Celebrating the Child’s Voice in the Early Years

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Celebrating the Child’s Voice in the Early Years
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What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What would you like to do today? These are some of the many questions that Busy Bees Educators ask our children each day, to make them feel important, valued and empowered to be the best they can be. These questions are important because of the knowledge, understanding and value that can be obtained through the child’s voice in the answers received.  

At Busy Bees, we respect all children, their rights, individuality and customs. We listen to the child’s voice and encourage children’s participation in decision-making. Our commitment to the child’s voice is embedded in our Service philosophies and values which are supported by our wonderful team of Educators who not only support our children’s voices but nurture and encourage them. It is our belief that by listening to the child’s voice, children are provided with the opportunity to engage in provocations and experiences that develop their deeper understanding of content while creating a greater sense of creativity, interest and wonder for the world around them?  

 

The Child’s Voice

The concept of the child’s voice and children’s participation in decision-making has received plenty of support in international educational policy through The United Nations (UN) Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

“Children have the right to have their opinions heard and their views respected in decision-making that affects them” – Article 12 of The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

In Australia, the articles within the UNCRC are embedded into the Early Years Learning Framework which promotes the importance of children’s agency – described as the ability to make choices and decisions, to influence events and to have an impact on one’s world.

Step inside a Busy Bees classroom and you will see the strong relationship between a child and their educator. We believe that these strong relationships are built through effective communication, respect and gratitude. When children feel valued, supported and listened to, they develop a sense of belonging and grow confidence to voice their opinions, building lifelong skills that can assist them in the future.

When our Educators develop strong relationships with children, children develop a confident voice and feel happy to voice their opinions. Communicating well with children is key to building a strong relationship based on respect, gratitude and trust and is something our Educators strive to continue exploring with each child.

 

Active Listening

An important element of communication that encourages the child’s voice is active listening. Busy Bees Educators engage in active listening to show children they care and are interested in them and it is an important way for our Educators to understand how children think and what they desire. Equally, active listening enables children to trust and feel understood. Communication and active listening is something that extends to home, where families can continue encouraging their children to share their voice.

The Raising Children Network provides some excellent tips on how to engage and demonstrate active listening with children. These include:

  • Using body language to show you’re listening and maintaining eye contact
  • Watching your child’s facial expressions and body language to help understand what your child is trying to say if they are having trouble verbally communicating
  • Showing interest in what your child is telling you by saying things like ‘Tell me more about …’
  • Trying not to finish your child’s sentences or jumping in while your child is trying to communicate
  • Not rushing into problem-solving as your child may just want you to acknowledge what they are saying or how they are feeling.

 

 

The Child’s Voice at Busy Bees

At Busy Bees, we encourage the child’s voice each day by:

  • Actively listening to children’s ideas and suggestions
  • Providing a safe space where children are encouraged to ask questions
  • Role modelling the values of respect, kindness and gratitude
  • Acknowledging that each child is different and has individual perspectives
  • Partnering with families to encourage positive development, growth and interests
  • Supporting children’s interests, ideas and agency in the classroom
  • Facilitating routines that acknowledges flexibility and freedoms

Recently, children at Busy Bees at Maroochydore, Busy Bees at Bellmere and Busy Bees at Springfield Lakes shared their voices with us on video. This video captures the essence of the child’s voice at Busy Bees and showcases the confidence, excitement and positivity achieved when children are encouraged to use their voices freely in a safe and nurturing environment.

 

Narelle Robinson, Area Manager at Busy Bees Early Learning has over 30 years’ experience in early learning, coaching and teaching, and is a strong advocate for encouraging the child’s voice in educational settings. Narelle believes that when children are encouraged to use their voice they:

  • Feel valued and supported, developing a sense of belonging
  • Develop strong communication skills
  • Build confidence to play and interact with other children
  • Become more curious and engaged in learning

Acknowledging children’s individual perspectives and listening to their voices is extremely important for self-development, and not only is this showcased within Busy Bees classrooms on a daily basis, but the child’s voice is also celebrated and encouraged across a number of Busy Bees initiatives and learning programs that are designed to build self-confidence and relationships that are built on respect, gratitude and trust. 

 

The Global Friendship Program

The Global Friendship program is an initiative that connects children from Busy Bees Services all over the world with the purpose to “hear the voice of the children”. Through this, children begin a journey to gain knowledge of countries and cultures outside their own, promoting their cultural understanding, acceptance and appreciation while simultaneously encouraging a strong concept of self-identity, belonging and confidence as they begin to share details of their own personal cultures, backgrounds and families.   

The program enables children to:

  • Get to know each other
  • Understand cultural diversity
  • Ignite and foster a sense of national pride
  • Develop cross-cultural awareness
  • Learn holistic skills (communication, digital engagement, public speaking, sharing and listening)
  • Foster friendships

Photo: the children at Busy Bees at Maroochydore connect with other cultures through the Global Friendships Program

July 2021 sees the commencement of a new round of the program where a number of Busy Bees Australia Services will be partnered with Busy Bees Schools in Singapore, allowing children and Educators to come together in real-time virtually for 3 real-time exchanges:

  • Exchange 1 – Introduction, greeting and how are you?
  • Exchange 2 – Getting to Know You
  • Exchange 3 – Getting You to Know Me

These exchanges celebrate the child’s voice in the following ways:

  • Inspiring children’s curiosity
  • Encouraging children to ask questions of their friends in another country
  • Developing a sense of National Pride
  • Gaining confidence to speak and engage in conversations
  • Asking questions and giving answers to each other
  • Drawing and participating in investigation work

By encouraging and supporting the child’s voice in the classroom each day and through initiatives such as the Global Friendship Program, children are encouraged to build confidence, self-esteem and feel valued. Establishing these skills and self-identity now are so important to continue creating excitement and interest for a love of lifelong learning and discovery well into the future.

“The child begins to perceive the world not only through his [or her] eyes but also through his [or her] speech” – Lev S. Vygotsky

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