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The Role Of The Adult

Working with children under two? Hard work? Don’t we know it – but how incredible is it also?! Firstly, congratulate yourself that you are making a difference in these little people’s lives! At Little Learners our upmost focus is the care and wellbeing of the children, working in the under twos area is all about nurturing, care routines, bottles, building relationships with families…that’s just the start… you know there is much more! With so much going on its sometimes hard to remember that these children are like tiny human sponges soaking up all that’s going on around them. 

Do they understand risk? Or even fear? Are they born with this? Do they have an instinct to explore with all their body? We have previously looked at the several types of risk for children under two. Looking at an obvious physical example- children climbing?? Why are they doing this all the time? They’re born to, right? They have this innate feeling to get up onto any surface they probably shouldn’t and panic you like a health and safety officer!


So, we look at role modelling as an important aspect of our role. Why? Because children show signs of emulating and imitating at this age. So, everything we do they will copy us right? However; I am struggling to remember the last time I climbed on the tables so, there has to be more to it?! This innate feeling comes back again for them, “ I must get up there.” We look at emulating/ imitating (emulating copying the last part or imitating copying the whole action) because there must be a variety of ways to role model to children, and we believe in giving choices, options, information and above all the confidence to try these new experiences. Of course; within their language and understanding level. We must trust that children will have a natural idea of their risk level but be there to support if needed. We find that short bursts of language can be used to help manage their risks “Up?” “Have a try” “you can do it ” can sometimes work, other times it might be the practitioner getting stuck in, role modelling and demonstrating the wonderful opportunity in front of them.


All children are individual and unique and this is how my next point comes in to play. 

You must know the children, every part of them. This will really help you to distinguish one, if they’re ready and two, what they are ready for. As with any experience, risky to a child or not, we must tailor it to their needs, interests, abilities – but how do we know what these are? As with your normal practice; observation, speaking with parents, trial and error all play a vital role in establishing what ‘challenge’ and ‘risk’ means to your individual children. Involving your parents and families is crucial and ensuring they have the same understanding as you is a potential barrier that needs to be broken down. Their confidence may affect their child’s confidence, and this must be taken into consideration – this applies to your colleagues too. Consistency, knowledge and understanding are key! 

Now, should you, after reading our module and discussing with your colleagues go straight in and provide some ‘risky play’ experiences for your children? Absolutely not! You need to wait for the invitation. You need to listen to your children through observation, respectful communication and be positive you can provide an experience that is welcomed by the children at the right time and stage for them. 

A little bit of research relevant to these theories of risk and young children is the visual cliff experiment- check it out if you’ve not seen it before 😊

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