13. Low-Key, Everyday Actions
Low-key, everyday actions might make a big difference
When we have asked about examples of what works, a very large number of responses are examples of actions and practices that are quite low-key and everyday in nature.
For example: "Woman's Aid worker sat cross legged on the floor, the same as the child and talked."
The proposition emerged that for more children and young people to experience inclusive play opportunities we need to greater emphasis on improving the quality of everyday practice (empathy, adult child interactions, listening, etc.)
"At the summer holiday club (…) there is space for her chair, and everything is on one level. From the first time I met her, I was impressed at how the staff interacted with her, and included her in play. For example, during tig, staff push her (she loves going fast), and she tigs others. I think this encourages other children, too. For example, while working with her outside I was pushing her around an "obstacle course" (made up of balls etc. that were just lying on the ground), and another child joined in - this turned into a game of 'find the child' who hid behind me while I span the child around as we tried to find her. Children pick up our attitudes. One asked me the other day "how do you know what she's saying?" which I thought was a great chance to teach him that it just takes time and patience (and asking colleagues for help!) and showed an increased empathy for him (he does not usually play with other children)".
The following points are taken from the discussion by play sector participants at the review event in Dundee.
- Staff need to behave appropriately right from the start i.e. eye contact, listening, cuddling a child - interpersonal skills make all the difference
- Key is to engage the parent - small kindnesses can be a building blocks for change
- Listen to the child, see the world through their eyes, let them take the lead
- Important that development is child led. Too much emphasis on age related milestones. Needs to be more flexibility so that children only do things when they are ready
In this respect, the emphasis really was that quality matters.
It's easy to see how in a rushed situation specific needs can be overlooked or windows of opportunity missed. It's just harder to stop, listen and think. These low-key actions are intertwined with other themes - particularly time and training, however it is in everyday low-key actions, that inclusion happens - inclusion is played out through small actions, compassion, empathy and respect. Apparently small omissions or ill-judged actions could have a significantly detrimental effect over all.
This is the vision
"We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities." Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision (2013) Scottish Government.
These are some of the things that could help achieve this.
It would help if:
- Training and ongoing support emphasised the importance of everyday low-key actions as a dimension of quality.
- This dimension of quality was reflected in how play provision is (self-) monitored and evaluated.
- Everyday low-key actions are recognised and celebrated at practice, management levels and inspection levels.
Email: Deborah Gallagher