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Nursery Managers Show


13 Nov 2023

Guest blog: Unlocking children’s potential through emotional wellbeing

Guest blog: Unlocking children’s potential through emotional wellbeing
Claire Atkins, Nursery Manager at Harpenden Central Day Nursery, shares her thoughts on the key role of personal, social and emotional development in learning.

Our early years sector is made up of practitioners from a diverse range of backgrounds, some of whom are still navigating their own relationships, being parented themselves, or may already be parents or even grandparents. Each brings their own unique blend of experiences that have shaped them in distinct ways.

Supporting and empowering practitioners to reflect on their personal experiences and early childhood attachments is vital. This self-awareness can enable them to better connect with and understand the children in their care, meeting them at their individual developmental stages.

Children thrive when their caregivers are thriving

The first step towards nurturing emotional growth in children is to recognise the importance of emotional wellbeing for our workforce. By doing this, and supporting them in all aspects of their lives, they are better able to respond to children, providing the right emotional support, empathy and calm consistency.

Once a practitioner has gained a deeper understanding of what we mean by ‘emotional intelligence and resilience’, and how to manage their own feelings, they can then create a positive environment for children to develop strong foundations of their own. 

What we are doing

As part of the Bright Horizons Nurture Approach, we strive to create an environment where everyone can flourish. We recognise that, as the external environment changes, we need to adapt and flex our thinking to ensure we’re always reflecting our colleagues’ and our children’s needs. We believe that children thrive when their personal, social and emotional needs are understood, supported and met.

Our bespoke Bright Beginnings Curriculum, which falls under the umbrella of the Bright Horizons Nurture Approach, was launched into all England nurseries in 2020. Designed by our specialist Early Childhood team, the curriculum is based on extensive pedagogical theory and the latest neuroscientific research. It recognises the individual needs of each child, to promote confidence, wellbeing and a genuine love for learning based on the premise that emotional resilience is just as vital as other foundational skills, like counting and literacy. It also focuses on the significance of the adult role as the educator.

After conducting research on the impact of the curriculum throughout 2021, we identified a need to offer our educators a deeper understanding of early childhood brain development. This includes how children learn to self-regulate, primarily through co-regulation – and how co-regulation from informed and nurturing adults is key.

Expanding on The Nurture Approach and THRIVE

The Nurture Approach, which has been designed as a six-month professional development programme, in partnership with a clinical psychologist with a specialism in supporting adults to support children, involves much more than just implementing a curriculum. It's about developing tailored support or action plans for children to enable healthy social and emotional development.

THRIVE, which is a component of the Nurture Approach, builds on attachment theory and neuroscience, helping adults to develop empathy and compassion, through understanding the potential origins of a child’s behaviour. The approach encourages practitioners to be curious about what children are trying to communicate – seeing the child and not the behaviour. It is just as much a focus on us as adults and how ‘to be’ with children as it is about the child themselves. 

A fundamental principle of THRIVE is that beneath every behaviour is a feeling, and beneath every feeling is a need. It further strengthens our approach (including the Bright Beginnings Curriculum) by providing practical, play-based activities, to help navigate unexpected challenges in a child's life. It focuses on a child's development, creative expression, and their relationships with parents and significant adults.

Practitioners, in collaboration with parents, use THRIVE to provide the best support for children when challenges or sudden changes occur. By addressing these promptly and effectively, we can ensure that children continue their emotional growth and learning journey with minimal disruptions.

Implementation of THRIVE

By the end of November, all of our Early Childhood Specialists’ will qualify as THRIVE licenced practitioners. With the THRIVE Online resource, they will guide practitioners to develop tailored play-plans for each child, supporting their holistic development.

A foundation for life-long learning

I firmly believe that the key to unlocking a child's potential lies in understanding their emotional world. At Bright Horizons, the emotional wellbeing of our children is at the heart of all learning and development. As children grow emotionally, they become more receptive to learning, and as they learn, they become better equipped to grow emotionally. It's a cycle of development that is interconnected, much like the holistic learning we offer.

By recognising and supporting the emotional wellbeing of practitioners in the early years sector, we are in turn ensuring that every child can be supported to be their happiest, best ‘self’. The emotional growth and security provided by The Nurture Approach are foundational to lifelong learning, fostering confidence, self-esteem, critical thinking, and emotional growth. As we continue to prioritise the emotional wellbeing of both our practitioners and children in our care, we are laying the groundwork for a brighter future for all.



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