30 ways to promote positive behaviour in your early years childcare setting

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Childcare apprentices help children to understand the value and importance of good behaviour using praise, recognition and celebration.

Key points:

  • Childcare apprentices can develop specific qualities during a child’s early years that will naturally prompt good behaviour
  • Focusing on the positives helps to improve a child’s relationships and social skills, emotional and cognitive abilities
  • It’s easy to weave positivity and praise into every activity and every conversation. If you’re looking for activity ideas and conversation starters, there are 30 in this article for you to try

What is the impact of praise and positivity on a child’s education?

Childcare apprenticeships in Wales have a child-centred approach, drawing attention to positive behaviour and praising it.

Doing so develops their:

  • Relationships and social skills
  • Emotional empathy and dexterity
  • Cognitive abilities

Not only that, but it makes your practice reflective and flexible. The CCPLD and Playwork qualifications give you the ability to always bring the best out in a child, even when they’re dealing with complicated situations and emotions.

Your positivity needs to shine in every word and action, and that will create a positive environment for the children to grow and develop in.

As a childcarer, you must be a good role model. You represent the behaviour and values that a child needs to carry forward with them into school, their teenage years and adult life.

How are childcare apprentices taught to prompt good behaviour?

As an overview, the CCPLD and Playwork apprenticeships encourage you to promote positive behaviour by:

  • Showing empathy or respect for others
  • Encourage inclusivity and make sure all children can be involved
  • Introduce them to cultural diversity
  • Treating everyone equally and with respect
  • Praise, reward and recognise their good play and behaviour in front of others or parents
  • Have clear rules and boundaries and be consistent
  • Focus on the positives
  • Show children how to deal with their emotions

A child-led approach that incorporates praise will improve the child’s wellbeing and development, helping them to build strong and positive relationships with their peers, educators and their community.

It gives them confidence about how the world works and their place within it. But it also contributes and buoys skills they need in play, school and work, like self-esteem, curiosity resilience, independence, and handling challenges and conflict.

There are seven units within the Playwork Level 3 and CCPLD Level 2 and 3 that show you how you would encourage positive behaviour and play in your setting. These are the unit titles relevant to positive play and praise:

  1. Summarise different ways in which a playworker can help children and young people understand the value and importance of positive relationships with others
  2. Explain the importance of children and young people valuing and respecting other people’s individuality and feelings
  3. Summarise different strategies a playworker can use to help children and young people value and respect other people’s individuality and feelings
  4. Justify why it is important to be consistent and fair in dealing with both positive and negative behaviour in the play environment
  5. Summarise different strategies that a playworker can use to reinforce positive behaviour
  6. Summarise different strategies a playworker can use to challenge and deal with negative behaviour
  7. Explain why it is important for children and young people to be able to deal with conflict themselves 8. explain the types of support a playworker might need to give to help children and young people deal with conflict themselves.

How to promote positive behaviour

#1 Focus on the value of friendly, positive relationships

Positive play and behaviour are the outcomes of healthy and happy relationships.

Playworkers and childcarers can help children and young people to understand the value and importance of positive relationships with others by:

  • Leading by example. Create friendly and respectful rapport between setting staff, and parents
  • Encourage the children to share and take turns
  • Resolve conflict and get them to calmly discuss the problem
  • Ask each other for help, as well as relying on adults
  • Promote teamwork

#2 Encourage children to explore individuality and feelings

Childcarers are in a unique position to introduce children to diversity and get them excited and interested in cultures and customs other than their own.

Your emphasis on exploration gives children the chance to realise their uniqueness and their global citizenship from the perspective that they are surrounded by other cultures and personalities – and that all deserve respect and equality.

That sounds very grand, but you don’t need to go globetrotting to achieve those values. Show children and young people how to value and respect other people’s individuality and feelings by:

  • Giving every staff and child a name sticker
  • Starting the day warmly with an individual approach: “Good Morning Billy!”. “Good morning Angharad!”
  • Create a ‘welcome to our nursery’ board, with self-portraits drawn by the children
  • Talk about the cultures in the room, (and those they might not have encountered before) and value the diversity of each
  • Discuss each child’s special hobbies and abilities, celebrating what makes them unique and happy

#3 Create a community through trust and respect building activities

“If everyone is moving forwards together, then success takes care of itself,” said industrialist, Henry Ford, and it can be applied whether you’re a playing two-year-old, or 25-year-old playworker.

You can nurture trust and mutual respect between little ones in a group, through play and considerate conversation:

  • Play games where groups of children need to work together to achieve a goal, just make it fun: “The floor is lava!? It’s going to take a team of volcanologists to get out of this one!”
  • Show them there is joy in relying on one another and celebrate every contribution (“that’s a good idea, Omar. Everyone copy Omar and hop across the lava!”), and listen and respond positively as the children try to problem-solve together
  • Set them up with shared activities, for example, making crispy cakes in pairs where they have to share mixing bowls, spoons, and is charged with tipping the ingredients while the other mixes
  • Encourage them to contribute to group discussions, where their opinion is listened to and reflected upon: “Where do you think stick insects live, Maggie? America! That’s exactly right. Where is America, everyone?”
  • Resolving conflict with empathy: “When you didn’t share the tractor with Issac, how do you think it make him feel?”
  • Let them work through disagreements alone, if they can, unless a child is hurt or very upset. Once the disagreement is resolved, ask them how it was resolved and praise them: “Because you decided to take turns, Osian can join in the game. Da iwan!”

By applying some of these ideas and supporting play with praise, you are creating situations where the play explores feelings and expression can flourish.

#3 Consistency and fairness is key

Be consistent and fair when you’re dealing with both positive and negative behaviour in the play environment:

  • Promote equality and consistency via a set of fair and positive rules that everyone can stick to. It creates a safe and secure environment where children are sure of their boundaries and can play confidently
  • Make sure all staff are familiar with the behaviour management policy in the setting and know how to respond when the rules are forgotten
  • Handle unwanted behaviour calmly and positively

#4 Use techniques that reinforce positive behaviour

Stay calm, collected and kind regardless of the situation that presents itself. If you are a positive role model, you are more likely to retain a calm mood among the children in your charge, preventing escalating situations. You could go about it by:

  • Listen to the child and value their opinion and praise them consistently when they do well
  • Show empathy: “I understand that you’re feeling frustrated”
  • Communicate clearly, intervene calmly and discuss sensitively when you encounter disruptive behaviour
  • Keep them busy. Plan challenging activities and experiences that stimulate their senses and minds, encourage them to embrace the activity and celebrate their outcome
  • Encourage the children to resolve conflicts by sharing, taking turns and owning bad choices
  • Remind the children of the boundaries and always reinforce positive behaviour with praise and rewards

How to praise, encourage and reward children in early years settings

Celebrate every kind, polite and special moment in their day, however small it may seem. Your praise will mean the world to them:

  • Rewards charts to document their exemplary behaviour
  • Lead the group and take charge by promoting gentleness. For example, instead of: “Don’t speak over me, Zackary!” which singles out the child and highlights ‘bad’ behaviour, you could say “It’s quiet time now, Zackary”.
  • Be a consistent and fair presence, where every child is treated equally. It sets expectations and creates an environment where a child is free and safe to express themselves, understanding the boundaries in place.
  • Broaden your celebratory vocabulary because there is more than one way to say ‘well done’, especially if your praise is child-specific and observant. There are easily 100 ways to praise a child, if not more. You’re so kind! That was brave! You’re a genius! Beautiful work!
  • Show a child you are interested in what they are saying. Keep lots of eye contact, with open and expressive body language. React positively and ask them questions about what they’re saying, their opinion and what they think will happen next.
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Richard Hywood
Richard is TSW Training Apprenticeships’ Employer and Community Engagement Manager. His articles will help your business prepare for and manage apprentices.
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