Giving children a choice is so important in the early years and this is reflected through the EYFS documents. Not only does it support best practice and show you are promoting the EYFS outcomes, meeting the every child matters outcomes but also shows you are meeting children’s rights. Allowing children to have a voice is stated as basic rights by United Nations and it highlights the importance of giving children a voice.
Giving children a voice promotes self esteem and self worth. By giving children a voice through choice, opinion, feelings and emotions children can develop and learn that they are important and valued. Feeling valued plays a large role in how a child learns. In order for them to play and explore, actively learn and critically think the need to feel confident in their environment and have the knowledge that their voice and way of explorations will be noted. There are many ways practitioners can give children a voice a few of these are stated below. Could you incorporate any of these into your early years setting to show you value each individual and their voice?
- Widget Symbols/ Picture Cards – These can be used as choice cards at the beginning of the session to show what activities they would like or for various times of the day such as choosing a song they would like to sing. This is a great way of giving children a voice, even if they don’t have the language to support their own voice
- Observations – These underpin all aspects of early years practice, however they also give children a voice by practitioners tuning into each individuals likes, dislikes and stages of development. You might like to add a section on the bottom of observation sheets for ‘the child’s voice’
- Including children’s interests on planning – Having a box for children’s interests or observations on planning shows you are taking into account the child’s voice
- Celebrate all religions/cultures – This shows children that they are valued and that they can express their thoughts/feelings about who they are and what they believe in.
- Well resourced and accessible areas – This enables children to express their interests and to have a voice through choice.
- Let children fill out pages in their own learning journals – This gives children the opportunity to express something that interests them or something they are proud of and this enables again another non verbal way of having a voice
- Be an active listener – Listen to what the children are sharing with you, act positively upon the information they share with you. Be careful about the questions you ask and really tune into the child’s voice
- Decision making – Allow the children to have a voice when it comes to making decisions. Ensure all children including the quieter ones are given a voice and are heard. This decision making may be about simple things such as which story they would like or what to have for snack that day.
- Embrace dislikes – Do not tell a child they are wrong for having a dislike however promote a positive attitude towards such things. For example it is okay to not like playing outdoors however it is good for us to get exercise to stay healthy.
- Circle time and or show and tell – Allow the children to create their own agendas for the circle time session. This will enable them to express themselves and to create their own conversations. Show and tell is a nice way to give children a voice and encourage the quieter children to join in with group conversation and to have a voice.
We hope some of these suggestions will help you in your everyday practice.