Child behaviour

child and teacher playing clapping game together

Learning through music

Grant, five months old, attends a nursery where the staff and children love to sing. One day his key worker lost her voice, and she noticed that Grant was fussy and discontented.

“We have all experienced crying, fussy, or sick children in our care who become calm when quality instrumental music is played. They are listening!” writes Elizabeth Carlton, music consultant at High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

“If we sing to our three- and four-year-olds, we will probably be asked to sing the song again…and again. Many listening experiences during the first two years of life are necessary before children actually sing or talk with us…Songs, instruments, and instrumental music are wonderful ways to develop children’s listening skills and awareness of different words and musical pitches.” Read the article


Rewards of repetition

Why does Thomas tie everything up in string? Why does Lynn always twirl in circles? If you are puzzled about a child’s behaviour, you might be seeing a schema in action: “Children have a natural urge to do the same thing again and again…this is a vitally important element in young children’s development and learning.” Writes Stella Louis in her new booklet Schemas for parents.

This booklet “will make parents feel empowered to enjoy their children.” says Professor Tina Bruce. Parents and practitioners “will find comfort in seeing that some of the puzzling things their children do can be explained and made educationally worthwhile.” 

Read more about Schemas.

imagination for breakfast

Imagination for breakfast

Roger, just two, has never been very interested in breakfast, although he loves his lunch. His flights of fancy during breakfast intrigue his parents, when they’re not worrying about how he’ll get through the first couple hours of nursery. He sets his fork on its side, “A gate!” He turns his cup upside down, “I could sit on it!” He walks his half-eaten bread across the table, “A rooster! No, a horsie!"

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Is it also more important than breakfast?

For more on open-ended play request our free resource I made a unicorn.

Child feeding toy dog

Encouraging empathy through imaginative play

The home corner hums with family life. Katy is busily feeding Blue Doggie some milk when Daddy trips on his shoelace. In response to his howls, Katy jumps up, hugs him and sits her dog in his lap. "Don't cry Daddy, Mummy will make you a cup of tea."

Most practitioners would agree that imaginative play strengthens communication, problem solving and creativity. But do we realise its importance in encouraging empathy? As children play act different roles, they have to put themselves in someone else's shoes and imagine what they might be feeling.

Children who frequently immerse themselves in imaginative play are often especially sensitive to their playmates' feelings. When children understand the feelings of others, it reduces bullying and aggression and helps them build positive relationships. So an environment that inspires imaginative play can also foster empathy.


Time for spring cleaning

The storage cupboard overflowed with piles of games, equipment and donated items at a nursery I visited. The pink plastic castle was something the nursery didn't want, "But we had to keep it because Olivia's mother gave it to us and we wouldn't want to hurt her feelings." They certainly didn't need three move-the-beads-along-the-wire boards  one would have sufficed.

A cluttered play environment can make children restless and unfocused. When toys do not lead to deep engagement, children are easily distracted and tend to flit between occupations. Having more stuff certainly does not make children happier and often stifles imagination. Since less equipment requires more imagination, try trimming back to a few open-ended toys and see what happens.


P.S. The calm environment at this setting enables this child to pursue his imagination without distractions.

Search or browse our learning library

Filter by topic or type