Early Years Podcast

Nurturing Social and Emotional Wellbeing

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Topic Round-up: Understanding Children’s Behaviour with Kate Silverton

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Take a deepdive into the topics covered on our podcast with learnings, tips and resource recommendations from our in-house expert, Olivia Kirkby.

Topic overview and key takeaways

For the first topic of series 4, host Alistair Bryce-Clegg is joined by leading broadcaster and child therapist, Kate Silverton, to discuss understanding children’s behaviour.

Throughout the episodes, Kate emphasises the importance of understanding the science behind children’s behaviour, delves into understanding and managing children’s emotional responses in early years, and reviews ancestral parenting models and the importance of extended support networks in nurturing children.  

Kate explains throughout the podcast that children’s behaviour, tantrums and outbursts are stress responses. When children are having a stress response they need support with their emotional regulation. Children’s behaviour, reactions, and regulation is unique to each and in line with the individual child’s development.  

Early years children feel a range of emotions, but often cannot express, interpret or process them. Instead of looking at behaviour as naughty, Kate explains that actually, this is behaviour driven by a primitive brain that’s mostly focused on safety and security. If a young child doesn’t feel safe, the behaviour will reflect this.  

Key tips & guidances

young girl playing with TTS emotional pebbles

When reacting to children’s primitive stress responses

  • Use very few words with simple language.
  • Get down to their level to have eye contact.
  • React calmly and empathetically showing the child that you want to understand them. You are trying to help them, not challenge and punish them. 
  • Use visual cues and emotion resources to help children discover, understand, and manage their emotions. These resources can also support children to learn the correct language to communicate how they feel. 
  • Encourage empathy through stories.
  • Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. 

To support emotional regulation and prevent stress responses

  • Adults/educators review and analyse the cause of the behaviour and respond to it in a calm manner. It is crucial as an adult/educator that our responses are calm, empathetic, and nurturing. This will decrease the child’s reaction and will support children to regulate and rebalance the nervous system, supporting children to build resilience – an important part of development.  
  • It is also key to model to the children how to navigate a scenario rather than react to it, such as: Sharing activities between children, managing sharing between peers or groups is a fantastic way to model empathy and explain why taking turns and sharing is important. This is easy to implement in the moment if children are squabbling over resources by explaining why sharing is important, how the other person may feel, and modeling how to take turns and play together. 
  • Reviewing the learning environment is important to support children’s behaviour and regulation. If the environment feels stressful the children will feel and react to this. However, if the environment is calm, thenthe children will feel this too and they find it easier to regulate their emotions. This is why the physical and emotional environment is such a key factor in children’s development, behaviour, and regulation. 

Olivia's top resources to support children with emotional regulation

In the podcast episodes Kate emphasises the importance of understanding and managing children’s emotional responses in the Early Years, this is crucial as emotional regulation is essential for school readiness, academic achievement, and mental health, children in their early years must be supported in developing the skills to effectively manage their emotions. Developing these skills can be supported by resourcing the environment effectively.  

My top resources to support children with emotional regulation are as follows:  

Vibrating Weighted Lap Buddy – Guinea Pig  

Our weighted Guinea Pig lap buddy offers a gentle vibration when the child strokes its back, which provides a relaxing, calming and tactile stimulation. The guinea pig also comes with a weighted blanket to provide additional deep pressure input. This is my top regulation resource as the combination of weight and gentle vibration supports children to focus and concentrate, soothe anxiety and aid self-regulation.  

Vibration has many therapeutic benefits for children of all ages, with or without disabilities or sensory processing disorders. An under sensitive child, the guinea pig can provide the necessary input to help calm and regulate their system and for the oversensitive child, it can be a tool to help increase their tolerance to tactile input. Either way, the benefits within the scope of a sensory processing are invaluable. The vibration can easily be switched off, to enable all children to enjoy and engage.  

Mini Pop-Up Sensory Pod 

This instant sensory solution provides a calming, safe sensory space to relax, unwind or discover. It offers a quieter, dark, enclosed space children to relax and have time to regulate their sensory system. Also provides a safe and enclosed space where can engage in sensory exploration which is why this is a top resource for regulation. Dark dens are also incredibly space-saving and practical, and can act as fit for purpose sensory spaces. The pop up sensory pod is a valuable resource to enable children to hone senses such as touch, sight, sound and smell, as well as the more abstract feelings of wellbeing, space, time and togetherness and overall emotional intelligence and regulation.  

Kate's episodes are now CPD accredited - listen now!

Use the link below to relisten to all 4 of Kate's episodes, take the CPD assessment, and get your certificate.

Emotions & Feelings

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