Well-being for Children in the EYFS
Date: 17 May 2018
By Stephanie Moriarty
Children’s well-being is without doubt at the core of the Early Years Foundations Stage (EYFS), and certainly a significant issue for all of us. It may be useful to consider well-being from different perspectives as it may mean this appears to be such a wide theme that it could mean something different to each practitioner in every setting. This article will aim to explore what well-being is, why it is increasingly important for practitioners to embed within the EYFS and what this means for young children.
Before looking at how well-being should be embedded within Early Years settings, it is first important to explore what well-being means for children and how this can impact on the way that they develop. The Children’s Society recognises well-being in its simplest term as the quality of life, how we perceive ourselves to be coping with situations and how well our lives are going (www.childrenssociety.org.uk/). However, well-being is much more than the quality of life, it also recognises how an individual recognises their own ability to deal with a situation and then to progress with their day after it, there is a mental health capacity towards well-being that can make lasting impressions on children which can move into an adult life with them. If well-being can be measured through the ability to recognise and experience life with positive moments, then it is clear to me that this should be recognised within Early Years, perhaps through the intervention of circle time to discuss personal emotions and thoughts that are prevalent that day. UNICEF (2018) recognised that children learn the most through the first five years of their lives and that these experiences then tailor a child’s future experiences and life choices. Therefore, if practitioners in settings are aware that children’s well-being is decreased, they should aim to encourage children to foster healthy habits to encourage positive well-being, such as talking to a peer who can help them to deal with their negative feelings or experience.
The Children’s Society (2018) have recognised that 5-10% of children within the UK have low well-being. By this, they mean that children may not be having their basic needs met. Well-being shows clear correlations to the emotional aspect of a child’s development, which plays a significant role within the build-up of the EYFS to nurture children’s individual well-being. Kelly (2018) recognised that emotional well-being will play a fundamental role in the relationships that children make and the way that children communicate with others around them. The government have recognised that promoting well-being is important during the early years of a child’s life as this can go on to have an impact on the mental health of a person when they get older.
But this poses the question of how do we ensure that children experience and gain good well-being whilst in an EYFS setting?
The impact of an enabling environment:
Emotional well-being can be observed from a young age and will be prevalent within observations that practitioners produce within the setting. The EYFS has a key theme within it of a Unique Child, recognising that each child has their own abilities. All children are born reliant on a caregiver and make secondary attachments within their nursery environment. An enabling environment is a key theme within the EYFS which recognises that children need a supportive environment around them to build efficient emotional development. An enabling environment also includes supportive key workers and practitioners that children and parents can trust. This will impact on a child’s development as they will have a constant supportive figure within the setting, ensuring that children can build resilience, which will impact on their well-being. Emotional development is a key area within the EYFS and it is widely recognised that if children cannot exceed their expected milestone in this area, then their other areas of development may be impacted on. Therefore, it is fundamentally important for practitioners to include smaller activities throughout the day to try to increase children’s emotional well-being and ensure they are given a supportive platform within the setting.
Factors that may impact on a child’s well-being and how to support them:
Children’s parents are their primary educators and therefore children copy their habits and daily experiences. It could be argued that when parents are having a bad day at work, their emotions are likely to reflect in their behaviour, which could mean that children are going to pick up on their behaviour and replicate this too. Barnardo’s also recognised that issues for children’s well-being may also be more prevalent when they are experiencing transitions, such as moving to a new house or a birth of a new baby. It is imperative that practitioners offer supportive experiences that will promote their positive well-being experience whilst in the setting to ensure consistency in an area where they are regularly, as this will promote positivity and ensure children remain settled whilst in the setting. You can read more about transitions and how to offer support during times of change in our Nursery Manager’s Blog here; (Dawn will insert link) ,
Whilst in a setting, children will have a daily routine that will be flexible, but generally consist of the same elements. One of the key features within a routine could be carpet time or large group activities, offering children the opportunity to communicate with both practitioners, but also the other children so that they can share their frustrations and their joyous moments throughout the day. Kelly (2018) identified that when practitioners show children that they understand their emotions, children are more likely to share these emotions more freely. Given that this is a fundamental aspect of children’s development, this will help to ensure that well-being within the setting is focused upon and children can start to gain confidence and share these feelings with both practitioners and their peers.
Another concept of well-being that could be included within an early years setting is the idea of praise. Some children may not experience positive relationships with their parents at home and the idea of praise may be a strange concept for them. Therefore, praising children within the setting for good work, playing nicely, or even sharing resources is an effective way of demonstrating to children that their positive behaviour is being appreciated. This will eventually help to increase a child’s confidence and their emotional well-being should also increase alongside this. It is also important for practitioners to provide children with valuable activities to extend their learning and their self-worth. This could be through implementing activities where children are achieving something at the end of it, taking the competition element away from activities for children. By children having constant support, regardless of ‘winning’, their self-esteem will be promoted, which will ensure that they are feeling positive and happy about their own abilities.
To conclude, well-being is a crucial element of development that can not necessarily be targeted and that each child may respond to differently, depending on their own development at that point in time. By supporting children and increasing resilience and emotional development whilst in the nursery environment, practitioners will effectively support children to recognise how to deal with their own well-being. By implementing healthy well-being in a child’s early years, practitioners and parents will support a child to learn techniques that may stay with them into their adult lives and impact on their lifestyle.
Barnardos (2018). Research Review Promoting Children’s Emotional Health. [online] Barnardo's. Available at: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/promoting_children_s_emotional_health_a_research_review.pdf [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].
Department for Education (2017) Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. Available at: https://www.foundationyears.org.uk/eyfs-statutory-framework/ (Accessed: 16th March 2018).
Kelly (2018). Supporting Children's Emotional Well-being. [online] Early Years Careers. Available at: http://www.earlyyearscareers.com/eyc/latest-news/supporting-childrens-emotional-wellbeing/ [Accessed 23 Feb. 2018].
The Children's Society. (2018). What is Child Well-being?. [online] Available at: https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-is-child-wellbeing [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
UNICEF. (2018). Early Childhood Development: The Key to a Full and Productive Life. [online] Available at: https://www.unicef.org/dprk/ecd.pdf [Accessed 19 Feb. 2018].