Take a deepdive into the topics covered on our podcast with learnings, tips and resource recommendations from our in-house expert, Olivia Kirkby.
Topic overview and key takeaways
Alistair Bryce-Clegg is joined by Kate Moxley, an Early Years consultant, trainer and speaker specialising in wellbeing and mental health. Over four episodes, the pair focus on emotional connection and wellbeing in early years settings.
Throughout the episodes the importance of creating a nurturing, safe, and engaging environment to support children’s wellbeing is a central theme and the pair explores how educators can protect their energy, collaborate as a team, and make wellbeing the heart of their early childhood settings.
The episodes encourage open conversations on mental health in the early childhood education sector, breaking the stigma around it, and highlighting that both educators and children have mental health needs. Alistair and Kate also touch on the challenges of managing work-life balance, setting boundaries, and the importance of practicing self-care. They advocate for more honesty and openness within the profession to create a healthier, more supportive environment for both educators and children.
Kate and Alistair focus on the importance of reflective practice and how it can create a culture where wellbeing is prioritised and the barriers that often hinder reflection and vulnerability in the workplace, such as a lack of appropriate training, and the need for leaders and managers to encourage reflection.
Key tips & guidances
Creating a culture of reflective practice and promoting educator wellbeing
Reflecting on practice individually and as a team creates an environment of collaboration as educators can question and adapt both their own practice and that of their colleagues, drawing on expertise and offering each other support. This helps to develop good practice and the below questions are a great start:
Key self-reflection questions for practitioners:
- Why am I in this workspace?
- Why have I chosen to bring my skills and talents to this setting, to this environment?
- Why am I working with children?
- What are my values and beliefs?
Key self – reflections questions for the team.
- What area of our practice/environment are we going to focus on?
- What have we been doing?
- Who benefits from doing it this way? (Children, staff, families?)
- What has gone well?
- What needs improving and why?
- Who/what else do we need to think about?
- What can we keep/adapt to meet these needs?
- How are we going to do this? (You could include external CPD, in-house training, who will do what, when you will return to this area of reflection to see how things are going?)
Top tips to encourage staff wellbeing:
- Set up formal and informal avenues to allow practitioners to provide feedback such as a staff suggestion box which can be anonymous.
- A team review of the settings wellbeing policy and procedure – This will enable the team to be a part of the process and implement change.
- Put up a staff wellbeing board and keep it up to date.
- Access to a safe space for educator regulation
- Access and information/signposting to external support
- Make time to talk about mental health and wellbeing in team meetings.
- Hold regular staff social or team building events, including regular wellbeing activities.
- Available training to support mental health and wellbeing, to help spot the signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties and to promote wellbeing.
Top Tips to promote children’s emotional wellbeing
- Emotions are accepted and understood in close, consistent relationships.
- Experiences are congruent with their idea of who children are and their unique interests are valued.
- Friendships are nurtured and valued from birth; enhancing children’s sense of group belonging.
- Free access to interesting and challenging play materials and spaces indoors and outdoors, in the setting and in the community.
- Many opportunities for free-flow imaginative play outdoors.
- Families, whatever form they take, are supported and valued.
- Professional carers are valued and supported for all their skills knowledge and attributes.
- Children have a strong sense of belonging to their setting and local community, where they are listened to, acknowledged and affirmed and their contribution is sought and valued.
- Young people are taken into account in society as a whole, so national and local policies ensure that all children’s needs can be met by their families and communities.
Olivia's top resources to support children with emotional regulation
In the podcast episodes Kate emphasises the importance of understanding and managing children’s emotional responses in the Early Years, this is crucial as emotional regulation is essential for school readiness, academic achievement, and mental health, children in their early years must be supported in developing the skills to effectively manage their emotions. Developing these skills can be supported by resourcing the environment effectively.
My top resources to support children with emotional regulation are as follows:
The Recordable Talking Panel (EL00153) is a top resource as it is a useful visual and auditory aid that can be used in a number of ways, for example, a timetable, a menu, a transition aid or a favourites board. This can act as a useful transition tool when children are going through changes and require support. You can slot in up to six images, photos or words, record a 10 second message per slot and press play to hear the recording. Inserting images of favourite things or family members support’s attachment disorder. The talking Panel helps to provide structure and routine, encourages independence, prevents frustration, confusion and anxiety and builds confidence which works fantastically for supporting children’s wellbeing.
The Bag of Buddies Emotional Wellbeing collection (SS45660) are a favourite of mine as they enhance children’s emotional literacy, understanding, confidence and children can embrace their emotions in a positive way through play. These buddies will support children in exploring emotions and understanding them, helping children to recognise, embrace, and talk about their feelings.
This open-ended collection with insightful illustrations encourage children to identify and talk about their feelings and emotions and will help to discriminate between different emotions encouraging children to explore a range of emotions and discuss self-regulation!
The living room is such an important part of our own home and children need this space to relax, feel safe and comfortable in the very busy and fast paced world we live in. The Modern Living Corner Sofa (FF46309) is a top wellbeing resource of mine as, this Corner Sofa helps emulate a modern real home environment with a contemporary look and feel, providing children with a more realistic experience in their traditional home corner. Children are able to interact with this range of home-inspired furniture to support their confidence, independence and learning about the world around them. The range opens up lots of opportunities for contextual learning, fostering relationships, and communication and language development, amongst many other aspects of learning that are key for attachment and wellbeing.
Our weighted Guinea Pig lap buddy (SS45281) offers a gentle vibration when the child strokes its back, which provides a relaxing, calming and tactile stimulation. The guinea pig also comes with a weighted blanket to provide additional deep pressure input. This is one of my top wellbeing resource as the combination of weight and gentle vibration supports children to focus and concentrate, soothe anxiety and aid self-regulation.
Vibration has many therapeutic benefits for children of all ages, with or without disabilities or sensory processing disorders. An under sensitive child, the guinea pig can provide the necessary input to help calm and regulate their system and for the oversensitive child, it can be a tool to help increase their tolerance to tactile input. Either way, the benefits within the scope of a sensory processing are invaluable. The vibration can easily be switched off, to enable all children to enjoy and engage.
This Concentration and Mindfulness Collection (EY11636) will encourage children to slow down their mind, use all their senses and ‘be’ in the moment with these mindfulness activities, that will reduce anxiety and provide relaxation. This is a top wellbeing resource of mine as children may struggle with being overstimulated by their environment or struggle with triggers and difficult scenarios, these activities can be taken to a quiet area, to enable them to focus and provide calmness. Giving children the ability to focus on the present moment, is a brilliant relaxation technique and can have great benefits for mental health and well-being.
Providing resources and opportunities for children to experience and be encouraged to practice mindfulness is key which is why these Mindful Mazes (EY11920) are valuable to support children in their emotional wellbeing, supports self-management skills and breathing techniques as children follow the unique pattern on each maze. Children feel changes in the pattern, encouraging them to inhale, exhale and pause. An engaging resource with benefits for every little learner.
Kate's episodes are now CPD accredited - listen now!
Use the link below to relisten to all 4 of Kate's episodes, take the CPD assessment, and get your certificate.