut their fruit from snack or cooking activities, use real jugs, plates and bowls and some allow children to use real tools in the setting such as hammers and nails. Children learn to manage risks and consequences and in turn develop confidence and esteem. Children should be allowed to make mistakes and learn from these. Accidents rarely happen from children using tools or from cutting their snacks as they learn to be responsible and take pride in managing their risks.
Giving children freedom and time
One area which is becoming more and more supervised and adult led due to fear from children, practitioners and parents is outdoor play. Children should be allowed to climb walls, trees, play in the mud, jump around and discover what their bodies are capable of and their limitations. Often practitioner intervention can prevent a child from focusing on achieving their goal such as getting all the way to the end of a balance beam. Children need time, space, choice, risk and challenge to develop a level of resilience and confidence in their abilities. This freedom will give children the skills they need for lifelong learning and the correct attitudes to never give up or fear to learn or to try.