This, the first Early Years Focus, provides advice on how to be a creative practitioner for those working with young children in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Welcome to the first edition of our new e-bulletin, Early Years Focus. This fortnightly electronic newsletter will provide you with topical information and advice to support your work with young children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). It will highlight key issues in the world of early years care and education, providing you with practical ideas and guidance to help you secure good outcomes for the children and families you work with.

Over the coming months we will look at different aspects of running an early years setting and at how to provide interesting and worthwhile learning opportunities for babies, toddlers and preschool children. We hope you will find Early Years Focus useful in your day-to-day work with young children and in developing your own practice and that of your colleagues as you contribute to the ongoing self evaluation of your setting and the completion of the Ofsted Self Evaluation Form (SEF).

We all appreciate that continuous professional development is the means by which good practice develops and grows. The new Early Years Professional qualification (EYPS) is a prime example of how professional development is being encouraged and valued within the early years sector. In Early Years Focus we will be supporting this process by highlighting links with the 39 EYPS Standards, helping you to see the connections between theory and practice.

The creative practitioner
The strength of all early years settings lies in the creativity, expertise and experience of the practitioners who work there. Being a creative practitioner involves being enthusiastic, seeing the potential in interesting and unusual situations and coping with uncertainty. Creative practitioners understand the importance of developing a physical and emotional environment where children feel confident to explore and investigate, finding things out for themselves.

Working creatively with young children is an exciting and challenging job which requires particular personal and professional skills. You will be taking on different roles depending on the age group of the children or the requirements of the parents, colleagues or professional partners you are interacting with. All these require you to be a creative practitioner, responding to different situations by acting as a motivator, communicator, expert or organiser as the situation demands it.

To illustrate what these different roles might look like in practice, think about how you would manage the following situation:

The children in the preschool section have become very interested in exploring light and dark. The practitioners are keen to set up a dark den somewhere in the setting for the children to explore.

In your role as a motivator you may well be involved in stimulating the children’s interest in exploring light and dark in the first place. You will listen carefully to the ideas put forward by the children and encourage them in their exploration and investigation. You may find you have to help colleagues to see the value of what the children want to do and to maintain everyone’s enthusiasm for the project as it develops.

As a communicator you will be consulting with colleagues and children to help them decide on the best place to locate the dark den. This involves listening to what everyone has to say, sharing ideas with all colleagues in the setting to keep them informed and involved. This is especially true if the ideal location for the dark den is not in the room normally used by the preschool children, but elsewhere in the setting. Parents and carers will be interested to know about the project and may have ideas and resources that will add extra value to the project.

As the expert, the knowledgeable adult, you will have ideas about how to construct the den, including the sorts of materials to provide and how to fix them together. You will use your knowledge of light and dark to select the range of resources which the children will then use as starting points for their exploration. As they investigate inside the dark den you will be listening and watching carefully, responding to the children’s questions and thinking up open-ended questions to extend their thinking.

Good organisation is the key to the success of any project. In your role as an organiser you will be making sure the appropriate resources are available for children to use – torches, mirrors, metal bowls and spoons, tin foil and shiny fabrics, old style overhead projector, light box. Routines will need to be organised to ensure children have time to follow their ideas and interests. Finally, you will be gathering together your observations and photographs to record the whole experience and to plan what possibilities to offer the children next to consolidate their learning.

Links with EYPS Standards: S10, S11, S12, S14, S16, S24, S27, S33, S34
Links with Ofsted SEF: Section 3a, 5k, 6m, 6n

Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton are early years consultants, trainers and authors and edit Early Years Update

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2009

About the author: Linda Thornton and Pat Brunton are early years consultants, trainers and authors and edit Early Years Update. Their website is www.alcassociates.co.uk

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