Health and Wellbeing in Childhood [3rd edition, 3 ed.] 9781108713870

The period from birth to 12 years is crucial in a child’s development and can significantly affect their future educatio

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Table of contents :
Half-title page
Title page
Copyright page
List of contributors
List of abbreviations
Part 1 Context
Chapter 1 The importance of health and wellbeing
Global context: Health and wellbeing
Australian context: Health and wellbeing
Chapter 2 Classifying health and wellbeing: Applying the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health to early years learners
International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
Body Functions and Structures
Activities and Participation
Contextual (Environmental and Personal) Factors
Linking the ICF and the EYLF
Application of the ICF
Part 2 Dimensions of health and wellbeing
Chapter 3 Social determinants of health and wellbeing
Social inequality
Causes of social inequality
Addressing social inequality
Social inequality and stress
Social determinants and the role of early childhood educators
Chapter 4 Physically educated: Developing children’s health and wellbeing through learning in the physical dimension
Approaching QPE
Human movement and motor skills in childhood
Chapter 5 Body image and young children: Seeing ‘self’ or seeing ‘other’
What do we mean by ‘body image’?
Connecting body images to self-concept
Diversity and body image satisfaction in children
Research with children and injuries affecting body image
Implications for educational practice
Designing effective programs for positive self-concept in body imagery
Chapter 6 Food for thought: The role of teachers and parents in children’s food choices
Physical health and wellbeing
Healthy children are better learners
Education settings and children’s nutrition literacy
How parents and caregivers can encourage healthy diets
Chapter 7 Child safety
Managing the environment
Indoor safety
Outdoor safety
Chapter 8 Communication development
What is communication?
Typical sequence of communication development
Chapter 9 Education for the prevention of sexual abuse in the early years
Defining child sexual abuse, its prevalence and effects
A brief history of child sexual abuse prevention education
Measuring prevention
Chapter 10 Loose parts on the school playground: A playful approach to promoting health and wellbeing for children of all abilities
Children’s risk-taking and wellbeing
Physical activity and wellbeing
The Sydney Playground Project
Relevant websites
Chapter 11 Bullying and social–emotional wellbeing in children
What is bullying?
Who bullies and who is bullied?
Effects of bullying on children’s health and socio-emotional wellbeing
Cycle of bullying: Importance of early intervention
Chapter 12 Strengthening social and emotional learning in young children with special needs
Recommended teaching model for SEL
Building positive relationships
Providing supportive and safe learning environments
Teaching critical social–emotional skills
Partnering with families
Further reading
Chapter 13 Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience in early years classrooms
The nature of resilience
Supporting resilience in the early years
Chapter 14 Friendships
Importance of friendships in the early years
Researching children’s friendships
Characteristics of friendships
Making friends in the early years
Disputes among friends and within peer groups
Making friends in multilingual settings
Educators’ role in supporting children’s friendships
Part 3 Social and emotional wellbeing
Chapter 15 Teaching for social and emotional learning in the early years’ classroom
What are social and emotional competencies?
Why is SEL important in the early years of schooling?
How is SEL framed?
How can SEL be taught in classrooms?
Why is professional learning and development essential?
Chapter 16 Strengths-based, community led approaches to physical activity and wellbeing with educationally disadvantaged children
Promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing in the early years of education: Overarching policies
Understanding how culture, identity, safety and pride promote health, physical activity and wellbeing
Promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing through strengths-based (salutogenic), community partnership approaches
Further reading
Chapter 17 Talking Circles
The Talking Circle process
How the Talking Circles began
Structure of the Talking Circles
Benefits of Talking Circles
How to conduct Talking Circles
Further reading
Chapter 18 Partnering with families for child health and wellbeing
Families and their children’s wellbeing
Partnership concept
Educators’ role and Australian standards
Engaging and partnering with families
Chapter 19 Using contemplative practices to enhance teaching, leadership and wellbeing
‘Being’: A foundation for inquiry
Ways of knowing and experiencing our work
Lifelong practices and commitments
Practising mindfulness strategies
Reflective writing
Using metaphor and drawing
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The period from birth to 12 years is crucial in a child’s development and can significantly affect their future educational success, resilience and participation in society. Health and Wellbeing in Childhood provides readers with a comprehensive introduction to a wide range of topics and issues in health and wellbeing education, including child safety, bullying and social–emotional wellbeing, resilience, physical education, communication development and friendships. It explores relevant policies, standards and frameworks, including the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum. This third edition provides a cohesive and accessible reading experience and i­ncludes updated and expanded coverage of nutrition, body image and community partnerships. Each chapter has been revised to include the latest research and developments in c­ hildhood health and wellbeing, and features definitions of key terms, case studies, pause-and-reflect activities and end-of-chapter questions. New spotlight sections examine noteworthy research, examples and concepts central to health and wellbeing education. Supplementary materials for instructors, including video and audio links, are available on the companion website. Written by an expert author team of leading academics, researchers and practitioners, Health and Wellbeing in Childhood is an essential resource for educators. Susanne Garvis is Professor and Department Chair of Education at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. Donna Pendergast is Professor and Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Australia.

Cambridge University Press acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the ­traditional owners of Country throughout Australia. Cambridge University Press acknowledges the Ma¯ori people as tangata whenua of Aotearoa New Zealand. We pay our respects to the First Nation Elders of Australia and New Zealand, past, present and ­emerging.


Edited by


University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title: © Cambridge University Press 2014, 2017, 2020 First and second editions © Chapter 23 APS 2014, 2017 This publication is copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2014 Second edition 2017 Third edition 2020 Cover designed by Anne-Marie Reeves Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd Printed in Singapore by Markono Print Media Pte Ltd, April 2020 A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library A catalogue record for this book is available from the National Library of Australia ISBN 978-1-108-71387-0 Paperback Additional resources for this publication at Reproduction and communication for educational purposes The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10% of the pages of this work, whichever is the greater, to be reproduced and/or communicated by any educational institution for its educational purposes ­provided that the educational institution (or the body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act. For details of the CAL licence for educational institutions contact: Copyright Agency Limited Level 12, 66 Goulburn Street Sydney NSW 2000 Telephone: (02) 9394 7600 Facsimile: (02) 9394 7601 Email: [email protected] Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

This book is dedicated to our families. We particularly dedicate this to the young people in our families. Kyrra, Bess, Blyton, Zeke, Bader, Emilie, James, Hamish and Angus

CONTENTS List of contributors Preface Acknowledgements List of abbreviations

xiii xxi xxii xxiv



1 The importance of health and wellbeing


Donna Pendergast and Susanne Garvis Introduction Health Wellbeing Global context: Health and wellbeing Australian context: Health and wellbeing Conclusion Questions References

2 Classifying health and wellbeing: Applying the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health to early years learners

4 6 6 8 13 17 17 17


Jane McCormack and Sharynne McLeod Introduction International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health Body Functions and Structures Activities and Participation Contextual (Environmental and Personal) Factors Linking the ICF and the EYLF Application of the ICF Conclusion Questions References

21 22 22 25 27 29 30 32 33 33



3 Social determinants of health and wellbeing


Margaret Sims Introduction Social inequality Causes of social inequality

38 40 42



Addressing social inequality Social inequality and stress Social determinants and the role of early childhood educators Conclusion Questions References

4 Physically educated: Developing children’s health and wellbeing through learning in the physical dimension

44 47 48 51 51 51


Timothy Lynch Introduction Approaching QPE Human movement and motor skills in childhood Conclusion Questions References

5 Body image and young children: Seeing ‘self’ or seeing ‘other’

56 56 63 70 71 71


Sharryn Clarke Introduction What do we mean by ‘body image’? Connecting body images to self-concept Diversity and body image satisfaction in children Research with children and injuries affecting body image Implications for educational practice Designing effective programs for positive self-concept in body imagery Conclusion Questions References

6 Food for thought: The role of teachers and parents in children’s food choices

78 80 82 84 85 88 89 89 95 95


Donna Pendergast and Susanne Garvis Introduction Physical health and wellbeing Healthy children are better learners Education settings and children’s nutrition literacy How parents and caregivers can encourage healthy diets Conclusion Questions References

98 98 100 103 107 111 112 112


7 Child safety


Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast Introduction Managing the environment Indoor safety Outdoor safety Conclusion Questions References

8 Communication development

116 116 118 125 129 130 130


Jane McCormack and Sharynne McLeod Introduction What is communication? Typical sequence of communication development Conclusion Questions References

9 Education for the prevention of sexual abuse in the early years

133 133 141 151 152 152


Kerryann Walsh, Donna Berthelsen and Jan Nicholson Introduction 155 Defining child sexual abuse, its prevalence and effects 155 A brief history of child sexual abuse prevention education 156 Measuring prevention 158 Conclusion 167 Questions 167 Acknowledgement 168 References 168

10 Loose parts on the school playground: A playful approach to promoting health and wellbeing for children of all abilities


Shirley Wyver, Anita Bundy, Lina Engelen, Geraldine Naughton and Anita Nelson Niehues Introduction Children’s risk-taking and wellbeing Physical activity and wellbeing The Sydney Playground Project Conclusion Questions Relevant websites References

173 175 175 177 181 182 182 182




11 Bullying and social–emotional wellbeing in children


Aileen Luo, Kay Bussey and Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett Introduction What is bullying? Who bullies and who is bullied? Effects of bullying on children’s health and socio-emotional wellbeing Cycle of bullying: Importance of early intervention Conclusion Questions References

12 Strengthening social and emotional learning in young children with special needs

186 186 188 193 196 199 199 200


Wendi Beamish and Beth Saggers Introduction Recommended teaching model for SEL Building positive relationships Providing supportive and safe learning environments Teaching critical social–emotional skills Partnering with families Conclusion Questions Further reading References

13 Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience in early years classrooms

206 206 207 209 212 217 218 218 219 219


Andrea Nolan, Ann Taket and Siobhan Casey Introduction The nature of resilience Supporting resilience in the early years Conclusion Questions Acknowledgements References

14 Friendships

221 221 222 231 232 232 232


Maryanne Theobald, Susan Danby, Catherine Thompson and Karen Thorpe Introduction Importance of friendships in the early years Researching children’s friendships Characteristics of friendships Making friends in the early years

236 236 238 238 244


Disputes among friends and within peer groups Making friends in multilingual settings Educators’ role in supporting children’s friendships Conclusion Questions Acknowledgements References

248 249 250 253 253 253 253



15 Teaching for social and emotional learning in the early years’ classroom


Wendi Beamish and Fiona Bryer Introduction What are social and emotional competencies? Why is SEL important in the early years of schooling? How is SEL framed? How can SEL be taught in classrooms? Why is professional learning and development essential? Conclusion Questions References

16 Strengths-based, community led approaches to physical activity and wellbeing with educationally disadvantaged children

260 261 262 264 267 273 274 274 275


Susan L. Whatman Introduction Promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing in the early   years of education: Overarching policies Understanding how culture, identity, safety and pride promote health,   physical activity and wellbeing Promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing through strengths-based   (salutogenic), community partnership approaches Conclusion Questions Further reading References

17 Talking Circles

279 279 284 287 292 293 293 294


Jennifer Cartmel, Marilyn Casley and Kerry Smith Introduction The Talking Circle process How the Talking Circles began

299 299 300




Structure of the Talking Circles Benefits of Talking Circles How to conduct Talking Circles Conclusion Questions Further reading References

18 Partnering with families for child health and wellbeing

305 306 308 310 310 311 311


Sivanes Phillipson Introduction Families and their children’s wellbeing Partnership concept Educators’ role and Australian standards Engaging and partnering with families Conclusion Questions References

19 Using contemplative practices to enhance teaching, leadership and wellbeing

314 314 316 317 320 324 325 325


Alison Black, Gillian Busch and Christine Woodrow Introduction ‘Being’: A foundation for inquiry Ways of knowing and experiencing our work Lifelong practices and commitments Practising mindfulness strategies Reflective writing Using metaphor and drawing Conclusion Questions References Index

329 330 331 337 339 340 344 345 346 346 348

CONTRIBUTORS EDITORS Susanne Garvis is Professor and Chair of the Department of Education at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. Her research interests include quality, learning and policy within early childhood education, and teacher education with a specific focus on working with children, teachers and families. Donna Pendergast is Professor and Dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Australia. She has worked as a tertiary educator for more than two decades, and specialises in early and middle years research and teacher education. Donna received the Research Supervision Award in the 2017 Griffith University Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards and in 2018 she was honored with the Australian Council for Educational Leadership Miller-Grassie Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education.

CHAPTER AUTHORS Wendi Beamish is Senior Lecturer in the School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Australia. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the fields of special education and early childhood intervention. Her research interests focus on teaching practice in the areas of educational transitions, autism, early intervention, social– emotional competence, positive behavioural support and inclusive practice. Donna Berthelsen is Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research interests focus on children’s wellbeing and learning outcomes in families, schools and early education contexts. She is the Design Team Leader for Education in Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Alison (Ali) Black is an arts-based and narrative researcher at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Her research and scholarly work foster connectedness, community, wellbeing and meaning-making through processes of reflection and creativity. Ali is interested in storied and visual approaches for accessing and representing meaningmaking, and the power and impact of auto-ethnographic and relational knowledge construction. Fiona Bryer is a 40-year member of the Australian Psychological Society. She edited the Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist for a decade, contributed chapters to Australasian editions of Wiley educational psychology textbooks for student teachers, and published many research papers on social aspects of teaching



practice. With colleague Wendi Beamish, Fiona co-authored a 2019 Springer book on behavioural support for students with special educational needs, which included coediting several chapters focused on Asia. Previously, they co-wrote several journal articles on recommended practice for special educators. Doctoral supervision includes parent–teacher communication about school children with mild autism, middle-schooling reform, alternative schooling for behaviourally excluded students, cyber interactions of young teen girls, post-school transitions of visually impaired young adults, and temporal perspectives of university student learning. Anita Bundy is Professor of Occupational Therapy at the Colorado State University, USA. She is known internationally for her work in occupational therapy assessment and intervention. Anita has published widely in these areas and has given invited lectures and courses on five continents. She is best known for developing theory and research in play with children who have disabilities and in sensory integration. Anita has a strong interest in the everyday lives of children with disabilities. Gillian Busch is Senior Lecturer in Education at Central Queensland University, Australia. Her research interests include children’s talk-in-interaction in disputes, and family meal times. Gillian has methodological expertise in qualitative approaches, including ethnomethodology and conversational analysis, and she is involved in multiple research projects focused on researching with children, children’s talk, and partnerships with families and communities. Kay Bussey is Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychology at Macquarie University, Australia. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Fulbright Fellowship and an Award for Excellence in Higher Degree Research from Macquarie University. Kay’s interests and publications span several areas of social development, including moral development, gender development, bullying and aggression, and children’s participation in the legal system. She has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has co-authored two books. The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council have funded her research. Jennifer Cartmel is Senior Lecturer in the School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University, Australia. She is an experienced teacher, researcher and practitioner in the field of children and families, particularly in services such as school-age care, schools and integrated children’s services. Jennifer’s areas of expertise are in afterschoolhours services, childhood studies and workforce development in children’s services. Her methodological expertise is in qualitative approaches. Her research examines the transformative changes in the thinking and practices of children and adults, using a critical reflection model as they engage in schools and community services. Jennifer is also interested in the reciprocity of benefits of intergenerational practice for children, older adults and the workforce.


Siobhan Casey is an Occupational Therapist. She is currently undertaking her PhD studies, where she is investigating the play and social skills of a group of resilient children aged four to seven years. Siobhan works as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist in a small rural town in Victoria, Australia. Marilyn Casley is Lecturer in Child and Family Studies in the School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University, Australia. Marilyn has several years’ experience in teaching in the Bachelor of Child and Family Studies program and extensive practice working in children’s services, and in providing professional development for child and family practitioners. Marilyn’s area of expertise is in listening to children’s voices for the purpose of increasing their opportunities for participation in matters that affect them. Marilyn also has research expertise in narrative inquiry. She is also known for facilitation of intentional conversations for workforce development and for the delivery of integrated practice within and across children’s and human services. Sharryn Clarke is an early years’ lecturer at Monash University, Australia, with over 20 years’ experience working as a teacher, early intervention education advisor and in management at the Victorian education department. Sharryn’s current research areas are diverse and include exploring effective leadership actions in early childhood settings, the effects of social media on professional identity, as well as the influences of popular culture on children’s emerging identities and self-concept. Susan Danby is Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Faculty of Education, at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research investigates social interaction in children’s peer groups, and adult–child communication in institutional contexts that include educational and family settings, helplines and clinical settings. Her recent projects investigate how young children engage with digital technologies in their everyday lives, in home and school contexts. Lina Engelen is Affiliate Senior Research Fellow in the School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the interaction between physical spaces and health and performance. She has, for example, studied how school playgrounds affect physical activity and social skills in children; how the design of offices affects employee wellbeing and perceived productivity; and how teaching spaces affect learning and collaboration. Aileen Luo is a research officer at Macquarie University, Australia. Her research focuses on assessing psychological outcomes experienced by young people involved in online bullying and understanding bullying behaviours that occur in cyberspace, beyond those described in traditional definitions. Timothy Lynch is Assistant Headteacher at Hornbill School, Brunei and Adjunct Professor (Senior Assistant) in the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei. An experienced teacher, he is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.




Jane McCormack is Associate Professor and Head of Speech Pathology at the Australian Catholic University, Australia and Assistant Deputy Head of the School of Allied Health. She is a certified practicing member of Speech Pathology Australia and has worked in community health clinics, schools, early intervention settings and brain injury rehabilitation services with children who have speech, language and communication needs. Jane conducts research into the life experiences of children with speech and language difficulties and their families, the application of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in speech pathology, collaborative practice and alternative models of speech pathology education and service delivery. She has presented her research nationally and internationally, including invited presentations relating to the ICF and speech pathology at conferences in the USA and the UK. Sharynne McLeod is Professor of Speech and Language Acquisition at Charles Sturt University, Australia. She is an elected Life Member of Speech Pathology Australia, Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and has been an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. She is Vice-President of the International Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics Association (ICPLA) and was editor of the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (IJSLP) 2005–14. Sharynne’s books include Children’s Speech: An Evidence-Based Approach to Assessment and Intervention (Pearson), Introduction to Speech, Language and Literacy (Oxford University Press), The International Guide to Speech Acquisition (Cengage), Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children (Paul H. Brookes), Children’s Speech: An evidence-based approach to assessment and intervention (Pearson), Speech Sounds (Plural), Listening to Children and Young People with Speech, Language, and Communication Needs (J&R Press), Multilingual Aspects of Speech Sound Disorders in Children (Multilingual Matters) and Working with Families in Speech-Language Pathology (Plural). Geraldine Naughton is Professor in Paediatric Exercise Science in the School of Exercise Science, at the Melbourne campus of the Australian Catholic University. Her research focuses on improving health-related outcomes in young people through physical activity. She has researched with a range of young populations, from overweight and obese children to intensively training adolescents. Geraldine has been part of several multidisciplinary, school-based interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour and improve the physical and social health of children and adolescents. Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett is Director of the Early Years at the University of Wollongong, Australia and has been a lecturer and researcher in early childhood for over 19 years. Cathrine has delivered workshops and invited presentations to parents, educators, corporations and government bodies, both in Australia and overseas, and has served on both state and federal government advisory committees. Her research expertise includes development in early childhood, the importance of positive peer relationships, bullying, early childhood pedagogy and practice, and childhood socialisation. Cathrine’s current research projects focus on quality early childhood education and care environments,


and on enhancing access to early childhood education and health services as well as promoting social inclusion in Indigenous communities. Anita Nelson Niehues is Assistant Professor in Occupational Therapy at Lenior-Rhyne University, North Carolina, USA. Her research examines parental perceptions of risk and the influence on children’s daily activities. She has interests in early intervention and public-school settings. Jan Nicholson is Inaugural Roberta Holmes Professor and Centre Director of the Judith Lumley Centre at La Trobe University, Australia. She is an Honorary Principal Research Fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Centre and Adjunct Professor at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research examines the influence of contemporary family, social and organisational environments on children’s healthy development, with a focus on vulnerable families. Andrea Nolan is Professor of Early Childhood Education at Deakin University, Australia. Andrea has taught and researched in the early years for many years. Her research focuses on the capabilities of the Early Childhood workforce, with a specific interest in the professional learning of teachers. She has researched the effects of the current Australian reform agenda on professional identities, mentoring, interprofessional work and reflective practice. Sivanes Phillipson is Swinburne University’s Professor of Education and Dean International. She is also the Routledge Editor for Evolving Families Series, a series that focuses on issues, challenges and empirical best practices surrounding evolving families that impact upon their survival, development and outcomes.  Sivanes’  research interest and experience centres around family studies, in particular parental engagement in early learning and care as the basis for children’s formal learning and whole wellbeing. Beth Saggers is Associate Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. She currently lectures in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), catering for diversity, inclusive practices and behavioural support. She has over 30 years of experience working with students on the autism spectrum, across a range of age groups and in a variety of educational settings. Margaret Sims is Professor of Early Childhood at the University of New England, Australia and Honorary Professor of Early Childhood at Macquarie University, Australia. Her research interests centre on quality community based services for young children and families. These arise from her experiences as a community worker in a range of services, including early intervention, inclusion, family support and child care. She is also researching in the areas of professionalisation in early childhood and in the way in which neoliberalism affects the education sector and those working in that sector. Kerry Smith is Lecturer in the School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University, Australia. She has extensive experience in the field of children’s services,




including managing and owning a school-aged care service, and is currently an approved  provider for a family day-care service. She has over 40 years of experience in adult learning, teaching and researching, and has been involved in the delivery of social–emotional learning workshops to practitioners throughout Australia. Her areas of expertise are childhood studies and professional development for children’s services. She is completing a Master of Philosophy, using a realist evaluation approach to examine Talking Circles as a method of listening to the voices of children. Ann Taket was the Chair in Health and Social Exclusion and Director of the Centre for Health through Action on Social Exclusion at Deakin University, Australia before retiring in December 2019. She has led programs of research in social exclusion and health; prevention and intervention in violence and abuse; and human rights-based approaches in public health. Maryanne Theobald is Senior Lecturer in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education and Co-leader of the Childhoods in Changing Contexts Research Group at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Maryanne has methodological expertise in qualitative approaches, including ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, and participatory research using video-stimulated accounts. She has research experience in communication and classroom talk, friendships and disputes in school, playground, therapy, digital, and multilingual contexts. Maryanne is co-editor of Research on Children and Social Interaction (Equinox) and is part of the editorial management team for the International Journal of Early Childhood (Springer). Catherine (Cathy) Thompson is now retired from active research with Queensland University of Technology, Australia, although she maintains a keen interest in research involving early childhood. In addition to research work, Cathy’s background includes devising and implementing intervention programs for children with physical impairments, learning difficulties and developmental delays, both within Australia and in the UK. Cathy is currently working on the further development of her book and resources for fine motor skills to help children to become more independent and confident in their classroom setting. Karen Thorpe is Professor in the Centre for Children’s Health Research, Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Her research examines the effect of early experiences, both within the family and in child-care settings, and on development and learning across the life-course. She has conducted a range of studies using large-scale longitudinal designs that include observational methods. Kerryann Walsh is Professor in the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, Australia. She has researched and published in the areas of school-based child sexual abuse prevention programs, parent–child communication about sexual abuse prevention, children’s safety education for prevention of online victimisation, and education and training of professionals in child protection.


Susan L. Whatman is Senior Lecturer in Health and Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, Australia. Susan’s expertise resides in teaching and learning in health and physical education and sports coaching contexts, and also in Indigenous education. She has a particular interest in power and control relationships in curriculum decision-making in education systems, and finding ways to empower educationally disadvantaged learners and communities. Susan is currently the National Chair and President of the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) (2019–2021). Christine Woodrow is Senior Researcher in the Centre for Educational Research at Western Sydney University, Australia. Through her research work in high-poverty, early childhood contexts in Chile and Australia, Christine has developed a framework for sustainable leadership that supports the development of innovative pedagogies for teaching and family engagement through a funds-of-knowledge approach. This work has had a significant influence on educators’ re-conceptualisation of their work in leadership. This shift has been evident in the transnational research Christine has undertaken on early childhood professional identities. Shirley Wyver is Senior Lecturer in Child Development in the Department of Educational Studies, Macquarie University, Australia. Her research interests are in early play and cognitive–social development. She is a chief investigator on the Sydney Playground Project, which examines the use of loose parts play and risk reframing on school playgrounds. Shirley also conducts research in the area of blindness/low vision and development.


PREFACE The age range birth to 12 years is recognised as crucial, with significant consequences for people’s continuing educational success and future participation in society. Professionals in this critical phase need specialist preparation, along with the skills and knowledge required to understand and manage issues related to health and wellbeing. This book will assist educators, academics, pre-service student teachers and teachers in their quest to develop and implement effective practices for children’s health and wellbeing. The book brings together the expertise of academics in the field of early years and the primary years of school. It is not exhaustive in its coverage – several books would be required to document and detail all of the relevant aspects of health and wellbeing, and each chapter could easily be expanded into a book in its own right. The organisation of the book reflects the key priorities for health and wellbeing of children aged birth to 12 years of age. Each chapter concludes with questions to guide readers’ reflections on the concepts developed in the chapter. In addition to meeting ­editorial requirements, each chapter has been peer reviewed. The book is a collaborative effort, drawn from a range of scholars and practitioners who work with children and young people in health and wellbeing. The book fills a gap in the resources available for health and wellbeing in Australia, bringing together sound scholarly debates and practical applications. Professor Susanne Garvis and Professor Donna Pendergast

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The editors wish to thank the wonderful authors of this third edition. We thank the reviewers for their insightful comments and the publishers for their confidence and assistance in this project. The authors and Cambridge University Press would like to thank the following for permission to reproduce material in this book. Figure 2.2: © Getty Images/Elizabethsalleebauer; 3.2: Australian Social Inclusion Board (2012). Social Inclusion in Australia. How Australia is faring (2nd edn). Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Commonwealth of Australia, p. 13, © Commonwealth of Australia 2012, licensed under CC BY 3.0 AU, https://creativecommons .org/licenses/by/3.0/au/; 4.3: © Getty Images/DGLimages; 5.1: © Getty Images/­ PeopleImages; 5.2: © Getty Images/Phil Boorman; 6.1: © Getty Images/Hero Images; 6.2: © Getty Images/Niedring/Drentwett; 6.3: © Getty Images/Tom Werner; 6.4: © Getty Images/Ariel Skelley; 7.1: © Getty Images/Ruth Jenkinson; 7.2: © Getty ­Images/­Panyawat Boontanom/EyeEm; 12.2: © Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill; 12.3: © Getty Images/­ mbbirdy; 15.1: © Getty Images/Hill Street Studios; 15.2: © Getty Images/Blue_Cutler; 16.1: © 2010 Education Services Australia Limited. Cambridge University Press has reproduced the conceptual overview from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Action Plan 2010–2014 with permission from the copyright owner, Education Services Australia Limited as legal entity for the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC). Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), and use for non-commercial education purposes where the source is acknowledged, the conceptual overview may not be sold or used for any commercial purpose. Other than as permitted above by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part of the conceptual overview may be reproduced, stored, published, performed, communicated or adapted by any means without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. This publication is solely created by or sourced by Cambridge University Press and does not represent the views of, and is not endorsed, approved or authorised by, Education Services Australia Limited or SCSEEC; 17.1 and 18.2: © Getty Images/SDI Productions; 18.1: © Getty Images/­ Westend61; 19.1: © Getty Images/Maskot; 19.2: © Getty Images/MundusImages. Table 1.3: Developed from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2018). Children’s Headline Indicators. CWS 64. Canberra:   AIHW, reports/children-youth/childrens-headline-indicators/contents/overview,  ©  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, licensed under CC BY 3.0  AU, https://creativecommons .org/licenses/by/3.0/au/; 7.1: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2013). Staying Healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services (5th edn). Canberra: NHMRC. Retrieved from: sites/default/files/documents/attachments/ch55-staying-healthy.pdf,  ©  Commonwealth


of ­Australia 2012, licensed under CC BY 3.0 AU, by/3.0/au/. Spotlight 15.3: Extract from Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) (2017). Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning. Retrieved from Sample-Teaching-Activities-to-Support-Core-Competencies-8–20-17.pdf,  ©  CASEL   2019, Chapter 18: Extracts from S. Phillipson, A. Gervasoni & P.A. Sullivan (eds) (2017), Engaging Families as Children’s First Mathematics Educators: International perspectives. Singapore: Springer, are reprinted by permission from Springer Nature, https://www, © Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017. Every effort has been made to trace and acknowledge copyright. The publisher apologises for any accidental infringement and welcomes information that would redress this situation.


ABBREVIATIONS ABS Australian Bureau of Statistics AC: HPE Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education ACARA Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority ACECQA Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority ACHPER Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation ACOSS Australian Council of Social Service ADHD attention deficit hyperactivity disorder AEDC Australian Early Development Census AEDI Australian Early Development Index AHPSA Australian Health Promoting Schools Association AHRC Australian Human Rights Commission AIHW Australian Institute of Health and Welfare AITSL Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership APST Australian Professional Standards for Teachers ARACY Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth ARC Australian Research Council ASD autism spectrum disorders ASHA American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ASWF Australian Student Wellbeing Framework BDD body dismorphic disorders CASEL Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning the Charter Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion CHI Children’s Headline Indicators CoS Circle of Security™ CRC Convention on the Rights of the Child CRCT cluster randomised controlled trial CSEFEL Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation DEECD Department of Education and Early Childhood Development DEEWR Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations DET Department of Education and Training DfE Department for Education DMP dominant movement pattern EYFS Early Years Foundation Stage EYLF Early Years Learning Framework FMS fundamental movement skills HPA hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal HPE Health and Physical Education



International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health International Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics Association information and communication technologies International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs Millennium Development Goals National Aboriginal Education Plan National Association for the Education of Young Children National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect National Center for Missing and Exploited Children National Health and Medical Research Council National Quality Standards National Safe Schools Framework Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Physical Education personal and social capability quality physical education Queensland School Curriculum Council Remote Aboriginal Swimming Pools Project Royal Life Saving Society Sequenced. Active. Focused. Explicit. Sustainable Development Goals social and emotional learning sudden infant death syndrome Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States Sydney Playground Project Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees United Nations Children’s Fund Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority Victorian Department of Education and Training Victorian Early Years and Development Framework: For all children from birth to eight years World Health Organization Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek help





Donna Pendergast and Susanne Garvis

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Appreciate the global population context and the relative proportions of early years learners. • Understand the concepts of health and wellbeing as relevant for the early years. • Identify initiatives that have put health and wellbeing on the agenda for early years learners in contemporary times. • Discuss how measuring wellbeing is a challenging undertaking because there is no consensus on how to operationalise and measure wellbeing.

PART 1  Context

INTRODUCTION According to the United Nations, the world population was 7.7 billion in mid-2019 and is projected to increase to over 8.5 billion in 2030 (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), 2019). In 2019, around 26 per cent of the world population is aged between birth and 15 years (UNDESA, 2019). It is predicted that by 2050 the relative percentage of young people aged from birth to nine years will decline – see Figure 1.1 (UNDESA, 2015). More than half the growth of the global population up to 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. These demographic trends result from a combination of increased life expectancy, along with the effects of birth and population controls affecting fertility rates. What is evident is that the proportion of the world’s population in the birththrough-childhood group is large and, although it will decrease proportionately in the future, it will continue to be a dominant group in the world population (see Figure 1.1).







2015 Years




2030 2.0




2050 1


0–9 years



10–24 years

5 6 Billions 25–59 years





60 years or over

Figure 1.1 Global population by age group – 2015, 2030, 2050 Source: Data from UNDESA, 2015.

Children currently aged 0–9 years are all members of what has been labelled generation Alpha. The previous generation, now in its late childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, is generation Z. A generation is typically defined as the average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring, with a birth generation spanning, on average, 20–22 years and having a lifespan four times that of the generation (Pendergast & Garvis, 2014). Every person is a member of a generation, and this is based on their year of birth. Generational theory seeks to understand and characterise cohorts of people according to their birth generation. It is a dynamic, socio-cultural theoretical framework that employs a broad brush-stroke approach, rather than an individual focus (Pendergast, 2008). Generations are defined not by formal process, but rather by demographers, the press and media, popular culture and market researchers, and by members of the generation

Generation: the average interval of time between the birth of parents and the birth of their offspring, with an on-average birth generation spanning 20–22 years and a lifespan four times that of a generation (Pendergast & Garvis, 2014).

CHAPTER 1  The importance of health and wellbeing

themselves (Pendergast, 2007). The basic notion is that, as members of a generation, we typically share a birth year range, which is more likely to expose us to experiences that are typical of that time, and to social and economic conditions that shape our generation in particular ways. The effect of these shared conditions is that patterns and influences on collective thinking emerge, which lead to the acquisition of broad and common values and beliefs among that generation. The acquisition of values and belief systems principally occurs during the formative or childhood years of each generation (Pendergast, 2008). The values and beliefs of the emerging generation Z and the younger Alpha generation are currently being shaped and defined, with contemporary world and local events influencing this generation in ways never before experienced. According to McCrindle (2013), three words summarise generation Z: global, visual, digital. He explains that this group of young people is being shaped by the shifts in society that are resulting from acceleration and rapid change within complex times. Features of these times include the advancement of digital technologies into almost every aspect of people’s lives, having a global, rather than a local, perspective and the emerging use of visual pedagogies that come with the tools of technology. Peers remain a significant shaping force. Generation Alpha is increasingly known as the ‘global generation’ or ‘generation glass’, which is a reference to their exposure to technologies delivered through glass, or glass-like surfaces, such as touch screens, smartphones and other devices. Along with the establishment of values and belief systems, the early years, from birth to 12 years, are increasingly recognised as the crucial time in which the foundations for life are laid, with significant consequences for educational success, resilience and future participation in society. The formative years are the years in which the capacity to make a difference can and does have profound effects. Carers and educators need specialist preparation, as they are required to promote and teach health and well­being and to have the skills and knowledge to understand and manage the plethora of issues related to young children. Around the world, including in Australia, early years education is undergoing significant reform as the potenEarly years: include preschool and the first two years of formal tial to improve quality of life is better understood. These reforms schooling. herald health and wellbeing as central constructs of this agenda. This chapter explores the concepts of health and wellbeing and shares some of the initiatives that have put health and wellbeing on the agenda for early years learners in contemporary times.

CASE STUDY 1.1 JACK Baby Jack was born this year. This means he is a member of the Alpha generation. Jack’s older siblings were born more than a decade earlier and are members of the Z generation. What does it mean to be a member of a generation? Why is the concept of generation relevant in investigating the early years learner’s health and wellbeing? How might the gap between Jack’s formative years and those of his siblings affect the way their generations evolve?



PART 1  Context

HEALTH According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in a definition that has stood the test of time and remains unamended since 1948, ‘health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (WHO, 1948). The first international conference for the promotion of health was held in Health promotion: based on 1986, and it was here that the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion the WHO’s Ottawa Charter for (the Charter) was formalised to encourage action to achieve health Health Promotion (WHO, 1986), calls for educators to promote for all by the year 2000 and beyond. The public health agendas for and maintain the health of health promotion were shaped globally for the first time. According to children and young people and the wider community. It the Charter, the fundamental conditions and resources for health are: includes whole-of-community peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable approaches that enable an resources, social justice and equity. Improvement in health requires a individual or group to realise their aspirations, satisfy their secure foundation in these basic prerequisites (WHO, 1986). needs and cope with their Consistent with this view, the Australian Institute of Health and environment. Health is, therefore, a resource for everyday living and Welfare (AIHW) (2012a) notes that a person’s health and wellbeencompasses personal, social and ing result from a complex interplay between biological, lifestyle, physical capacities. ­socio-economic, societal and environmental factors, many of which can be modified to some extent by health care and other interventions. Given the scope and complexity of these fundamental conditions and resources, the challenge of achieving health for all is patently obvious. For early years learners, who are reliant upon others for the provision of these conditions and resources, the challenges are even greater. Health: a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 1948).

WELLBEING The WHO’s definition of health relies on an understanding of the concept of ‘physical, mental and social wellbeing’. The term wellbeing is a ubiquitous term that is used widely in the full range of discourses in society, including in policy and legal arenas, in education and the academy, in the workplace, in commercial settings and in media discourses such as on TV and in magazines. However, there is no single definition of this commonly used term. In a study conducted by Ereaut and Whiting (2008), titled What Do We Mean by Well being? And why might it matter? the researchers conclude that ‘we can see the complexity of definition and possible meaning for contemporary ideas of wellbeing … in fact, the research showed that the word “wellbeing” behaves somewhat strangely, and contains many anomalies and puzzles’ (p. 6). The researchers settle on six key discourses that each hold a place in our understanding and use of the term wellbeing:

Wellbeing: an overall state of being that might be measured using a range of indicators that are typically context-specific.

1. Wellbeing and the medical heritage. This is where wellbeing is regarded as being closely aligned with the notion of health. This version of wellbeing is considered to be the dominant discourse for the term wellbeing.

CHAPTER 1  The importance of health and wellbeing

SPOTLIGHT 1.1 Developing an evidence base about health and wellbeing In the past two decades, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has worked with a number of researchers to develop a sound evidence base that can inform policy-makers and citizens to better understand the notion of wellbeing and to develop measures in order to improve wellbeing. For example, recent work on subjective wellbeing links the concept with happiness and quality of life (OECD, 2013). The OECD’s Better Life Initiative, launched in 2011, aims to measure society’s progress across 11 domains of wellbeing, ranging from income, jobs, health, skills and housing, to civic engagement and the environment.

2. Wellbeing as an operationalised discourse. This is where wellbeing is formalised into measures that can be used as indicators of wellbeing, including desired outcomes and indicators of achievement. 3. Wellbeing as sustainability discourse. This notion of wellbeing incorporates the idea of society being responsible for wellbeing and having the capacity for this to be replicable and widely available, not just certain individuals. 4. Wellbeing within a discourse of holism. The notion that not only the mind and body are the focus but also the social, environmental and other facets of life. 5. Wellbeing and philosophy. The notion of aiming for an ideal state, with a vision of what is best and desirable for a person. 6. Wellbeing, consumer culture and self-responsibility. A discourse whereby people are encouraged to strive for resilience, independence and achievement, and to take personal responsibility for decision-making, their health and, ultimately, for their sense of wellbeing. For the purposes of this book, we are taking the multiple meanings of wellbeing, along with the dominant discourse connecting it to the health agenda, thereby incorporating the broad discourses of wellbeing and considering these in terms of early years learners. Bradshaw, Hoelscher and Richardson (2007) assist in honing the definition of wellbeing for the early years. They define child wellbeing as ‘the realisation of children’s rights and the fulfilment of the opportunity for every child to be all she or he can be in the light of a child’s abilities, potential and skills’ (p. 8).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 1.1 Children’s rights What is meant by ‘children’s rights’? Why is this relevant to health and wellbeing?



PART 1  Context

GLOBAL CONTEXT: HEALTH AND WELLBEING The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most recognised international treaty. It sets out the basic rights of children, along with the obligations of governments to fulfil those rights. The CRC has been accepted and ratified by almost every country in the world. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and ratified by Australia in 1990 but is yet to be incorporated into Australian law. The CRC has 54 articles, with numbers 43–54 specifying how adults and governments should work together to make sure that all children are able to realise their rights. The articles are based on four fundamental principles: 1. Non-discrimination. Children should neither benefit nor suffer because of their race, colour, gender, language, religion, national, social or ethnic origin, or because of any political or other opinion; because of their caste, property or birth status; or because they are disabled. 2. The best interests of the child. Laws and actions affecting children should put their best interests first and benefit them in the best possible way. 3. Survival, development and protection. The authorities in each country must protect children and help ensure their full development – physically, spiritually, morally and socially. 4. Participation. Children have a right to have their say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account (United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 1989). The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors compliance with the CRC, with governments required to report every five years on what they are doing to ensure that children’s rights are being met. In their working paper developed for UNICEF, Child Well-being in Advanced Economics in the Late 2000s, Martorano et al. (2013) set out to develop a Child Well-Being Index, in order to rank countries according to their performance in advancing child wellbeing, as underpinned by the framework of the CRC. This was a challenging undertaking, as there was no consensus on how to operationalise and measure the concept of child wellbeing, even though there had been many attempts to construct indices over recent years, and due to the lack of generalisability beyond country contexts or other factors, such as a lack of measurable indicators. Utilising Bradshaw et al.’s (2007) aforementioned definition of child wellbeing, Martorano et al. (2013) captured data for 13 components, aggregated into five dimensions, which they regard as representing child wellbeing. These dimensions are material wellbeing, health, education, behaviour and risks, and housing and environment (see Table 1.1). Thirty-five countries received a score on the indicators and combinations of variables. Several did not have enough data for each indicator so were excluded from comprehensive analysis and commentary, including the countries of Australia, Japan and New Zealand.

Table 1.1  Child Well-Being Index – dimensions, components and performance



Examples of indicators used Best performers

Worst performers

Material wellbeing

Monetary deprivation

Relative child poverty Child poverty gap

Netherlands and Nordic regions

Romania, Eastern European countries, United States

Material deprivation

Deprivation index Family affluence scale

Health at birth

Birth rate Infant mortality rate

Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden

United States, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania

Child mortality

Child death rate

Preventive health services

Immunisation against DPT3, measles and polio

Educational achievement

OECD PISA reading, maths and science literacy

Romania, Greece and the United States


Early childhood education Youth education Neither employment nor education

Nordic European countries, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands

Child health





Examples of indicators used Best performers

Worst performers

Behaviour and risks

Experience of violence

Fighting in schools Bullying in schools

Southern, Central and Eastern European countries

Health behaviour

Eat breakfast daily Eat fruit daily 1 hour physical activity daily Overweight according to body mass index

Risk behaviour

Cigarettes, alcohol and cannabis consumption Teenage fertility rate


Number of rooms/person/ household Switzerland, Ireland and with children Norway


Homicide rates Outdoor air pollution measure

Housing problems

Moisture Darkness No bath or shower No flush toilet

Housing and environment

Source: Developed from Martorano et al. (2013).

Nordic and Western European countries

Central and Eastern European countries, Greece, Italy and the United States

CHAPTER 1  The importance of health and wellbeing

Martorano et al. (2013, p. 41) conclude that: most countries have at least some or several dimensions or components that show a relatively disappointing performance. Some countries do relatively well on most dimensions (the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, except Denmark) and some countries perform relatively badly on most dimensions and components (Bulgaria, Romania, the United States). The Child Well-Being Index and the results on its dimensions, components and indicators reveal that serious differences across countries exist; suggesting that in many countries improvement could be made in the quality of children’s lives.

An important initiative that sets out to make substantial progress against the global problems of poverty, health, education and the environment was the establishment in the year 2000 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which set targets for 2015 (United Nations, 2000). All 189 member states of the United Nations, including Australia, committed to achieving eight agreed targets. Without exception, the MDGs had the potential to affect the health and wellbeing of early years learners around the world. In particular, Goal 2 – to achieve universal primary education – was particularly pertinent to health and wellbeing, as the notion of a minimal global attainment for all children by 2015 would serve to increase the levels of literacy, numeracy and scientific literacy, thereby improving health and wellbeing status globally. Building upon and expanding the MDGs since the expiration of the commitment period in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relate to the period from 2015 to 2030. Both the MDGs and the SDGs have similar focus areas (see Table 1.2); however, the SDGs expand development into additional focus areas, including justice and prosperity. Officially known as Transforming Our World: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development (United Nations, 2015), the SDGs are a set of 17 aspirational global goals with 169 targets between them. The agenda sets a deliberative approach involving 194 member states, and are comparatively universal, more ambitious and comprehensive than the MDGs. A further development from the MDGs is expansion from the limited focus on developing countries to a focus on all countries. The SDGs encompass a vision that requires the world to be significantly transformed, whereby  poverty and gender inequality no longer exist; good health care and education are available for all; and economic growth no longer harms the environment. There is no country in the world presently that achieves this vision: every country in the world is failing on at least half of the 17 SDGs, while a quarter falls short on all 17 of the goals. The SDGs set specific and measurable targets in relation to the 17 goals. As the SDG agenda gains momentum, finding ways to activate change is the core to success.


Table 1.2  Alignment of the United Nations’ MDGs, SDGs and focus areas

MDG 2000–15

Focus area

SDG 2015–30 *

1. Eradicate Extreme Hunger 3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

Dignity End poverty and fight inequality

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

2. Achieve Universal Primary Education 4. Reduce Child Mortality 5. Improve Maternal Health 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

People Ensure healthy lives, knowledge and the inclusion of women and children

2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 4. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability

Planet Protect our ecosystem, for all societies and for our children

8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development

17. Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development Partnership Catalyze global solidarity for sustainable development

6. Ensure access to water and sanitation for all 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources 15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

16. Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies Justice Promote safe and peaceful societies and strong institutions Prosperity Grow a strong, inclusive and transformative economy

See also Galatsidas (2015). Sources: United Nations (2000; 2015); UNDESA (2015). *

7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 8. Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries 11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

CHAPTER 1  The importance of health and wellbeing

PAUSE AND REFLECT 1.2 Sustainable Development Goals The SDGs is a set of 17 aspirational global goals, with 169 targets between them. You have been introduced to these goals, but not yet to the targets. Conduct a search to locate the 169 targets and review each in turn. How many targets are directly relevant to the health and wellbeing of early childhood learners?

AUSTRALIAN CONTEXT: HEALTH AND WELLBEING SPOTLIGHT 1.2 Australia’s childhood population On 8 April 2016, the resident population of Australia was projected to be 24 039 377 (­Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). Children aged 0–9 years make up 12.6 per cent of the population, and if the age group is extended to include all children up to 14 years, makes up a total of 18.8 per cent (AIHW, 2012b).

There are many agencies in Australia that provide updates of indicators related to children’s health, development and wellbeing. The AIHW has been monitoring the health, wellbeing and development of Australian’s children since 1996. AIHW (2018) reported against a set of 19 indicators, which are high-level, measurable indicators important to children’s health, development and wellbeing. These are known as the Children’s Headline Indicators (CHI) (see Table 1.3). What these data indicate is that a wide range of variability is extant in the health, development and wellbeing of young Australians aged 0–14 years, and there is a lack of comprehensive knowledge in some core areas where we might expect to have a clear understanding of our practices, especially with regard to the proportion of children attending early childhood education programs. The variability is geographic and between some population groups. New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have had results better than, or similar to, the national average across either all or most of the indicators, with available data. Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have seen poorer results than the national average on several indicators, with Queensland’s and the Northern Territory’s results on all education-related indicators less favourable than the national average and with higher teenage birth rates. Data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children living in remote areas and children living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas were all extremely less favourable on many of the indicators, especially when the compounding effects were taken into account.



PART 1  Context

Table 1.3 Children’s Headline Indicators Trends for Australia’s children aged 0–14 years: Health, development and wellbeing



Early earning and care

Attendance at primary school 93.6%

No change

Early childhood education

No comparison data

Family and community


Value 73.6%

Change from p­ revious



Favourable increase



Favourable increase

Transition to primary school


No change

Child neglect and abuse

10 per 1000 children

Unfavourable increase

Family economic situation


Favourable increase

Family social network


No comparison data

Shelter – homelessness


No change

Shelter – housing stress


No change

Shelter – overcrowding


No change

Social and emotional wellbeing


No comparison data

Teenage births

11.4 per 1000 females

Favourable decrease



No comparison data

Dental health


No change



Unfavourable decrease

Infant mortality

3.1 per 1000 births

Favourable decrease

Injury deaths

4.1 per 100 000 children

Favourable decrease

Low birthweight


No change

Overweight and obesity


No change

Smoking during pregnancy


Favourable decrease

Source: Developed from AIHW (2018).

Australia’s child vulnerability in 2013 was reported to be 22 per cent (Australian Government, 2013), which refers to the percentage of young people who are developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains, as measured using the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI). The AEDI measures five areas of early childhood development from information collected through a teacher-completed checklist for children in their first year of formal, full-time school. The areas measured by the AEDI are: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills (school-based); and communication skills and general knowledge. In 2012, 96.5 per cent of children in their first year of formal, full-time school were included in this study.

CHAPTER 1  The importance of health and wellbeing

SPOTLIGHT 1.3 The cost of Australia’s early childhood vulnerability In 2013, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) released The Nest Action Agenda: Improving the wellbeing of Australia’s children and youth while growing our GDP by over 7 per cent (ARACY, 2013). This plan provides a guiding framework for improving wellbeing, and is based on the concept of aligning government and non-government actions to achieve collective traction and improve wellbeing. It is based on two imperatives: a possible decline in life expectancy for the first time in generations and the effect of young people’s wellbeing on Australia’s economic productivity. ARACY estimates from international comparisons that ‘the cost of early childhood vulnerability is between $1.75 and $2.7 trillion dollars’ annually.

In 2015, the AEDI was renamed the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to recognise that the instrument is used as a population-based measure of child development. The timing and scope of the census remains the same and hence data from 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 can now be used to reveal trends. A total of 96 per cent of children were included in the 2018 data collection. The trends in the five domains are as follows: 1. Physical health and wellbeing. The proportion of children developmentally vulnerable in the physical health and wellbeing domain was quite stable at 9.4 and 9.3 per cent in 2009 and 2012, but increased to 9.7 per cent in 2015 and 9.6 per cent in 2018. 2. Social competence. Developmental vulnerability in the social competence domain decreased from 9.5 per cent in 2009 to 9.3 per cent in 2013, and has increased to 9.8 per cent in 2018. 3. Emotional maturity. The number of children developmentally vulnerable in the emotional maturity domain has fluctuated over time. It decreased from 8.9 per cent in 2009 to 7.6 per cent in 2012, then increased to 8.4 per cent in 2015 and remained the same in 2018. 4. Language and cognitive skills. Significant improvements were made in children’s language and cognitive skills. The proportion of children who are developmentally vulnerable across the language and cognitive skills domain has decreased from 8.9 per cent in 2009 to 6.8 per cent in 2018. 5. Communication skills and general knowledge. Developmental vulnerability across the communication and general knowledge domain has steadily decreased from 9.2 per cent in 2009 to 8.2 per cent in 2018 (Commonwealth of Australia, 2019).



PART 1  Context

ARACY sets out five outcomes for its agenda: being loved and safe having material basics being healthy learning and participating (ARACY, 2013). These contribute to the enhancement of the wellbeing of young people in the Australian society. With this in mind, there are six directions recommended for action: 1. Improving early childhood learning and development 2. Improving the educational performance of young Australians 3. Improving the physical health of young Australians 4. Improving the social and emotional wellbeing of young Australians 5. Promoting the participation of young Australians 6. Addressing income disparity and its impacts. In line with this action plan, there are many initiatives that work on the development of social and emotional learning (SEL), or resilience, such as an initiative of the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing, called Response Ability. It aims to promote the social and emotional wellbeing of children and young people by supporting the pre-service training of school teachers and early childhood educators on mental health issues in children and young people (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013).

CASE STUDY 1.2 SAM As a beginning initial teacher education student, Sam was recently introduced to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), 2011), which are grouped into the three domains of teaching: professional knowledge, professional practice and professional engagement. Sam is keen to know how these standards apply to teaching in the early years. Provide Sam with a summary of how each standard is relevant to his future role as an educator.

Furthermore, trends and development in early years education indicate major reform, such as the development of a national curriculum from Foundation to Year 12 by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which has been informed by the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young ­Australians (Curricu­ lum Corporation, 2008). The Melbourne Declaration strongly positions schools for their importance in ‘promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and wellbeing of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion’ (Curriculum Corporation, 2008, p. 4). The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework for all Children from Birth to Eight Years (State of Victoria, 2011) specifies five outcomes: Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity. Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world. Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.

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Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners. Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators. In this context, Outcome 3 highlights the importance of wellbeing, with children expected to ‘become strong’ and ‘take responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing’ (p. 23). This framework highlights the importance of fostering personal responsibility while acknowledging that enabling skills must be developed in educators to ensure this aspiration is achieved.

CONCLUSION The proportion of the world population in the birth-through-childhood group is large and, while it will decrease proportionately in the future, will continue to be a dominant group in the world’s population. The birth years for the Alpha generation commenced in 2010. The values and beliefs of this emerging generation are now being shaped and defined, with contemporary world and local events affecting this generation in ways never before experienced. There are many agencies globally and in Australia that provide updates of indicators related to children’s health, development and wellbeing. These data indicate wide variability in the health, development and wellbeing of young Australians aged 0–14 years and a lack of comprehensive knowledge in some core areas where we might expect to have a clear understanding of our practices, especially with regard to the proportion of children attending early childhood education programs. The variability is geographic and between some population groups.


How can educators assist young learners to take responsibility for their health and to foster wellbeing? Provide examples of curriculum and pedagogical strategies.


Select one of the United Nations’ MDGs for 2015. Outline how achieving the target will assist in fostering health and wellbeing for early years learners.


Conduct an online search for Australian policies related to children in the early years. Map the frequency of health-related and wellbeing-related aspects incorporated in the policy.


What is the relationship between health, wellbeing and resilience?

REFERENCES Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016). Population Clock. Retrieved 8 April 2016 from[email protected]/0/1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63? OpenDocument ­Australian Government (2015). Emerging trends from the AEDC. Retrieved 8 April 2016 from



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——— (2013). A Snapshot of Early Childhood Development in Australia 2012 – AEDI National Report. Canberra: Australian Government. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2018). Children’s Headline Indicators. CWS 64. Canberra: AIHW. ——— (2012a). Australia’s Health 2012. Australia’s Health series no. 13. Cat. no. AUS 156. Canberra: AIHW. ——— (2012b). A Picture of Australia’s Children 2012. Cat. no. PHE 167. Canberra: AIHW. Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) (2011). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Melbourne: AITSL. Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) (2013). The Nest Action Agenda: Improving the wellbeing of Australia’s children and youth while growing our GDP by over 7 per cent. Retrieved 20 September 2013 from documents/item/162 Bradshaw, J., Hoelscher, P. & Richardson, D. (2007). Comparing Child Wellbeing in OECD Countries: Concepts and methods. Innocenti Working Paper No. 2006–03. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. Commonwealth of Australia (2019). Australian Early Development Census National Report 2018. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. ——— (2013). Response Ability. Retrieved 20 September 2013 from Curriculum Corporation (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne: Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). Ereaut, G. & Whiting, R. (2008). What Do We Mean by Well being? And why might it matter? Research Report DCSF-RW073. United Kingdom: Department for Children, Schools and Families. Galatsidas, A. (2015). Sustainable development goals: Changing the world in 17 steps – interactive. The Guardian, 20 January. Retrieved 12 November 2019 from https:// Martorano, B., Natali, L., de Neubourg, C. & Bradshaw, J. (2013). Child Well-being in Advanced Economics in the Late 2000s. Working paper 2013–01. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research. McCrindle, M. (2013). Generation Z Defined: Global, visual, digital. Retrieved 1 October 2013 from visual_digital Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2013). OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being. Retrieved 20 September 2013 from Pendergast, D. (2008). Generational dynamics – Y it matters 2 u & me. In D. Pendergast (ed.), Home Economics: Reflecting the past; creating the future (pp. 99–114). Switzerland: International Federation of Home Economics. ——— (2007). The MilGen and society. In N. Bahr & D. Pendergast (eds), The Millennial Adolescent. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.

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Pendergast, D. & Garvis, S. (2014). The importance of health and wellbeing. In S. Garvis & D. Pendergast (eds), Health and Wellbeing in Childhood. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. State of Victoria (2011). Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework for all Children from Birth to Eight Years. Melbourne: State Government, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. UNICEF (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved 9 December 2019 from United Nations (2015). Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Washington: United Nations. ——— (2000). United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015. Retrieved 20 September 2013 from United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) (2019). World Population Prospects 2019 Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/423). Retrieved from https:// ——— (2015). World Population Prospects: The 2015 revision, key findings and advance tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.241. Retrieved from wpp/ World Health Organization (WHO) (1986). The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved 19 September 2013 from conferences/previous/ottawa/en/ ——— (1948). Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as Adopted by the International Health Conference. New York: WHO. Retrieved 19 September 2013 from



CLASSIFYING HEALTH AND WELLBEING Applying the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health to early years learners

Jane McCormack and Sharynne McLeod

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Explain the difference between the medical model, the social model and the biopsychosocial model of health and wellbeing. • Describe the components of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (WHO, 2001). • Discuss how the components and domains of the ICF can be applied to children’s health and wellbeing. • Explain the relevance of the ICF to working holistically with children in research and practice in the early years.

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INTRODUCTION For many years, researchers, educators and medical/health professionals have debated the relative influence of nature (biology) versus nurture (the social environment) in children’s health and development. Those who emphasise the importance of Medical model: disability biological factors are guided by a model of health known as the ‘medical is viewed as a problem of the model’. Within the medical model, disability is regarded as ‘a problem person, directly caused by a of the person, directly caused by disease, trauma or other health health condition that requires medical care, which is provided condition, which requires medical care’ (World Health Organization by professionals to cure the (WHO), 2001, p. 15). Those who emphasise the importance of the individual (WHO, 2001). environment or context are guided by a social model. Within the Social model: disability is social model of health, disability is regarded as ‘a complex collection viewed as a socially created of conditions, many of which are created by the social environment’ problem requiring action by society at large, to make the rather than an individual attribute (WHO, 2001, p. 18). environmental modifications These two models of health and disability differ in their identifinecessary to remove barriers that prevent people from experiencing cation of where the problem lies (the individual or the environment), good health. how they perceive it should be addressed (through medical care or social action) and by whom (health professionals or society). However, very often, both medical needs and social needs must be considered.

SPOTLIGHT 2.1 Environmental interventions The need to consider both medical and social needs is evident in the case of children’s communication. Many children with speech, language and/or communication needs benefit from direct intervention to address their needs. However, this is most beneficial when undertaken in conjunction with environmental interventions such as family and/or teacher education about the child’s needs. Educating others about how to stimulate language skills and support communication helps children to practise skills they learn through intervention in other environments and with other communication partners. This helps them to consolidate their new skills and generalise them to other contexts.

When we think about the health and wellbeing of children, we need a model that is holistic in its conceptualisation and comprehensive in its design, to ensure we gain the best understanding of their health needs and can provide the most effective support. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) (WHO, 2001) was developed by the WHO to provide a comprehensive and holistic framework for conceptualising health. WHO first defined health in a holistic way in 1946, regarding it as ‘the state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ (p. 100); however, more recently, WHO recognised a need to develop a framework that would enable professionals, services and governments to enact


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Biopsychosocial: health (and disability) is viewed as an interaction of biological and contextual factors, and so integrates the medical and social models in a more holistic perspective (WHO, 2001). ICF: a framework developed by the WHO to conceptualise health and wellbeing in a comprehensive and holistic way, recognising the contribution of biology and environment to the experience of health.

that definition. The ICF is based on a biopsychosocial framework and aims to integrate the medical and social models of health. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the components of the ICF and describe educational, clinical and research applications of the framework to early years learners.

INTERNATIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF FUNCTIONING, DISABILITY AND HEALTH The ICF was designed to provide a global common language for describing the effects of health conditions and disabilities on human functioning.

SPOTLIGHT 2.2 Using the ICF The WHO has proposed multiple ways in which the ICF may be used by health professionals, services and/or governments. These include clinical, administrative and research applications. For instance, in clinical (health) practice, the ICF could be used as a basis for summarising assessment findings, prioritising intervention targets and measuring outcomes; in administrative practice, the ICF could be used to examine referrals, set eligibility criteria for services and record service provision; and in research, the ICF codes could be used to design tools that measure health conditions and intervention outcomes (WHO, 2001).

When we consider the health and wellbeing of children, the ICF can assist us to think about the range of factors (biological, social and environmental) that may affect their perceptions and experiences of health and influence how we can improve their experiences. According to the ICF, health and wellbeing result from the interaction between Body Structures and Functions, Activities and Participation, and Personal and Environmental Factors.1 These components and their interactions are illustrated diagrammatically in Figure 2.1 and are described in detail in the following sections.

BODY FUNCTIONS AND STRUCTURES Within the ICF, the term Body Structures refers to anatomical parts of the body (e.g. organs and limbs) while Body Functions refers to the functioning of bodily systems (e.g. speech and digestion). The ICF lists eight main categories of each, which correspond to one another (see Table 2.1). These categories are then separated further according to common characteristics. For instance, in the category of Structures and Functions Related to Voice and Speech, listed structures include the hard and soft palates, tongue and teeth. 1  C  apitalisation has been used to be consistent with usage in the ICF and to differentiate between everyday usage of these terms.

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Health Condition (disorder or disease)

1. 2. 3. Part 1: Fuctioning and Disability

4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Part 2: Contextual Factors

Body Functions and Body Structures Structures of nervous system & mental functions Structures of eye & ear, and sensory functions & pain Structures & functions related to voice & speech Structures & functions of the cardiovascular, haematological, immunological & respiratory systems Structures & functions of the digestive, metabolic & endocrine systems Genito-urinary & reproductive structures & functions Neuromusculoskeletal & movement-related structures & functions Structures & functions of the skin & related structures

Environmental Factors 1. Products & technology 2. Natural environment & humanmade changes to environment 3. Support & relationships 4. Attitudes 5. Services, systems & policies

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Activities and Participation Learning & applying knowledge General tasks & demands Communication Mobility Self-care Domestic Life Interpersonal interactions & relationships Major life areas Community, social & civic life

Personal Factors The particular background of an individual’s life and living (may include: gender, race, age, other health conditions, fitness, lifestyle, habits, upbringing, coping styles, social background, education, profession, past and current experience, overall behaviour pattern and character style, individual psychological assets and other characteristics).

Figure 2.1 Parts, components and domains of the ICF and their interactions (adapted from WHO, 2001) Source: Reproduced from McCormack et al. (2010).

If a problem with function or structure is identified, it is called an impairment. An impairment can involve anomaly, defect or loss and can range from mild to profound in severity. It may be temporary or permanent, progressive or static, and intermittent or continuous.

Impairment: an anomaly, defect or loss of body structure or function that can range from mild to profound in severity.


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Table 2.1  Body Structures and Body Functions within the ICF

Body Structures

Body Functions

Structures of the nervous system

Mental functions

The eye, ear and related structures

Sensory functions and pain

Structures involved in voice and speech

Voice and speech functions

Structures of the cardiovascular, haematological, Functions of the cardiovascular, haematological, immunological and respiratory systems immunological and respiratory systems Structures related to digestive, metabolic and endocrine systems

Functions of the digestive, metabolic and endocrine systems

Structures related to the genito-urinary and reproductive systems

Genito-urinary and reproductive functions

Structures related to the neuromusculoskeletal system and movement

Neuromusculoskeletal and movement-related functions

Skin and related structures

Functions of the skin and related structures

Source: Adapted from WHO (2001).

APPLYING THE BODY FUNCTIONS AND BODY STRUCTURES COMPONENT TO ­CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING The list of structures and functions within the ICF makes it possible to consider the biological aspects of health in a very comprehensive way. For instance, when thinking about the health and wellbeing of children in the early years, the ICF guides us to consider: whether the child has (or has ever experienced) impairments that affect the integrity of structures or the capacity of structures to perform functions in the body. These impairments may include congenital conditions such as Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, specific impairments such as blindness or asthma, acquired conditions such as hearing loss caused by recurrent otitis media (middle-ear infections)  or intellectual impairment subsequent to a neurological event. These impairments may also include conditions without a known cause, like speech and language disorders of unknown origin. Case study 2.1 guides you in how the Body Functions and Structures component can be used to understand the development of a child with communication difficulties.

CASE STUDY 2.1  MEET BEN Ben (four years old) is a happy and active boy who has been attending preschool for six months. He is the second of four children (the youngest is eight months old), lives on a farm located 20 minutes from town and loves tractors. Ben also loves playing with his pet dogs. Ben has a history of ear infections and his preschool teachers have noticed that he is often difficult to understand. He is social but has become quite disruptive at preschool, and it is obvious that he is frustrated by his communication difficulties when talking to other children and staff.

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Figure 2.2 Meet Ben

Look at the list of Body Structures and Body Functions in Table 2.1. What structures and functions might be impaired and may be contributing to Ben’s communication difficulties? How could you find out more about the integrity of the structures and the level of the functioning?

ACTIVITIES AND PARTICIPATION A child may have a structural or functional impairment, but this may not affect their health and wellbeing if they are still able to perform daily activities and/or participate in chosen life experiences. Thus, in addition to considering a child’s biological status, we need to consider their ability to participate in the activities of everyday life, in order to understand their level of health and wellbeing. In the ICF, Activities refer to the tasks or actions that a child may perform, and Participation refers to their involvement in situations or events. Again, the ICF provides a comprehensive list of what these tasks and situations may include. The list is divided into nine domains (see Table 2.2), which are further separated into a total of 132 items. For instance, Learning and Applying Knowledge includes activities such as Learning to Read and Learning to Write. If a problem performing any of these activities is identified, it is Participation Restriction: called an ‘Activity Limitation,’ or ‘Participation Restriction’ (WHO, 2001, when an individual’s performance p. 12). A limitation or restriction is recognised when the performance is significantly different to that of other individuals, and may be of an individual with an impairment (such as speech and language) is attributed to an impairment. significantly different to that of an individual without the impairment.


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Table 2.2  Activities and Participation within the ICF

Activity and Participation


Learning and Applying Knowledge

Actions necessary for acquisition of new information and skills, or the actions of putting those skills into practice, including attention, early literacy and calculation skills

General Tasks and Demands

Actions necessary for completion of everyday tasks and dealing with problems when tasks are difficult to perform


Skills necessary for production and comprehension of verbal and nonverbal messages, and for using communication strategies or devices


Skills required to moving oneself or objects, or to use forms of transportation


Skills required to look after one’s health

Domestic Life

Tasks associated with acquisition of a house/food, completing household tasks and caring for objects/others

Interpersonal Interactions and Relationships

The actions of engaging with peers, teachers, family members, strangers or others

Major Life Areas

Activities required for education and/or employment

Community, Social and Civic Life

Tasks required to enable engagement in social activities outside the family

Source: Adapted from WHO (2001).

APPLYING THE ACTIVITIES AND PARTICIPATION COMPONENT TO CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING In applying the Activities and Participation component of the ICF to the health and wellbeing of children in the early years, we may consider what activities this child engages in or wants to engage in. This might include specific tasks such as talking, painting and running, or activities that incorporate a range of skills, such as ballet, attending preschool or completing a spelling test. We also need to consider where this child participates in the activities. For instance, are activities undertaken in the lounge room at home, in the backyard, at a café, in the playground, in the classroom or at the supermarket? Furthermore, with whom does this child interact? Possibilities include parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, teachers, sporting teams and strangers. When we understand the activities the child undertakes and the settings in which they occur, we can begin to conceptualise what is needed from those environments and activities to ensure the child is able to participate fully and experience a sense of wellbeing as a result. The ICF encourages consideration of what a child Capacity: what a child is capable is capable of doing in an environment that has been adjusted for of doing in an environment that has been adjusted for their needs. their needs (the child’s capacity), as well as what they do in their everyday environment (the child’s performance), in order to guide Performance: what a child is able do in their everyday us regarding ways to modify environments to support children’s environment. performance. For instance, in dynamic assessments we might check

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the child’s capacity to execute an activity in their regular environment when assistance is provided (Lidz, 1987). Thus, a child’s experience of health and wellbeing is also dependent on contextual factors. The task below follows the earlier activity and shows you how the Activities and Participation component can be used to determine a child’s strengths, challenges, needs and goals.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 2.1 The effects of Ben’s communication difficulties You may wish to review the information provided earlier in Case study 2.1 about Ben. Now look at the list of Activities and Participation provided in Table 2.2. What can you deduce about Ben’s Activity limitations and Participation restrictions? How might these have been influenced by his communication difficulties? What other activities might be difficult for him, due to his communication difficulties? What activities might he like to do? How will you find out more about his strengths and areas of difficulty?

CONTEXTUAL (ENVIRONMENTAL AND PERSONAL) FACTORS In the ICF, contextual factors are divided into Environmental Factors and Personal Factors. Environmental Factors reflect external influences on functioning and disability, and Personal Factors reflect internal influences. As such, Environmental Factors refer to a child’s physical, social and attitudinal environments, while Personal Factors refer to a child’s individual demographics or characteristics.

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS During childhood, the nature of children’s environments, and the levels of competence and independence children demonstrate, undergo significant changes. In early childhood, the family environment exercises the most influence; however, in later childhood and adolescence, the school environment and broader community become more significant. According to the WHO, ‘negative environmental factors often have a stronger impact on children than on adults’ (WHO, 2007, p. xvi), thus reinforcing the need to evaluate, modify and enhance children’s environments as part of programs to promote or improve children’s health and wellbeing. Addressing environmental factors may include altering legislation or national policies to ensure children have access to necessary health care and education. Within the ICF, Environmental Factors are further classified into two different levels: individual and societal. Individual Environmental Factors are those in the immediate ­environment of the individual (such as home and school), including the physical and material features of the environment as well as the people within that environment. Societal Environmental Factors are structures and systems in the community or society



PART 1  Context

that govern and affect individuals (e.g. organisations and services, government agencies, laws, regulations, formal and informal rules, as well as attitudes and ideologies) (see Table 2.3). Factors that support and/or enable an individual Facilitators/Barriers: factors to achieve maximal health and wellbeing are referred to as faciliwithin the environment that act to support or hinder an individual’s tators, and those which hinder and/or prevent this are referred to health and wellbeing. as barriers. Table 2.3  Environmental Factors within the ICF

Environmental Factors


Products and Technology

Products (natural or manufactured), equipment and technologies within an individual’s environment that are available, created or manufactured

Natural Environment and Humanmade Changes to Environment

Elements of the natural or physical environment, and human-made changes, as well as characteristics of human populations within that environment

Support and Relationships

Practical physical or emotional support, nurturing, protection and assistance provided by individuals to other persons in their everyday activities/environments


Customs, practices, ideologies, values, norms, factual beliefs and religious beliefs that influence behaviour

Services, Systems and Policies

Services that provide programs to meet the needs of individuals with society, systems that control and organise the services, and policies that govern and regulate the systems/services

Source: Adapted from WHO (2001).

Applying the Environmental Factors component to children’s health When thinking about the association between Environmental Factors and the health and wellbeing of children in the early years, we may consider how the child’s physical environment is contributing to their experiences of health and wellbeing. This includes features of the physical environment that may affect their health, such as access to water and food, population density and pollution, as well as features of a particular context, such as the amount of light or noise in a classroom. It also means considering the social environment; for example, the family’s background and how this influences their attitudes towards health, wellbeing and accessing health services. For instance, a child’s access to services may be affected by their family’s understanding of the roles of health or education professionals and how or when to access them for support, or by cultural understandings of health and illness. Further, we need to consider the health, education and disability services that are available for the child or family to access. This means also being aware of the limitations to service access, such as a lack of health services in some locations (e.g. rural and remote areas of Australia), and government policies affecting eligibility, prioritisation and duration of services in some settings. In

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the exercise below, you are encouraged to consider how the Environmental Factors component can be used to gain a better understanding of Ben’s life context, and to plan appropriate support.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 2.2 Environmental Factors and communication Review the information that was provided about Ben earlier in the chapter. Now, consider the list of Environmental Factors in Table 2.3. What can you now deduce about Ben’s physical and social environments? How might this affect his communication skills? How might it influence his ability to access and engage with health services? How could you find out more information? How could you support Ben?

PERSONAL FACTORS Unlike other components within the ICF, a list of Personal Factors is not provided within the framework. However, suggestions are given as to the range of factors that could be considered to fall within this component. These include: ‘gender, race, age, other health conditions, fitness, lifestyle, habits, upbringing, coping styles, social background, education, profession, past and current experience (past life events and concurrent events), overall behaviour pattern and character style, individual psychological assets and other characteristics’ (WHO, 2001, p. 17). Threats (2007) has suggested that Personal Factors can be further divided into those that are unchanging; that is, those that provide the demographic details of an individual’s life and background (e.g. gender, race, age and other health conditions), and those that have the potential to change or be changed (e.g. fitness, lifestyle, habits, social background and education).

Applying the Personal Factors component to children’s health When thinking about the association between Personal Factors and the health and wellbeing of children in the early years, we may consider how this child likes to learn. What does this child enjoy doing? How does this child respond in different situations? What has contributed to this child’s life experiences so far? By understanding the child’s background, lifestyle, temperament and so on, we can gain an understanding of what is important to the child and their family, and what has contributed to their experiences of health or illness. This, in turn, enables us to prepare environments and activities that maximise good health and minimise the effects of any impairments.

LINKING THE ICF AND THE EYLF As educators, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009) is a key document to assist you in planning and providing opportunities for young children to grow, develop and learn in



PART 1  Context

the early years. The EYLF is comprised of three elements that are seen as fundamental to the delivery of curriculum and experiences that will enable children to lay solid learning foundations and achieve good outcomes. These elements are: clear learning outcomes that guide planning, principles that reflect theory and guide practice, and pedagogical practices that promote learning. There are five learning outcomes listed in the EYLF, and all relate to children developing in their ability to participate in their daily lives, including that ‘children are connected with and contribute to their world’, ‘children are confident and involved learners’ and ‘children are effective communicators’. It is clear, therefore, that the EYLF recognises participation in daily activities and growth in relationships as being key areas of development in the early years, and also foundational contexts for learning. That is, children build and extend their skills through having opportunities to practise those skills in activities and in interactions with others. In a similar way, the ICF recognises the importance of participation and relationships in contributing to children’s experiences of health and wellbeing; hence, the ‘Activities’ and ‘Participation’ components of the ICF framework, which list the range of activities in which children might need or want to take part. However, the ICF also recognises that if children have impaired Body Structures and Functions (such as mental functions, sensory functions, and voice and speech functions) they will require support to ensure impairments to those structures and functions do not restrict their ability to participate. Consequently, the ICF encourages consideration of Environmental Factors: physical, social, attitudinal and political modifications to ensure children can participate fully in daily activities and interactions. Furthermore, it encourages consideration of a child’s Personal Factors (their unique characteristics and life experiences that contribute to who they are) when determining how best to support them. The EYLF provides guidance to educators about how they might create a positive and supportive environment for learning that facilitates involvement, builds community and supports growth. The practices listed within the EYLF are based on the recognition that ‘[e]ducators’ practices and the relationships they form with children and families have a significant effect on children’s involvement and success in learning’ (DEEWR, 2009, p. 10). The practices are based on core principles including respectful and reciprocal relationships, partnerships and reflection, and include the use of holistic approaches and responsiveness to the needs of individual children. The EYLF and the ICF recognise that the support and relationships of significant others (including families and early years educators) are contextual factors that can facilitate health and wellbeing, or act as barriers. Thus, both are frameworks that can guide and inform the work of educators in supporting the learning, development, health and wellbeing of children in the early years.

APPLICATION OF THE ICF The ICF has been designed to guide research and professional practice, as well as education, policy design and implementation. In the following sections, the application

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of the ICF in the field of childhood communication impairment is discussed to illustrate how such a framework might affect the education and care of children.

APPLYING THE ICF IN PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: A CASE STUDY It is often the case that children with additional speech, language and communication needs are first identified with concerns when they commence their early childhood education. Earlier in this chapter, you were introduced to Ben, a four-year-old boy with speech and language difficulties living with his family in rural Australia. Throughout the chapter you have been asked to reflect on how the ICF might help us to learn more about Ben’s health experiences. In this section, we are going to review Ben’s health experiences and consider how the ICF can ensure appropriate support is provided to him and his family. The Body Functions and Structures component can be used to guide us to think about the potential causal factors contributing to Ben’s communication difficulties, such as the recurrent period of hearing loss (an impairment of the function of hearing) associated with the ear infections. Consequently, we might suggest the family contact their local doctor or audiologist to investigate the child’s current hearing status. We might also take note of the particular speech and language difficulties Ben is experiencing, such as sound errors, limited vocabulary or grammatical errors. Again, we might suggest a referral to a specialist health professional in a related discipline, such as a speech pathologist who specialises in identifying and managing such difficulties. The Activities and Participation component might guide us to examine the activities that Ben particularly enjoys (e.g. playing with friends and show-and-tell) and his communication needs associated with those activities (e.g. requesting help, answering questions, explaining activities and storytelling). We might think about the kinds of words that he needs to be able to say and the ways in which we can model those, and we might think of other cues we could use to support Ben’s communication attempts. For instance, we might suggest to the family that they provide us with a photo diary for show-and-tell, so we have contextual information to aid our understanding of Ben’s recounting. The Environmental Factors component might guide us to think about ways we can modify the physical environment to improve the likelihood of successful interactions. For instance, we might ensure Ben is seated near the front of the room so he might better hear the modelling of sounds or words, and we might use rugs and soft furnishings to lessen reverberation and background noise. We might also modify the social environment through our attitudes, support and relationships. For instance, we might examine our response to communication breakdowns and identify ways in which to reduce them; for example, by encouraging Ben to use additional communication modalities to support speech (e.g. demonstrating or showing), through modelling a slower speech rate, and through repeating and clarifying his message. Finally, the Personal Factors component might guide us to remember Ben’s interests and strengths, so that we utilise these in addressing any challenges he might experience.



PART 1  Context

CASE STUDY 2.2  MEET LUCY Lucy (seven years old) is a quiet girl who recently transferred into Year 2 at a large metropolitan primary school, when her family moved to Australia from Hong Kong. She is conscientious with her school work and appears to enjoy reading and art. Lucy’s teacher has noticed the girl sitting by herself during recess and lunch breaks, watching the other children playing. Her parents have requested a meeting to talk with the teacher, as she’s been returning home upset that she has ‘no friends’. How might Lucy’s teacher understand this child’s needs and support her health and wellbeing? Use the ICF and EYLF to comprehensively and holistically consider Lucy’s needs and identify ways to support her.

APPLYING THE ICF IN RESEARCH The ICF also provides a useful framework to guide research. For instance, it may be used to guide prevalence studies through providing consistent definitions of the impairments being investigated, or it may enable a clearer understanding of the effects of health conditions, and intervention strategies, by providing comprehensive lists of activities that can be included as outcome measures. To date, the ICF has been used in the field of communication to examine both prevalence and effects of childhood speech and language impairment (McLeod & Threats, 2008). Research framed around the ICF has indicated there is a high prevalence of speech and language impairment in children, and that Personal and Environmental Factors can act as factors that increase (risk) or decrease (protective) the likelihood of a child experiencing these difficulties (Harrison & McLeod, 2010). For example, the risk of having a speech and language impairment increases if you are male and have hearing problems. Additionally, childhood speech and language impairments can affect educational, social, behavioural and occupational outcomes throughout life (McCormack et al., 2009; McCormack et al., 2011). That is, children’s Activities and Participation (e.g. academic achievement in literacy and mathematics, social relationships and behaviour) may be limited by their communication (Body Function) impairment (McLeod, Harrison & Wang, 2019). Furthermore, research has indicated that many Australian children do not have sufficient access to targeted services (including speech pathology) to ameliorate the effects of their communication disability (McAllister et al., 2011). That is, Environmental Factors are affecting their ability to access much-needed support. Consequently, formulation of national strategies to support children’s communication is required (McLeod et al., 2014).

CONCLUSION The ICF is a framework that enables us to consider health and health conditions in a holistic way. Within the ICF, an impairment is considered the result of a problem with a Body Structure or Function. The effects of impairment can be seen by examining the

CHAPTER 2  Classifying health and wellbeing

ways in which an individual’s ability to perform Activities has been limited, or their Participation has been restricted. The degree of disability experienced by an individual is dependent on the Environmental and Personal Factors surrounding the individual and the degree to which they act as barriers or facilitators to health. For all health conditions, it is the interrelationship that exists between biology and context that determines whether an impairment or disability exists. All health conditions may be considered disabilities when there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the effects of the condition and a lack of resources or supports to facilitate children’s health and development. That is, society’s beliefs about health and wellbeing, and responses to identified health needs, can act as significant facilitators or barriers to children’s perceptions and experiences of health. For management of impairments to be functional and effective, and for experiences of disability to be minimised and the best outcomes achieved and maintained, a holistic approach is required which addresses both biological and contextual factors (Howe, 2008).

QUESTIONS 2.1 Consider a child you know who experiences an impairment of a Body Structure or Body Function (e.g. difficulty seeing, being diabetic). How does this affect their Activities and Participation? 2.2 Now, think about the Environmental Factors that are in place to enhance the child’s ability to participate in regular classroom and extra-curricular activities. 2.3 Attitudes are included in the Environmental Factors section of the ICF. What are your attitudes towards children with hearing loss, children who are blind, children who have speech and language impairments, and children who have a physical disability? Are there strategies that you can employ to promote positive attitudes towards all children within the playground, classroom and community? 2.4 The WHO has identified other applications of the ICF, which include education, policy design and implementation. How do you think the ICF could be used for these purposes?

REFERENCES Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being, and Becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR. Harrison, L.J. & McLeod, S. (2010). Risk and protective factors associated with speech and language impairment in a nationally representative sample of 4- to 5-year-old children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53(2), 508–29. Howe, T.J. (2008). The ICF contextual factors related to speech-language pathology. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 10(1–2), 27–37.



PART 1  Context

Lidz, C.S. (1987). Dynamic Assessment: An interactional approach to evaluating learning potential. New York: Guilford Press. McAllister, L., McCormack, J., McLeod, S. & Harrison, L.J. (2011). Expectations and experiences of accessing and engaging in services for speech impairment. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 13(3), 251–67. McCormack, J., Harrison, L.J., McLeod, S. & McAllister, L. (2011). A nationally representative study of the association between communication impairment at 4–5 years and children’s life activities at 7–9 years. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 54(5), 1328–48. McCormack, J., McLeod, S., Harrison, L.J. & McAllister, L. (2010). The impact of speech impairment in early childhood: Investigating parents’ and speech-language pathologists’ perspectives using the ICF-CY. Journal of Communication Disorders, 43(5), 378–96. McCormack, J., McLeod, S., McAllister, L. & Harrison, L.J. (2009). A systematic review of the association between childhood speech impairment and participation across the lifespan. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 11(2), 155–70. McLeod, S., Harrison, L.J. & Wang, C. (2019). A longitudinal population study of literacy and numeracy outcomes for children identified with communication impairment in early childhood. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 47, 507–17. McLeod, S., McAllister, L., McCormack, J. & Harrison, L.J. (2014). Applying the World Report on Disability to children’s communication. Disability and Rehabilitation, 36(18), 1518–28. McLeod, S. & Threats, T.T. (2008). The ICF-CY and children with communication disabilities. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 10(1), 92–109. Threats, T. (2007). Access for persons with neurogenic communication disorders: Influences of Personal and Environmental Factors of the ICF. Aphasiology, 21(1), 67–80. World Health Organization (WHO) (2007). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health – Child and youth version (ICF-CY). Geneva: WHO. ——— (2001). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Geneva: WHO.




Margaret Sims

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • • • •

Discuss the ways in which social disadvantage is a wicked problem. Explore the effects of social inequality on parenting. Discuss cumulative and latent effects of disadvantage on children. Discuss the role of integrated early childhood services in addressing social inequality.


PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

INTRODUCTION Rising inequality pulls the rungs of the socioeconomic ladder further apart, reducing intergenerational mobility by making it harder for poor children to avoid becoming poor adults (Cobb-Clark et al., 2017, p. 1) … the playing field is not level for all children. Disparities in young people’s outcomes are not simply the result of their – or their parents’ – differential efforts; unequal opportunities also play a critical role (p. ii).

Despite having universal access to health care and education, Australians in the lowest socio-economic groups are around 2.5 times less likely to afford to go to a doctor or a dentist than those in the highest socio-economic groups (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 2018a). Life expectancy for an Aboriginal child born today is 10.6 years shorter for boys and 9.5 years shorter for girls than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Indigenous children are 2.9 times more likely to experience long-term ear and/or hearing problems than non-Indigenous children, and 2.1 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday (AIHW, 2018a). Such differences in health and wellbeing outcomes are now described as ‘wicked problems’ because they are extremely complex and very difficult to address (Wilhelm & Allen, 2019). The United Nations has recognised this and created a special unit to take the lead in addressing the factors contributing to this wicked problem (WHO, n.d.). This chapter examines this ‘wicked problem’, with the aim of supporting early childhood educators to reflect on the role they can play in addressing these issues. The chapter begins by looking at social inequality, particularly in relation to health and wellbeing. Despite huge improvements in the available resources – think for a moment about the early childhood experiences of your grandparents or parents, who may have grown up before antibiotics were available – internationally we are seeing significant declines in population health and wellbeing, and increasingly larger gaps between the rich and the poor in countries all around the world. The chapter explores how governments are attempting to address social inequality. While early childhood educators are rarely involved at the level of policy, and although it is very important that we advocate at this level, it is necessary to understand the policy context as this influences how we work with young children. The chapter concludes with practical suggestions for how early childhood educators can contribute to addressing the problem of social inequality.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 3.1 Wicked problems What are wicked problems? Study Figure 3.1 and explore these at the Wicked Problems website (Kolko, 2012). Read through the material and watch the video.

CHAPTER 3  Social determinants of health and wellbeing

We need to take responsibility for what we do

Impossible to define clearly

Everything interacts with everything else There are no right answers and no clear endpoint

Every issue is unique WICKED PROBLEMS

The past does not help choose what we do

Change anywhere impacts on many other areas

No one can be sure of anything

Everything is interconnected

There are many possibilities

Figure 3.1 Wicked problems Source: Adapted from Moore (2011).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 3.2 Thinking about social determinants Think about the community in which you live. • Are there some families who appear to be financially better off than other families? What information about them did you use to make this judgement? • Are there services these families have access to that other families do not? • Do their children attend different schools or early childhood services? • Do they do different afterschool activities? Think about the various sporting clubs, for example. Are all families able to pay the costs of their children’s sporting activities? • What differences do you see in the houses – sizes, outdoor play spaces, heating and cooling, safety?




PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

• What differences do you see in the different neighbourhoods? What local shops are there? What infrastructure can you identify? What parks are available and what is in these parks? Are they safe places for children to play – with or without adult supervision? • Remember when you were a child – what differences did you observe in other children’s lunchboxes? What did the more privileged children have in their lunchboxes, compared to the less-privileged children?

SOCIAL INEQUALITY Living conditions have improved across the developed world, and these better living conditions are associated with better outcomes. We have an increased life expectancy compared to a century ago, and better health and improved wellbeing. Yet, despite these overall better outcomes, within each society we continue to see some people living in poorer conditions than others. These poorer conditions (usually associated Social disadvantage: there with lower socio-economic status or social disadvantage) include is no absolute definition of poorly resourced neighbourhoods; low family incomes, which lead disadvantage; rather it is to poorly resourced homes; poor parental education levels; increased considered relative to advantage. Social disadvantage usually risks of unemployment or low-paid, stressful employment; and includes some or all of the insecure housing. These conditions are associated with lower levels following: poor health, limited education, unemployment, of social support, increased levels of risky behaviours (including financial hardship, experiencing substance abuse and criminal behaviours) and higher levels of violence, being the victim of unhappiness. This, in turn, leads to greater exposure to stress and crime, insecure housing, poor nutrition and/or having limited or negative life events that require the use of additional physical and no social support. emotional resources as coping strategies. Because people living in these conditions have fewer physical and emotional resources available to them, they quickly exhaust their resources and are therefore less likely to manage subsequent stressors effectively, resulting in a downward spiral of increasing inability to cope. Income inequity is one of the key measures of the gap between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not’, and is thus an indicator of family stress. It is recognised by the World Economic Forum as a top international economic risk. Rising inequality across the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has resulted in an estimated 5 per cent reduction in economic growth in the 20 years up to 2010 (Australian Council of Social Services & University of New South Wales, 2018). Worldwide, the nine richest people have more wealth between them than the poorest 4 billion people (Jacobs, 2018). Income disparities in Australia are growing. The fortnightly disposable income of an Australian in the top 1 per cent income bracket is more than that received by someone in the lowest 5 per cent income bracket over a whole year. In 2017, those on the lowest pay in Australia did not receive sufficient pay increases to keep up with inflation, while the top Australian managers, on average, had a 12 per cent pay increase (Rhodes & Fleming, 2018). In 2016, managers in Australia earned on average $2298 a week, whereas sales assistants earned $652 (AIHW, 2018a). As of 2018, there were 43 billionaires in Australia, having a combined net worth of $117.9 billion (Kroll & Dolan, 2019).

CHAPTER 3  Social determinants of health and wellbeing

SPOTLIGHT 3.1 Poverty in Australia Foodbank Australia (2018) reports that in the past year more than 4 million Australians have run out of food, not having enough money to get any more. In 2017, the ­percentage of Australians who experienced food insecurity increased from 46% to 51%, and ­charities were not able to provide sufficient food to feed all those who sought help.

Humanitarian migrants are much more likely to be living on a low income, with an average family income of $22 920 in 2010 to 2011 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015). Asylum seekers have no rights to employment or study and have limited access to welfare, making them some of the most disadvantaged groups in Australia (van Kooy, 2018). Read the following story about Bidi Bidi refugee camp.


Humanitarian migrant: a person who has been granted a visa to live in Australia on the basis of having experienced substantial discrimination, amounting to gross violation of human rights, in their home country. Humanitarian migrants may be granted this visa while outside of Australia, or the visas may be granted to those who have arrived in Australia claiming protection. Immediate family members can also be granted visas on the basis of the Humanitarian migrant status of one member.

Fiza is 18 and has just arrived in Australia with her 4-year-old daughter, Atifa, as humanitarian refugees. Fiza was born in the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda. All her life she has survived on one meal a day, consisting of posho (a thick porridge made from dried maize) and beans. When Fiza was a child, food provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (­UNHCR) was handed out by local militia, who often required sex as payment. Doing anything outside her tent was dangerous, and even collecting firewood for cooking e ­ xposed her to a high risk of rape. Atifa was born from one such rape. To keep Atifa safe, Fiza carried her in a sling everywhere, even when in her tent, as she was always frightened she would need to run at a moment’s notice. In more recent years, a school was opened at Bidi Bidi. Fiza attended occasionally in her middle childhood but she lived some distance from the school and felt unsafe walking there and back; she also felt embarrassed because she could not read when younger children than her were learning to do so. Now, the family is living in Australia, Fiza is attending English language classes and Atifa is in state-funded child care for the duration of these lessons. Atifa is still being breastfed and the only solid food she has ever tasted is posho and beans. Both Fiza and Atifa are malnourished and in poor health. For more information on this topic see Akumu (2018). List the parenting skills and strengths you think Fiza has demonstrated in getting to Australia alive with her daughter. Do you think you have these skills and strengths?



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

As nations become richer, inequities in health and wellbeing grow larger. This ‘gap’ between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not’ is called a social gradient. Social gradients result in ­inequities that are reflected as disparities in a range of life outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living on their traditional homelands are less likely to complete schooling to Year 12, less likely to be employed and more likely to be living on a low income than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Despite this, those living on traditional homelands are more likely to report stronger self-esteem, pride and feelings of positive wellbeing than those who do not (Australian Government, 2017). Social inequality has an effect on self-image and self-esteem and, through these, lifelong wellbeing, not just of individuals but of society as a whole (Steckermeier & Delhey, 2018). Being lower in the social hierarchy implies that one is less worthy of value and esteem. Considerable research demonstrates that feelings of inferiority, lack of control over one’s destiny and powerlessness (both in the workplace and in life generally) have a significant negative effect on both health and wellbeing (Macintyre et al., 2018). For example, Wilkinson (2011) refers to a World Bank study, which found that children from high and low castes in India asked to complete puzzles did equally well until they were made aware of their caste differences. Once this had occurred, the performance of children from the lower castes deteriorated. There is strong evidence that citizens in countries where there is little difference between those who are rich and those who are poor (a small social gradient) have better community lives, higher levels of trust, lower levels of violence, longer life expectancies, better rates of educational attainment, and better health and happiness (Steckermeier & Delhey, 2018). It is not simply that countries with a high social gradient have more poor people who directly contribute to poorer national outcomes. Rather, in these countries, even people in the middle classes living on good incomes have poorer outcomes: they have poorer health and wellbeing than middle-class people in more egalitarian societies. Social gradients are therefore not about absolute levels of wealth or poverty, but rather about relative levels.

Social gradient: a difference in outcomes observed across different levels of social and economic advantage or disadvantage. Better outcomes are universally observed in those who are more advantaged. Inequity in outcomes such as health (at the individual and group/population levels) are related to the social position of individuals, families or groups.

CAUSES OF SOCIAL INEQUALITY Social determinants: the overall social, physical and economic environments into which people are born, grow and live out their lives. Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological theory (2005) identifies these as all the factors in each level of the ecosystem that affect children, their families, communities and societies.

In order to address the social determinants of health, it is necessary to understand the contributing factors. One line of thought argues that differences in people’s behaviour are the root cause. People in disadvantaged groups are more likely to engage in behaviours that compromise their health – for example, smoking, drug/alcohol use and criminal behaviours tend to be higher in families with members who are stressed and/or living in poverty. Violence is also more common in such families and communities, so children learn that

CHAPTER 3  Social determinants of health and wellbeing


it is a normal way to manage challenges. In addition, adults are less likely to engage in healthy exercise, so members tend to become overweight – with all the attendant health risks. Other explanations centre on the ability of people to acquire r­esources. People living in poverty generally have a much poorer diet than those with adequate income. Healthy foods – such as fruit and vegetables – are more expensive, and those on a low income are less able to afford them. Foods with high fat content are more filling at a lower cost than healthy foods. Epigenetic research suggests Epigenetics: the study of changes in organisms that arise that when food supply is irregular the body adapts by ensuring that from modifications to the way maximum advantage is taken of the food that is ingested, increasing genes are expressed. These are not changes to the genes or the risk of obesity at times when the food supply is more plentiful. DNA themselves. An example of People on lower incomes are less able to afford comfortable epigenetics is DNA methylation – housing and safe, well-­ resourced neighbourhoods. Therefore, a process whereby something like a chemical ‘cap’ fits over part homes may be overcrowded, with little space for children to comof the DNA, affecting the way plete school homework. Clothing and bedding are more likely to be the DNA is expressed. This ‘cap’ consists of chemicals that might inadequate, causing the body to use excess energy to keep warm, be triggered by experiences such thus having fewer resources available to fight illness. as chronic stress, or, alternatively, Neighbourhoods are likely to be risky in terms of safety, so chilnurturing care. dren are either kept inside where it is safe, or they play in areas where they are exposed to bullying, violence and crime. Families who perceive their neighbourhood as dangerous are less likely to participate in neighbourhood events, thus further limiting their social contact and opportunities for social support. Neighbourhood playgrounds either do not exist or are dangerous – for example, with syringes buried in sandpits, and play equipment defaced with graffiti or vandalised. Education is often of a poor quality and few children are enrolled in early childhood programs, which affects their educational outcomes. For example, the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC, n.d.) identifies that Indigenous children are more than twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable compared to non-Indigenous children, and children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable.

SPOTLIGHT 3.2 Disadvantage over the life-course A life-course perspective suggests that disadvantage accumulates. Lack of access to resources in early childhood results in poor health and wellbeing, which in turn can affect children’s ability to manage schooling, which ultimately affects their educational attainment, employment prospects and potential for income generation in adulthood. Lower education levels are linked to insecure employment, low wages and poor working conditions, which affect the physical and emotional resources available to support family members; this means that children are also exposed to the risk factors that limited their parents’ life outcomes.


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The life-course perspective positions disadvantage in the parental generation as transferring to the children’s generation, and research suggests that it is also likely to transfer to the next generation – the children’s children. We know that children born into families with reduced access to life resources (such as income and education) are less likely to be able to overcome this disadvantage than those who do, and thus are strongly influenced by their parents’ socio-economic position (Kim et al., 2018). Families whose lack of resources require them to live in poor housing demonstrate poor health and wellbeing. The lives of these at-risk families are often complicated by additional problems associated with high stress: family violence, unsafe neighbourhoods, a lack of housing stability, which are all associated with poor health and wellbeing. In addition, for those who are part of an ethnic minority group, constant exposure to racism is stressful and has a significant and negative effect on mental health, physical health and wellbeing (Romero, Piña-watson & Toomey, 2018).

CASE STUDY 3.2 JASE Jase is 4 years old and lives with his mother, father, younger sister and older brother in one of the nicer houses in the suburb. His dad works as a lawyer and his mum stays at home with the children. Jase’s mum has enrolled him in your early childhood service to give him opportunities to play with other children – he attends 2 days a week. Watch the following video and imagine Jase is the young Jacob. Avert Family Violence: Testimonial – Jacob. videos/testimonial-3/ Think about Jacob’s story as told in the video: • What do you see as the parenting strengths demonstrated by the mother in this story? • In what ways do you imagine these experiences might affect Jase’s behaviour in your early childhood service? • How might this behaviour be different from the behaviour of Atifa, the child in Case study 3.1?

ADDRESSING SOCIAL INEQUALITY Addressing social determinants is important for a range of reasons. Economic arguments abound. For example, The Equality Trust (2014) estimates that inequality lost the UK’s economy annually £12.5 billion because of reduced healthy life expectancy, £25 billion because of poor mental health, £1 billion because of increased imprisonment rates and £678 million because of increased numbers of homicides. In Australia, the authors of a review argue that we could save $2.3 billion annually on hospital costs alone if social determinants were to be addressed. Further, 170 000 additional people would be healthy enough to work, generating $8 billion in earnings and a $4 billion annual saving in welfare payments (Brown, Thurecht & Nepal, 2012). The cost of poverty could amount to

CHAPTER 3  Social determinants of health and wellbeing


5.5–6.6 per cent of gross domestic productivity (Hancock, 2018). The alternative argument suggests that the driving force for change should not be economics, but rather a vision of a more just society – one in which every individual has a fair opportunity to participate (Desapriya & Khoshpouri, 2018). Arguments based on morality (what is right rather than what is expedient) have little purchase in contemporary politics, so the interventions that are available tend to focus on pragmatic, economic rationalisation. There is considerable debate on how best to address the social determinants of health. A focus on working towards equality of outcomes has led to policies that aim to redistribute resources – for example, creating minimum income levels through welfare payments and providing universal access to health care and education. Welfare payments are targeted specifically at those people who are disadvantaged, and there is an expectation that those with resources will support themselves. The assumption is that if all people have equal access to resources (through their own efforts or through targeted state intervention), inequity in outcomes will no longer exist. However, universal access to services does not ensure universal participation or equal outcomes. We know, for example, that Australia continues to have significant inequity in health and wellbeing, despite its claim of universality: a country where all people have access to basic welfare and health services. We also know that equal access to education does not ensure equal academic outcomes. Targeting resources to those who are most disadvantaged will not address social gradients (Marmot, 2010). This is partly because inequality is a wicked problem: simply addressing income disadvantage, for example, does not mitigate the effects of the lack of intellectual stimulation provided in homes in which parents have low education, nor does it account for the lack of community facilities in a low-income neighbourhood. In addition, something rather like a ‘catch 22’ operates: if the health of those who are most disadvantaged is targeted and therefore improved, then those who were just above them in status will become the new disadvantaged and, because their health Sustainable Development issues were not targeted, they will become less healthy. Thus, in Goals: targets set by the United recent years an inter-sectoral approach has been developed, called Nations; ‘a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the Health in all Policies, which links the achievement of the Sustainplanet and ensure that all people able D ­ evelopment Goals (SDGs) to a­ddressing inequities in health enjoy peace and prosperity’ (United Nations Development and wellbeing (World Health Organization (WHO), 2018). The aim Programme, 2015). Governments, is for each nation to develop a whole-of government and whole-of organisations, private and public society vision for good health, then engage the political leadership sectors and citizens are expected to work together within each and supports necessary to achieve that vision. nation, and across nations, to There is an assumption that social inequity will be addressed achieve these goals. if there is a focus on developing a socially inclusive society. S ­ ocial Social inclusion: defined by ­inclusion occurs when people are not marginalised and when the World Bank as ‘the process there is no inequity. The complexities of defining social inclusion of improving the terms on which individuals and groups take part are illustrated in Figure 3.2. In Australia, two major initiatives have in society – improving the ability, attempted to address social inclusion. The first is the Australian ­ opportunity, and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of Closing the Gap agenda, which operates from the Department of their identity’ (World Bank, n.d.). the Prime Minister and Cabinet (National Indigenous Australians


PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

Agency, 2008) and focuses specifically on Indigenous disadvantage across a range of outcomes, including health and wellbeing. In the most recent evaluation, three of the seven targets are identified as being on track to be met for the first time since 2011. Mortality rates for Indigenous children are expected to be halved from the 2011 base, and the gap is narrowing between school attendance rates and reading and numeracy levels for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Unfortunately, the aim of having 95 per cent of Indigenous 4-year-old children attending some form of early childhood education is not one of the targets on track, and this aim has been extended to 2025 (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2018).

Choice Opportunity

The ability to participate, to: Learn Work Engage Have a voice




Individual resources Health Life goals/aspirations Personal/lifeskills Educational qualifications Income/financial sources Social network Individual motivations & responsibility

Family resources Housing Home environment Family health Parental employment Family background

Community resources Infrastructure Transport Services Economic activity Environment/safety Culture/norms Community identification Social cohesion Communal problem solving

Figure 3.2 Social inclusion as conceptualised by the Australian Social Inclusion Board Source: Australian Social Inclusion Board (2012, p. 13).

CHAPTER 3  Social determinants of health and wellbeing

The second initiative operates out of the federal Department of Social Services. Communities for Children Facilitating Partners, a program in some ways similar to Closing the Gap, focuses on families who are disadvantaged or live in disadvantaged areas, and aims to improve family functioning, and child safety, wellbeing and development (Department of Social Services, 2018). This model uses a facilitating partner whose role involves w ­ orking with other local agencies to deliver services in partnership. The aim is to create child-friendly communities which will, in turn, deliver positive outcomes for children and families. Services offered as part of the program need to be responsive to community needs and are therefore quite different across different communities. The national evaluation indicates the program has seen reduced numbers of children living in households where there was no employment, reduced reports of hostile or harsh parenting behaviours and improved parental self-efficacy (Muir et al., 2009). In 2014, the Australian Government introduced a range of reforms to the program (Acil Allen Consulting, 2016), which continues to be supported as an effective model for addressing disadvantage (Mission Australia, 2018). An offshoot of the Communities for Children Facilitating Partners program is the Stronger Communities for Children program, which operates in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory (Winangali Ipsos Consortium, 2017). This program empowers local Indigenous organisations and groups to develop services that best support their communities.

SOCIAL INEQUALITY AND STRESS Children growing up in ‘risky’ households are likely to experience a range of chronic stressors. Their families have limited physical and emotional resources to use in parenting, so they are likely to lack opportunities to develop resilience. Parents under stress are likely to develop punitive, inconsistent and irritable parenting styles. Parents themselves are likely to experience high levels of relationship conflict, and there is increased risk for child abuse or neglect. These all have a major negative effects on children’s health and wellbeing. The early years of life are therefore critical when it comes to setting the foundations for lifelong outcomes in health and wellbeing. Epigenetic research is now providing us with some understanding of how the social world in which children participate affects their biology and neurology, and thus shapes these lifelong outcomes (de Neubourg et al., 2018; Kim et al., 2018). Some of these are latent processes – that is, exposure to certain environmental factors in the early years only becomes evident many years later. For example, birth weight, the size of the placenta and the amount of weight gain over the first year of life influence the risk of cardiovascular disease between 50 and 60 years of age, no matter what other factors operate in the intervening years. Other processes are cumulative – for example, the effects of low parental socio-economic status is greater if children experience this throughout their childhood than if they experience it for a short time only. Other effects present as a pathway, where one factor influences another, which then influences another. For example, children from disadvantaged backgrounds



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are less likely to be prepared for school, which affects their ability to succeed at school, which then affects their employment options in adulthood, which ultimately influences their adult health and wellbeing, and the health and wellbeing of their children (and potentially their children’s children). The pathway model, in particular, is useful in conceptualising chronic disease in later life (Lee et al., 2018). Exposure to stresses throughout childhood and early adulthood (such as growing up in a disadvantaged family and community) results in ‘wear and tear’ on many of the body’s physiological systems. In particular, when the body’s stress mechanisms (the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal [HPA] axis) are triggered many times, and for long periods of time compensatory changes occur in secondary metabolic systems in order to maintain homeostasis. Over time, these changes develop into a multi-­ systemic disease state called allostatic load. Think of it as an elastic band that is stretched to capacity for so long that it is no longer able to snap back – the accumulated load has fundamentally changed the elastic. In a similar manner, if a person’s physiology is ‘stretched’ almost to breaking point for long enough, it can be fundamentally changed so that it cannot go back to the way it was supposed to be. This state of high allostatic load means the body is at significant risk of developing a range of illnesses of the metabolic and cardiovascular systems. In children, we see this in a range of outwardly observable behaviours. Children can become hyperactive, impulsive and irritable. They may display significant levels of externalising behaviour problems, become depressed and struggle with memory problems. Conversely, we may see children adapt in the opposite manner: displaying high levels of internalising behaviours, underactivity and passivity. They are likely to be at risk of developing a range of health problems, including diabetes, malnutrition, immune disorders, fibromyalgia, allergies, asthma and cardiovascular disease.

SOCIAL DETERMINANTS AND THE ROLE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS Children begin to accumulate allostatic load while in utero. Maternal nutrition and stress affect the developing foetus. For example, the typical diet of pregnant women in some developed nations increases the risk of their children being obese throughout their lives (Farpour-Lambert et al., 2018). Poverty and malnutrition during pregnancy result in increased risk of low birth weight and infant mortality. Having adequate amounts of particular kinds of fatty acids (N-6 and N-3) in utero is essential for neurological development, and consumption of the fatty acids normally found in fish (DHA and EPA) is particularly important for cognitive development (Ludwig et al., 2018). Early childhood educators play an important role in supporting parents through pregnancy. They are an important source of information about health and wellbeing, but they also need to consider the support they can offer (either themselves or through brokering relationships between families and other community members and/or agencies), both to reduce parental stress levels throughout the pregnancy and support parental health and wellbeing.

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Allostatic load accumulates through childhood. Families who are living in poor neighbourhoods, with minimal access to resources, poor housing, low income and poor health care, create a child-rearing environment that chronically stresses children’s developing HPA systems. Such families are usually characterised by limited availability of support for parents, low parental education, high parental-stress levels, poor parental mental health and wellbeing, poor nutrition and limited opportunities for children to engage in rich learning opportunities. Parenting is often more punitive and less responsive to children’s needs. In these contexts, children develop physiological coping mechanisms that enable them to function as best they can. For example, infants whose parents respond inconsistently to their attempts to communicate learn to cry more loudly and for longer, in their attempts to elicit parental responses. These infants often display extreme signs of arousal; it is as though the infant believes that normal distress is not going to succeed in gaining comfort, so displays of affect have to become more and more extreme in order to elicit attention. In an early childhood environment, such behaviours are often perceived as problematic, whereas in the home environment they are actually adaptive. Early childhood educators need to ensure they not only reflect on children’s behaviour in the early learning context, but also across the totality of children’s lives. Strategies that focus on punishing the child for prolonged crying or reducing the crying with techniques such as ignoring them, serve to reduce the child’s ability to cope with the home environment and, in the long term, reduce resilience and increase the risk of poor long-term health and wellbeing. Families (and early childhood settings) exist in the context of communities, and communities themselves can function to increase or decrease allostatic load. Parenting is more likely to be effective in neighbourhoods in which parents feel they know their neighbours and they feel safe. Perceptions of neighbourhood safety influence residents’ ability to be physically active, and parents’ willingness to permit their children to play in outdoor areas. Where there are more easily accessible shops that sell healthy food, residents’ diets are likely to be healthy; poor access to supermarkets is associated with higher levels of obesity. High levels of transport noise and feelings of neighbourhood chaos are associated with higher levels of depression and mental health problems. Early childhood educators need to consider the wider community in which Protective factors: factors that ameliorate the effects of the risks families live. A range of ­protective factors support family functionchildren and families face in their ing, and early childhood educators can be involved in supporting, daily lives. Protective factors help children and families cope with mentoring, coaching and engaging with families and communities to the stresses in their lives. create better child-rearing environments through a focus on: • supporting parents to build effective friendships and social supports • facilitating an increase in parental knowledge and skills of parenting and daily living (remembering that different families will have different dreams for their children and different approaches in working towards those dreams, so there is never only one right way to parent) • brokering parental access to relevant services and community groups


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• liaising with other services in the area to create an integrated approach to service delivery, to make access easier for families • advocating for community resources for families – for example, a local library, play spaces, family friendly shops and so forth • increasing the understanding of community members, business owners and community organisations about the importance of early childhood. Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) model of bio-ecological development emphasises the importance of considering early years learners in the context of their biology and microsystems as well as in the context of broader systems (exosystems, mesosystems and macrosystems). Early childhood educators working to address social determinants of health also need to consider these various levels of the system. Social determinants are ‘wicked problems’, as discussed above, and tackling them requires sophisticated, complex approaches that are driven by a commitment to social justice and equity.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 3.3 Addressing disadvantage Think of the two case study families. What are the stressors affecting on each member of the family? What might be the long-term outcomes of experiencing these stressors? What kinds of supports would be useful in supporting each member of these families? Remember that disadvantage is caused through a multiplicity of factors, so that addressing disadvantage (a wicked problem) is going to need a range of opportunities (wicked solutions). Might any of the following be useful? Explain your answer. • • • • • • • • • • • • •

facilitated playgroup parent education a safe place to go to temporarily remove oneself from a risky situation at home linking parents with other parents in the neighbourhood organising car pools for shopping, outings etc. organising to share food shopping (the benefits of buying in bulk) organising a babysitting club advocating with the council to improve facilities and safety at the local park cooking club homework club buddy programs preparing for employment coaching/programs budgeting programs.

What other types of supports can you think of that could be used to ‘wrap-around’ each of the case study families, to ameliorate disadvantage and promote social inclusion?

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CONCLUSION Inequities in children’s health and wellbeing represent a ‘wicked problem’ that is the focus of much international attention. These inequities are a ‘wicked problem’ because of the complexity of underlying causes and contributing factors identified in this chapter as the social determinants of health. Social determinants arise not only out of individual neurobiological or physiological differences, but also from the world around children that affects them directly as well as affecting their parents (and even their grandparents). Attempts to address these issues to create a more socially just society need to be complex and sophisticated. Early childhood educators play a significant role in contributing to these initiatives.

QUESTIONS 3.1 Think about a family with whom you work. Identify the factors in the child that contribute to health and wellbeing. Identify family factors. What could early childhood educators do to facilitate better health and wellbeing outcomes for this child and family? 3.2 Think about the community in which this family lives. Is this a family friendly community – one in which it is relatively easy to be a parent? What are the factors that contribute towards its family friendly (or family unfriendly) nature? What could early childhood educators do to make this community a place in which children would have better health and wellbeing outcomes? 3.3 Identify your local members of parliament (state/territory and federal). To which political parties do they belong? What are their policies on early childhood health and wellbeing? Do they support the idea that individuals are responsible for their own health and wellbeing, or do they see the state as having a role in addressing systemic disadvantage? Do they support universal or targeted services to address health and wellbeing inequities? Write a two-paragraph statement explaining why you think these politicians should consider the social determinants of health in their thinking and their policies. 3.4 Explore the AEDC website ( See if you can find the results for your communities (the community in which you live and the community in which you work.)

REFERENCES Acil Allen Consulting (2016). Part I: Communities for Children Facilitating Partners Program. Post implementation review. Report to Department of Social Services. Canberra: Acil Allen Consulting. Retrieved from documents/09_2017/ccfp-pir.pdf Akumu, P. (2018). Inside the world’s largest refugee camp. ‘We just want to go home’. The Guardian, 20 May. Retrieved from may/19/inside-world-largest-refugee-camp-uganda-south-sudan-civil-war



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Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015). 3418.0 - Personal Income of Migrants, Australia, Experimental, 2010–11. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Australian Council of Social Services & University of New South Wales (2018). Inequality in Australia 2018. Sydney: Australian Council of Social Services and University of New South Wales. Australian Early Development Census (n.d.). Findings from the AEDC. Retrieved from Australian Government (2017). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework. 2017 Report. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2018a). Australia’s Health 2018. Canberra: Australian Government. ——— (2018b). Deaths in Australia. Web report, 18 July. Retrieved from https://www.aihw Australian Social Inclusion Board (2012). Social Inclusion in Australia. How Australia is faring (2nd edn). Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Commonwealth of Australia. Bronfenbrenner, U. (ed.) (2005). Making Human Beings Human. Bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Brown, L., Thurecht, L. & Nepal, B. (2012). The Cost of Inaction on the Social Determinants of Health. Canberra: National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra. Cobb-Clark, D.A., Dahmann, S.C., Salamanca, N. & Zhu, A. (2017). Intergenerational Disadvantage: Learning about equal opportunity from social assistance receipt. Indooroopilly, Qld. Retrieved from uploads/2017/10/2017–17-LCC-Working-Paper-Cobb-Clark-et-al.1.pdf de Neubourg, E., Borghans, L., Coppens, K. & Jansen, M. (2018). Explaining children’s life outcomes: Parental socioeconomic status, intelligence and neurocognitive factors in a dynamic life cycle model. Child Indicators Research, 11, 1495–513. doi:10.1007/s12187-017-9481-8 Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (2018). Closing the Gap. Prime Minister’s Report 2018. Canberra: Australian Government. Department of Social Services (2018). Communities for Children Facilitating Partners. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from family-and-children-s-services Desapriya, E. & Khoshpouri, P. (2018). Investing appropriately to alleviate child poverty in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 190(6), E805–6. The Equality Trust (2014). The Cost of Inequality. London: The Equality Trust. Retrieved from Inequality%20%20-%20full%20report.pdf Farpour-Lambert, N.J., Ells, L.J., Martinez de Tejada, B. & Scott, C. (2018). Obesity and weight gain in pregnancy and postpartum: An evidence review of lifestyle interventions to inform maternal and child health policies. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 9(546). doi:10.3389/fendo.2018.00546

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Foodbank Australia (2018). Foodbank Hunger Report 2018. North Ryde, NSW. Retrieved from Hancock, T. (2018). Reducing the cost of inequality. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 190(3). Jacobs, S. (2018). Just none of the world’s richest men have more combined wealth than the poorest 4 billion people. Business Insider, 17 January. Retrieved from https://www warrenbuffettmarkzuckerbergcarlosslimwealth-a8163621.html Kim, P., Evans, G.W., Chen, E., Miller, G. & Seeman, T. (2018). How socioeconomic disadvantages get under the skin and into the brain to influence health development across the lifespan. In N. Halfon, C.B. Forrest, R.M. Lerner & E.M. Faustman (eds), Handbook of Life Course Health Development (pp. 463–97). Champaign, IL: Springer International Publishing. Kolko, J. (2012). Wicked Problems: Problems worth solving. A handbook and a call to action. Austin, TX: Austin Center for Design. Retrieved from https://www.wickedproblems .com/1_wicked_problems.php Kroll, L. & Dolan, K.A. (eds) (2019). Billionaires: The richest people in the world. Forbes, 5 March. Retrieved from Lee, C., Tsenkova, V.K., Boylan, J.M. & Ryff, C.D. (2018). Gender differences in the pathways from childhood disadvantage to metabolic syndrome in adulthood: An examination of health lifestyles. SSM – Population Health, 4, 216–24. doi: Ludwig, D.S., Willett, W.C., Volek, J.S. & Neuhouser, M.L. (2018). Dietary fat: From foe to friend? Science, 362(6416), 764–70. doi:10.1126/science.aau2096 Macintyre, A., Ferris, D., Gonçalves, B. & Quinn, N. (2018). What has economics got to do with it? The impact of socioeconomic factors on mental health and the case for collective action. Palgrave Communications, 4(1), 10. doi:10.1057/s41599-018-0063-2 Marmot, M. (2010). Fair Society, Healthy Lives. The Marmot Review. Strategic review of health inequalities in England post-2010. London: Department of Health. Mission Australia (2018). Stronger Outcomes for Families 2018. Submission Consultation Paper. Sydney, NSW. Retrieved from publications/submissions-and-reports/children-youth-and-families Moore, T. (2011). Wicked problems, rotten outcomes and clumsy solutions. Children and families in a changing world. NIFTeY/CCCH Conference 2011. Children’s place on the agenda… past, present and future. Sydney. Muir, K., Katz, I., Purcal, C., Patulny, R., Flaxman, S., Abelló, D., Cortis, N., Thomson, C., Oprea, I., Wise, S., Edwards, B., Grat, M. & Hayes, A. (2009). National Evaluation (2004–2008) of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy 2004–2009. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. National Indigenous Australians Agency (2008). Closing the Gap. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from closing-gap



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Rhodes, C. & Fleming, P. (2018). CEO pay is more about white male entitlement than value for money. The Conversation, 24 July. Retrieved from ceo-pay-is-more-about-white-male-entitlement-than-value-for-money–100245 Romero, A.J., Piña-Watson, B. & Toomey, R.B. (2018). When is bicultural stress associated with loss of hope and depressive symptoms? Variation by ethnic identity status among Mexican descent youth. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 6(1), 49–63. doi:10.1037/lat0000078 Steckermeier, L.C. & Delhey, J. (2018). Better for everyone? Egalitarian culture and social wellbeing in Europe. Social Indicators Research, 1–34. doi:10.1007/s11205-018-2007-z United Nations Development Programme (2015). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from .html van Kooy, J. (2018). An Unnecessary Penalty: Economic impacts of changes to the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS). Retrieved from https://www.refugeecouncil Wilhelm, A. & Allen, M. (2019). Social determinants of health for racially and ethnically diverse adolescents. In L. Barkley, M. Svetaz & V. Chulani (eds), Promoting Health Equity Among Racially and Ethnically Diverse Adolescents (pp. 13–28). Champaign, IL: Springer. Wilkinson, R. (2011). What difference does inequality make? Public lecture. Loughborough University, Human Rights and Equalities Charnwood. Retrieved from http:// Lecture%202011.pdf Winangali Ipsos Consortium (2017). Evaluation. Stronger Communities for Children. Fairfiled Gardens, Qld. Retrieved from: World Bank (n.d.). Social Inclusion. (Website) Retrieved from en/topic/social-inclusion World Health Organization (WHO) (n.d.). Social Determinants of Health. (Website). Retrieved from ——— (2018). Key Learning on Health in All Policies. Implementation from around the world. Information brochure. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272711/WHO-CED-PHE-SDH-18.1-eng.pdf?ua=1

PHYSICALLY EDUCATED Developing children’s health and wellbeing through learning in the physical dimension

Timothy Lynch

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Develop students’ and teachers’ understanding of human movement theory and how it applies in early years’ practice. • Assist students and teachers to identify that quality physical education (QPE) enhances children’s health and wellbeing. • Develop students’ understanding that QPE is a planned, progressive and inclusive learning experience. • Recommend that all children be provided with opportunities to master fundamental movement skills (FMS) before 7 years of age. • Explore how educators require expertise in the fundamentals of movement and the inclusive socio-cultural approach. • Discuss the significance of the physical dimension within children’s learning, and how it offers powerful and meaningful connections across all learning and development areas.



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INTRODUCTION The purpose of this chapter is to connect ‘human movement’ theory with practice. Thus, the chapter answers the questions: What does human movement theory look like in practice? How can it be optimised for all children? Why is it vital for the advancement of ‘health and wellbeing in childhood’? The physical dimension is significant within children’s learning because it offers ­powerful and meaningful connections across all learning and development areas. The socio-cultural perspective suggests that the curriculum ought to be connected to the child’s world and everyday interests (Arthur et al., 2015). Since children have a natural play structure, learning through movement heightens their interest.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.1 Thinking about your own experiences Drawing from your experiences, how is the physical dimension significant within children’s learning? How have you seen play and physical movement used for learning across development areas? How do children learn mathematical concepts through play and movement?

‘Play’ sits within the physical dimension – ‘where children are learning through their interactions, as well as adopting and working through the rules and values of their own cultural group’ (Arthur et al., 2015, pp. 99–100). The socio-cultural benefits of play enable ‘the development of imagination and intelligence, language, social skills, and perceptualmotor abilities in infants and young children’ (Frost, 1992, p. 48). Hence, this chapter adopts the same goal as Williams: ‘to highlight the importance of early childhood educators integrating bio-physical and socio-cultural understandings’ (2014, p. 62). This is an important goal, affirmed by Callcott, Miller & Wilson-Gahan: ‘It is now evident that practice and encouragement as well as correct and quality instruction are necessary for children to become proficient in fundamental movement skills’ (2015, p. 32). To enable a deeper understanding of the advancement of ‘health and wellbeing in childhood’ through ‘belonging, being and becoming’ physically educated, two major underpinning themes are investigated: approaching QPE, and human movement and motor skills in childhood.

APPROACHING QPE HEALTH AND WELLBEING Implementing QPE increases the likelihood of children experiencing positive health and wellbeing outcomes. One popular and simple definition of wellbeing is ‘a state of feeling good about ourselves and the way our lives are going’ (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014a,

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p. 1). The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework defines wellbeing as ‘having good mental and physical health, including attachment, positive affect and selfregulation. This means being able to manage emotions productively and build resilience and persistence, being adaptable and confident, and experiencing feelings of satisfaction and happiness’ (Victorian Curriculum  and  Physical activity: weightbearing locomotion that improves Assessment  Authority  (VCAA),  2016,  p.  20). Research provides cardiovascular fitness. Children evidence that regular physical activity promotes mental and social and young people aged 5–17 years should be moderately wellbeing (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014a; Lynch, 2015a; physically active for 60 minutes Parkinson, 2015; Public Health England, 2015; Richards & May, 2016; per day, according to the Salmon et al., 2011). For social, emotional, intellectual and health Australian National Guidelines for Daily Physical Activity for benefits, it is recommended that toddlers and preschoolers have at Children (Department of Health, least three hours of physical activity per day, and children aged 5 to 2019). Moderate physical activity involves mainly aerobic activities 12 years 60 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical that make the heart beat faster. activity (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014b).

CASE STUDY 4.1  EXAMPLE OF BEST PRACTICE In ‘Primary School A’, teachers and parents believe they have a QPE program that enables optimal development of child wellbeing. The school uses four elements of QPE (Lynch, 2019, p. 11): 1. All classes have weekly Physical Education (PE) lessons with a specialist PE ­teacher. These lessons are for 45 minutes, and the specialist PE ­teacher ­communicates with the classroom teacher, who regularly follows up the ­developmentally appropriate physical movements during lessons that week. 2. Whole-child development is the focus at all times: social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing; health and physical wellbeing. 3. The entire school implements a health and physical e­ ducation curriculum, using the social–cultural (inclusive) approach. Through strong communication and leadership, the specialist PE teacher delivers the PE lessons (physical dimension) while the c­ lassroom teacher takes responsibility and ownership of health education lessons, often connecting with other ­curriculum areas. The school has a Whole School Curriculum Program (WSCP) for Health Education and Physical Education. 4. The school has basic essential equipment and facilities. To extend experiences for the children, it collaborates with nearby sporting clubs and schools (strength-based partnerships). Thinking of a particular school, is this how you have experienced the implementation of AC: HPE? What was similar and what was different?

Health and physical education: the unique description of what is also called ‘Physical Education’ or ‘Personal Development and PE’ – or even ‘Gym class’, around the world. The Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (AC: HPE) recognises that competence in education in movement – educating the physical – should occur in a health-promoting context, with integrated health education learning outcomes. AC: HPE has an educative focus, which includes but is also much more than physical activity.


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The marriage of human movement and the socio-cultural ­approach promotes QPE, which has driven the past two reforms to the Australian Curriculum (1994 and 2013) for the learning area of ‘Health and Physical Education’ (HPE) (Lynch, 2016b; 2014). Thus, the AC: HPE offers a national policy that is balanced in theory and pedagogy, one that is inclusive, promotes social justice and assists students to make well-judged decisions in relation to good health and wellbeing (Queensland School Curriculum Council (QSCC), 1999). The connections between the physical dimension and wellbeing are evident in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in the National Curriculum of England and Wales. The EYFS consists of six areas of learning and development, which are equally important and connected. Social and emotional learning (SEL) have a strong presence, relating to the first of the six areas listed:

Socio-cultural approach: an inclusive approach to learning that considers all social and cultural environments and influences affecting children. Social and cultural backgrounds are also considered in providing socially just learning experiences.

1. Personal, Social and Emotional Development 2. Communication, Language and Literacy 3. Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy 4. Knowledge and Understanding of the World 5. Physical Development 6. Creative Development (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008, p. 11). This curriculum states that ‘none of these areas can be delivered in isolation from the others. They are equally important and depend on each other to support a rounded approach to child development’ (2008, p. 11). Furthermore, ‘all the areas must be delivered through planned, purposeful play, with a balance of adult-led and child-initiated activities’ (2008, p. 11). As the title suggests, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments (DEEWR), 2009) was influenced by the EYFS National Curriculum of England and Wales and socio-cultural theory in the UK, Australia and New Zealand (Cliff, Wright & Clarke, 2009). The Victorian Early Years and Development Framework: For all children from birth to eight years (VEYDF), devised from the EYLF, clarifies an important aspect of the HPE and wellbeing relationship that no other Australian document has achieved to date. It elucidates the relationship and responsibilities between the learning area of HPE and wellbeing. For ‘Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing’, it categorises wellbeing into two aspects: • children become strong in their social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing • children take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing (DEECD, 2009, p. 23). This categorisation is consistent with the latest 2016 framework (VCAA, 2016). It is important to note that while HPE is the only learning area explicitly associated with wellbeing in the early years’ curriculum, it is not and cannot be responsible for all wellbeing development. This statement acknowledges that all areas of wellbeing

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Figure 4.1 A child’s personal, social and emotional development is interconnected with their physical development

need to be explicitly taught and that wellbeing does not necessarily occur as a direct result of being physically educated. Similar to what the EYFS proposes, learning needs to be purposefully planned. This is supported by the work of Bailey et al. (2009), who summarise (from a review of educational research papers) that many educational benefits claimed by PE are highly dependent on contextual and pedagogic variables.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.2 Thinking about your own experiences Why can’t HPE be the only curriculum area responsible for wellbeing development? How does this limit learning opportunities?

Robbins, Powers and Burgess (2011) establish seven strongly connected dimensions of wellness: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental and occupational. A study exploring the dimension of spirituality in the HPE learning area across three Queensland case-study schools (Lynch, 2015b) reports that regular,



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quality inclusive HPE lessons increased children’s potential for spiritual experiences. Hence, curriculum frameworks and research studies illustrate the power of an inclusive s­ ocio-cultural approach. While the HPE learning area recognises and advocates for the development of all health dimensions, the core of HPE – as the nomenclature states – is the ‘physical’ dimension. For this reason, health and wellbeing associated with being physically ­educated is the key wellbeing development responsibility of HPE. An example of where this occurs is in Hellison’s Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model (2011), which ­‘offers a primary emphasis on the often under-represented affective domain without devaluing or limiting the physical activity taught in physical education’ (Walsh, 2016, p. 8). The model consists of five levels: (1) respecting the rights and feelings of others; (2) self-motivation; (3) self-direction; (4) leadership; and (5) transfer outside of physical education.

SOCIO-CULTURAL APPROACH: ADDRESSING HIDDEN MESSAGES The introduction of the socio-cultural perspective recognises that children are influenced by the different physical, social, cultural, political, economic and environmental forces affecting their wellbeing (QSCC, 1999). Therefore, this approach offers a ‘holistic’ learning approach for physical education. Throughout history, physical education has often focused on the body as an object, in contrast to the ‘whole’ child. This occurs ‘in a society when man [and woman] has gained the capacity of looking at his [or her] own body as if it were a thing’ (Broekhoff, 1972, p. 8). Critically examining literature and taken-for-granted assumptions within the physical education field from a cultural and historical perspective illustrates the pertinence of the socio-cultural approach. Discourses that have influenced the ‘body as an object’ philosophy Discourses: socially constructed include military, scientific, health and sport. They portray i­deologies and reasoned messages. that include sexism, elitism, healthism, individualism and mesomorHidden curriculum: when phism (Colquhoun, 1991; 1992; Hickey, 1995; Kirk, 1992; Kirk & Twigg children acquire both unintentionally and intentionally 1993; Scraton, 1990; Tinning, 1990; Tinning & Fitzclarence, 1992; Tindelivered messages as a ning, Kirk & Evans, 1993). Such ideologies often pass on false mesconsequence of being in the sages to the child and often are unintentional and/or the teacher is school environment. Often, educators are unaware of some of unaware of their existence. Ideologies are not recorded in curriculum these messages because they are documents; rather, they are traits taught and learnt through various culturally accepted and are not recorded in curriculum materials. media within society, in what is termed the ‘hidden curriculum’. Military discourse involves physical education through drilling and exercising. This military style training existed in Australian schools from 1911 to 1929 and was the first and only national system of physical training. Kirk and Spiller describe this period as a time of schooling rather than education, as ‘physical education was deeply implicated in the project of schooling the docile body, in knowing it and shaping it to meet particular circumstances and fulfil particular social and political projects’ (1991, p. 108).

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Science has had a major influence on physical education through technology and medicalisation; the scientific discourse having particular relevance to the bio-physical foundations of human movement. The influence of science on education began after the launch of Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957. It was thought at the time that schools were not producing enough scientists, so financial support was directed towards this goal. Science education continues to be a concern, but in the 1950s physical education curricula became ‘technocratically rationalised’ (Kirk, 1988) and the ‘new look’ physical education curriculum focused on biomechanics, exercise physiology, sports medicine, the psychology of sport and the history of sport (Kirk, McKay & George, 1986). Ideology: a set of beliefs, values Health as an ideology has influenced both society and physical and commitments that underpin education. ‘Healthism’ is described by Crawford as ‘a belief that policies and theories. health can be unproblematically achieved through individual effort and discipline directed mainly at regulating the size and shape of the body’ (1980, p. 366). The TV program The Biggest Loser is a prime example of healthism, whereby the body is associated with morally disciplined behaviour, and people experience guilt if they are considered undisciplined. The sporting discourse has developed beliefs about physical education and sport that are not necessarily true. The National Curriculum in England’s Physical Education Programme states the purpose of study for the subject in Key stage 1 (5–7 years) and 2 (8–11 years) as being: A high-quality physical education curriculum [that] inspires all pupils to succeed and excel in competitive sport and other physically demanding activities. It should provide opportunities for pupils to become physically confident in a way which supports their health and fitness. Opportunities to compete in sport and other activities build character and help to embed values such as fairness and respect (Department for Education (DfE), 2019, p. 1).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.3 Your experiences of physical education and sport Reflecting on your experiences of physical education and sport, do you take for granted assumptions raised for educators? Can all children excel in competitive sport? Will playing sport build character in all children? Is fairness and respect an outcome of all sporting experiences?

It is argued by some that this is not possible, suggesting that ‘competing drags us down, devastates us psychologically, poisons our relationships and interferes with our performance’ (Kohn, 1992, p. 114). Hickey (1995) shares other assumptions and contradictions about sport: • By being involved in sport, people naturally develop positive attitudes about healthy lifestyle.


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• Friendship, teamwork, sharing and cooperation are incontestable manifestations of involvements in physical education and sport. • If you are prepared to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices, you can achieve what you want to in sport and physical education. • Boys and girls receive equal opportunity and recognition in their involvement in sport and physical education. • Children get most of their understandings and interpretations about physical education and sport through the school curriculum (p. 5). As evidenced by the literature, over the years ‘belonging, being and becoming’ physically educated has not always been achieved. In the past it has been argued that ‘where physical education is poorly or insensitively taught it is more likely to have a negative influence on learners than a positive one’ (Tinning et al., 2001, p. 181).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.4 Optimising positive experiences Reflecting on your experience of physical education and sport, have there been times where you have had a negative experience? What can educators do to optimise positive experiences for their students?

The Australian HPE curriculum adopts the socio-cultural approach. It identifies that being physically educated has health and wellbeing developmental outcomes and benefits for children. It also suggests that wellbeing benefits are optimised when existing cultural messages, associated with the hidden curriculum, are addressed: The Health and Physical Education curriculum will draw on its multi-disciplinary base with students learning to question the social, cultural and political factors that influence health and wellbeing. In doing so students will explore matters such as inclusiveness, power inequalities, taken-for-granted assumptions, diversity and social justice, and develop strategies to improve their own and others’ health and wellbeing (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2012, p. 5).

As the literature implies, it is essential for educators to adopt a holistic approach towards physical education. Adopting the socio-cultural approach has important implications, ‘because its attention to social and cultural influences on health put it in opposition to notions which locate responsibility for health almost solely in the individual and their decisions’ (Cliff et al., 2009, p. 165). It is proposed that the marriage of human movement and the socio-cultural approach enables quality physical education.

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CASE STUDY 4.2  PRACTICAL EXAMPLE OF IMPLEMENTATION PROBLEMS It is suggested in research that health education in UK schools is guided by obesity discourses that offer a resurgence of individualistic notions of health. For example, that children in the early years of primary schools in England are being informed that they need to exercise or else they will get fat. Some children in Reception class (4 years of age, turning 5) in state schools in the south-east of England are taking home a letter from the school stating that they are overweight. This is because ‘[c]hildren are measured and weighed for their body mass index (BMI) in Reception class and in Year 6, under the government’s National Child Measurement Programme’ (Ford, 2018). Intentional or not, viewing the body as an object to be trained places pressure on children, parents and school communities, often at the expense of enjoying movement. Are you aware of other examples where the body is viewed as an object in schools?

QUALITY PHYSICAL EDUCATION QPE needs to be provided for all children. Therefore, all educators must understand how to provide inclusive practices in which correct movements can be mastered. QPE is defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as: the planned, progressive, inclusive learning experience that forms part of the curriculum in early years, primary and secondary education. In this respect, QPE acts as the foundation for a lifelong engagement in physical activity and sport. The learning experience offered to children and young people through physical education lessons should be developmentally appropriate to help them acquire the psychomotor skills, cognitive understanding, and social and emotional skills they need to lead a physically active life (2015, p. 9).

HUMAN MOVEMENT AND MOTOR SKILLS IN CHILDHOOD MOTOR CONTROL Williams explains that ‘Motor control is a field of natural scientific research that attempts to understand the processes whereby movement is controlled, coordinated and learned through the integrated operation of the nervous, skeletal and muscular systems’ (2014, p. 66). These movements can be divided into two categories: reflexes and skills (motor skills). Motor skills ‘can be defined as goal-directed, improvable actions that require movement of all or part of the body in order to be performed successfully’ (Williams, 2014, p. 63). While a diverse range of movements fit this definition, Williams gives the early years’ examples of writing one’s name, tying shoelaces and catching a ball. Of these three movements, catching a ball is synonymous with physical education, in particular FMS.



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FMS, also referred to as ‘fundamental motor skills’, form the building blocks to more complex human movements. The AC: HPE shares that FMS ‘provide[s] the foundation for human movement and competent and confident participation in a range of physical activities’ (ACARA, 2019). FMS can be categorised as locomotor skills, non-­ locomotor skills and manipulative skills (object control). Locomotor and non-­ locomotor skills include running, jumping, hopping, skipping, leaping, landing, galloping, rolling, sliding, stopping, twisting, turning, swinging, dodging, walking, balancing, jogging, floating and moving the body through water (ACARA, 2019; Australian Sports Commission, 1997). Manipulative skills include ball control (bouncing and catching), throwing, tracking or trapping, kicking and striking (ACARA, 2019; Australian Sports Commission, 1997). FMS builds a foundation for movements, often relating to games and sports, but more importantly also forms the foundation of movements that assist with life skills. Closely related to the child’s life-skill movements, and sitting alongside FMS, are gymnastics movements referred to as ‘dominant movement patterns’ (DMP). The building blocks of gymnastics are synonymous with movements used on adventure playground equipment, such as monkey bars, swings and slides; they include landings, locomotions, swings, statics, springs and rotations (Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), 1998). It is argued that gymnastics sits at the core of being physically educated (Lynch, 2016b). Because many parents value gymnastics, before-school and afterschool clubs for children are popular, but this is an area of the curriculum that is often limited in schools. Ideally, FMS (and DMPs) should be mastered as early as possible. This is supported by the AC: HPE, where ‘FMS’ is listed as a focus area to be taught from Foundation to Year 6. One of the five aims listed for the HPE national curriculum is to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to enable students to ‘acquire, apply and evaluate movement skills, concepts and strategies to respond confidently, competently and creatively in a variety of physical activity contexts and settings’ (ACARA, 2019). Similarly, the National Curriculum in England for Physical Education states in Key stage 1 that ‘pupils should develop fundamental movement skills’ and specifically ‘master basic movements including running, jumping, throwing and catching, as well as developing balance, agility and co-ordination, and begin to apply these in a range of activities’ (DfE, 2019, p. 2).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.5 Dominant movement patterns in the playground Reflecting on children’s activities in an adventure playground, which rides, climbing frames or activities involve landing, locomotions, swings, statics (non-movement such as balance), springs (leaps and jumps) and rotations?

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Research suggests that the best time for children to learn and refine their motor skills is in the pre-Foundation year and early primary school years (Branta, Haubenstricker & Seefeldt, 1984; Commonwealth of Australia, 1992; Espenschade & Eckert, 1980; Lynch, 2011; 2014). During this early developmental phase, children have a natural play structure and more time to focus on developing their motor skills. Another advantage relating directly to the socio-cultural approach is the early detection of motor difficulties so that subsequent intervention programs can reduce many physical and related emotional problems (Arnheim & Sinclair, 1979; Commonwealth of Australia, 1992; Johnson & Rubinson, 1983; Lynch, 2013a; Seefeldt, 1975; Smoll, 1974).

ACQUISITION OF MOTOR SKILLS MODEL Williams (2014) refers to ‘motor control’ as ‘the processes by which motor skills are performed’ (p. 66) and identifies the use of models, metaphors and analogies to assist with this process. One model described by Fitts and Posner (1967) is the ‘acquisition of motor skills’. The first stage of this model is the ‘Cognitive Phase’, in which the learner receives and uses information on how the skill is to be performed; for example, when a driving instructor explains to a novice the various apparatus used for driving a car. The learner cautiously proceeds to drive the car, often with obvious errors such as ‘kangaroo jumps’ or ‘bunny hops’ in a manual vehicle. The second stage is the ‘Associative Phase’, in which the learner refines the mechanics of the skill through practice, using feedback from the driving instructor, their own intrinsic feedback and their sense of proprioception. Errors are still common at this stage. The third stage described by Fitts and Posner is the ‘Autonomous Phase’, in which the learner can perform the skill automatically; that is, without having to think about the movement, and just doing it when they choose to. In the example of learning to drive a car (which relates to the reader), this happens when the driver finds that they no longer have to think about the process of each action they are making. The driver in this phase may even be tempted to combine motor skills while driving the car, such as adjusting the radio. The acquisition of motor skills model relates to all motor skills the child is introduced to, including riding a bike, flutter kick in swimming and dribbling a basketball.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.6 Thinking about your own experiences Reflecting on learning to drive a car (or riding a bike) – can you identify the cognitive, associative and autonomous phases?

The analogy of learning to drive a car can be transferred to represent the various movement progressions throughout life – from the baby rolling to sitting up, crawling to ‘bear walking’, standing with support to standing without support, and taking their first steps. Likewise, children learning the various FMS in the early years of school can often be identified as moving through one of the three stages.



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PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.7 Children’s movement and development Reflecting on children learning particular movements, can you identify times when a child has been in each of the three phases of acquiring motor skills? What was the movement and why would you identify the child as being in that particular phase?

When associating the acquisition of motor skills model to children’s learning, the ideal is to have children performing motor skills automatically before placing them in more physically demanding situations, such as fun games before high-pressure matches during physical education. If children are able to perform the necessary skills during a gaming situation, without having to apply the thinking involved in the first two stages of Fitts and Posner’s model, they are then able to focus on other aspects of the game, such as strategies. Motor development (Figure 4.2) and national curricula indicate that many children will be ready to be placed in high-pressure games from the age of seven. While some children will be ready before then, in diverse classes with children from various physical experiences and socio-cultural backgrounds, the reality is that often children in upper primary schools may still be in the first or second stage of the acquisition of skills model for FMS used in particular games or modified sports. Research indicates that many children unfortunately have limited FMS at the beginning of secondary school (Barnett et al., 2013). This is another socio-cultural aspect of physical education of which educators need to be mindful, because it is not inclusive practice to play a game or ­modified sport when not all children have had opportunities to develop the skills required. Such practices in schools needs to be critically examined since the children who have had prior experiences are often favoured over those who have not.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.8 Teaching a PE class In a Year 5 class of 27 children, 18 children play basketball regularly for a club and have mastered all the necessary motor skills and strategies for this sport. How would you inclusively implement the skills of dribbling and passing with this class? Can the basketball players be extended while the other nine children are offered opportunities to develop these skills?

Educators are therefore challenged to be creative when implementing physical education by adopting a socio-cultural approach. At all times the aim should be to maintain inclusivity, by catering for the diverse needs of the class. This is easier said than done and is the greatest contemporary challenge for physical educators. The ability to implement

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strategies that cater for all needs, while enabling enjoyment, engagement and challenges, is evidence of a teacher’s expertise as a QPE. As the National Curriculum of England for Physical Education’s ‘Purpose of study’ accentuates, sport sits within the PE curriculum. There is a misconception at times that PE is only sport. This becomes confusing for educators in the early years, when children’s motor control skills are not developmentally ready to combine a number of motor skills with game rules and strategies (Figure 4.2). Using the analogy of learning to read, throwing a child into a complex game is like introducing early years’ children to phonics using a novel. It is not developmentally appropriate. The National Curriculum of England identifies this issue but also recognises that there are simple games that do play a vital role in children’s progression in becoming physically competent and confident in the early years. The curriculum policy states that in Key stage 1, children ‘should be taught to: participate in team games, developing simple tactics for attacking and defending’ (DfE, 2019, p. 2). The AC: HPE also espouses this essential motor development understanding for QPE. From Foundation stage through to Year 4, the focus area ‘Active play and minor games’ is addressed within the curriculum. On the other hand, the focus area ‘Games and sports’ is only recommended for Year 3 upwards (ACARA, 2019), after which time children have ideally mastered FMS. Hence, embedded in QPE are quality games that include simple, developmentally appropriate games in the early years, requiring limited FMS and rules (Arthur et al., 2015). Simple games include hopscotch, tiggy, ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ and ‘stuck in the mud’, as well as others that the children may create themselves. These simple games play an important developmental role because they lead to more complex games in which variables such as space, objects, number of participants, number of games, time and speed are introduced through supplementary rules. Such rules increase the challenge for participants and the FMS required. Four guidelines are identified for implementing quality games, including both simple and more complex games: 1. Safety for all players. 2. Inclusivity – all players are able to participate. This involves having the skill level to participate safely and at an enjoyable level. 3. Engagement – players’ participation is optimised. Waiting time is eliminated or minimal. 4. Enjoyment is prioritised (Lynch, 2013b, p. 19).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.9 Thinking about your own experiences Reflecting on a popular game that you have seen children enjoy at school – did it meet the guidelines above? Is there an area in the criteria where the game could be improved? If so, how would you recommend this be done in practice?



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MOTOR DEVELOPMENT If educators are to use models, metaphors and analogies to enhance their understanding and the understanding of the children, then motor development is important. This is ‘the specialised area of study within the sub-discipline of motor control that deals with the description and explanation of these changes from the beginning to the end of life’ (Williams, 2014, p. 68). The progression through stages of motor development illustrates the difficulties that children confront when opportunities to master FMS are not provided – see Figure 4.2.

Reflexes and Reactions From birth to 4 months (e.g. gripping, blinking, sucking)

Rudimentary Movement From birth to 2 months (e.g. crawling, climbing, walking)

Fundamental Movement Skills Phase 2–6 years


Sport Skill Phase/ Specialised Movements 7–11 years

Figure 4.2 Skill refinement leading to lifelong physical activities Source: Lynch (2016b), based on Callcott, Miller & Wilson-Gahan (2015), Gallahue & Ozmun (2006), Seefeldt, Reuschlein & Vogel (1972) and Thomas (1984).

The proficiency barrier generally occurs around Year 3 at school (seven years of age, turning eight) and culminates with myelination, the production of the myelin sheath in the central nervous system. Myelination enables smooth coordinated and subsequently increased complexity in children’s movement skills and it ‘permits the transmission of nerve impulses and is not complete at birth’ (Gallahue & Donnelly, 2003, p. 31). Hence, children’s motor development is capitalised if FMS are mastered before Year 3 and myelination.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.10 Thinking about your own experiences Reflecting on PE lessons or movement in schools – have you noticed a difference in ­children’s abilities and development in Year 3? If not, may there be a reason for this?

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It is important that children experience a wide range of physical activities and that they have opportunities for physical creativity. Using the analogy of learning to read, it is only after having learnt to read that one can explore the many stories in the library. Likewise, mastering FMS enhances creativity, and specifically child-directed play through movement learning experiences relating to games, dance, gymnastics and swimming. From a socio-cultural approach, it is a priority that children are equipped with the FMS to enhance their ability to share and cooperate through movement with friends. This often leads to connections within the broader community. Therefore, educators need to be experts in early movement if opportunities are to be provided for children to master a wide variety of motor skills, develop motor control and optimise their motor development. This point is extremely pertinent when teaching PE in the early years of primary school and one that is often overlooked (Lynch, 2016a). For the same reasons that early years teachers are required to have developmentally appropriate phonics and numeracy expertise, schools need to provide expertise for learning in the physical area. Consistent with the socio-cultural approach and comparable to play-based pedagogy, learning motor skills requires scaffolding and guidance from an expert to assist the child to become competent. Scaffolding sits within Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development (Lynch, 2017, p. 88), and expertise may involve family and community partnerships. While tasks may be initially challenging for the child, practising should be enjoyed regularly if the child is to master the skill.

INFORMATION-PROCESSING MODEL Another model relating to motor control is the information-processing model, which ‘stresses the importance of the internal cognitive processing of the learner’ (Rink, 2010, p. 24). This model ‘posits three distinct and sequential stages of movement control: perceiving, deciding, and acting’ (Williams, 2014, p. 66). Children require a clear idea of the task, need to be actively engaged in the learning process, have plentiful opportunities to practise, and be offered external feedback as well as opportunities to self-assess through internal feedback. Furthermore, ‘knowledge of how learners process information [information processing theory] helps educators to select appropriate cues and to design appropriate feedback for learners’ (Rink, 2010, p. 24). During practice, formative feedback such as ‘Assessment for Learning’ is vital. Popular metaphors are adopted by many educators and coaches. For example, in swimming the instructor may remind the children to glide through the water ‘like an arrow’, long and straight with arms outstretched, or to have ‘long legs’ and ‘kick their socks off’ during the flutter kick. An analogy for landing safely in gymnastics is to ‘land on your motorbike’, with arms reaching forwards (holding the handlebars), legs bent and shoulder-width apart (sitting on a motorbike). It is commonly recommended that no more than three cues be used so that children can retain the information (Anshell, 1990). For example, three cues for the underarm



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throw might be: swing back, step forwards (on opposite leg to hand holding the ball) and release. Further detail and a demonstration can accentuate that the arm swings forwards and releases when the hand is directed towards the target. Also, that the opposite arm comes out to the side of the body to assist with balance. Further, pedagogy may involve questioning and exploring to enable children to discover what they think are the most effective steps in this FMS.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 4.11 Experiences of movement Reflecting on your experiences of movement, what are some other effective analogies you are familiar with?

For a number of motor skills to be performed simultaneously – for example, skipping (locomotor) while dribbling a basketball – it is essential that at least one of the motor skills (either dribbling or skipping) is automatic (Figure 4.3). The information-processing model suggests ‘the ability to perform two motor tasks simultaneously means that at least one set of actions can be conducted automatically (without cognition)’ (Anshell, 1990, p. 19). Emphasis should be placed on correct practice because ‘ingrained, highly learnt errors in movement execution (or technique) may be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to correct’ (Abernethy, 1991, p. 93). Consistent with the socio-cultural approach, pedagogy will relate to the cultural contexts of the child and school. Groupings, motor development, location, time, resources, facilities and expertise within the community will influence how opportunities are provided. Research indicates that the Perceptual Motor Program (PMP) (Figure 4.3) implemented with parental assistance is a successful structured program for the early years of primary schools (Lynch, 2005).

CONCLUSION This chapter investigates QPE in practice. It establishes that implementing QPE as espoused by the United Nations requires educator knowledge and, ideally, expertise in the bio-physical foundations of human movement and the inclusive socio-cultural approach. Exploring this blend involves examination of literature, curriculum policies and research, determining that children’s health and wellbeing is enhanced through QPE.

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Figure 4.3 A PMP can be implemented using parental assistance

QUESTIONS 4.1 What does human movement theory look like in schools? 4.2 How can ‘belonging, being and becoming’ physically educated be successfully implemented in early years settings? 4.3 Why is ‘belonging, being and becoming’ physically educated vital in childhood? 4.4 What hidden curriculum messages about movement have been brought to your attention after reading this chapter?

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Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) (1998). Gymnastics Lower Primary. Richmond, South Australia: ACHPER. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2019). The Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education. Retrieved from http://www ——— (2012). Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education. Retrieved from Curriculum_Health_and_Physical_Education.pdf Australian Sports Commission (1997). Sport It! Towards 2000 teacher resource model: Developmental sports skills program. Canberra: Pirie Printers. Bailey, R., Armour, K., Kirk, D., Jess, M., Pickup, I. & Sandford, R. (2009). The educational benefits claimed for physical education and school sport: An academic review. Research Papers in Education, 24, 1–27. Barnett, L.M., Hardy, L.L., Lubans, D.R., Cliff, D.P., Okely, A.D., Hills, A.P. & Morgan, P.J. (2013). Australian children lack the basic movement skills to be active and healthy. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 24(2), 82–4. Branta, C., Haubenstricker, J. & Seefeldt, V. (1984). Age changes in motor skills during childhood and adolescence. Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews, 12, 467–520. Broekhoff, J. (1972). Physical education and the reification of the body. Gymnasion, 4, 4–11. Callcott, D., Miller, J. & Wilson-Gahan, S. (2015). Health and Physical Education: Preparing educators for the future (2nd edn). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. Cliff, K., Wright, J. & Clarke, D. (2009). What does a ‘sociocultural perspective’ mean in health and physical education? In M. Dinan-Thompson (ed.), Health and Physical Education: Issues for curriculum in Australia and New Zealand (pp. 165–82). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand. Colquhoun, D. (1992). Technocratic rationality and the medicalisation of the physical education curriculum. Physical Education Review, 15(1), 5–11. ——— (1991). Health based physical, the ideology of healthism and victim blaming. Physical Education Review, 14(1), 5–13. Commonwealth of Australia (2014a). Wellbeing and self-care fact sheet. Retrieved from ——— (2014b). Does your child get 60 minutes of physical activity everyday? Make your move-sit less be active for life! Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines: 5–12 years. Retrieved from publishing.nsf/content/F01F92328EDADA5BCA257BF0001E720D/$File/brochure%20 PA%20Guidelines_A5_5-12yrs.PDF ——— (1992). Physical and Sport Education – A report by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts. Canberra: Senate Printing Unit. Crawford, R. (1980). Healthism and the medicalisation of everyday life. International Journal of Health Services, 10, 365–89. Department for Children, Schools and Families (2008). Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage – Setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five. Nottingham, UK: Department for Children, Schools and Families.

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Kirk, D. & Twigg, K. (1993). The militarization of school physical training in Australia: The rise and demise of the junior cadet training scheme, 1911–1931. History of Education, 22(4), 319–414. Kohn, A. (1992). No Contest: The case against competition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Lynch, T. (2019). Physical Education and Wellbeing: Global and holistic approaches to child health. London: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-22266-6 ——— (2017). Physically educated: Developing children’s health and wellbeing through movement and motor skills. In S. Garvis & D. Pendergast (eds), Health & Wellbeing in Childhood (2nd edn, pp. 77–94). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ——— (2016a). The Future of Health, Wellbeing and Physical Education: Optimising children’s health and wellbeing through local and global community partnerships. London: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-31667-3 ——— (2016b). Australian football: Leading children’s fundamental movement and sporting skill development. In M. Drummund & S. Pill (eds), Advances in Australian Football: A sociological and applied science exploration of the game (pp. 110–19). Hindmarsh, South Australia: Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. ——— (2015a). Health and physical education (HPE): Implementation in primary schools. International Journal of Educational Research, 70(c), 88–100. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2015.02.003 ——— (2015b). Investigating children’s spiritual experiences through the health and physical education learning area in Australian schools. Journal of Religion and Health, 541: 202–20. ——— (2014). Australian curriculum reform II: Health and physical education (HPE). European Physical Education Review, 20(4), 508–24. doi:10.1177/1356336X14535166 ——— (2013a). Health and physical education (HPE) teachers in primary schools: Supplementing the debate. Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) Active and Healthy Magazine, 20(3/4), 10–12. doi:10.13140/2.1.2889.6644 ——— (2013b). ‘Poison ball’ or a magic potion? Secrets within an infamous game. Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) Active and Healthy Magazine, 20(2), 19–21 doi:10.13140/2.1.3282.8806 ——— (2011). What does a role model Australian primary school Health and Physical Education (HPE) programme look like? Paper presented to the 53rd International Council Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance (ICHPERSD) Anniversary World Congress & Exposition, Cairo, Egypt, 17–23 December. Retrieved from doi:10.13140/2.1.2783.1682 ——— (2005). An evaluation of school responses to the introduction of the Queensland 1999 health and physical education (HPE) syllabus and policy developments in three Brisbane Catholic primary schools (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Australian Catholic University. Parkinson, E. (2015). Dick Telford’s study finds sport can improve NAPLAN scores. Financial Review, 16 August. Retrieved from afr16srsportyourchildseducation---20150814-giyyh4

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Public Health England (2015). Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing: A whole school and college approach. Retrieved from government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/414908/Final_EHWB_ draft_20_03_15.pdf Queensland School Curriculum Council (QSCC) (1999). Health and Physical Education Initial In-service Materials. Brisbane: Publishing Services, Educational Queensland. Richards, R. & May, C. (2016). Sport in Education. Retrieved from https://www school_sport Rink, J.E. (2010). Teaching Physical Education for Learning (6th edn). Boston: McGraw-Hill. Robbins, G., Powers, D. & Burgess, S. (2011). A Wellness Way of Life (9th edn). New York: McGraw-Hill. Salmon, J., Arundel, L., Hume, C., Brown, H., Hesketh, K., Dunstan, D. et al. (2011). A cluster-randomized controlled trial to reduce sedentary behaviour and promote physical activity and health of 8–9 year olds: The Transform-us! Study. BMC Public Health, 11, 759. Scraton, S. (1990). Gender and Physical Education. Geelong, Australia: Deakin University Press. Seefeldt, V. (1975). Critical Learning Periods and Programs of Early Intervention. Paper presented at the AAPHER Convention, Atlantic City, NJ, March. Seefeldt, V.B., Reuschlein, S. & Vogel, P. (1972). Sequencing Motor Skills Within the Physical Education Curriculum. Paper presented at the meeting of American Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Houston. Smoll, F.L. (1974). Motor impairment and social development. American Corrective Therapy Journal, 28, 4–7. Thomas, J.R. (1984). Developmental motor skill acquisition. In J.R. Thomas (ed.), Motor Development During Childhood and Adolescence (p. 125). Minneapolis, MN: Burgess. Tinning, R. (1990). Ideology and Physical Education: Opening Pandora’s box. Geelong, Australia: Deakin University Press. Tinning, R. & Fitzclarence, L. (1992). Postmodern youth culture and the crisis in Australian secondary school physical education. Quest, 44(3), 287–303. Tinning, R., Kirk, D. & Evans, J. (1993). Healthism and daily physical education. In Deakin University, Critical Curriculum Perspectives in Physical Education – Reader (pp. 77–94). Geelong, Australia: Deakin University. Tinning, R., McDonald, D., Wright, J. & Hickey, C. (2001). Becoming a Physical Education Teacher: Contemporary and enduring issues. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2015). Quality Physical Education: Guidelines for policy makers. Paris: UNESCO Publishing. Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) (2016). Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Melbourne: Department of Education and Training.



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Walsh, D. (2016). Teaching the teaching personal and social responsibility model through developmental stages. Active & Healthy: Promoting Active & Healthy Living, 23(2/3), 8–11. Williams, B.J. (2014). Human movement and motor skills. In S. Garvis & D. Pendergast, (eds), Health & Wellbeing in Childhood (pp. 61–72). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

BODY IMAGE AND YOUNG CHILDREN Seeing ‘self’ or seeing ‘other’


Sharryn Clarke

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Understand how children develop their self-concept in relation to body imagery and the ‘ideal body.’ • Explore and analyse the leading factors that contribute to a negative self-concept and body-image dissatisfaction. • Analyse, evaluate and challenge the socially constructed concept of ‘beauty’ and ‘thinness’ in relation to children’s perceived body images. • Discuss the implications for educational practices and interactions educators may have with children to promote positive self-concept in relation to body image. • Design programs and curricula to support and enhance children’s healthy sense of self in relation to their body image.


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INTRODUCTION Body image is something that has held preoccupation for many centuries. Bodies have been sung about, sketched and painted, sculpted, photographed and choreographed through dance. Poets and authors have often used body image as a means of depicting the desirable protagonist, which can even be seen in many fairy tales and stories for children, such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White. In fact, the well-known verse from the Grimm Brothers’ Snow White: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ has been echoed for decades in the minds of young children as the tale is told and retold through historical folklore, books and Disney movies. Our favourable vision of the body, therefore, is often one of an aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye. However, this perception of the body as ideally beautiful and therefore desirable is often set within socially constructed parameters and can be problematic for children’s holistic development and the wellbeing of children and young people. Of particular concern is the fixation with ‘thinness’ and its association with being beautiful, powerful and worthwhile. Media, in particular, strongly influence our perception of what is the ideal body (i.e. thin and beautiful), which in turn can influence a range of negative effects in children, young people and adults, including eating  ­disorders (Lee, 2009). Additionally, body dissatisfaction can Eating disorder: a classification of mental illness whereby a be seen in very young children, including those who appear to have person is preoccupied in engaging a ‘normal’ weight appearance (Tremblay et al., 2011). In fact, very in abnormal eating habits and/ or physical exercise that have young children can be highly influenced by the objectification of negative effects on both their the body, and have been reported as developing ‘anti-fat’ prejudicphysical and mental health. es as early as 2.67 years of age (Ruffman et al., 2016). Furthermore, Examples of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, research has revealed that children as young as 4 years old demonbulimia nervosa and binge-eating strate concern about the presentation of their hair and the clothes disorder. that they wear (Skouteris et al., 2010). Body dismorphic disorders (BDD), a mental disorder in which the individual worries about perceived defects in their appearance, has been seen in children as young as 5 years old (Tremblay et al., 2011). Aside from media, a key influence on the emergence of self-concept is the child’s family (Liechty et al., 2016; Skouteris et al., 2010), which also plays a significant role in developing body-image prejudices and preoccupation with the ‘thin ideal’ (Brown & Slaughter, 2011). This chapter explores the ways in which young children develop their self-concept in relation to their body image and discusses some of the influencing factors that condition children to perceiving favourable body images over unfavourable body images. The chapter incorporates discussions relating to ‘thinness’, and goes beyond this aspect to consider the effects of perceived anomalies and injuries on a child’s body satisfaction and positive self-concept. This includes considering socio-cultural aspects of physical disabilities, high-degree burns and skin irregularities that greatly affect the child’s sense of their ‘beautiful self.’ In addition, we discuss ways to support children in developing a positive self-concept in relation to body image, to promote their wellbeing.

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CASE STUDY 5.1 KIM Kim is 5 years old and attends kindergarten 4 days per week. Each day she travels to kindergarten by foot with her mother. In the mornings, Kim and her mother sometimes argue about the clothing that she is going to wear due to Kim insisting that she must wear her ‘Elsa dress’ because her ‘friends are too.’ Kim’s mother has noticed that Kim wears the Elsa dress only to kindergarten and, the moment she comes home, she removes the dress to preserve it for the next day. She has also noticed that part of the seam in the dress has become ripped as Kim has grown. When she draws attention to this, Kim becomes concerned. ‘I must be getting my tummy too big!’ ‘No Kim, you are just growing up to be a big girl.’ ‘I don’t want to be a big girl because then I won’t fit my Elsa dress!’ says Kim tearily. ‘Elsa doesn’t have a big tummy and I have to make it little again.’ ‘It is okay, Kim. As you grow we will get you a bigger Elsa dress.’ ‘But my tummy looks like it has a balloon in it. Elsa has a flat tummy – how do I make the balloon go away?’ Despite the empowering storyline behind Disney’s Frozen™, how do you think the body imagery of the ‘empowered princess’ might affect young children?

Figure 5.1 Young girl dressed as princess



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WHAT DO WE MEAN BY ‘BODY IMAGE?’ The term body image refers to perception of one’s physical self and appearance, and is therefore not taken literally. For the purpose of understanding terms in this chapter, we refer to body image as the perceived notion, and actual body image in the literal sense, as the physiological image one actually sees. The actual body image encompasses the physicality, size, shape and appearance of the individual in reality. The ‘(perceived) body image’ is therefore subjective to the individual in how they see themselves and whether they are happy with their appearance. Peoples’ body image therefore influences the thoughts and feelings they have of themselves. Children begin to explore differences in body image in their infancy. This has been researched through a number of studies exploring visual preferences of humans, ranging from infants to adulthood (e.g. Brown & Slaughter, 2011; O’Brien et al., 2013; Ruffman et al., 2016). In their study of 70 infants and toddlers (aged 11–32 months), Ruffman et al. (2016) find that by the time they have reached almost 3 years of age, children prefer looking at average-sized people rather than overweight people. They also report that these attitudes are significantly influenced by the children’s mothers, more so than education settings or media. A study by O’Brien et al. (2013) of 1649 university students in Iceland reports that anti-fat prejudices are more prevalent the younger and thinner women are; however, they also suggest that this prejudice declines as women’s age and body mass index (BMI) increases. Brown and Slaughter (2011) further suggest that due to high degrees of media exposure, children are conditioned to the ‘thin ideal’ by the time they are 4 years old, including having a preference for ‘thinner than normal’, which aligns with Ruffman’s more recent study. This means that the idea of being thin (very thin) is associated with attractiveness, which may already be embedded in the minds of children before they begin school. Body image, however, is not simply about size, but also about our physiological appearance and performativity. Historically and socially conditioned attitudes have aligned with particular appearances that have been reinforced through multiple forms of media, including novels, comics, TV sitcoms, movies and animations. For example, ‘blondes’ have often been traditionally stereotyped with being ignorant and unintellectual, namely the ‘dumb blonde’ that was popularised from the 1930s in the US Social stigma: social film industry (Burton, 2012). Social stigma is also associated with disapproval of a particular way children whose physical appearance (e.g. weight, wearing glasses) of being, whereby a person’s may be outside the socio-cultural norms of the society in which identity or physical appearance is distinguished from those of they live, which increases their risk of being bullied within that others in society and against society (Huggins, 2016). To counteract such social stigma, stereotypcultural norms. ing and prejudice, it is important to understand the origins of such perceptions, scientific research on the effects of these perceptions and how education settings can change them. Historically, stereotyping has existed for some time and aligns with the evolution of societies and cultures. Brown and Slaughter (2011) state that many societies tend to value

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Figure 5.2 Child being bullied in school corridor

and admire the ‘thin’ female body, claiming that numerous studies ‘show that as many as 70% of young females and 50% of adolescent boys’ desire to change their body size or shape’ (p. 119). Mellor et al. (2013) have found that the experience of body dissatisfaction also includes Eastern cultures. They report that ‘Malaysian Chinese [females] are more dissatisfied overall with their body than Chinese, Malaysian Malays, and Australians’ and specifically ‘weight/shape, muscles, the lower body, the middle body and the upper body’ (p. 59). Therefore, they are reported to be unhappy with their overall body image. However, there is speculation that this is contributed through the influences of ‘Western’ cultures, including effects of mass media. Additionally, bullying has been strongly associated with aspects of body image where individuals have been targetted due to differences that are further perpetuated in film, TV and social media. For example, the concept of the ‘nerd’ has been articulated visually as a white male with thick glasses and clever at mathematics (Quail, 2011), which represents a particular physical presence of a ‘male’ and one that does not boast strength or strong ‘masculinity’ but more of an intellectual persona. The concept of the nerd, as presented in TV and film, has included characters on TV, such as Steve Urkel in Family Matters, Richie Cunningham in Happy Days and the four main characters (Raj, Sheldon, Leonard and Howard) in The Big Bang Theory (Quail, 2011). The commonality among these characters is that they are male, white (apart from Steve Urkel and Raj) and tend to shy away from buffed and physically strong masculine stereotypes. These character types as



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represented in such TV programs are also exposed to bullying from others who would be seen as more masculine and virile but perhaps not in intellect. Ironically, none of these characters is considered overweight, according to Reulbach et al. (2013), which is often a common factor in bullying that leads to body dissatisfaction.

CONNECTING BODY IMAGES TO SELF-CONCEPT BODY IMAGE AND PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES As children grow and develop, so too does their self-concept. When we speak of ‘self-concept’, we consider all of the attributes and understandings of self in our own existence, that differentiate us from others, including what makes us ‘uniquely us’. Various theoretical frameworks attempt to explain how humans develop their self-concept. For example, from a psychoanalytical perspective, both Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson consider that one’s self-concept is influenced by one’s experiences as a child, in direct response to the caregiver or parent (Erikson, 1997). Erikson further suggests that humans progress through various stages, developing character traits on the basis of the types of responses that were affirmed. For example, between the ages of 3–5 years, children seek their ‘purpose’ and begin to come up with new ideas or suggestions for play, learning and interaction. If responses to their innovative ideas are persistently negative, the child might develop a sense of guilt and therefore their self-concept may be one of annoyance and incompetence. On the other hand, if responses are supportive and positive, the child might develop a sense of purpose and an associated self-concept of competence and capability.

Self-concept: a characterisation of the ideas and understanding of self that have been constructed over time, based upon the beliefs one holds and in response to others.

SELF-ACTUALISATION IN RELATION TO BODY IMAGE: THE HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE Moving away from psychodynamic and cultural–historical theories, Carl Rogers, a US psychologist and one of the founders of humanism, believes that in order to reach ‘self-actualisation’ one must experience an authentic life, with unconditional positive regard. He agrees that while humans consider Unconditional positive regard: a person is accepting of the self, their purpose in life to be one of our ‘self-concept’ questions, it is regardless of who they are and important for us to learn to answer this in our own way (Rogers, what they have done (Rogers, 2004). 2004). Uncovering our self-concept is therefore a difficult process, as we tend to have to confront who we really are and remove any façades we have given ourselves. If we relate Roger’s theoretical approach to Kim’s story in Case study 5.1 we can see that Kim has developed a self-concept that is strongly linked to the Disney character Elsa from the animated film Frozen™. The question that remains, however, is whether Kim is connecting to the depiction of the character Elsa or to her physical representation in which body image preferences are reinforced.

MEDIA INFLUENCES ON BODY IMAGE AND SELF-CONCEPT Currently recorded as the most popular and highest-grossing animation of all time (Dundes, Streiff & Streiff, 2018; Hashmi, 2017), Frozen introduces a new conceptual idea

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of the typical roles of fairytale characters. In particular, Elsa’s character demonstrates strength and self-liberation as her true self is revealed through her power to create ice and snow, including elaborate, snow-filled landscapes and an ice castle. In her process of self-liberation, however, she experiences discrimination within her society for being ‘different’ and ‘wilful’ (Langsdale, 2014), and for many years keeps her powers in hiding. This, of course, leads Elsa towards increasing anger and resentment of her society and her transformation through self-liberation. As in many Disney animations, a tragedy enlightens those who ‘wilfully’ stray from the societal norm. For Elsa, this is the ironic ‘freezing’ of her sister, Anna, which forces Elsa to return to her society to atone, straighten up (although now with exposed powers) and once again live within the social constraints of her society (Langsdale, 2014). For adults, the concepts arising from this film are deep and at times foreboding, with scholars analysing Elsa and Anna’s characters from feminist perspectives while others use discourse analysis to elicit the moral coding behind the character roles. However, recent research conducted by Golden and Jacoby (2018) indicates that the appeal to such characters of Elsa and Anna is not due to strength and liberation from oppression, but of the beauty, clothing, ‘princess style’ movement and gender exclusion (of boys) associated with them. Thirty-one girls, aged 3–5 years, were studied through the form of multimodal methods, such as observations, interviews and surveys, focusing on the ways in which Disney princesses influence the girls’ perceptions of gender and self. Golden and Jacoby report that during play, the girls are preoccupied with what it means to be ‘beautiful’, including comparing their own beauty with each other’s. Furthermore, the contributing factors to their beauty are not just their physical appearance, but also the clothing and accessories they use to enhance their ‘beauty’, in which they ‘appraise[d] their own bodies, evaluating their appearance in each dress’ (p. 306). The study finds that the preoccupation with beauty, which includes ensuring they have the ‘dress’ on, becomes a measure for defining a princess rather than what a princess actually does. Actions of princesses are not only limited to the ‘beautification’ of self, but also in the way a princess moves, which according to the girls includes twirling, dancing and standing in a ‘prayer-like pose’ (p. 307). The fourth preoccupation in playing like a princess involves the exclusion of boys, where the dress-ups provided are used to divide the genders in play. While just under half of the girls believe that boys can pretend to be princesses, this is not realised in play, as girls mock the boys if they dress up in female-gendered, stereotypical clothing (Golden & Jacoby, 2018). The findings of this research highlight a number of things for the development of body image perceptions in children. First, children are not only highly influenced by media in their perceptions of beauty and admiration, but they are also influenced by their peers, who reinforce such ideologies. While she is not explicitly performing the role of Elsa, Kim dresses as the character in order to be accepted by her peers, thus creating a deceptive façade or an inauthentic self-concept to please others. Her stress in being unable to fit into the dress causes concern as the Elsa dress has become an integrated part of her self-concept that now includes her own body image.



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In her study of immigrant Korean girls, Lee (2009) explores how the objectification of the female body image is portrayed in Disney films and whether differentiation between reality and unreality can be determined by the girls. Lee finds that the 10 girls, aged 5–8 years, are able to identify that the Disney princesses (notably from other Disney animations such as Arial in The Little Mermaid and Jasmine in Aladdin) are unrealistically portrayed and therefore should not considered to be likened to real American women. An interesting finding in this research, however, is that the girls still consider that ‘being thin’ is beautiful and desirable; they regard women in Korea, in general, as being thin and ‘prettier’ than the Disney princesses observed. While the case study of Kim focuses on the influencing factors from her peers, Lee’s study emphasises the influences of family and society upon children’s perception of body image and beauty.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 5.1 Dramatic play and body image Think about the type of play that occurs in the dramatic play areas of early childhood education settings. Question the following: • What materials are provided in there that restrict views of positive body image? • How are the equipment and materials arranged to provoke children’s thinking about positive imagery and health of our bodies? • Are the dress-ups in dramatic play areas instigators of negative stereotypes and gender norms, or do they allow for creativity and conversations around inclusive approaches? • What storybooks and storytelling experiences do we provide that challenge the roles of gender as well as images of beauty in our lives?

DIVERSITY AND BODY IMAGE SATISFACTION IN CHILDREN Moving from the discussion of aspects of body image, thinness and size, we look to other aspects of our bodies that affect our sense of self. Factors that affect our sense of being and image satisfaction include the state of our appearance, such as skin conditions and injuries that affect our mobility or visual status.


CASE STUDY 5.2 ADITYA Aditya and his family experienced a traumatising event that involved a house fire. While Aditya’s mother, father and older sister were able to escape without injury, Aditya suffered third-degree burns to 30 per cent of his body, including areas of his face and neck.

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He was 4 years old at the time and spent quite a considerable amount of his preschool year in hospital, undergoing an extensive number of surgeries and visits involving care for skin grafting. Due to the amount of recovery time needed after each surgery, Aditya did not progress as originally anticipated, and among his therapies are speech and occupational therapy, physiotherapy and counselling with a psychologist. At the end of his preschool year, the teacher meets with his family and recommends that Aditya be enrolled in a second year of preschool so that he can develop friendships and experience holistic developmental support before entering primary school. While his parents are hesitant at first, they also see that Aditya could tire easily and therefore three days of preschool would be more manageable than five full days of school. The preschool teacher supports Aditya’s introduction to the group; the children are curious about the scars on his face and his reactions to candles on cakes and pretend play with camp fires, ovens etc. As a group, and in consultation with Aditya’s family and therapists, the teacher and children develop a program in which they make crafts and letters of support for burn victims. Together, they develop a clear understanding that Aditya is seen as strong and capable, and that his scars do not create an identity for him that is negative or incompetent. They also focus on ways that the concept of support and acceptance can be incorporated into their everyday actions with each other, and through stories, role-play and discussions the children learn to be a secure base for each other. The teacher also works in partnership with the community to provide education and strategies for supporting children who have experienced injury. The teacher’s work particularly focuses on the community learning to build children’s positive sense of self, including body image. The children, families and community therefore learn to see past the scars and, when the children go on to attend school with Aditya, they form a support circle of security for him when others challenge his appearance. In education settings, how do we facilitate a supportive culture within our community, in which children are not ‘othered’ because of their physical appearance?

RESEARCH WITH CHILDREN AND INJURIES AFFECTING BODY IMAGE Serious childhood injuries can have a considerable effect on children’s perception of self, including how they feel about their bodies and their appearance. The continuing effects of injury relies greatly upon the supportive network that exists for children, in the home, in their education setting and in the community. Acceptance, support and appreciation form a strong foundation for children who have permanent burn scarring, as they grow and develop. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9 per cent of global fatalities are the result of injury in some way, including traffic accidents, drownings and burns (2019). The WHO further estimates that for every death there are dozens more hospitalisations and emergency medical visits that lead to some form of disability. O’Neill (2016) further reports that the cohort of children most at risk are 5–9 years of age. These statistics indi-



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cate that children, particularly those at the end of early childhood years and beginning of the middle childhood years, are most at risk of injury. While there is emerging literature regarding the development of intelligence in children and understanding of their decision-making regarding safety risks, the focus here is on the effects of the injury in terms of recovery and resilience in seeing the self as ‘injured and capable,’ particularly in relation to how the child views their body image thereafter. Ohgi and Gu (2013) report that each year over 500 000 children are hospitalised due to burn injuries, with the majority in developing countries. They further outline that children’s skin resistance to heat is minimal and that due to their developmental stages and capacities, are more prone to being exposed longer, leading to increased severity of burns. Concern for appropriate rehabilitation is paramount, including the support that children receive in relation to post-traumatic stress from the incident. The traumatic experience may range from small to severe, with each case having some effect. ­Balseven-Odabasi et al. (2009) state that ‘[e]ven in cases that are not life-threatening, burns may have severe physical and psychological effects due to the resultant scarring and contractures’ (p. 328). Furthermore, Ohgi and Gu (2013) report that ‘[m]ost children with burn injuries have anxiety, depression, and oppositional behaviour, withdraw from activities, and exhibit adverse effects on body image and self-esteem’ (p. 77). Dealing with disfigurement and associated unhappiness with their body and appearance can lead to further struggles in emotional coping and social engagement. Often, children who are burn victims with visible scarring withdraw from engagement with others. Ohgi and Gu (2013) suggest that playing games that produce enjoyment as well as reduce pain, can decrease the level of anxiety that exists with the pain. They also suggest that it is important to understand the support or lack of support children have from their families. Furthermore, ongoing psychological support is also recommended, to assist children to develop coping strategies if they experience negative social responses. The psychological support can assist children to develop a sense of acceptance of their ‘altered appearance’ and includes guidance in ‘normalizing the family members’ reaction to the burn’ (p. 78). This can be difficult to achieve, as a sense of social stigma may be attached to victims of burn injuries, including children. In their study of 85 burn survivors aged between 8 and 18 years, Lawrence et al. (2011) report that families often under-­ estimate the level of stigmatisation that their child experiences or perceives, and that this in turn can lead to emotional problems due to the ongoing experience of social rejection and exclusion from peers. Lawrence et al. further highlight that some children continue to suffer in silence, but that ongoing social supports may reduce this. Wurzer et al. (2017) also find in their study of 167 burns survivors aged between 7 and 12 years, that while distress over the scarring and experience decreases after 2 years, the children’s level of self-consciousness over their body image did not improve. It is therefore clear that without appropriate physiological and emotional support during recovery and rehabilitation, young children who are burn survivors are at risk of developing poor self-concepts in relation to their body image, experiencing social exclusion, and developing anxiety and depression.

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SUPPORTING BURN SURVIVORS IN THEIR PERCEPTION OF BODY IMAGE Specific programs in the school and early childhood environments that address stigmatisation and aim to building empathy and compassion may reduce the amount of social exclusion a burn survivor may feel (Lawrence et al., 2011). As we see in the case study, Aditya experienced post-traumatic stress from his incident, which included anxiety whenever he saw a flame, such as on the birthday candles. Through careful planning, support and collaboration, the preschool is able to develop a nurturing environment for Aditya that includes teaching children (i.e. his peers) to also be supportive, show empathy and understanding, and see Aditya as a capable and valued friend. Ohgi and Gu (2013) suggest that using an approach that also educates within the setting and the community can assist the child to build a positive self-concept and acceptance of their appearance. In addition, it also builds capacity in the community to promote a more positive understanding of the child’s circumstance in relation to their burns, scarring and body image. In Australia, the KIDS Foundation, founded by preschool and primary school teacher Susie O’Neill, provides support for children who are survivors of injury, including burn victims. The acronym ‘KIDS’ stands for Kids in Dangerous Situations (KIDS Foundation, 2019) and has incorporated research to discover ways that children can develop skills in making safety decisions in risky play. Embedded in this foundation is an education support program known as the See More Safety Program, which uses an assortment of story books and activities that aim to teach children how to make safe decisions. While this program focuses upon prevention, other programs, such as the Circle of Security™ (CoS) intervention program, could be used to promote children’s ability to support and enhance a sense of belonging for burns survivors, including increasing a positive body image and self-concept. The CoS program aims to strengthen parent–child relationships, based upon attachment theory (Brennan, 2017). The basic premise for such a program is to provide a positive influence on infants’ and young children’s mental health as they grow and develop. While the initial ideas are based on the relationships between children and their parents, the same elements and key ideas can be applied to education settings, particularly those in early childhood (birth to 8 years). This application can therefore be integral in developing supportive and secure relationships between educators and children and between children themselves. The secure nature of this program can enhance children’s positive sense of self, including developing a positive image of their bodies. The CoS program focuses on activities that are more likely to result in secure attachments, as well as improved social connections that incorporate three basic systems: attachment, exploration and caregiving (Vaever, Smith-Nielsen & Lange, 2016). Approaches and mindsets associated with these behaviours include providing a secure base in which children and adults can delight, protect and enjoy being with each other. In addition, they also engage in interactions that are help-giving and comforting. In Aditya’s circumstance, the CoS exists for him within the home and the preschool. The teacher has carefully provided an environment in which Aditya feels secure and delighted, rather than socially rejected or excluded. The teacher has made active decisions in incorporating teaching ‘empathy’ and ways of being ‘available’ to their friends, developing a strong sense of social justice.



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PAUSE AND REFLECT 5.2 Difference and diversity Think about the ways in which children engage with each other when they are curious about the concept of difference. Think about the following questions: • How might we incorporate the concept of diversity into our education programs that also include ways we can support, accept and appreciate difference? • How might we, as educators, facilitate children’s understanding of empathy? • What story books and storytelling experiences could be provided that enrich children’s understanding and appreciation of diversity in a way that they provide a circle of security for their peers?

IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE Developing a positive self-concept that includes positive perceptions of one’s body is a crucially important aspect of growing up. As we have discussed, having a positive image of self, including our bodies, helps us to feel good about ourselves in our everyday lives. The research outlined in this chapter so far has highlighted the deeply influential factors on children’s emerging sense of self, which includes how they see and accept their bodies. Educational settings are powerful environments in which to create opportunities for children to establish a strong understanding of health and respect for self and others. Pedagogical practices and approaches need to consider the many aspects that contribute to the evolving and growing mindsets children develop of themselves and others. Practices include understanding the personal biases of the self as teacher and the everyday language we use with children. For example, teaching practices might exclude gender-biased language such as ‘I need two big strong boys to move this table’ or ‘You look as pretty as a princess.’ Instead, teachers would be mindful of the images conjured when using such statements. Non-biased statements might therefore include ‘I need some help to move the table’ and ‘You look happy and healthy today’. Curriculum development might also include specific programs Respectful relationship: that a­ ddress ­gender bias and negative perceptions of the body and a relationship between two or more people that demonstrates instead promote r­espect ­ful relationships that challenge such stereomutual respect and trust, in which types. Such programs include the Resilience, Rights and Respectful communication is positive and constructive, and both parties are Relationships Curriculum developed by the Victorian Department honest with each other. of Education and Training (VDET) in 2018, which aims to provide evidence-based experiences to combat potentially harmful gender norms that lead to later life risk-taking with drugs and distress relating to body image (VDET, 2018). Learning experiences within this resource include supporting children to learn how to express their feelings effectively and to ask for help, as well as to address gender stereotypes and challenge gender norms that restrict people to a particular activity or way of being.

CHAPTER 5  Body image and young children

DESIGNING EFFECTIVE PROGRAMS FOR POSITIVE SELF-CONCEPT IN BODY IMAGERY Table 5.1 introduces ways in which educators can address poor self-concept in relation to body image and focus upon building a positive perception of self, including placing an emphasis on health, functionality and diversity, rather than appearance. As we have discussed earlier, concepts about our bodies and acceptable body images begin before a child turns 3 years of age. Therefore, it is important to understand how children develop their self-concept during early childhood as this perception can have a significant lifelong influence.

CONCLUSION This chapter has explored the ways in which children develop their sense of self in relation to the body. In particular, we have explored the ways that children are influenced and socialised into what is an acceptable body image, which can be detrimental or supportive of their wellbeing. The influence of media, family and peers give particular credence to the children in how they develop an image of themselves that is acceptable or not. Our incorporation of pop culture, such as the Disney princess phenomenon, has the potential to teach young children negative perceptions of the body as well as an inflamed sense of gender biases. Alternatively, the concept of the Disney princess could be useful in discussion with young children, where stereotypes can be challenged and storylines potentially reconfigured with them. The influence of peers and family play a strong role in shaping children’s acceptance or non-acceptance of their body type and imagery. This influence includes the negative image of the ‘overweight’ child, which can lead to bullying in education settings and fractured home relationships. Body satisfaction can therefore be somewhat reliant upon such socialised influences in our lives, which means that as educators we need to be acutely aware of the language we use and the experiences we provide to ensure they are ethical, responsible and respectful of the children we teach and those we do not teach. Negative perceptions of body image can begin early and can develop into concerning behaviours in children in middle childhood and adolescence, and therefore the inclusion of a positive body image is important to incorporate into our curriculum and pedagogical approaches to teaching content. To combat the potential of social rejection, exclusion and poor self-concept, educators can integrate the teachings of social justice concepts within their curriculum. Using the pedagogical approaches of play, particularly through the arts, educators can support children to focus more upon health than a prescribed acceptable visual appearance, incorporate approaches to appreciating what children can do and how they can support each other, and develop security within their circles of friendship and community.


Table 5.1  Combating body image issues in early childhood

Issue Objectification of body image through media such as Disney heroes, princes and princesses, as well as social media, YouTubers etc.

What do we want to achieve?

Learning focus and ­experiences

Potential questions for ­discussion

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

A shifting focus to ­functionality and agility of the body when healthy Realistic and positive image of the body A positive self-concept in relation to clothing choices and appearance Awareness and support for diversity in clothing choices that also include cultural and preferential selections Critical reflection on the images portrayed in ­animations, picture-­story books, social media and other forms of media

• Science – understanding how our bodies move through space • Physical play – arranging outdoor environments to include both natural and ­constructed equipment/­ materials for gross motor play and exploration • Creative arts – creating mosaics, paintings, drawings and 3D craft depicting bodily movement in spaces • Dramatic play – exploring a range of fabrics and materials to design clothing

How do we use our bodies when we are running? What about climbing – what parts of our bodies do we use? What if some of our body parts weren’t working properly? What could we do? How do we use our clothing to help us move? How do we use clothing to keep us healthy? Using Elsa from Disney’s Frozen™ as an example: When we see Elsa’s body, do you think she is healthy? Why? Why not? What might healthy bodies look like? What can healthy bodies do? What things do we do to keep our bodies healthy? What about Elsa’s hair – do you think it is always very neat? Is our hair always neat all day long? What about her skin? Does the picture of her skin look like real skin? What does our skin look like? How do we know if our skin is healthy?

Identity Children: • feel recognised and respected for who they are • explore different identities and points of view in dramatic play Community • demonstrate a sense of ­belonging and comfort in their environments • notice and react in positive ways to similarities and differences among people. Wellbeing Children: • acknowledge and accept ­affirmation • recognise and communicate their bodily needs (for example thirst, hunger, rest, comfort, physical activity) • show an increasing awareness of healthy lifestyles and good nutrition. (VDET & VCAA, 2016)

Harmful gender norms that affect our p­ erception that the perfect body image is thin and with clear skin; without ­anomalies

Respect, support and ­appreciation for the ­diversity of body types and appearance, including diverse body imagery

• Art – expression of self and other of beautiful bodies. Educators support notions of diversity in what is beautiful, including diverse imagery • Storytelling – understanding the ways we are beautiful. The intent is to remove the concept of ‘beauty’ from ‘image’ alone and that beauty encapsulates self and our positive connection with others • Role-play – developing anti-­biased clothing and dress-ups. Dramatic play area that i­ncorporates a range of fabrics and ­materials to ­challenge gender norms. Teacher engagement would facilitate anti-biased ­discussions relating to the construction of dress-ups

What are some of the beautiful things about us? What makes us beautiful? What do we know about ourselves that we like? What are some of the things we like about these (materials – ­fabrics, beads, art equipment and ­materials etc.)? When we see something that we have been told is ugly, how might we think of the beautiful things about it?

Identity Children: • explore aspects of identity through role-play • feel recognised and respected for who we are • explore different identities and points of view in ­dramatic play Community • begin to understand and ­evaluate ways in which texts construct identities and create stereotypes Wellbeing Children: • are happy, healthy, safe and are connected to others (VDET & VCAA, 2016)


Issue Unawareness of how food, meal times and activity affect our overall and ongoing health

What do we want to achieve?

Learning focus and ­experiences

Potential questions for ­discussion

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

Stronger awareness of how health and nutrition affect the ‘functionality’ of our bodies Awareness of foods that support particular aspects of health in our bodies, including i­nternal (bodily ­functions, organs, etc) and external (skin, hair, nails, etc)

• Science – gardening and cooking with children (e.g. utilising the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden method) • Interactions – educators modelling healthy and regular eating to children • Routines – regular meal and snack times to support children to identify when they are hungry and/or thirsty • Cooking – engaging children in cooking experiences that utilise healthy produce • Menu planning – designing meals with children, based on knowledge of healthy foods • Visual arts/craft – designing placements that depict ‘all-of-the-time foods’ and ‘sometimes-foods’

What do you think plants need to grow? How are our bodies and plants similar? Why is it important to eat more vegetables and fruit? What would happen if we only ate lollies, chocolate, ­MacDonald’s foods? What are all of the time foods? Why is it okay to eat them all of the time? What are ‘sometimes-foods’? Why should we only eat them sometimes?

Wellbeing Children: • are happy, healthy, safe and are connected to others • recognise and communicate their bodily needs (for example thirst, hunger, rest, comfort, physical activity) • show an increasing awareness of healthy lifestyles and good nutrition (VDET & VCAA, 2016)

Social rejection of children who are burn victims or experience some form of visible physical disfigurement in some way.

Development of empathy, • Storytelling and literature – understanding and social children engage in a range inclusion of all children, of literature that addresses regardless of physical concept of diversity and appearance acceptance Improved positive self-con- • Role-play and puppetry – cept and acceptance of exploration of social justice the altered self of the child concepts through puppets experiencing visible changes with associated stories that to their body discuss diversity and how we all enrich our humanity

What did the main characters of the story have trouble with at first? What were they thinking? What did they do that didn’t seem nice or helpful? What made them change their mind? What do they think now? What do they do that shows they are kinder and more helpful to others?

Identity Children: • explore aspects of identity through role-play • demonstrate increasing ­awareness of the needs and rights of others Community Children: • begin to recognise that they have a right to belong to many communities • explore the diversity of culture, heritage, background and tradition and that diversity presents opportunities for choices and new understandings (VDET & VCAA, 2016)


Issue ‘Othering’ victims of injury, such as burn victims, and seeing them as incapable, incompetent and not acceptable to social norms.

What do we want to achieve?

Learning focus and ­experiences

A strong sense of belong• Circle of Security group ing, support, acceptance poster/mural – a pictorial and appreciation of all representation of the ways children from a community children support, affirm and appreciate each other ­perspective Reduced self-consciousness – Includes ‘what I like of body image and increased about’ … ’what [child’s focus upon positive and name] can do’ … how respectful relationships [child’s name] makes me think I can do great things’ • Letters to my friend – children draw pictures of the ways they engage with their friends that are fun, supportive and share ideas. Letters are either posted in a service postbox or in the mail • Selfies – children use cameras to take ‘selfies’ of themselves with their friends, print and build a poster of the ways they like to play and things they appreciate about each other

Potential questions for ­discussion

Links to the Early Years Learning Framework

What is it that our friends do that is great? What are they good at? What do they sometimes find tricky? How could we help them with tricky things to do? How could we make our friends know that we like them just the way they are? How could we share this with other people we know?

Identity Children: • build secure attachment with one and then more familiar educators (and children) • establish and ­maintain ­respectful, trusting ­relationships with other children and educators • feel recognised and respected for who they are • reach out and communicate for comfort, assistance and companionship Community – • take action to assist other children to participate in social groups • practise inclusive ways of achieving coexistence (VDET & VCAA, 2016)

CHAPTER 5  Body image and young children


How does our own perception and expression of our own body image inadvertently influence those around us?

5.2 How are the languages we use, and the experiences and activities we choose, influencing a developing positive perception of body imagery in those we teach? 5.3

In what ways can we be advocates for children in our community to promote them as capable, healthy and strong, where their body satisfaction is sustained?

REFERENCES Balseven-Odabasi, A., Tümer, A., Keten, A. & Yorganci, K. (2009). Burn injuries among children aged up to seven years. The Turkish Journal of Pediatrics, 51(4), 328–35. Brennan, J. (2017). The circle of security intervention: Enhancing attachment in early parent–child relationships. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 35(2), 207–8. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2016.1277193 Brown, F.L. & Slaughter, V. (2011). Normal body, beautiful body: Discrepant perceptions reveal a pervasive ‘thin ideal’ from childhood to adulthood. Body Image, 8(2), 119–25. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.02.002 Burton, L. (2012). Nobody’s fool: Power and agency in performing ‘The Blonde’. Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty, 3(1/2), 131–40. doi:10.1386/csfb.3.1-2.131_1 Dundes, L., Streiff, M. & Streiff, Z. (2018). Storm Power, an Icy Tower and Elsa’s Bower: The winds of change in Disney’s Frozen. Social Sciences, 7(6), 86. doi:10.3390/socsci7060086 Erikson, E.H. (1997). The Life Cycle Completed. (Extended version, with new chapters on the ninth stage of development by Joan M. Erikson.) New York: W.W. Norton. Golden, J. & Jacoby, J. (2018). Playing princess: Preschool girls’ interpretations of gender stereotypes in Disney princess media. A Journal of Research, 79(5), 299–313. doi:10.1007/s11199-017-0773-8 Hashmi, F. (2017). Let it go: Representation of early 21st century feminist approach. (Essay). Journal of Gender and Social Issues, 16(2), 13. Huggins, M. (2016). Stigma is the origin of bullying. Journal of Catholic Education, 19(3), 166–96. doi:10.15365/joce.1903092016 KIDS Foundation (2019). Kids Foundation: About us – History. (Website). Retrieved from Langsdale, S. (2014). Disney classics and ‘poisonous pedagogy’: The fairytale roots of Frozen (2013). Animation Practice, Process & Production, 4(1), 27–43. doi:10.1386/ap3.4.1.27_1 Lawrence, J.W., Rosenberg, L., Mason, S. & Fauerbach, J.A. (2011). Comparing parent and child perceptions of stigmatizing behavior experienced by children with burn scars. Body Image, 8(1), 70–3. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.09.004 Lee, L. (2009). American immigrant girls’ understanding of female body image in Disney: A critical analysis of young Korean girls’ perspectives. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 17(3), 363–75. doi:10.1080/13502930903101560 Liechty, J.M., Clarke, S., Birky, J.P. & Harrison, K. (2016). Perceptions of early body image socialization in families: Exploring knowledge, beliefs, and strategies among mothers of preschoolers. Body Image, 19, 68–78. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.08.010



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Mellor, D., Waterhouse, M., Mamat, N.H.B., Xu, X., Cochrane, J., McCabe, M. & Ricciardelli, L. (2013). Which body features are associated with female adolescents’ body dissatisfaction? A cross-cultural study in Australia, China and Malaysia. Body Image, 10(1), 54–61. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.10.002 O’Brien, K.S., Daníelsdóttir, S., Ólafsson, R.P., Hansdóttir, I., Fridjónsdóttir, T.G. & Jónsdóttir, H. (2013). The relationship between physical appearance concerns, disgust, and anti-fat prejudice. Body Image, 10(4), 619–23. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.07.012 Ohgi, S. & Gu, S. (2013). Pediatric burn rehabilitation: Philosophy and strategies. Burns and Trauma, 1(2), 73–9. doi:10.4103/2321-3868.118930 O’Neill, S. (2016). Safety risk intelligence: Children’s concept formation of safety and their individual capabilities to appraise risk of injury. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 41(2), 41. doi:10.1177/183693911604100207 Quail, C. (2011). Nerds, geeks, and the hip/square dialectic in contemporary television. Television & New Media, 12(5), 460–82. doi:10.1177/1527476410385476 Reulbach, U., Ladewig, E.L., Nixon, E., O’Moore, M., Williams, J. & O’Dowd, T. (2013). Weight, body image and bullying in 9-year-old children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 49, 288–93. Rogers, C. (2004). On Becoming a Person: A Therapists’s View of Psychotherapy (2nd edn). London: Constable. Ruffman, T., O’Brien, K.S., Taumoepeau, M., Latner, J.D. & Hunter, J.A. (2016). Toddlers’ bias to look at average versus obese figures relates to maternal anti-fat prejudice. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 142, 195–202. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2015.10.008 Skouteris, H., McCabe, M., Swinburn, B. & Hill, B. (2010). Healthy eating and obesity prevention for preschoolers: A randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 220. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-220 Tremblay, L., Lovsin, T., Zecevic, C. & Larivière, M. (2011). Perceptions of self in 3–5-yearold children: A preliminary investigation into the early emergence of body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 8(3), 287–92. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2011.04.004 Vaever, M., Smith-Nielsen, J. & Lange, T. (2016). Copenhagen infant mental health project: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial comparing circle of security parenting and care as usual as interventions targeting infant mental health risks. BMC Psychology, 4(1). doi:10.1186/s40359-016-0166-8 Victorian Department of Education and Training (VDET) (2018). Resilience, Rights & Respectful Relationships; Foundation Learning Materials. Melbourne: VDET. Victorian Department of Education and Training (VDET) & Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority (VCAA) (2016). The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Melbourne: VDET. World Health Organization (WHO) (2019). Injuries. Retrieved from topics/injuries/about/en/ Wurzer, P., Forbes, A.A., Hundeshagen, G., Andersen, C.R., Epperson, K.M., Meyer, W.J. … Finnerty, C.C. (2017). Two-year follow-up of outcomes related to scarring and distress in children with severe burns. Disability and Rehabilitation, 39(16), 1639–43. doi:10.1080/09638288.2016.1209579

FOOD FOR THOUGHT The role of teachers and parents in children’s food choices


Donna Pendergast and Susanne Garvis The authors would like to acknowledge Natalie Parletta, who wrote earlier versions of this chapter in the first and second editions.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Investigate the dietary patterns of Australian children to consider whether this is optimal for growth and development, and as a contributor to children’s physical and mental health, learning and behaviour. • Appreciate how schools can provide and benefit from integration of nutrition and food literacy throughout the school curriculum, supported by healthy food availability in school canteens and special events in a whole-of-school approach. • Consider the importance of parents and caregivers as role models for children in the development of healthy food preferences and attitudes.


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INTRODUCTION Since the end of the twentieth century, children have been faced with a rapidly changing world that is having a significant influence on their health and wellbeing. These changes include alterations to our food supply, new approaches to the marketing of food and other lifestyle factors that influence children’s food consumption. The early years represents a pivotal period in the establishment of food Food and nutrition literacy: a complex skill. According to and nutrition literacy – that is, dietary education, behaviours and the Eat Well South Australia preferences – when children are forming their tastes and preferences, Project (Government of South Australia, 2010), food literacy is and are most receptive to health messages. Schools and caregivers the ‘capacity of an individual to are ideally placed to assist early years learners to develop positive obtain, interpret and understand attitudes towards, and knowledge of, healthy food. This is also basic food and nutrition information and services as relevant to schools because healthy children are better learners, and well as the competence to use evidence suggests that a holistic approach to education that includes that information and available services that are health health and nutrition has wide-reaching benefits for children and staff. enhancing’. Furthermore, lifestyle factors – including diet – are critical in developed countries, many of which are facing alarming rates of obesity in childhood, earlier onset of chronic diseases, and learning and behavioural problems. A good supply of essential nutrients from fresh, minimally processed whole foods is a major contributor to optimal development of children’s growing bodies and brains. Importantly, food preferences and dietary patterns established at this time can track into adolescence and adulthood, having a significant influence on children’s physical and psychological health and wellbeing throughout life. The seriousness of the problem of childhood obesity was recently addressed by a citizens’ jury run by researchers at the University of Adelaide (2016), who made 10 major recommendations. Although they acknowledge that the problem is complex and are calling for multi-level government intervention, their recommendations include school-based nutritional education and health promotion, plus nutritional education programs for new parents. Early childhood educators and carers, teachers and parents can play a key role in influencing children’s knowledge about healthy foods and food choices by creating a positive food environment that contributes to a healthy start to life for children, through: • • • • •

healthy food options involvement of children in gardening and food preparation role-modelling of healthy food choices contextualisation for the adoption of healthy eating habits warm, encouraging approach to education and child-rearing with clear, healthy boundaries.

PHYSICAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING The 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (Common­ wealth of Australia, 2008) identified that most children are not meeting dietary guidelines for healthy eating, due to excessive consumption of non-core foods that are high in unhealthy fats, sugar and salt and have low nutritional value, and low intakes of essential whole foods

CHAPTER 6  Food for thought


such as fruit, vegetables and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids: healthy A recent study of 435 Australian children aged 9 to 10 years, from low fats for the brain and body that we need from our diet, including to high socio-economic backgrounds, suggests that this situation is green leafy vegetables, nuts (e.g. not improving. For instance, 55 per cent of daily energy intake came walnuts), seeds (e.g. linseeds), algae and oily fish (e.g. salmon, from non-core foods, while 91 per cent of children were not eating the mackerel, sardines, tuna). recommended daily servings of vegetables. Median diet-quality scores were 26 for boys and 25 for girls, out of a maximum of 73 points (Whitrow et al., 2016). These poor eating patterns, combined with excess sedentary activities and insufficient physical activity, can contribute to a greater risk of obesity and associated chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Previously seen only in adults, these are now increasingly found in children (Lobstein et al., 2004). On average, one in four Australian children is overweight or obese, carrying an increased risk of becoming an overweight or obese adult. Overweight and obesity are also associated with a myriad of psychological consequences, such as low self-esteem, stigma, reduced employment opportunities and poor mental health. Conversely, eating nutritious whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and fish, is associated with better physical and mental health, and can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. Having a healthy lifestyle is the most ideal and effective approach to preventing the onset of chronic disease. Established habits are difficult to break; chronic disease is more difficult to address than maintaining good health. Therefore, early childhood is the ideal time to develop healthy lifestyle habits, when children are receptive to learning and are developing their attitudes and ­preferences – ­and those habits and views developed during the early years are most likely to track through to adolescence and adulthood. Biologically, children’s taste buds continue to develop throughout childhood. Although our taste buds are wired for sweet, salty foods if these are provided, exposure to healthy, whole foods will influence the development of a child’s tastes while reinforcing learned and environmental influences on food preferences, so that the foods to which children are exposed early in life can have a lasting effect on future food choices and eating behaviours. In Chapter 1 we introduced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations, 2015) which are 17 aspirational global goals to be achieved by 2030. Of these, Goal 2: Zero hunger, Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing, and Goal 4: Quality education, specifically relate to the area of food end wellbeing.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 6.1 SDGs and eating behaviours Investigate the three SDGs: Goal 2: Zero hunger, Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing, and Goal 4: Quality education. How might these goals be used to inspire children to reflect on their own eating behaviours? Be creative and invite children to actively consider how they might contribute to achieving each goal.


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HEALTHY CHILDREN ARE BETTER LEARNERS NUTRIENTS FOR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT AND FUNCTION Not only do poor eating patterns affect physical health, they also have an effect on children’s cognitive and emotional development. The adage that ‘you are what you eat’ reflects the fact that our brain, as well as our body, comprises essential nutrients that are required for its development and performance. Studies in malnourished children have established that nutrition and stimulation interact to produce optimal education outcomes. For instance, a sample of children who had been malnourished showed a gap of 10 to 12.5 fewer IQ points at several ages, and a 60 per cent rate of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to a 15 per cent rate in healthy matched controls from the same schools (Galler & Barrett, 2001). A large longitudinal study on the island of Mauritius (Raine et al., 2003), controlling for psycho-social adversity, found that children who had been malnourished at the age of 3 years had a loss of 15.3 IQ points and more anti-social and aggressive behaviour, mediated by low IQ. These children also had greater incidence of aggression and motor excess at age 17. Notably, this study recruited a sub-sample of 3-year-olds to take part in a two-year enrichment program (nutrition, physical activity and education), and compared their development with carefully matched controls. Results indicate improved maturation of the frontal cortex of the brain in the enrichment group, and significantly reduced schizotypal personality and anti-­ social behaviour 14 to 20 years later. These benefits were greatest for children who had been malnourished, with 23 to 53 per cent lower scores on a range of these adverse psychological outcomes, suggesting that the nutrition component played an important role. Importantly, sub-clinical deficiencies of micro-nutrients may disrupt cognition and mental health when overt signs of malnourishment are not present, and sub-optimal ­levels of essential nutrients such as iron, zinc and omega-3s are widespread in children from ­developed countries like Australia. The brain has particularly high requirements for ­nutrients from food for development and function. It accounts for over 50 per cent of the body’s glucose requirements for its ongoing function, which in turn relies on nutrients to enable a steady supply of glucose to the brain. In addition, essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium and omega-3s have a range of interrelated roles in brain function, so inadequate intake of these nutrients can contribute to learning and behavioural problems associated with developmental disorders such as ADHD (Sinn, 2008) and learning difficulties. While it is well known that severe iodine deficiency can result in delayed mental development, mild to moderate iodine deficiency is prevalent in developed countries, and has been associated with 6.9 to 10.2 lower IQ points in children under 5 years of age compared to iodine-replete children (Bougma et al., 2013). Meta-analysis: a combined A meta-analysis across 15 schools reported a significant average instatistical analysis of a range crease of 3.2 IQ points following supplementation with vitamins and of different research studies to minerals versus placebo (Schoenthaler & Bier, 1999). The strongest test the results of the combined data, which gives more powerful effects were in under-nourished and under-performing children from results than one study alone. low socio-economic backgrounds, who showed an average increase of eight IQ points, and in one study that took blood samples, intelligence scores increased by 11 IQ points in children whose blood nutrient levels rose (Schoenthaler et al., 1991).

CHAPTER 6  Food for thought

Overall, diet quality has been associated with academic achievement. For instance, in a longitudinal population cohort study in the UK, children with a ‘junk food’ dietary pattern at age 3 years had increased hyperactivity and lower school performance at age 8 years (Northstone et al., 2012). These children’s dietary patterns at age 3 also predicted their later IQ scores: those with a diet characterised by processed foods high in fat and sugar at age 3 had a small reduction in IQ scores at 8 years of age, while those with a healthy diet comprised of fruit, salad, pasta, rice and fish had a small increase in IQ scores at the age of 8.

FOOD ADDITIVES AND BEHAVIOUR It is now established by well-designed research studies that food additives can have a detrimental effect on children’s learning and behaviour, and in some cases can be associated with developmental problems like ADHD (McCann et al., 2007; Pelsser et al., 2011; Schab & Trinh, 2014). Even in children without a clinically diagnosed problem, food additives can contribute to mood swings, inattentiveness, hyperactivity, headaches and digestive problems. Although clearly there are multiple contributors to learning and behavioural problems, in some children the effect of food intolerances can be clearly noticeable, and the effect size in randomised controlled trials is clinically meaningful for children with ADHD (Pelsser et al., 2011). Even in children from a general population, food colourings and preservatives in amounts that children consume on average each day in the UK have been shown to increase hyperactivity compared to placebo, which affects learning ability (McCann et al., 2007). Former teacher and food additive expert Sue Dengate (2014) provides a useful website on food intolerance for parents and teachers, presenting information about food additives and their effects, links to scientific research, case studies and dietary guidance for parents and caregivers. The website is

CASE STUDY 6.1  FOOD INTOLERANCE AND BEHAVIOUR Here is one example of a common case study reported on Sue Dengate’s ‘Fed Up’ website (reprinted verbatim, with permission): I would like to say a very big thank you for helping change not only my son’s life dramatically but in turn the whole family. Last year I put my eight-year-old boy onto your elimination diet. Before the diet my son was in trouble at school every day, he was argumentative, angry, hyperactive, and overall his behaviour was negative and every day was a huge struggle. After discovering that he reacts severely to preservatives, ­colours, salicylates and amines, his overall wellbeing has completely changed. Not only is the household a much . . . calmer place now, also so is his class room. He would [have] been considered to be one of the naughtiest children in the class but now he is achieving amazing results at school. He




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competed in the National Maths Competition and got a distinction (finished in the top 11 per cent in all of Australia), he also achieved very highly in the NAPLAN and has amazed his music teacher by performing songs that are way above his year level. Not only is he a much happier boy, so are his siblings and both my husband and I. Not only has this diet given him a much better chance for a successful future, he is living testimony that this diet is truly life changing. (Paula) This example of a parent taking action to deal with their child’s food intolerance achieved a positive outcome on the behaviour of their child. What other signs are there to look for that a child might be experiencing a food intolerance?

COGNITION AND BEHAVIOUR: BREAKFAST AND LEARNING As well as a continuing need for essential nutrients to enable healthy brain function, the nature and timing of meals – particularly breakfast – can have a short-term effect on cognitive performance. Children and adults perform cognitively better if they Metabolic activity: all of the eat breakfast. Children’s brains have higher metabolic activity than chemical reactions that take part adults. Combined with lower muscle mass, this results in both greater in the body and brain that enable requirements for energy and a greater need for a continuing energy their functions and keep us alive. supply. This increases children’s need for an adequate breakfast to assist their cognitive performance during the day. A meta-analysis of studies that investigated the influence of breakfast on cognitive performance found that having breakfast resulted in better outcomes compared with not having breakfast, although this effect was more apparent in children whose nutritional status was below par (Hoyland, Dye & Lawton, 2009). A subsequent UK study reported that a nutrient-rich breakfast with Glycemic index: a ranking of a low-glycemic index (GI) – muesli, milk and fruit – was superior to a carbohydrates in foods according nutrient-poor, high-GI breakfast (cornflakes, milk and white bread) or to how they affect our blood no breakfast (Cooper et al., 2012). It makes sense that, in addition to glucose levels – lower GI (e.g. high-fibre) foods raise blood sugar benefits provided by the variety of nutrients in the low-GI breakfast levels more slowly than high GI used in the latter study, the fibre provided by a low-GI breakfast will foods (e.g. refined carbohydrates like sugar and white bread). enable the slow release of glucose into the bloodstream and thereby support sustained cognitive performance levels throughout the day.

SPOTLIGHT 6.1 Nutrition/diet and children’s health and wellbeing: Overview of main points • The early years are an optimal time to develop children’s nutrition literacy and food preferences. • Obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases are significant problems for children in developed countries like Australia.

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• Essential nutrients from a whole-food diet are important contributors to children’s brain development, learning and behaviour. • A healthy breakfast will assist children’s cognitive performance and learning throughout the day. • Additives in processed foods can contribute to learning and behaviour problems, even in healthy children, and should be avoided.

EDUCATION SETTINGS AND CHILDREN’S NUTRITION LITERACY Next to the family, school has the biggest influence on children’s lives. Therefore, in an environment of increased accessibility and aggressive marketing of highly processed, non-nutritious foods, schools can help to arm children with the knowledge and ability to make healthy food choices. Furthermore, schools can have a particularly important and consistent influence on children whose families have limited time, knowledge and/or resources to provide and promote healthy food and eating in the family home. Schools can also benefit directly from having healthy children, in a number of ways including improved attendance due to less absenteeism, more alert learners and better behaved students. Accordingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has played a key role in the global Health-Promoting Schools initiative (see WHO, 2014), including nutrition as an essential element with the argument that ‘health, education and nutrition support and enhance each other’ (WHO 1998, Foreword). The alignment of health and education in the school setting is highlighted as a continuing concern by Valois, Slade and Ashford (2011), quoting the following landmark statement from Health is Academic: Today’s education climate in education is in a state of flux. Public debate centres on how schools can do what they do even better – despite shrinking budgets and new challenges. But as the authors of this volume assert, educational reforms will be effective only if students’ health and well-being are identified as contributors to academic success and are at the heart of decision and policy making. Schools, in concert with students, their families, and communities, must consider how well schools are accomplishing their missions and how they can best help students realise their full potential (Marx, Wooley & Northrop, 1998, p. 293).

Although the Healthy School Communities initiative that produced the report (Valois et al., 2011) is American, the same issues apply in Australian schools that face similar challenges, such as low budgets, competing demands on curriculum content and arguments that the main function of schools is to educate children academically (Setter, KourisBlazos & Wahlqvist, 2000). The report includes a summary of research on schools that have included a focus on children’s health and wellbeing as an integral part of the school’s curriculum – they report  higher levels of academic achievement; higher staff satisfaction and lower staff



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t­urnover; greater efficiency; a positive school climate; and a school–community culture that enhances student growth (Valois et al., 2011). Therefore, not only are schools and early caregivers ideally placed to have a significant influence on the development of children’s nutritional knowledge, food preferences and attitudes, they also benefit from a school-wide approach to healthy food and nutrition.

HEALTHY FOOD PROJECTS IN AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS Setter et al. (2000) conducted a review of Australian health-promoting school programs and made some recommendations, such as: one-off talks by health professionals are ineffective; a central statewide database would be useful for teachers to access key information that can be used to develop a program; nutrition programs need to be implemented at every year level, starting from Kindergarten (Prep); programs that include health and nutrition in both the curriculum and the school canteen are most effective; integrating concepts about health and nutrition in a wide range of classes (e.g. using nutrition concepts as a basis for teaching interactive computer skills, English assignments) may be just as effective as delivering it in specialised nutrition classes; regular in-house nutrition training and education for teachers is needed; and home economics should be brought back into the curriculum to help children learn basic cooking skills. Further to this, Drummond (Drummond & Sheppard, 2011) ran focus groups with teachers, parents, principals, canteen managers and students in South Australia to investigate the role of school canteens within the school system. She identified common obstacles to healthy school canteens, including a lack of volunteers to help prepare food, a lack of nutritional awareness, a perception of needing to profit from canteen sales and a lack of school support. This research highlighted the importance of engaging the wider community in messages about nutrition, volunteer support in school activities and the school canteen, encouraging older students to be positive role models or ‘champions’, and support at all levels for including healthy canteen food within a school-wide priority on health and nutrition. An international workshop to examine the evidence base on school food and nutrition inspired a number of papers published in a special issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition (Mikkelsen & Ohri-Vachaspati, 2013). One of these papers (Moore et al. 2013) used case studies from schools in the UK and Australia to highlight the importance of adopting a multi-level, socio-ecological framework for implementation of effective school food policies and interventions. All indications support the notion that nutrition messages need to be consistent in order to be effective as part of a whole-school approach – for example, the food available in school canteens needs to reflect messages on health and nutrition that are taught in the school curriculum. Drummond (2010) notes that children’s eagerness to consume healthy food following a two-week education program needs to be supported with food availability at home to be sustained. Indeed, there is evidence that children can be agents of change – for example, by requesting healthy food at home that they had grown, cooked, eaten and/or learnt about at school.

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A whole-of-school approach to nutrition literacy needs to include the teaching of food and nutrition skills alongside examples of healthy eating in the foods available in the school canteen as well as events – such as sports days and funding activities – that complement a school-wide focus on healthy lifestyles. A comprehensive approach to assisting children to choose a healthy diet, both at home and at child care or school, will include healthy foods and snacks, teacher role-modelling and development of skills in food growing, handling, preparation, cooking and consumer literacy – that is, how to shop for healthy food, and how to understand food marketing and nutrition labels. Some schools have successfully implemented regular activities such as ‘fruit’ days that encourage children to bring fruit from home to be cut up and shared. School-based nutrition programs also need to be consistent, with environmentally sustainable and financially viable food systems. These are complementary – for instance, a school can promote home-prepared food in brown paper bags or reusable containers as part of a focus on environmental awareness, which will also be consistent with encouraging the consumption of whole food rather than packaged, processed food. The Australian government has published a resource kit for ‘Healthy and active school communities’, which includes examples of schools that have implemented healthy eating and/or physical activity, what they did and what worked (see Department of Health and Ageing, 2004). An excellent model has been developed in Berkeley, California, where they provide five days of onsite training for educators around the world each year (http://

Figure 6.1 Girls gardening



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SPOTLIGHT 6.2 Ways in which schools can promote food and nutrition literacy to early years learners • Recognise schools as important leaders in the promotion of food and nutrition literacy and in developing healthy learners. • Integrate healthy food and nutrition literacy throughout the school curriculum and at all year levels. • Provide regular in-house nutrition training and education for teachers and canteen staff. • Be congruent in food and nutrition literacy promotion throughout the school. • Provide healthy food in the school canteen – recruit volunteers to involve children in food choice and promotion. • Provide healthy food on school sports days, and at fundraising activities and other events. • Create a school vegetable garden and involve children in growing the vegetables. • Involve children in food preparation, handling, cooking and eating healthy food. • Integrate healthy food messages with environmental awareness. • Incorporate healthy food messages into newsletters for parents. • Promote partnerships with parents and the local community to support food and nutrition literacy, healthy food and vegetable gardens at the school.

Figure 6.2 Students cooking

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HOW PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS CAN ENCOURAGE HEALTHY DIETS The food environment provided by families and carers – particularly Food environment: factors in the home, school and society that in the first five years of life – can have a lasting influence on young influence food consumption (e.g. children’s taste preferences, food knowledge and choices. The food availability, child feeding strategies, meal-time structure, division of responsibility (Satter, 2007) model, or ‘parents provide, TV viewing, cost of food, school child decides’, states that parents are responsible for what food canteens, food advertising). they provide, where and when, while children are responsible for whether and what they choose to eat. Role-modelling of healthy food choices and attitudes can have a powerful influence, as can involving children in gardening, shopping, cooking healthy food and preparing healthy snacks – and making it fun. Having dinner as a family, with one meal for all, and ensuring it is a positive experience can, create positive associations with healthy foods. Food aversion can easily develop after even one unpleasant experience. School lunches provide an opportunity for healthy food habits to be effectively established – or quite the contrary. Numerous studies have analysed the contents of school lunchboxes and compared different socio-economic groups to determine, for example, whether access to financial resources has an effect on the healthiness of the lunchbox’s contents. A study by Kelly et al. (2010) conducted an analysis of preschoolers’ lunchboxes at 61 centres in Australia, revealing that sandwiches and home-cooked meals were found in 92 per cent of children’s lunchboxes and 75 per cent contained fresh fruit. In addition, 60 per cent of lunchboxes contained food that was classified as ‘extra’; that is, low nutrition and energy dense foods including chips, confectionary and extra beverages. Overall, 38 per cent of lunchboxes were overloaded with extras, 33 per cent were balanced and the remainder were unbalanced. In this study, ‘balanced’ meant there was a sandwich or home-cooked meal with either fruit or vegetables and one other food or beverage. ‘Unbalanced’ was defined as lacking one or more of the balanced lunchbox components, having too many components or having no lunchbox at all. This suggests that lunchboxes are a key focus for improvement of diet in children, especially given their reliance on this food as their only available source for the day.

CASE STUDY 6.2  SCHOOL LUNCHBOXES Sam and Chris have been discussing their children’s experiences at preschool, especially their lunches, which are taken along by the children each day. Chris has noticed his daughter, Alex, is eating only the chips and biscuits in her box, with the healthy food returning home untouched each day. Sam recalls that as a young person he was not always happy to eat his lunch and often placed the uneaten food in the rubbish bin so that he did not upset his parents. As a result, he has been highly invested in ensuring the lunches Alex takes each day are nutritious, there is plenty of variety and the food is eaten! He also ensures there are no extra treat foods included. He shares his ideas with Chris:



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• Have a well-designed, insulated lunchbox with compartments to keep flavours separate – and always have the child choose the design so they want to eat from it. • Change the type of food each day – sandwiches one day, then maybe a wrap the next day, then a wedge of quiche or a salad the following day – to broaden the child’s food experience early and avoid boredom and refusal. • Have plenty of fresh products available that can be quickly prepared into child-sized shapes that are easy to hold and are attractive to children. • Avoid packaged foods that are the ideal size or quantity for the child, add cost and generally have increased additives for preservation. • Include the child in the food choice and packing so that they look forward to eating their food – this increases children’s agency and food knowledge, enhancing their food literacy. • Cook foods together for inclusion in lunchboxes. • Discuss food with the preschooler and why nutrition is important, so they develop an understanding of the importance of eating a well-balanced diet. What other suggestions can you offer Chris? Develop a list of general principles and then add some suggested lunchbox items.

It is advisable to avoid power struggles over food, and never force children to eat anything or to bribe them with dessert – these tactics do not work in the long term. Pressuring children to eat has been shown to be counterproductive, resulting in lower food intake and greater negative associations with food (Galloway et al., 2006). Children will eat when they are hungry and if they are bribed with dessert they will see that as the ideal or desirable food rather than the vegetable that we are trying to get them to eat. Similarly, if children are exposed to highly processed foods and given ‘anything’ just to make sure they eat, or to entertain or soothe them, they will develop preferences for the unhealthy options and become ‘fussy eaters’. Furthermore, if they are forced to eat or finish the food on their plate when they do not want to eat or have had enough, they will lose their innate ability to respond to internal satiety cues. Children naturally tend to develop neophobia – that is, fear of unknown food – at around the age of 2 years. Continued, positive exposure to healthy foods, rather than pandering to fussiness, will help to mitigate this, and their willingness to try novel foods will naturally increase over time. These and other family environmental or parental influences are reviewed by ­Scaglioni, Salvioni and Galimberti (2008). It is important for parents, who are well-meaning, to be aware of keeping it fun and positive. Drawing from many years of working with families, author and nutrition expert Jill Castle warns against too much ‘nutrition talk’ at the table. She advises to let this be guided by children, and to avoid nutrition messages that

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can be interpreted in a way that influences children’s self-esteem (e.g. I am bad if I eat unhealthy food). Other effective strategies include limiting exposure to commercial TV and food advertising targetted at children. When badgered to purchase unhealthy food in the supermarket, say ‘no’ and mean ‘no’; a consistent, loving and ­encouraging but firm authoritative parenting style will effectively Authoritative parenting style: a parenting style with get the message across, and children will give up if you stand your high demandingness and high ground. Offer healthy alternatives. responsiveness that involves setting firm, clear boundaries A body of research has identified that restrictive feeding pracwith love and warmth. This tices are not associated with healthy food choices. Conversely, parenting style is associated with permissive parenting practices (translated as allowing children to healthier psychological outcomes and healthier behaviours. eat whatever they want) is also not effective. What is most effective is to give children choices between healthy options – that is, to have healthy food and drinks available – and simply keep the non-nutritious snack foods, cereals and desserts out of the environment. These are alright as ‘sometimes’ foods. Children can be encouraged to bake biscuits, cakes and muffins, and to help out with other meals. The important point is not to make a big deal out of these by demonising them or alternatively making them into ‘treats’. As indicated above, the foods to which young children are exposed, and which are familiar to them, can have a powerful influence on what they will accept and willingly eat. Researchers have shown that exposing children to a previously disliked vegetable for 14 consecutive days results in greater liking and likelihood of eating that vegetable, compared to children in control groups. They investigated this further and have shown that toddlers visually exposed to vegetables through storybooks and then exposed to vegetable tastings are even more likely to like and eat them (Heath, Houston-Price  & Kennedy, 2011).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 6.2 Eating habits Reflect on your own eating habits. Do you eat nutritious, healthy food that allows you  to  achieve health and wellbeing? What habits or patterns do you have that are ­positive? Negative? How were these food patterns established? How can you change negative habits?

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has ­ ublished an excellent resource for parents that includes practical ideas and recipes, The p CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids (CSIRO, 2009).


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Figure 6.3 Father and son cooking together

SPOTLIGHT 6.3 Ways in which parents and caregivers can promote healthy food preferences to early years learners • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Provide healthy options: parents provide, child decides. Act as role models in healthy food choices and attitudes towards food. Provide children with consistently healthy food options in their environment. Eat family meals together (with no short-order cooking) and create a positive food environment. Limit exposure to commercial TV. Maximise exposure to positive messages about, and associations with, healthy food. Never force children to eat, or to finish the food, on their plate. Never bribe children to eat vegetables or other healthy foods. Do not use processed sweet, salty or high-fat foods as treats or rewards. Provide regular access to water and keep sugary drinks out of the house or environment. Do not cater for fussiness. Provide repeated positive exposure to healthy, whole foods. Involve children in growing vegetables, shopping and cooking. Talk to children about healthy food and help them to develop a critical awareness of non-nutritious food advertising and promotion.

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Figure 6.4 Family eating together

PAUSE AND REFLECT 6.3 Food literacy Are you food literate? What are the indicators? Where is the evidence that you practice food literacy as part of your everyday lifestyle?

CONCLUSION It can be seen from other chapters in this book that there are multiple influences on the health and wellbeing of early years learners. As part of a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, food and nutrition literacy is a fundamental requirement for growing children. Consumption of and preference for healthy, whole foods helps to form a foundation for physical and mental health and wellbeing in childhood and throughout life, along with healthy levels of physical activity, can assist children to develop resilience in dealing with challenges and benefit from opportunities provided to them. In light of the availability and marketing of highly processed foods aimed at children, it is vital for parents, caregivers and schools to play a key role in helping children form healthy attitudes towards, knowledge of and preferences for, healthy food.



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QUESTIONS 6.1 What does food and nutrition literacy for children involve? 6.2 Why is food and nutrition literacy important? Provide at least four reasons. 6.3 What can parents and caregivers do to promote the development of healthy food preferences in children? 6.4 What can schools do to promote food and nutrition literacy for children?

REFERENCES Bougma, K, Aboud, F.E., Harding, K.B. & Marquis, G.S. (2013). Iodine and mental development of children 5 years old and under: A systematic review and metaanalysis. Nutrients, 5(4), 1384–416. Commonwealth of Australia (2008). 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutritional and Physical Activity Survey. Barton, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) (2009). The CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids. Ringwood, Vic.: Penguin. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from Cooper, S.B., Bandelow, S., Nute., M.L., Morris, J.G. & Nevill, M.E. (2012). Breakfast glycemic index and cognitive function in adolescent school children. British Journal of Nutrition, 107, 1823–32. Dengate, S. (2014). Food Intolerance Network. (Website). Retrieved 16 April 2016 from http:// Department of Health and Ageing (2004). Healthy and Active School Communities: A resource kit for schools. Retrieved 16 April 2014 from internet/healthyactive/publishing.nsf/Content/schoolcommu_resourcekit.pdf/$File/ schoolcommu_resourcekit.pdf Drummond, C.E. (2010). Using nutrition education and cooking classes in primary schools to encourage healthy eating. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 4(2), 43–54. Drummond, C. & Sheppard, L. (2011). Examining primary and secondary school canteens and their place within the school system: A South Australian study. Health Education Research, 26(4), 739–49. Galler, J.R. & Barrett, R.L. (2001). Children and famine: Long-term impact on development. Ambulatory Child Health, 7, 85–95. Galloway, A.T., Fiorito, L.M., Francis, L.A. & Birch, L.L. (2006). ‘Finish your soup’: Counterproductive effects of pressuring children to eat on intake and affect. Appetitie, 46, 318–23. Government of South Australia (2010). Eat Well South Australia Project. Secondary teacher fact Sheet 1.2. Adelaide: Government of South Australia. Heath, P., Houston-Price, C. & Kennedy, O.B. (2011). Increasing food familiarity without the tears. A role for visual exposure? Appetite, 57, 832–8. Hoyland, A., Dye, L. & Lawton, C.L. (2009). A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews, 22, 220–43.

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Kelly, B., Hardy, L., Howlett, S., King, L., Farrell, L. & Hattersley, L. (2010) Opening up Australian preschoolers’ lunchboxes. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 34(3), 288–92. Lobstein, T., Baur, L., Uauy, R. & IASO International Obesity TaskForce (2004). Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health. Obesity Reviews, 5(Sup. 1), 4–104. Marx, E. & Wooley, S.F. with Northrop, D. (1998) Health is Academic: A guide to coordinated school health programs. New York: Teachers College Press. McCann, D., Barrett, A., Cooper, A., Crumpler, D., Dalen, L., Grimshaw, K., Kitchin, E., Lok, K., Porteous, L., Prince, E., Sonuga-Barke, E., Warner, J.O. & Stenenson, J. (2007). Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: A randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet, 370, 1560–67. Mikkelsen, B.E. & Ohri-Vachaspati, P. (2013). Editorials: Hunger, overconsumption and youth: Future directions for research in school-based public health nutrition strategies. Public Health Nutrition, 16(6), 953–7. Moore, G., Murphy, S., Chaplina, K., Lyons, R.A., Atkinson, M. & Moore, L. (2013). Impacts of the primary school free breakfast initiative on socio-economic inequalities in breakfast consumption among 9–11-year-old schoolchildren in Wales. Public Health Nutrition, 16(6). Northstone, K., Joinson, C., Emmett, P., Ness, A. & Paus, T. (2012). Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 66(7), 624–8. Pelsser, L.M., Frankena, K., Toorman, J., Savelkoul, H.F., Dubois, A.E., Pereira, R.R. et al. (2011). Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): A randomised controlled trial. Lancet, 377, 494–503. Raine, A., Mellingen, K., Liu, J., Venables, P.H. & Mednick, S.A. (2003). Effects of environmental enrichment at ages 3–5 years on schizotypal personality and antisocial behavior at ages 17 and 23 years. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1627–35. Satter, E. (2007). The Satter feeding dynamics model of child overweight definition, prevention and intervention. In W. O’Donahue, B.A. Moore & B. Scott (eds), Pediatric and Adolescent Obesity Treatment: A comprehensive handbook (pp. 287–314). New York: Taylor and Francis. Scaglioni, S., Salvioni, M. & Galimberti, C. (2008). Influence of parental attitudes in the development of children’s eating behaviour. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(Sup. 1), S22–5. Schab, D.W. & Trinh, N.T. (2014) Do artificial food colors promote hyperactivity in children with hyperactive syndrome: A meta-analysis of double-blind placebo-controlled trials. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 25, 423–34. Schoenthaler, S.J., Amos, S.P., Eysenck, H.J., Peritz, E. & Yudkin, J. (1991). Controlled trial of vitamin-mineral supplementation: Effects on intelligence and performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(4), 351–62.



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Schoenthaler, S.J. & Bier, I.D. (1999). Vitamin-mineral intake and intelligence: A macrolevel analysis of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 5(2), 125–34. Setter, T., Kouris-Blazos, A. & Wahlqvist, M. (2000). School-based Healthy Eating Initiatives: Recommendations for success. Melbourne: Monash Asia Institute. Sinn, N. (2008). Nutritional and dietary influences on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Nutrition Reviews, 66(10), 558–68. United Nations (2015). Transforming Our World: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Washington, DC: United Nations. University of Adelaide (2016). Citizens’ Jury Wants Government Action on Child Obesity, Media release, 23 May. Retrieved from news85042.html#.V1TTYr37LFo.twitter Valois, R.F., Slade, S. & Ashford, E. (2011). The Healthy School Communities Model: Aligning health and education in the school setting – Healthy school communities. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Retrieved from Aligning-Health-Education.pdf Whitrow, M.J., Moran, L., Davies, M.J., Collins, C.E., Burrows, T.L., Edwards, S. et al. (2016). Core food intakes of Australian children aged 9–10 years: Daily servings and diet quality in a community cross-sectional sample. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics. doi:10.1111/jhn.12358 World Health Organization (WHO) (2014). What Is a Health-promoting School? Retrieved 15 April 2016 from ——— (1998). Healthy Nutrition: An essential element of a health-promoting school. Geneva: WHO Information Series on School Health. Retrieved 14 April 2014 from http://



Susanne Garvis and Donna Pendergast

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Describe how to support child health and safety in Australia across different environments. • Outline the importance of managing indoor and outdoor environments to prevent injuries. • Explain different developmental risks to children, based on their age. • Identify strategies to support children’s physical health and comfort, including healthy eating and physical activity.


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INTRODUCTION Keeping children safe in Australian education settings is a priority. In 2012, the National Quality Standards (NQS) were implemented for early childhood education and care throughout Australia. Standard 2 relates to children’s health and safety. It encompasses children’s physical health and comfort, healthy eating and physical activity, and safety and protection from harm. A safe environment for a child is one that provides freedom from harm and offers a strong sense of security and belonging from which to play, learn and develop. A healthy and safe environment also promotes children’s psychological wellbeing by allowing them to exercise their independence through making decisions and taking on new challenges. Educators are responsible for providing and maintaining safe environments for children in their care, including the development of strategies to prevent injury in indoor and outdoor environments. Injury prevention promotes safety, protects the child and minimises risk. Injury prevention also provides procedures to manage injuries as they occur. By protecting children from hazards, injury prevention offers children the sense of safety and security that allows them to develop to their fullest potential.

MANAGING THE ENVIRONMENT It is evident that safe learning spaces offer the best opportunities for children to explore their environment and increase their sensory experiences (Boreham & Riddoch, 2001; Towner & Towner, 2001). The difficulty that many educators face, however, is attempting to balance children’s health and safety while providing genuine opportunities for them to explore, experiment, predict and take managed risks. The balance can be achieved when indoor and outdoor environments are arranged in a way that manages risk while allowing children to make decisions and do things for themselves. The balanced environment invites children to experience success in what they are doing through their own independence. The role of the educator is, therefore, to monitor the environment and also to demonstrate trust and respect for children’s abilities to make decisions and to help keep challenges within their current capabilities. To help us start thinking about safe environments, it is important to critically discuss attitudes towards ‘risk’. Take 5 minutes to write down your own understanding of ‘risk’ and what you would consider to be a danger to children. Why do you think this way? Does it align with other educators’ understanding of ‘risk’? When would a ‘risky activity’ be considered more beneficial to children’s learning and outweigh any possible negative outcomes? Managed risks are those that have controls in place. The educator has considered the child’s ability, past experience, family or Potential risk: something that has capacity to become home environment and personal dispositions in order to identify a risk. and reduce the potential risk.

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Figure 7.1 Managing risk during meal times

SPOTLIGHT 7.1 Focus on managing the use of glass and crockery with young children Some Victorian early childhood services use real glass and crockery at children’s meal times. This has been an embedded practice for over 70 years at some services. Children are trusted and supported to take managed risks to help build important life skills. If glasses or plates are broken, children are encouraged to help clean up. To minimise potential risks, educators engage with small groups of children and are mindful of their age and level of skill. Promoting children’s health and safety and ensuring their total wellbeing – including their physical and psychological welfare – requires that educators think critically about the routines, environment and relationships in their early childhood setting. Educators need to know about the life circumstances of each child so they are able to use this understanding in their daily work and provide each child with a sense of belonging within every setting. Identifying potential areas for reflection on indoor and outdoor safety to promote children’s safety is discussed following below.



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INDOOR SAFETY SLEEPING Sleeping areas for young children is an important area for consideration. Educators need to reflect on the location, material for sleeping and sanitisation of sleep material. Educators should avoid placing infants on beanbags, sheepskins or synthetic pillows, and toys should be removed from the crib or sleeping area. Overheating is another important factor to consider in children’s sleeping arrangements (Kemp et al., 2000). Too much bedding, clothing that is too heavy and an environment that is too warm can contribute to an unsafe sleeping environment. In some instances, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has been attributed to sleeping environments that are too warm (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2005). Appropriate sanitisation of sleeping areas for young children is also necessary. In early childhood services, it is important that preventive measures are taken to regularly wash sleeping materials and to sanitise the floors if children are sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

Sanitisation of sleep material: ensuring that bedding is safely stored and regularly cleaned.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS Inadequate ventilation is a safety risk that is often considered to be an environmental hazard. It is important that air is able to move sufficiently within spaces so there is no gathering of fumes, germs or other safety risks. Ventilation and adequate natural light are stipulated as requirements under the Education and Care Services National Regulations. Regulation 110 is listed in Spotlight 7.2 (National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2013).

Ventilation: introducing fresh air into a space to control its air quality.

SPOTLIGHT 7.2 Ventilation and natural light Regulation 110 ventilation and natural light The approved provider of an education and care service must ensure that the ­indoor spaces used by children at the education and care service premises: (a) are well ventilated; and (b) have adequate natural light; and (c) maintained at a temperature that ensures the safety and wellbeing of children. Penalty: $2000. Note: A compliance direction may be issued for failure to comply with this regulation.

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Potential airborne irritants in children’s environments also need to be considered. These include irritants present in air fresheners, perfumes and other artificial fragrances that need to be considered and removed or modified, as they are considered an environmental hazard. Other materials in the general indoor environment also pose a potential risk to children and need to be monitored. Examples include: • Cleaning supplies, which are a risk to children and should be stored in a locked cupboard. • Paints and some craft supplies, which present a risk if a child ingests them. • Other materials in the inside environment, such as latex products, to which children may be allergic. It is important that educators have a working understanding of allergies, sensitivities and intolerances in children and to know how to reduce risks of exposure.

SPACE AND SHARED SPACE In classrooms, there should be adequate space for children to move around so they do not have to compete for space with other children. As part of the Education and Care Services National Regulations (NHMRC, 2013), education and care services are required to have at least 3.25 square metres of unencumbered indoor space per child. This does not include passageways, toilets and hygiene facilities, nappy-changing areas, areas used for storage of cots and other items, rooms for staff and administration, or the kitchen (unless the kitchen is used by children as part of an education program provided by the service). The educator needs to also ensure that the set-up of the environment allows children sufficient space to be able to move around without any barriers that impair staff members’ visibility of all children at all times. The space may also be used for multiple functions; meaning it has to be continually assessed. For example, the space where children sit on the floor might also be the location for group work, art projects and science experiments. The area’s safety and cleanliness need to be maintained. The design of child-care spaces is also important for children’s sense of safety. In a recent study, Agbenyega (2011) explored how children in an Australian early childhood centre make sense of safe and unsafe learning spaces and how this understanding affects the ways in which they engage with their learning spaces. Findings suggest that the children feel safe in spaces that offer them the best opportunities for play. These are the spaces where they behave well, laugh freely, react positively and play without too much restriction.



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

SPOTLIGHT 7.3 Focus on latex Children attending education and care services may be at significant risk of exposure to latex and the acquisition of a latex allergy, for the following reasons: • Education and care services are more likely to use cheaper, powdered latex gloves available in supermarkets, rather than the more expensive, low-protein, powder-free, medical-grade examination gloves used in health care. • Children may be regularly exposed to latex, including via their mucous membranes, when educators and other staff wear powdered latex gloves to prepare and handle food, and to change a child’s nappy; from inhaling latex powder when educators and other staff remove powdered gloves near them; and from touching surfaces that are contaminated with latex powder, such as nappy change mats. • Some authorities suggest that latex gloves should not be used in education and care services because of latex-allergy risks to children, educators and other staff (NHMRC, 2013, p. 25).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 7.1 Education spaces Think of an indoor space in a classroom. Are there any spaces that are used for multiple functions? Are there any safety procedures that need to be followed? Would the same risks be present if the space is not shared?

INTERPERSONAL SAFETY In early childhood education settings, injuries caused by children to other children include biting, kicking, scratching and fighting. The role of the educator is to intervene when behaviours threaten other children. However, it is important that Conflict-resolution educators understand the cause of the behaviour and utilise suitable strategies: strategies designed conflict-resolution strategies. For example, children under 3 years to find peaceful solutions to disagreements; implemented with of age might use their sense of taste as a way to explore the world, children to help resolve conflicts through biting; they have limited language to express their ideas as they arrive. and feelings. Biting might also occur when children are teething, feeling insecure, over-stimulated or are asserting their independence. It is important for the educator to act immediately by taking the following action: • Intervene in the situation. Never bite the child back. Give immediate first aid if needed. • Talk to the child who did the biting and explain that biting is not okay. Encourage the child to apologise and help the child they bit. • Talk to the child who was bitten and give reassurance. Encourage the child who was bitten to tell the biter they were hurt.

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• Alert other staff and complete an injury report. The families of both children should be informed of the incident and the actions taken. • Examine the early childhood setting to assess whether any areas need to be modified to lessen the risk of biting. Immunisation is a reliable way to prevent some infections. According to the NHMRC ‘[i]mmunisation works by giving a child a vaccine – often a dead or modified version of the germ – against a particular disease. This makes the child’s immune system respond similarly to the way it would respond if the child had actually contracted the disease, but with far less severe symptoms’ (2013, p. 19).

Immunisation: a vaccine given to a person to allow them to become immune or resistant to a disease. NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council): Australia’s peak body for medical research, maintenance of health standards and advice for the Australian community, health professionals and governments.

SPOTLIGHT 7.4 Immunisation for children Vaccinations protect children from serious disease and illness. While their immune ­systems are still developing, it is recommended that young children are immunised from 6 weeks of age against diseases such as chickenpox, meningococcal meningitis, p ­ olio, tetanus, whooping cough and many more. For a full list and schedule of v­ accinations ­administered in early childhood and beyond, visit the Australian Government’s D ­ epartment of Health website (Australian Government Department of Health, 2019).

Figure 7.2 Young child being immunised



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If a child is ill with an infectious disease, exclusion from the classroom should be considered in discussion with the family. Sometimes excluding children is the only way to limit the spread of the infection. It is difficult for some families to have children excluded because they do not have alternative child-care options, and this ‘lead[s] to stress and conflict between families and educators’ (NHMRC, 2013, p. 13). The NHMRC (2013) suggests a good approach is to have a written policy about exclusion periods when children are ill. An example of an exclusion period outlined by the NHMRC is provided in Table 7.1.

DEVELOPMENTAL-LEVEL RISKS It is important that educators begin the process of defining the boundaries for indoor safety and screening the environment for hazards based on the Developmental level: time child’s developmental level. Safety hazards can be broken down to periods in the growing-up developmental age and vulnerabilities associated with a particular process. stage.

Infants Infants must be carefully watched, to protect them from potential risks. Infants should never be left alone on a bed or table, in case they move or roll over and fall. Toys should be large in diameter, have smooth, round edges and be soft, to reduce the risk of choking and suffocation. All toys should be removed from the crib. As infants become more mobile and develop new motor skills, an increased number of hazardous situations present. The early childhood environment should be constantly monitored for objects that could be put in children’s mouths and become a choking hazard (see Spotlight 7.5). It should also be monitored to check for any of toys or infant equipment that might pose a risk or have been recalled by their manufacturers. During their rapid and increasing mobility, infants may be exposed to different terrains that can cause them to fall. The environment needs to be monitored to ensure that if a child does fall, it is not from a height and that there is no sharp-edged furniture. Falling is important for infant development; however, it must be in a managed environment. Adolph (2008) argues that, when infants fall, they do not merely learn by cue-association to prevent future tumbles. Instead, they learn to problem solve in a manner referred to as ‘learning to learn’.

CASE STUDY 7.1 SARAH Sarah is 3 years old and has been attending child care three days a week. She has recently developed a cough and runny nose. The staff decide to take her temperature and it is 38 degrees. In the past week, Sarah’s temperature has risen after being at child care for 4 hours. The staff then ring her parents to inform them that Sarah has a high temperature. Her mother and father work full-time and find it difficult to take leave to care for Sarah. Does Sarah need to be excluded from child care until she is better? How would the staff approach the issue with Sarah’s working parents?

CHAPTER 7  Child safety

Table 7.1  Exclusion period


Exclusion of case

Exclusion of contacts


Exclude until discharge from the eyes has stopped, unless a doctor has diagnosed non-infectious conjunctivitis.

Not excluded

Herpes simplex (cold sores, fever blisters)

Not excluded if the person can maintain Not excluded hygiene practices to minimise the risk of transmission. If the person cannot comply with these practices (e.g. because they are too young), they should be excluded until the sores are dry. Sores should be covered with a dressing where possible.

Influenza and influenza-like Exclude until the person is well. illnesses

Not excluded


Exclude for 4 days after the onset of the rash.

Immunised and immune contacts are not excluded. For non-immunised contacts, contact a public health unit for specialist advice. All immuno-compromised children should be excluded until 14 days after the appearance of the rash in the last case.


Exclude for 9 days or until swelling goes Not excluded down (whichever is sooner).

Pertussis (whooping cough)

Exclude until 5 days after starting appropriate antibiotic treatment, or for 21 days from the onset of coughing.

Rubella (German measles)

Not excluded Exclude until the person has fully recovered or for at least 4 days after the onset of the rash.

Varicella (chickenpox)

Exclude until all blisters have dried – this is usually at least 5 days after the rash first appeared in non-immunised children, and less in immunised children.

Source: NHMRC (2013).

Contact a public health unit for specialist advice about excluding non-vaccinated contacts, or for antibiotic treatment.

Any child with an immune deficiency (for example, leukaemia) or who is receiving chemotherapy should be excluded for their own protection as they are at high risk of developing severe disease; otherwise, not excluded.



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SPOTLIGHT 7.5 Examples of choking and suffocation hazards for young children • • • • • • • • • • • • •

marbles balloons plastic bags popcorn coins pins pencils dress-up jewellery games hard lollies staples buttons toys with strings or cords long enough to encircle a child’s neck.

Toddlers Toddlers are usually at a cognitive level that allows them to think and solve problems, constantly testing their limits to understand and make meaning of their environment. Toddlers draw upon their senses to make meaning of the world around them. Therefore, educators at a painting stand, for example, would need to monitor the child to make sure the child does not ingest art supplies. Thus, it is important for educators to teach children about food and non-food items.

SPOTLIGHT 7.6 Focus on hand hygiene Equipment that uses water, such as toilets and sinks, should be monitored and cleaned frequently. Children and staff should be ­ ­encouraged to wash their hands often, as hand hygiene is one very effective way to control the spread of infection. ‘Hand hygiene’ is a general term that refers to the washing of hands with soap and water, or using an ­alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Hygiene: habits of cleanliness to maintain optimal health and prevent the spread of disease.

Preschoolers Preschool-aged children are able to understand aspects of cause and effect. They can be engaged to help monitor and observe the indoor environment for hazards. Children can help to develop strategies and safety approaches within the inside environment. These include interpersonal strategies as well environmental monitoring.

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School age School-aged children are much less prone to indoor safety hazards when compared to younger children. However, it is important that the classroom continues to be monitored to ensure their safety. The placement of furniture should be considered carefully to allow adequate space for children to move around. Any electronic devices used in the classroom should also be monitored to reduce risks associated with electricity. Children in this age range can learn preventive measures and can help the educator monitor the environment for safety hazards.

SPOTLIGHT 7.7 Focus on celebration cakes and blowing out candles According to the NHMRC (2013, p. 60): Many children like to bring a cake to share with their friends on their birthday. Children love to blow out their candles while their friends are singing ‘Happy Birthday’. Cakes and candles may also be brought into the education and care service for other special occasions. To prevent the spread of germs when the child blows out the candles, parents should either: • provide a separate cupcake (with a candle if they wish) for the birthday child and enough cupcakes for all the other children • provide a separate cupcake (with a candle if they wish) for the birthday child and a large cake that can be cut and shared.

CASE STUDY 7.2 MAX Max is excited to be celebrating his seventh birthday next week. He would like to invite the entire class to help him celebrate with cake and help him blow out the candles. He has been planning the event for the past 4 weeks. The school, however, has a ‘no-cake’ policy that Max’s mother has just discovered. Instead, parents may bring flavoured ice blocks or fruit. Max is disappointed that he cannot bring a cake and begins to cry. As Max’s teacher, what would you do? How could you help celebrate Max’s birthday?

OUTDOOR SAFETY EQUIPMENT Some materials in the outside environment of early childhood settings and schools require maintenance to ensure children’s safety.



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Let’s look at the example of sandpits, an item common in some educational settings. While sandpits can be fun for children, they also pose a number of risks. Good practices include: • Covering the sandpit when not in use, to prevent contamination from animal faeces and to protect children from sharp or dangerous objects that have been discarded. • Ensuring sandpits are designed at a depth that can easily be raked over before each use to screen for dangerous objects. • Ensuring children and adults wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcoholbased sanitiser before and after playing in the sandpit (NHMRC, 2013, p. 60). Equipment may also require regular washing to avoid the spread of germs. Toys should be washed regularly, with all dirt removed. All outside playground equipment should also have energy absorbing material placed underneath, to cushion falls and prevent serious injuries. Materials such as soft, loose sand and rubber are efficient shock absorbers and require a minimal depth. The surface should be checked and maintained regularly. Schools and early childhood settings need to regularly review playground equipment and assess the risks. For example, many communities are phasing out the use of monkey bars in playgrounds because of the general risk of spider webs and replacing them with 3D rope structures with space nets that are considered safer for children to climb. According to Professor David Eager, monkey bars were okay when he was a child 60 years ago, but they are not an appropriate form of play equipment today (Hinchliffe, 2018). The number of injuries from monkey bars is on the rise in Australia. In Victoria, there has been a 41 per cent increase in e­ mergency department presentations over the past decade from injuries sustained at monkey bars (total of 14 167 monkey bar-related injuries with 6430 hospital admissions) (Hinchliffe, 2018). Monkey bars are seen as the leading cause of childhood accidents and can lead to traumatic injuries. Researchers and safety experts suggest that risk is important for children in play; however, monkey bars nowadays are considered an extreme hazard.

SUN PROTECTION Two in three Australians will develop some form of skin cancer before the age of 70 (SunSmart, 2011). Sun exposure during childhood has a significant effect on a person’s risk of skin cancer. It is important that early childhood services and schools implement effective sun-protection measures. These include ensuring that children:

Sun exposure: the amount of time a person is exposed to the rays from the sun.

• slip on sun-protective clothing • slop on SPF30+ sunscreen • slap on a hat

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• seek shade • slide on sunglasses (SunSmart, 2011). In Australia, it is critically important to provide shade for children when they spend time outdoors, particularly in the period from September to April. Permanent shade or temporary canopies can help to create inviting spaces that encourage children to stay out of direct sunlight. One of the most powerful and effective ways of conveying messages about the need to balance getting enough sun with sun protection is to enact it in daily practice with children, and to talk about it with them.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 7.2 Sun safety Think of an outdoor space in a preschool. Are there suitable sun-safety features? Inside the preschool, are there signs about sun safety? How would you discuss sun safety with children and parents to ensure it becomes a daily practice?

TRAVEL Young children should learn about being safe as a pedestrian, cyclist or passenger in a car and on public transport. They should also learn the importance of where to play safely, away from traffic and roads. There are many programs available to assist educators, provided by child-safety and road-safety organisations.

SPOTLIGHT 7.8 Focus on thinking about safety Primary school-aged children require adult supervision around roads and car parks to keep them safe from moving vehicles. While children may understand road-safety rules, they may not follow these all of the time. Adult supervision is necessary.

FIRE A visit from a local fire department is a tradition at many early childhood education and care centres and schools in Australia. While funding cuts have seen this practice become less regular (Barr, Saltmarsh & Klopper, 2010), Saltmarsh (2010) believes that ‘many centres continue to include a fire safety visit in their annual activities where possible’ (p. 291). During these visits, children are introduced to fire-prevention concepts and



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presented with information about what to do if they encounter a fire. Children may be introduced to fire-safety equipment and made aware of the appearance of fire fighters in the community. This approach is important in the Australian context, given that one in four fires typically involves children aged 6 years or younger (Cole, Crandall & Kourofsky, 2004).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 7.3 Fire safety How would you introduce fire safety to 3-year-old children? How would you change your approach for 7-year-old children?

DEVELOPMENTAL-LEVEL RISKS The child’s developmental level allows for identification of potential risks in the outdoor environment. Since the majority of accidents happen outdoors, it is important that educators have a working understanding of potential hazards. Potential risks include travelling in motor vehicles, drowning and falls from the use of inappropriate equipment.

Infants and toddlers In motor vehicles, infants and toddlers should always be secured in a safety seat installed in the back seat of the vehicle. Outdoor play areas for infants should use flexible materials that offer no hazards if they are placed in the child’s mouth. The emphasis for this age group is on sensory motor activity, so any outdoor equipment needs to reflect this need. Children should also be supervised around water features and pools at all times. Pools should be fenced and have locked gates.

Preschoolers Educators of preschoolers need to ensure that the outdoor play area is suitable and safe for children to engage in play events. This includes ensuring that equipment is of an appropriate height, playground equipment has suitable cushioning material underneath and the structures are free from sharp edges. Children should always be observed in the outdoor environment. Children in this age range will be able to engage in understanding about their own personal safety and procedures when using equipment.

School age Children at this age have developed coordination and are physically capable of most outside activities. The role of the educator is to offer equipment that will allow children

CHAPTER 7  Child safety

the ability to use their skills. The educator needs to ensure there is enough appropriate equipment for all children to use, and should consider how to balance challenging children’s skills without the activity being a threat to their physical safety. Children in this age range also need to learn to manage and monitor their own risks. Parents should be aware of school rules for dropping children off early to school and late afternoon pick-ups. Many schools require children to attend before-school care or afterschool care if they arrive before the start or remain after the end of the school day. This is to ensure children have adequate supervision and that risks are managed. Children who do not attend before-school or afterschool care may be required to sit in a designated area, away from playground equipment and identified risks until a teacher is able to adequately supervise them.

CONCLUSION In this chapter you have learnt about child-safety standards and procedures in Australia for both inside and outside spaces. Differences exist in procedures for infants and toddlers, preschool-aged children and school-aged children. It is important for professionals and families to know the current guidelines with regard to health, safety and hygiene. By having a working knowledge, we can ensure the safety of all children under the supervision of professionals. This chapter has reinforced the need for providing safe learning spaces for children. The key messages highlighted in this chapter are that: • There are a number of potential threats to indoor safety, including indoor equipment, interpersonal behaviour, poisons, fires and shared spaces. • Risks in the outdoor environment can occur on playgrounds and in the backyard. Potential risks include roads, water and the weather. • An understanding of the developmental level of the child is important in knowing how to monitor and modify the environment for their safety. • Through the use of observation, supervision and working with families, educators can promote safe behaviours in early childhood environments. • Children and young people need to be protected by adults and also taught to be empowered with practical strategies and skills to deal with potential risks and threats to their safety, even when an adult is not around. When educators understand and are aware of the potential risks in indoor and outdoor environments, they are better able to protect children in educational settings. It is important that knowledge and skills are kept up to date through regular professional learning on new strategies, practices and regulations. School administrators and early childhood directors should have a strong focus on continuous review of child safety and the development of effective strategies for working with families, to provide shared partnerships in protecting children and young people.



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Visit an early childhood service or school and audit it for indoor safety. What risks do you observe? How does the service manage the potential risks?


List the developmental-level risks for an 18-month-old, 5-year-old and a 12-year-old in an indoor environment and an outdoor environment. Compare the different age ranges and contexts. What do you notice?


If you were organising an excursion to the local art gallery for the children, what hazards would you need to consider?


Is it possible and desirable to completely remove risk from a classroom environment for child safety? Why or why not?

REFERENCES Adolph, K.E. (2008). Learning to move. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(3), 213–18. Agbenyega, J. (2011). Researching children’s understanding of safety: An auto-driven visual approach. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 12(2), 163–74. American Academy of Paediatrics (2005). The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: Diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding the sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics, 116, 1245–55. Australian Government Department of Health (2019). National Immunisation Program Schedule. Retrieved 13 August 2019 from immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-programschedule Barr, J., Saltmarsh, S. & Klopper, C. (2010). Early childhood safety education: An overview of safety curriculum and pedagogy in outer metropolitan, regional and rural NSW. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 34(4), 31–6. Boreham, C. & Riddoch, C. (2001). The physical activity, fitness and health of children. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19(12), 915–29. Cole, R.E., Crandall, R. & Kourofsky, C.E. (2004). We CAN teach young children fire safety. Young Children, 59(2), 14–18. Hinchcliffe, J. (2018). No more monkeying around: Push to remove dangerous play equipment. Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2018. Retrieved from https:// Kemp, J.S., Unger, B., Wilkins, D., Psara, R.M., Ledbetter, T.L., Graham, M.A. et al. (2000). Unsafe sleep practices and an analysis of bedsharing among infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly: Results of a four-year, population-based, deathscene investigation study of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and related deaths. Pediatrics, 106, E41. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (2013). Staying Healthy: Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services (5th edn). Canberra: NHMRC.

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Saltmarsh, S. (2010). Lessons in safety: Cultural politics and safety education in a multiracial, multiethnic early childhood education setting. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(3), 288–98. SunSmart (2011). Be SunSmart, play SunSmart. Retrieved 22 May 2013 from http://www Towner, E. & Towner, J. (2001) The prevention of childhood unintentional injury. Current Paediatrics, 11(6), 403–8.




Jane McCormack and Sharynne McLeod

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Define communication and distinguish between different types of communication. • Explain the key achievements, and typical sequence, of communication development during the early years. • Discuss ideas, activities and strategies for supporting the communication development of early years learners.

CHAPTER 8  Communication development


INTRODUCTION Humans are social beings. We play, chat, sing, dance, tell jokes, share stories, discuss issues, ask questions, follow directions, write notes, read books, make phone calls and do countless other activities every day that enable us to connect with others. Communication skills are core to these activities. They allow us to participate in our everyday lives and interact with the world around us. Indeed, ‘[c]ommunication is crucial to belonging, being and becoming’ in the early childhood years (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009, p. 41); belonging to a social, cultural and linguistic community; being present to those around them and participating in daily life activities; and becoming a more active participant in their community as their knowledge and skills grow. That’s why supporting children to be ‘effective communicators’ is one of the five key learning outcomes for the early childhood years recognised within the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF; DEEWR, 2009). When children are effective communicators, they have a strong sense of identity and wellbeing, are connected to their world and are confident and involved learners. Supporting the development of effective communication also assists children to achieve other key learning outcomes. The development and expansion of communication skills occur across our entire lifespan. However, the foundations are established in our early years. In this chapter, we define communication and distinguish between different types of communication. We describe stages in the development of communication skills in the early years, explore the key achievements associated with each stage and identify features that may indicate reason for concern. Finally, we discuss the links between oral and written communication skills, and we suggest strategies for stimulating and supporting communication development across the early years.

WHAT IS COMMUNICATION? Communication is the sharing of ideas and information through verbal and non-verbal messages. Verbal messages are those that have a word (or language) base and include speaking, writing and signing. Verbal communication (i.e. language) may be described as expressive (producing a message) or receptive (understanding a message). Non-verbal communication is not word-based and might include tactile or visual communication (e.g. smiling to show approval or happiness) (Crystal, 2006). Verbal communication is often considered in terms of three key areas: form, content and use (Bloom & Lahey, 1978). Form refers to the symbols used within the language (e.g. sounds, letters, words, gestures) and rules for combining those symbols (e.g. the sound combinations (phonology) or word combinations (syntax) allowed in a language). Symbols and rules vary across different languages. For instance, speakers of some African languages produce a range of sounds like ‘clicks’, which are not typically produced by English

Communication: the production and comprehension of verbal (language-based) and/or nonverbal messages between two or more individuals within a particular context. Language: communication that occurs through the use of symbols that represent meaning (e.g. sounds, letters, gestures) and are governed by rules specific to the context in which the language is used (e.g. country, age-group, status). Non-verbal communication: methods of communication that include tactile and visual communication (e.g. a hug or a facial expression).


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speakers, and writers in many Asian languages use orthographic symbols (e.g. ways of spelling) that are not used in most non-Asian languages. Furthermore, even when the symbols (sounds, letters/characters etc.) are the same, the rules for structuring words and sentences might be quite different. For instance, in Italian, adjectives typically follow the noun (e.g. scuola elementare (‘school primary’)), while in English the reverse is more common (‘primary school’). For all children, learning the form of their language is continuous in the development of their communication skills in the early years. Many rules are not explicitly taught, and it is common for children to make mistakes along the way as they figure it out. For children learning multiple languages simultaneously, there may be some interference across the languages as they learn to distinguish between the different forms of each language and then apply the forms correctly depending on the context (e.g. who they are talking with/listening to). Content refers to the meaning communicated by specific symbols, words, sentences and/or the combinations of these (the semantics). Content knowledge continues to develop over time as children refine word meanings, learn words with multiple meanings (e.g. leaves – from trees; leaves – departs), forms of sarcasm (using words to communicate the opposite in meaning), humour and so on. As with form, content varies across languages. Even among English speakers, we might use the same word to express different things (e.g. in England, pudding refers to dessert; in Australia, it’s a particular type of dessert), or we might use different words to express the same thing (e.g. in New Zealand, people tramp; in Australia, people hike). ‘Use’ refers to the way in which rules are applied, and content is chosen to reflect the context in which the communication is occurring (also known as pragmatics). Form, content and use are interdependent, as illustrated in Figure 8.1. The formality or familiarity of our use varies depending on our audience, purpose and the mode by



Figure 8.1 Three components of language: form, content and use Source: Adapted from Bloom & Lahey (1978).


CHAPTER 8  Communication development

which we are communicating (e.g. written versus spoken). However, rules governing the use of communication in particular contexts are often implicit. Thus, children may take some time to learn that the way they communicate with friends (including the form and content they use) is different to the way they communicate with their teacher, and the nature or structure of communication exchanges within the classroom is different to the structure of communication (e.g. turn-taking) during play. The following sections outline the communication skills (form, content and use) that appear at different stages in a child’s development. Table 8.1 is a summary of this information and includes strategies to support children’s communication development within each stage.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 8.1 The role of the speaker and the role of the listener We need to draw ears on so people can hear what we’re saying. (Child)

What does this quote suggest about children’s perceptions of roles and responsibilities in communication exchanges? Do you agree? What do you think influences this perception?

Figure 8.2 Tim’s (age 4 years 3 months) drawing of himself talking to his sister Source: Illustration © 2012 by S. McLeod, L. McAllister, L.J. Harrison & J. McCormack. Reprinted with permission.


Table 8.1  Communication development and strategies to support children


Ages and stages 2–5 years

0–1 year

1–2 years

Infants produce sounds made with the lips (e.g. b and m ). Later, they start to produce other sounds (e.g. d, m, n, h, w, t ) in their babble.

Sounds and speech become easier to understand. At 2 years, half of a toddler’s speech should be understood. Toddlers can say a range of speech sounds when talking (e.g. p, b, m, t, d, n, h, w ). However, many toddlers have difficulty saying sounds correctly all the time. It is common for children to make some sound errors (e.g. ‘tat’ for ‘cat’ and ‘pan’ for ‘pram’) and for speech to be less clear when they are using longer sentences.

Preschool children can say most sounds correctly, but may have difficulty with r (e.g. saying ‘wed’ for ‘red’), v (e.g. saying ‘berry’ for ‘very’), and th (e.g. saying ‘fankyou’ for ‘thank you’). Some children may still produce s as th (lisp). They can use many consonant clusters, which are combinations of two or more sounds (e.g. tw, sp, gl, dr). Children may use clusters at the start (e.g. blue) or end of words (e.g. hand). Some children are still developing the ability to say some combinations of sounds together (e.g. strawberry), or saying all the sounds correctly in longer words (e.g. ‘caterpillar’, and ‘spaghetti’).

5–12 years When children commence school, their speech should be easily understood by everyone. Children might still have trouble with th sounds (e.g. thumb, this) until 9 years, and might have difficulty saying sounds such as s and z when baby teeth fall out. Children can produce clusters of sounds together, but may still have trouble with individual sounds (e.g. such as r and l) in combinations (e.g. ‘scwatch’ for ‘scratch’) or longer words (e.g. ‘hippopotamus’, ‘pumpkin’).

Language (expressive)

Initially, infants communicate by crying, smiling, eye contact, laughing, pointing and reaching. They experiment with sounds by babbling (e.g. ‘babamada’), and around 12 months may start to use words (typically names of familiar people and objects, words relating to routines (‘bye’), communicative games and songs, and recurrence (e.g. ‘more’). Words are used to request objects/actions, refuse (‘no’), agree (‘yeah’), play games (e.g. peek-a-boo). It is common for them to simplify words (e.g. ‘biscuit’ becomes ‘bi’).

Toddlers triple the number of words they can say between 1 and 2 years of age. By 18 months, toddlers can say about 50 words (e.g. labels for people, objects, actions, locations, possession) and start to put two words together (e.g. ‘Daddy car’). They use language primarily to request information or objects, comment on their experiences and answer questions.

Preschool children start to use longer sentences, and use conjunctions (and, when, so, because, if) to join sentences. They use terms for colours, basic shapes (circles, squares), sizes (big, small) and spatial relationships (in, on, under). They ask what, who, where (2–3 years), why (3–4 years), when and how questions (4–5 years). They create narratives, with increasing structure as they get older. They use language to recall events, reason, predict and maintain interaction.

Sentence length and complexity increases (greater in written than spoken language). Children demonstrate mastery of grammatical rules (and exceptions). Story narratives are complex and include goals or motivations of characters, and multiple episodes. Vocabulary includes more abstract and specific terms.


Language (receptive)


Ages and stages 2–5 years

0–1 year

1–2 years

Infants hear or recognise the sounds of their parents’ language and understand simple words (approx. 3–50) and sentences.

Words and sentences start to be understood outside routines, but some contextual support may be required. Toddlers understand two-word combinations similar to those they express, as well as more complex requests, explanations, and instructions from adults.

Infants enjoy communicative games and songs focused on turn-taking and imitation.

Preschool children understand colours, family relationship terms, basic shapes (circles, squares), sizes (big, small) and spatial terms (in, on, under) Understand what, who, where (2–3 years), why (3–4 years), when and how questions (4–5 years).

Early forms of symbolic play such Use of language in play as feeding the dolly commence in increases, and imaginary play the toddler years. develops in the preschool years.

5–12 years Children understand passive sentences and words with multiple meanings. Develop critical reading or thinking skills; are able to analyse, synthesise and reflect on language meaning in oral and written communication. Language is increasingly used by school-age children to maintain social connections. The ability to use and understand jokes/riddles based on language develops.


Babies enjoy being read picture books and simple stories, and will open the flaps to look for a hidden object or turn pages with support.

Toddlers enjoy joint bookreading; learn to hold books the correct way and to turn pages; distinguish between print and pictures; and learn to hold a crayon and scribble or make dots.

Preschool children start to develop skills that will be important for learning to read and write (called ‘pre-literacy skills’). They can recognise and produce rhymes (e.g. ‘cat – bat’), segment words into syllables/ beats (e.g. ‘am-bu-lance’); and isolate initial sounds and recognise or produce words with the same initial sound (e.g. ‘big brown bear’). Preschool children recognise that letters are associated with particular sounds, can name letters, and may recognise their own name and familiar words in print (e.g. ‘MacDonalds’). They may be able to write their own name and/or some letters and attempt other words.

In the early years of formal schooling, children learn to read independently and the complexity of the texts they read increases as they progress through their schooling. Children can blend sounds to form words of increasing length, segment words into phonemes and manipulate sounds in words. Children know letter names and sounds for consonants and vowels, and can match these. Children can decode individual sounds in words and start to recognise words by sight. As more words are recognised by sight, reading becomes more fluent and attention shifts to comprehension of texts. Children start to spell using phonetic correspondence, then learn spelling patterns. Complexity of written work develops and types of writing styles increase.



Ages and stages 2–5 years

0–1 year

1–2 years

Infants who do not progress through this stage of ‘playing with sounds’ are at risk of speech difficulties later. Talk to infants, respond to and repeat their babbling, and respond to any attempts at communication that infants make.

Show you understand what the child is saying and model the correct way of saying words, particularly when children make occasional sound errors. If a toddler’s speech is very difficult for parents to understand, or if children are using gestures (and grunts) in place of words, suggest referral to a speech pathologist for further advice.

In the preschool years, parents might want to have their child’s hearing checked as hearing is important to learning how to say sounds correctly. Parents might consider visiting a speech pathologist if concerned about their child’s speech or language development, particularly if they are using very few words, cannot be understood or if they are frustrated with attempts to communicate, if their speech appears very effortful, or if they are not using initial sounds. Read to children, sing songs and play rhyming games, or games such as ‘I spy’ which encourage children to think about sounds and letters.

5–12 years In the early years of school, provide many examples of print. Include phonological awareness and metalinguistic activities in daily activities. Pre-teach new or difficult vocabulary to enable students to focus on understanding concepts rather than remembering words and word meanings. Encourage children to use contextual information to aid decoding and comprehension of written texts.

CHAPTER 8  Communication development


TYPICAL SEQUENCE OF COMMUNICATION DEVELOPMENT LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS: 0–12 MONTHS (BABIES) Prelinguistic: non-verbal Before babies develop words, they develop prelinguistic (nonbehaviours (e.g. eye contact, verbal) behaviours, many of which are required for successful shared attention and turncommunication later (e.g. eye contact, shared attention and taking), which form the basis for successful verbal communication turn-taking) (Wetherby & Prizant, 1993). From 8 to 12 months, or social interactions. babies demonstrate a dramatic increase in their use of social Speech: involves the planning communication skills, particularly in their use of gesture to express and executing of precise a message (Reilly et al., 2006). Babies learn these behaviours from and coordinated oral motor hearing and watching others communicate, and also from receiving movements in order to produce verbal (language-based) feedback on their own communication attempts (Miller & Lossia, communication in oral form 2013). Thus, a language-rich environment in which non-verbal and (compared to writing, the process for production in written form, verbal communication skills are frequently modelled for babies, and sign language, the process and speech is directed specifically towards babies, is essential in for production in gestural form). assisting them to attend to language, enhance their communication systems and foster social interactions (Golinkoff et al., 2015; Miller & Lossia, 2013). During the first 12 months of life, anatomical and neurological changes take place that lay the foundations for children to learn verbal (language) communication skills. These changes primarily affect the oromotor structures (lips, tongue, jaw and palate) and the laryngeal and respiratory systems. Initially, the vocalisations produced by children are vegetative or reflexive (e.g. hiccups, crying), then infants begin to experiment with producing sounds, particularly vowels and bilabial (lip) sounds (b, p, m). This babbling, or vocal play, is a feature of communication development in the first year. Initially, the babbling is reduplicated, so that the same consonant and vowel patterns are repeated (e.g. ‘mamamama’); however, soon afterwards infants develop variegated babbling – the ability to change consonants and vowels (e.g. ‘bamenama’) (Oller et al., 1999). The sound sequences in variegated babbling increasingly imitate the sound sequences of adult speech. This occurs as infants are exposed to variations in sound patterns and intonation in caregivers’ responses to the infants’ own babbling (Goldstein & Schwade, 2008). This change in babbling reflects an improvement in the accuracy and consistency of oromotor movements and, with further practice and improvement, infants develop the ability to produce adult-like forms – their first words. Along with the growth and development of anatomical structures, the production of first words also requires the development of an infant’s understanding of words and word meanings. In the very first days of life, infants learn to perceive auditory information and can distinguish between voices – and there is some evidence to suggest they have some perceptual ability while in the womb (Ruben, 1997). As their first year progresses, they continue to rely on auditory input to make sense of their world. Infants learn to associate a word (a combination of sounds) with an object, person or place through continuous exposure to, and repetition of, that word.


PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

In this early stage of language development, impairments of oral structures (such as cleft lip and/or palate) and impairments of sensory functions such as temporary or permanent hearing loss can affect their acquisition of speech and language, by affecting the infant’s ability to perceive and/or imitate spoken language. Typically, children at risk of communication difficulties due to structural or sensory impairments are under the management and care of a team of professionals, which may include audiologists, speech pathologists and ear, nose and throat surgeons. Other infants with communication difficulties may present as unresponsive to the communication of others, and/or may demonstrate minimal attempts at vocalisation, without an identifiable cause. While children vary in their degree of babbling, attempts to communicate messages in some form (i.e. pointing, vocalising) are expected in the first year. The following section describes ways in which early communication skills can be supported.

Supporting communication development: Let’s play One of the characteristics of children who are effective communicators is that they interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes (DEEWR, 2009). To assist babies to develop strong non-verbal (prelinguistic) behaviours, parents and educators can engage in activities that focus on interaction. Repetitive games, such as peek-a-boo, teach babies turn-taking skills and the process of interacting with others through initiating an action and then expecting and awaiting a response. Such games promote communication as an enjoyable activity and build positive social relationships between children and their carers. Babies learn words by imitating others. Parents and educators need to talk to babies and also be responsive to the baby’s attempts to initiate communication (DEEWR, 2009). For example, by noticing what has captured the infant’s attention (following their gaze or pointing), adults can provide the words for objects that have taken the infant’s interest. It will be the words for these items that babies are most motivated to learn. Thus, it is important to follow the infant’s lead when deciding what to talk about. Talking for the baby, by explaining their actions, or with the baby about what is happening around them, provide the language-rich environments that encourage language development. Reading and looking at books with young children can also support their language and cognitive development through exposing them to new vocabulary (Murray & Egan, 2014).

FIRST WORDS: 1–2 YEARS (TODDLERS) When infants or toddlers first hear a particular combination of sounds (a new word), they develop a representation of that word that is stored within their lexicon (word memory). This representation includes information about what the word means, what the word sounds like and how the word is produced (e.g. the sound combinations required and the movements needed to make those sounds) (Stackhouse & Wells, 1997). When infants use a word to refer to a person or object consistently for the purpose of communication, that word may be considered learnt.

CHAPTER 8  Communication development

During this time of word learning, children sometimes over-generalise the meanings of words. For example, a child may overuse the word ‘juice’ to refer to any drink, such as a glass of water or milk, or may use da for ‘Dad’, ‘dog’, and multiple other objects in the environment, suggesting there is not a firm word meaning attached to that sound combination. Over time, children’s representations become more refined and connections are made between the stored word and other words that are related in some way – by meaning (e.g. part or whole objects, categories, synonyms, antonyms) or by sound or word structure (e.g. rhymes, same initial sound). This occurs as they are exposed to the word more often, learn more about variations of the word (e.g. identify a labrador, a border collie, or a cocker spaniel, instead of saying ‘dog’) and/or as they use the word and receive feedback on the effectiveness of their use. First words typically consist of high-frequency vocabulary (words that the child has heard often), which include common nouns (names of foods, animals, body parts, games) and people’s names (and kinship terms). These first-word groups are common across different languages, although some differences in the rate of use have been found. For instance, children learning Mandarin and Cantonese tend to produce more words describing family relationships (e.g. grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, aunt, uncle) than English-speaking children, while English-speaking children tend to produce more animal and object names (Tardif et al., 2008). During this stage, toddlers’ lexicons grow exponentially. The words produced still tend to be simple in structure (e.g. consonant–vowel–­consonant combinations such as ‘cat’); however, as toddlers learn a greater range of words (adjectives, verbs and prepositions, in addition to nouns), they begin combining words to form short phrases (e.g. ‘more milk,’ ‘doggie run’). As toddlers begin to combine words to form phrases and sentences, difficulties with fluency might become apparent, such as when the child repeats sounds or words while trying to plan and produce their message. During these first two years of life, toddlers use language for a number of purposes: to demonstrate interest, question, negate or agree, request, play and participate in daily rituals (greetings). The purpose of the communication affects the words children are motivated to learn, and vice versa, which reflects the overlap between content and use (see Figure 8.1). During this stage, children typically understand many more words than they can produce, and start to understand these words outside routines, although some contextual support may still be required (e.g. the toddler can point to body parts outside of bath time). They also begin to understand different questions, including What? Who? and Where? although they may respond by pointing if they do not have the vocabulary items to communicate verbally. Toddlers learn to pronounce many speech sounds (e.g. p, b, m, t, d, n, h, w) between 1 and 2 years of age and, as a result, their speech becomes easier to understand. However, it is common for toddlers to make some errors with their speech–sound production from time to time, and to simplify words (e.g. ‘biscuit’ becomes ‘bibi’). The speech of toddlers can be more difficult to understand when they are using longer sentences. However, a good guide to keep in mind is that at 2 years, half of toddlers’ speech should be able to be understood.



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

Supporting communication development: Let’s model To assist communication development, parents and educators can use modelling to provide toddlers with opportunities to repeat what is said, particularly when they make speech– sound errors. Carers can respond to children’s attempts at words with the adult-production so as to model this language for children to imitate in future attempts. A speech pathologist should be contacted for advice if a toddler’s speech is very difficult for familiar people to understand, if gestures (and grunts) are used in place of words, if stuttering is present, if the toddler’s communication difficulties are associated with an emotional response (e.g. frustration, withdrawal, distress), or if there is a family history of these difficulties. When parents or educators are concerned about the child’s speech and language development, it is also advisable to have the child’s hearing checked by an audiologist, as hearing is important for children to learn how to reproduce sounds correctly and has been identified as a risk factor in the development of speech and language difficulties (Harrison & McLeod, 2010). A characteristic of children who are effective communicators is that they express ideas and make meaning using a range of media. To enable this, carers can build stimulating environments with resources that encourage children to engage in creative activities (e.g. dance, music, visual art) for self-expression (DEEWR, 2009). Ideally, these activities will also provide opportunities for children to be exposed to rich new vocabulary that they may learn to use in future.

SPOTLIGHT 8.1 Alternative communication While speech is a common way in which language is expressed, it is not essential for verbal communication. For children who cannot speak, communication through gesture, sign and/or pictorial symbols can be learnt from an early age. Spend some time thinking about the role(s) of the family and educators in supporting children who use alternative modes of communication.

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: 2–5 YEARS (PRESCHOOLERS) During the preschool years, children communicate for a wider range of purposes and with a wider range of people than in their infant and toddler years. This reflects changes to the activities in which children engage during the preschool years and the larger environmental context in which these activities are undertaken. Instead of communicating primarily with family and other familiar adults about items in the here and now, preschool children begin communicating about more abstract and complex ideas. They are also more likely to be exposed to a larger number of peers and adults (including educators, parents of peers, coaches and instructors). Preschoolers use speech and language in their social interactions and play to request inclusion, suggest ideas, explain rules and tell stories; in short, to develop and maintain relationships with others. Furthermore, they use speech and language in more formal settings, such as preschool or kindergarten, to request help, show comprehension and make inferences; in short, to learn new skills or knowledge, or to demonstrate learning.

CHAPTER 8  Communication development

As children communicate with more people in more environments, they are exposed to new vocabulary and begin to learn more specific terms. For instance, preschool children know the names of shapes, sizes, letters and numbers. They understand and use a growing range of sentence forms, including complex sentences, where two ideas are joined by a conjunction (e.g. ‘I’m wearing a jacket because it’s cold outside’), and questions, such as Why? When? and How? In an Australian study examining the experiences of children with communication (speech) difficulties, preschoolers were asked to draw a picture of themselves talking to someone and then to describe the picture to the interviewer (the illustrations in this chapter are from this study). The range of communication partners portrayed in the pictures, which included parents, siblings, friends, teachers and pets, as well as the range of activities, reflects the diversity of what and with whom children communicate in the early childhood years (McCormack et al., 2010). Preschool children use much longer sentences than toddlers, and their speech is ­t ypically easier for both familiar and unfamiliar listeners to understand. By 5 years of age, children can say most speech sounds correctly, although some are easier to ­pronounce than others. McLeod and Crowe (2018) analysed studies of typical English speech ­acquisition, with acquisition defined as sounds being produced correctly in 90–100 per cent of attempts. They classified consonants as those acquired early (2–3 years), middle (4–5 years) and late (see Figure 8.3).

Figure 8.3 The average ages when children learn to pronounce English consonants correctly Source: McLeod & Crowe (2018).

Consonants that develop later and may be more difficult for children to produce include: r (e.g. saying ‘wed’ for ‘red’), th (voiced) (e.g. saying ‘dis’ for ‘this’) and th



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

(­voiceless) (e.g. saying ‘fank you’ for ‘thank you’). Sometimes, preschool children produce sounds correctly in short words (e.g. s in ‘sun’) but may have difficulty when saying those in longer words (e.g. ‘spaghetti’ might become ‘begetti’). Preschoolers can use many consonant clusters, which are combinations of two or more sounds (e.g. tw, sp, gl, scr) that can be produced at the start (e.g. ‘blue’) or end of words (e.g. ‘hand’). Some preschool children are still developing the ability to say more complex combinations of sounds together (e.g. ‘scribble’ and ‘strawberry’). By 4 to 5 years of age children should be almost always intelligible to everyone, including strangers (McLeod, Harrison & McCormack, 2012).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 8.2 The effects of communication difficulties As the years progressed he’s started to use gestures more. (Teacher)

Owen has highly unintelligible speech, compared to his peers. He draws a picture of himself talking with his mother. First, he draws the faces, bodies and legs in red and yellow, then scribbles over their faces with black.

Figure 8.4 Owen’s (age 4 years 6 months) drawing shows him (left) ‘talking’ to his mother Source: Illustration © 2012 by S. McLeod, L. McAllister, L.J. Harrison & J. McCormack. Reprinted with permission.

Reflect on how communication success or failure influences children’s subsequent communication attempts. How do you support communication in children? How could you encourage successful communicative interactions when children have speech and/or language difficulties? (See Case study 8.1 for some suggestions.)

CHAPTER 8  Communication development


Another important communication milestone that is achieved during the preschool years is children’s early development of skills that will be important for learning to read and write. ­Phonological awareness refers to knowledge about the Phonological awareness: sound structure of words, and skills to manipulate sound structures; knowledge about the sound structure of words and skills to specifically, syllable-level awareness, onset-rime (rhyme) awareness manipulate sound structures. and phonemic awareness (Rvachew & Grawburg, 2006). In the preschool years, children learn that words can be segmented into parts (syllables) and that words are made up of sounds. They learn to identify syllables (e.g. am-bu-lance), units of rhyme (e.g. ‘cat’ – ‘bat’) and individual sounds in spoken words (e.g. d-o-g). Later, they learn to blend the onset + rime (e.g. d + og = ‘dog’), blend individual phonemes (e.g. d + o + g = dog), segment words into phonemes (e.g. ‘dog’ = d + o + g) and delete phonemes (e.g. ‘dog’ – g = do) (Anthony et al., 2003). Once children become proficient at tasks involving spoken words, they can transfer their knowledge and skills to written words. That is, they learn to read or spell through their ability to map sounds to letters, and to recognise sound and letter patterns in words.

Supporting communication development: Let’s expand Building a child’s communication skills in the early preschool years requires the child to be introduced to new vocabulary and modelling for ways to expand on their utterances. For instance, when a child identifies a blue car, parents and educators can acknowledge and respond by commenting (expansion) that ‘the blue car is driving on the road’ or ‘the blue car is travelling slowly’, or asking for more information: ‘I wonder where the blue car is going?’ In later preschool years, parents and educators may engage in a range of activities to help children develop early literacy skills. A Literacy: the expression and reception of verbal (languagecharacteristic of children who are effective communicators is that based) communication in written they begin to understand how symbols and patterns work (DEEWR, form; it includes skills in reading (decoding and comprehension), 2009). To support children to develop these skills, carers can read spelling and writing. to them and draw their attention to symbols (including letters, numbers, time, money etc.), as well as engage children in activities such as rhyming games or ‘I spy’, which encourage children to think about relationships between sounds and letters. Furthermore, carers can provide children with access to writing materials and encourage them to create patterns and to draw shapes and symbols. Due to the strong link between sound production and the development of early literacy skills, it is important that preschool children produce sounds accurately. A visit to the speech pathologist is recommended if children cannot be understood, if they are frustrated with attempts to communicate, if they are using very few words, or if they are not using sounds in particular word positions (e.g. saying ish for ‘fish’ or bu for ‘bus’).


PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

CASE STUDY 8.1 OWEN Owen is a preschool boy with unintelligible speech (see Pause and reflect 8.2). He leaves off the first and middle sounds of many words, and substitutes h and d in place of many other sounds. His parents and twin brother understand his speech, but other children and adults have difficulty making sense of them. Owen’s preschool teacher, Margie, is concerned that he is withdrawing from interactions with her and his peers because he is often misunderstood. Margie thinks about ways in which she can make communication a more positive experience for Owen. Margie asks Owen’s parents to create a list of his pronunciation of names, toys, hobbies and interests so she can better recognise key words when he is talking about these. She also initiates a parent–teacher diary to note activities that Owen has engaged in at home and school. This provides some context for his parents and for Margie to understand Owen’s attempts to tell them about what he has been doing in those different environments. She also asks Owen’s parents for information about his speech pathology intervention so she can model the sounds he is practising and provide him with positive feedback when he attempts those sounds. Are there other ways in which you think Margie could support Owen’s communication?

LANGUAGE FOR LEARNING: 5–12 YEARS (SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN) When children commence school, their communication development shifts from a focus on learning language to using language for learning. At school, children’s oral language skills continue to develop, and their written language skills are consolidated. In the school years, children experience growth in their vocabulary and develop metalinguistic skills (Gombert, 1992). School-aged children Metalinguistic skills: the ability to think about and talk have an increasingly complex and mature understanding of words, about words. and can recognise connections or relationships between words. For instance, they learn that words can have multiple meanings (e.g. noses that run and feet that smell), that words can sound the same, but be spelt differently (‘bare’ versus ‘bear’), or be spelt the same but pronounced differently (e.g. ‘live’ in a house versus a ‘live’ performance). They also learn that words can have literal and figurative meanings (e.g. ‘pull up your socks’). As children’s language knowledge increases, they can use language for a greater range of purposes, including telling or understanding jokes and riddles, based on lexical ambiguity. During the early school years, children produce narratives (Liles, 1993). These often form a bridge between oral and written language tasks. Early narratives typically comprise a basic plot structure, which includes an introduction to the setting and the characters (‘Once upon a time …’), followed by a period of conflict or a problem to be resolved, and finally a solution to the problem (‘… and everyone lived happily ever after’). These narratives become more complex, the characters become more developed and the descriptions become more detailed as children progress through the school years. As

CHAPTER 8  Communication development

children’s literacy skills improve, these narratives take on written language form, often as a task to be completed in story-writing time. However, first, children need to be able to match sounds to letters consistently, and to learn the rules for spelling. During the early school years, children’s speech should be intelligible to everyone, both familiar and unfamiliar to the child, but there are some common difficulties. Children might have trouble producing th sounds correctly (e.g. ‘thumb’, ‘this’) until age 8 to 9 years, and may have difficulty saying s and z when they lose their primary front teeth. Children may produce some clusters of sounds together, but may still have trouble with other sound combinations (e.g. scwatch for ‘scratch’). They may also have difficulty producing polysyllabic words (e.g. ‘hippopotamus’) (Masso et al., 2016).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 8.3 Delayed language skills Some children have unclear speech or delayed language skills. Expressive language difficulties might be more apparent than receptive language (comprehension) difficulties, and children need support to acquire speech and language skills. How might you notice if a child has difficulty understanding language in the classroom or playground? What are some possible effects of speech or language difficulty?

Signs of more serious or lasting communication difficulties in the early school years might present as behavioural problems, as children may struggle to remember or follow instructions or class rules due to a difficulty recalling information or an inability to understand a certain vocabulary. Children may have difficulty initiating and maintaining friendships with peers, which may be caused by problems with understanding particular social rules of language (or pragmatics). This can lead children to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, misunderstand jokes or sarcasm, or fail to pick up on non-verbal cues (facial expression and gesture). Other signs of communication difficulties may present as poor performance in classroom activities or academic tasks. For instance, children may take a long time to process information and respond to questions, use non-specific vocabulary (such as ‘thing’ and ‘stuff’) and produce narratives (stories) that lack detail or coherence.

Supporting communication development: Let’s read A characteristic of children who are effective communicators is that they engage with a range of texts and gain meaning from them (DEEWR, 2009). Reading together, as a group in the classroom, and encouraging children to participate in individual reading activities at school or at home will introduce them to new narrative forms and provide a guide for them to develop their own stories. The more practise children have at decoding words, the better they will become at word recognition, which will enable them to concentrate on comprehending the message in what they read (rather than just the individual words).



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

CASE STUDY 8.2 GIANG Giang is an early childhood teacher and has planned to focus on the topic of ‘My World’ to build the children’s communication skills. She finds out about the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of the children and staff at the centre. She reads the children stories about families and family traditions; identifies new vocabulary and discusses word meanings; tells her students anecdotes about her family; invites them to share stories of family, home and traditions; talks about families and traditions in different parts of the world, and encourages input and contributions from the children as part of a group discussion. Think about how each of these activities might build communication skills. You might like to reflect on aspects of language that are being targeted (i.e. form, content and use), and how. Look through the EYLF and identify other ways Giang could support children to become ‘effective communicators’.

Reading to children is a valuable way of introducing new vocabulary. Educators might encourage the class to work together to come up with broad definitions for new words, to think about related words, to identify categories that the words fit into and to find synonyms and antonyms for these words. This will help all students to increase their vocabulary as well as their ability to describe and explain. Students with receptive language difficulties often have trouble following instructions, particularly if the instructions involve multiple steps or include complex concepts and grammatical structures (e.g. ‘Before you put your books away, glue the worksheets in and then write your name on the front cover.’). Segmenting instructions into individual steps and repeating instructions in the order in which they are to be completed may help students to process the information and recall small chunks at a time. Providing a visual support by writing the instructions on the board will also assist many students.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 8.4 The supportiveness of the environment ‘Can others understand your child?’ ‘Depends on if they’re listening well enough.’ (Parent)

Discuss the way in which a communication difficulty might affect a child’s participation in life activities. Next, discuss the challenges faced by communication partners. Consider how environmental factors (physical and social or attitudinal) can facilitate or limit a child’s communication success. What are some strategies for supporting communication for all children?

CHAPTER 8  Communication development

Figure 8.5 Kaitlin (age 4 years 8 months) talking to her friend (left) about ‘playing and picking and smelling flowers’ Source: Illustration © 2012 by S. McLeod, L. McAllister, L.J. Harrison & J. McCormack. Reprinted with permission.

CONCLUSION Communication is an essential part of children’s daily lives and enables them to interact with the world around them. Being able to communicate is considered a human right, recognised by The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 1989). Being an effective communicator is one of the five learning outcomes listed in the EYLF. Consequently, it is essential that all children are supported by their families and educators to develop effective communication skills. This chapter has outlined the development of communication skills from birth through to the primary school years. We have seen how children first communicate through non-verbal means (e.g. eye contact and pointing), and later through verbal communication (e.g. speech and writing), and how this is strongly linked to anatomical, cognitive and motor development. We have discussed key milestones in children’s communication development, relating to both receptive (understanding) and expressive (production) language skills. Furthermore, we have seen how oral language skills (speech) form the basis for written language skills. Finally, we have seen how children learn, extend and refine their communication through interacting with their environment, and so have examined a range of strategies that we can use to support children to learn these essential skills.



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing


Infants begin communicating long before they begin using words. List some specific examples of what and how they communicate. How can parents and educators respond in ways that support communication development?

8.2 If a parent, friend or educator is concerned about a toddler’s production of some sounds, what information would be useful to give them about typical speech development? 8.3

Many preschool children enjoy reading Dr Seuss books and other rhyming stories. What skills do such books assist children to develop? Create a list of books that may stimulate and support communication development, and describe the ways in which they do so.


How might receptive language difficulties present in the school years, and what are some practical strategies that parents and educators could implement to support children’s understanding at school?

REFERENCES Anthony, J.L., Lonigan, C.J., Driscoll, K., Phillips, B.M. & Burgess, S.R. (2003). Phonological sensitivity: A quasi-parallel progression of word structure units and cognitive operations. Reading Research Quarterly, 38, 470–87. Bloom, L. & Lahey, M. (1978). Language Development and Language Disorders. New York: Wiley. Crystal, D. (2006). How Language Works. Melbourne: Penguin. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being, and Becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR. Goldstein, M.H. & Schwade, J.A. (2008). Social feedback to infants’ babbling facilitates rapid phonological learning. Psychological Science, 19(5), 515–23. Golinkoff, R.M., Can, D.D., Soderstrom, M. & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2015). (Baby) talk to me: The social context of infant-directed speech and its effects on early language acquisition. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(5), 339–44. Gombert, J.E. (1992). Metalinguistic Development. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Harrison, L.J. & McLeod, S. (2010). Risk and protective factors associated with speech and language impairment in a nationally representative sample of 4- to 5-year-old children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 508–29. Liles, B.Z. (1993). Narrative discourse in children with language disorders and children with normal language: A critical review of the literature. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 36, 868–82. Masso, S., McLeod, S., Baker, E. & McCormack, J. (2016). Polysyllable productions in preschool children with speech sound disorders: Error categories and the Framework of Polysyllable Maturity. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18, 272–87.

CHAPTER 8  Communication development

McCormack, J., McLeod, S., Harrison, L.J., McAllister, L. & Holliday, E.L. (2010). A different view of talking: How children with speech impairment picture their speech. Acquiring Knowledge in Speech, Language and Hearing, 12, 10–15. McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. (2018). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A crosslinguistic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 27, 1546–71. McLeod, S., Harrison, L.J. & McCormack, J. (2012). Intelligibility in context scale: Validity and reliability of a subjective rating measure. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 55, 648–56. Miller, J.L. & Lossia, A.K. (2013). Prelinguistic infants’ communicative system: Roles of caregiver social feedback. First Language, 33(5), 524–44. Murray, A. & Egan, S.M. (2014). Does reading to infants benefit their cognitive development at 9-months-old? An investigation using a large birth cohort survey. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30, 303–15. Oller, D.K., Eilers, R.E., Neal, A.R. & Schwartz, H.K. (1999). Precursors to speech in infancy: The prediction of speech and language disorders. Journal of Communication Disorders, 32, 223–45. Reilly, S., Eadie, P., Bavin, E.L., Wake, M., Prior, M., Williams, J. et al. (2006). Growth in infant communication between 8 and 12 months: A population study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 42, 764–70. Ruben, R.J. (1997). A time frame of critical/sensitive periods of language development. Acta Otolaryngology, 117, 202–5. Rvachew, S. & Grawburg, M. (2006). Correlates of phonological awareness in preschoolers with speech sound disorders. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 74–87. Stackhouse, J. & Wells, B. (1997). Children’s Speech and Literacy Difficulties: A psycholinguistic framework. London: Whurr. Tardif, T., Fletcher, P., Liang, W., Zhiang, Z., Kaciroti, N. & Marchman, V.A. (2008). Baby’s first 10 words. Developmental Psychology, 44, 929–38. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (1989). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Geneva: UNICEF. Retrieved from http://www2.ohchr .org/english/law/crc.htm Wetherby, A. & Prizant, B. (1993). Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.




Kerryann Walsh, Donna Berthelsen and Jan Nicholson

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Define child sexual abuse, state its prevalence and effects. • Understand the history of education for prevention of child sexual abuse. • Explain why measuring the effects of school-based prevention education on child sexual abuse can be difficult. • Describe where education for prevention of child sexual abuse fits into early years and school curricula. • Identify best practice elements in education programs for prevention of child sexual abuse. • Discuss the role of parents in preventing child sexual abuse.

CHAPTER 9  Education for the prevention of sexual abuse


INTRODUCTION Child sexual abuse is a serious problem that has received increased Ecological perspective: a attention in recent years. When viewed from an ecological perspective, perspective that encourages child sexual abuse can be understood as being influenced by factors us to look not only at the within individuals, families and broader social systems. Therefore, individual person, but also at the environment surrounding the preventing child sexual abuse involves strengthening capacity to person or group; one of the main intervene at individual, family and broader social levels, such as via contributors to ecological ways of thinking was the developmental school programs and community initiatives. psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner School-based education programs have been developed to pre(1917–2005). vent child sexual abuse, and to provide children who may already Ideology: a set of beliefs – be experiencing abuse with information about seeking help, includpolitical or religious principles, for ing the importance of different help-seeking strategies. The design example – in contrast to empirical evidence. of these programs must be based on evidence rather than ideology. Program evaluations have demonstrated that education for prevention of sexual abuse can provide children with knowledge and skills for responding to, and reporting, potential sexual abuse. School-based programs typically present information to children via a series of core concepts and messages, which are delivered through engaging pedagogical strategies such as multimedia technologies, animations, theatre, songs, puppets, picture books and games. This chapter outlines the key characteristics of effective child sexual abuse prevention programs and identifies directions for future research and practice.

DEFINING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE, ITS PREVALENCE AND EFFECTS The World Health Organization (WHO) defines child sexual abuse World Health Organization: an as ‘the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does agency of the United Nations, and the lead agency for global health. not fully comprehend; is unable to give informed consent to; or The work of WHO has led to the for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot near-eradication of communicable give consent; or that violates the laws or social taboos of society’ diseases such as polio and smallpox, decreases in maternal (WHO, 1999, p. 15). The WHO further defines child sexual abuse and child deaths, global standards as involving sexual activity ‘between a child and an adult or for water and air quality, and creation of safer communities another child who by age or development is in a relationship of through prevention of injury and responsibility, trust or power’ (WHO, 1999, p. 16). Some examples violence, including prevention of include, but are not limited to, sexualised watching of a child while domestic and family violence, and child maltreatment. they are dressing or bathing; sexual touching of a child’s genitals or nipples; taking photographs of a child’s genitals, involving a child in making pornography; masturbation of an adult by a child; vaginal or anal penetration; or involving a child in prostitution. In these cases, the sexual activity is illegal and exploitative, and is being used to gratify or satisfy the needs of the abuser. It typically involves coercion or inducement of the child to participate, and the abuser will try to manipulate the child and hide what is happening. The abuser is often known to the child, luring the child by engag-


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ing in a relationship with them, gaining their trust and gradually sexualising the relationship over time. This is known as ‘grooming’ behaviour. Sexual abuse may occur over weeks, months or years. The age of greatest vulnerability is 7 to 12 years (Finkelhor & Baron, 1986). Research with large samples of individuals in countries worldwide has shown that sexual abuse is experienced by 10 to 20 per cent of girls and 5 to 10 per cent of boys before the age of 18 years (Stoltenborgh et al., 2011). Although child sexual abuse occurs in all societies, not all children are at equal risk. Children who are more vulnerable include girls, unaccompanied children, children with disabilities, children living in foster care, children living with only one biological parent or with parents who have a mental illness or alcohol or drug dependencies, and children living in situations of war or armed conflict. Despite its prevalence, child sexual abuse is often not disclosed by the child and is under-reported to authorities. Many cases are not revealed until adulthood and still more remain completely concealed for life. When children do disclose abuse, it is often to their mother and, as they get older, to a friend or teacher. Child sexual abuse causes serious short-term and long-term consequences for the health and wellbeing of those victimised. Beyond the immediate confusion and pain, child sexual abuse is associated with other serious psychological and behavioural problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, inappropriate sexual behaviours, anti-social and suicidal behaviours, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, and sexual revictimisation (Putnam, 2003). Health problems recently identified include cardiac and gastro-intestinal diseases, obesity and, in females, gynaecologic and reproductive issues (Irish, Kobayashi & Delahanty, 2010). Of particular note for educators is that being sexually abused can affect a child’s ability to pay attention, participate and learn in the context of normal school activities. Children who have experienced sexual abuse are at great risk of dropping out of school and not completing their education.

Grooming: when an adult builds a relationship with a child and/or their family to gain trust for the purposes of abuse. Grooming can happen online or face-to-face. It can involve lures, secrecy, isolating the child and gradually sexualising the relationship.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION EDUCATION More than 40 years ago, in response to growing public concern about the problem of child abuse, the USA enacted the world’s first child abuse prevention law: the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act 1974. This Act established the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) and, through this agency, funding was made available for prevention initiatives. Women’s rape crisis centres and violence prevention organisations in the USA were enabled to develop the first child sexual abuse prevention programs. These were delivered in preschools and schools, and were soon widely adopted across the country (Berrick & Gilbert, 1991; Plummer, 1986).

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In 1984, the US state of California enacted legislation to make school-based ‘training’ in child sexual abuse prevention compulsory for all children. Children were to receive this training five times during their schooling, from preschool through to high school (Kohl, 1993). By the mid-1990s, a large number of programs (400–500) were reportedly in use (Plummer, 1986). Research at that time revealed that approximately 67 per cent of 10–16-year-olds in the USA had been exposed to a diverse array of programs (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1995). This research also showed that exposure to programs providing opportunities for practice prompted children to initiate discussions with their parents, and the ways of dealing with bullies taught in these programs meant children were more likely to actually use protective strategies when threatened (Finkelhor, Asidigian & D ­ ziuba-Leatherman, 1995a). Twelve months later, a follow-up study with the same individuals showed program exposure was not linked with reduced incidence of victimisation, but rather was associated with increased likelihood of disclosure, higher levels of selfprotective efficacy and decreased levels of self-blame – all of which are clinically signifi­ cant and positive indicators in recovery from child sexual abuse (Finkelhor, Asidigian & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1995b). Two studies with mixed findings conducted in the USA in the early 2000s attempted to determine, retrospectively, whether participation in sexual abuse prevention programs reduced the incidence of victimisation. First, a study with over 900 female undergraduate university students found that 28 per cent had been exposed to a prevention program in preschool and 92 per cent had experienced a program in elementary (primary) school. Age at program exposure was around 6 to 7 years. Those students who had not participated in school-based prevention programs were twice as likely to have experienced child sexual abuse (Gibson & Leitenberg, 2000). Second, a study with 126 high school students found 53 per cent had attended a school-based, child sexual abuse prevention program. Students exposed to prevention programs had higher levels of knowledge about four important concepts related to sexual abuse: knowing children are not to blame; knowing abusers can be familiar people; knowing both boys and girls can be victimised; and understanding the need for reporting. Forty per cent of program participants believed the program helped them avoid threatening circumstances; however, data from a small group of children who were abused by family members suggested the strategies learnt were less effective with known perpetrators (Ko & Cosden, 2001).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 9.1 Do you remember? Do you recall receiving education about prevention of child sexual abuse when you were at school? Did you ever talk with your parents, siblings, teachers or friends about any of the concepts mentioned in the text?



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MEASURING PREVENTION Several systematic reviews have shown that school-based programs are effective in increasing children’s conceptual knowledge of child sexual abuse (measured via interviews or questionnaires) and their self-protective skills (measured in simulated scenarios). The highquality studies that have measured children’s retention of knowledge, up to 6 months after program delivery, find that children’s program knowledge is retained over time (see, for example, Walsh et al., 2015). However, few studies have undertaken long-term follow-up. Prevention of child sexual abuse is a difficult outcome to measure. Assessing whether preschool or school-based prevention edu­ Longitudinal: a research design cation actually prevents sexual abuse entails long-term follow-up in which individuals are followed with cohorts of learners who have been exposed to such programs, over a scheduled period of time and then comparing them with learners who have not. This is an (such as months, years or even decades). Data are collected expensive and logistically difficult exercise, due to the resources from the same people to see required to undertake such studies and the practical issues of data whether and how specific things (variables) change and what collection, as well as attrition owing to children’s absences from factors influence such changes. In school, among other factors. Not surprisingly, to date no research this instance, longitudinal studies has yet been able to assess adequately whether prevention educacould look at the relationship between exposure to a schooltion is effective in the long term. For this reason, the field urgently based, child sexual abuse requires research that collects longitudinal follow-up data that is able prevention education program and sexual abuse in childhood to rigorously examine whether there are links between prevention after program delivery, as well as education and actual prevention. These studies need to be prospecsexual assault or exploitation in tive (i.e. following individuals forwards over time), rather than retro­ adolescence and adulthood. spective (i.e. having individuals reflect back on their experience). Child sexual abuse prevention Despite the unavailability of such data, researchers and advocates education: typically occurs in schools or early learning tend to conclude that prevention education has: Systematic review: a literature review that identifies and critically assesses all the research undertaken on a particular intervention.

centres and involves the use of programs, curricula, books and other resources designed to raise awareness and reduce the risk of child sexual abuse. Other terms used include: ‘body safety’ (Wurtele, 2007), ‘child safety training’, ‘child assault prevention’, ‘child protection education’ (New South Wales Department of School Education, 1997), ‘personal body safety’ (Miller-Perrin, Wurtele & Kondrick, 1990), ‘personal safety education’ (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), 1999) and ‘protective behaviours’ (Flandreau-West, 1984).

… additional, important objectives beside those of preventing victimization, including promoting the reporting of victimization, reducing the stigma and self-blame that victimized children feel, and educating parents, teachers, and other community members about the problem … The programs could be justified solely on the basis of these goals even if actual prevention was relatively uncommon (Finkelhor, 2007, p. 642).

WHERE DOES CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION EDUCATION FIT INTO THE EARLY YEARS AND SCHOOL CURRICULA? Child sexual abuse prevention education aims to provide children with knowledge and skills to protect themselves, to avoid unsafe situations and to disclose abusive events to a trusted adult. These

CHAPTER 9  Education for the prevention of sexual abuse


interventions also raise teacher, parent and community awareness of sexual abuse, and provide adults with the knowledge and skills to protect children. Health Promoting Schools Internationally, the long-standing Health Promoting Schools Framework: developed by the Framework developed by the WHO (1986; 1998) encourages a WHO to encourage a whole-ofwhole-of-school approach to addressing health issues, includschool approach to addressing key health issues, including ing relationships and sexual health education, which acts as an sexuality education. ­umbrella curriculum area for education for child sexual abuse prevention. Within the Health Promoting Schools Framework, primary prevention strategies aim to prevent problems before they occur. Such strategies or initiatives can be delivered to whole populations (known as ‘universal interventions’) or to particular groups at higher risk (known as ‘targeted’ or ‘selective interventions’). Child sexual abuse prevention education was originally designed as a primary or universal intervention to be delivered to all children, but research shows that this seldom occurs. Its coverage in the preschool and school curricula relies to a large extent on system-level directives as well as individual teacher discretion. This is the case with most curriculum content. The most robust international instruments to assist schools and early childhood centres in locating child sexual abuse prevention education in the curriculum can be found in the form of guidelines for sexuality education developed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). UNESCO (2009) has developed the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education. Based on a systematic review of studies of the effectiveness of sexuality edu­ cation curricula worldwide and an extensive review of existing standards, the UNESCO guidance sets out key concepts, topics, learning objectives and ideas, grouped according to four age levels: level 1 (5–8 years), level 2 (9–12 years), level 3 (12–15 years) and level 4 (15–18 years). The educational content for sexual abuse prevention is embedded within three of the six key concepts (Key Concepts 2, 3 and 4) as detailed with a few examples in Spotlight 9.1. Almost two decades ago, SIECUS (1998) developed the Right from the Start: Guidelines for sexuality issues: birth to five years, in response to the need for age-appropriate guidance for sexuality education for younger children. These guidelines were designed by a taskforce of professionals, for use by educators in centre-based care to lay the foundation for children’s sexual health education. The guidelines were built around six main concepts and related topics, with key messages for children at three developmental levels: infancy (birth to age 1 year); toddlers and preschool-aged children (1–4 years); and older preschoolers (4–5 years). The content was embedded in one of the six key concepts (Key Concept 5). Spotlight 9.2 provides some examples of content relating to sexual abuse prevention for children aged 4–5 years.


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SPOTLIGHT 9.1 Curriculum-to-practice examples for children by age level Key Concept 2: Values, Attitudes and Skills

Key Concept 3: Culture, Society and Human Rights

↓ Topic 2.5: Finding help and support

Key Concept 4: Human Development

Topic 3.4: Gender-based violence, sexual abuse and harmful traditional practices

↓ Topic 4.5: Privacy and body integrity

Key ideas (Level 1: 5–8 years) Key ideas (Level 2: 9–12 years) Key ideas (Level 1: 5–8 years) • All people have the right to • There are ways to seek help • Everyone has the right to be protected and supported. in the case of sexual abuse decide who can touch their and rape. body, where and in what • Trusted adults can be way. sources of help and support in the school and community.

↓ Exercise Consider reading children’s picture books with these themes. Examples include Jasmine’s Butterflies by Justine O’Malley & Carey Lawrence (2002) and Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox & Patricia Mullins (1987).

Exercise Consider reading children’s picture books with these themes, such as Some Secrets Should Training Curriculum for Teachers by Sandy K. Wurtele (2007) or Never Be Kept by Jayneen Preventing Sexual Abuse by Carol Sanders & Craig Smith (2011) and Plummer (1984). Everyone’s Got A Bottom by Tess Rowley & Jodi Edwards (2007).

Exercise Take a look at the lesson plans available in The Body Safety

Source: Adapted from UNESCO (2009, pp. 16, 20, 25).

SPOTLIGHT 9.2 A curriculum-planning sequence for young children Key Concept 5: Health

↓ Topic 17: Sexual abuse prevention

↓ Some examples of key messages for older preschoolers (4–5 years): • Children have the right to tell others not to touch their bodies when they don’t want to be touched. • It’s wrong for an older, stronger or bigger person to look at or touch a child’s penis, vulva or bottom without good cause. Source: SIECUS (1998, pp. 11, 55–7).

CHAPTER 9  Education for the prevention of sexual abuse

In some countries, child sexual abuse prevention education for early years learners is generally located in the curriculum domain of health education, where it is typically taught in two strands: (1) safety education/injury prevention; and/or (2) wellbeing/ healthy relationships. In some school curricula, sexual abuse prevention content is explicitly stated, while in others it is implicit and must be inferred from learning statements.

SPOTLIGHT 9.3 Explicit and implicit curriculum statements An example of an explicit approach is having clear statements about providing children with opportunities to learn about and understand appropriate and inappropriate touching, safe and unsafe situations, and identifying people who can help. An implicit approach is less specific and subject to interpretation, such as: children should be able to demonstrate behaviours and identify people to keep them safe and healthy.

• • • • •

In an ideal world, education systems would have the following: A child-protection policy with several key elements relating specifically to child sexual abuse prevention education. This includes a clear statement explaining the compulsory or voluntary nature of provision; expectations of centre directors and school principals to report on compliance; procedures for dealing with student disclosures of past or current child sexual abuse, including staff reporting obligations; and explicit statements about the location of sexual abuse prevention content in the curriculum. Assessment and reporting of student learning. Support for educators in the form of materials, teaching resources and lesson plans in easily accessible formats. Specialist training opportunities for educators and support staff. Opportunities for integration of content across the curriculum (e.g. in language and literacy via children’s literature). Parent education packages and communication strategies for working with parents, particularly about the timing and content of education on prevention of sexual abuse. Well-established links with relevant community support agencies and services, including statutory child protection services (Walsh et al., 2013).

Children spend a large part of their lives in early learning environments, including care and education settings. Educators working in these environments are in an ideal position to intervene in cases of known or suspected child sexual abuse. In contexts in which school systems lack these features, there is much that educators can do. Australian teacher educator, Vivienne Watts (1997) encapsulates this idea well in her conceptualisation of educators’ roles in child protection as multidimensional, involving:



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• Developing their own knowledge and understanding of child sexual abuse through training and professional development • Knowing the warning signs and indicators of child sexual abuse, legal reporting obligations in cases of known or suspected child sexual abuse, and procedures for reporting • Making reports to child-protection authorities or police in appropriate circumstances • Responding to the needs of abused children in their learning communities • Teaching children self-protection and help-seeking strategies • Supporting children by cooperating with child-protection and other support agencies.

TYPES OF PREVENTION PROGRAMS, PROGRAM CONTENTS, METHODS AND RESOURCES An anchor for teaching child sexual abuse prevention education can typically be found in school curricula, as already noted. But specific programs have also been developed by non-government agencies and community organisations worldwide, such as Bravehearts (Australia – Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure), Child Help (USA – Speak up, Be Safe), the Council of Europe (European Union – The Underwear Rule), Plan International (India – Break the Silence) and the Canadian Red Cross (Canada – Be Safe!). Since 1987, there have been more than 25 meta-analyses, systematic reviews and narrative reviews of research focusing on child sexual abuse prevention programs. These reviews have revealed considerable variability in the overall methodological quality of the research in program evaluation studies. None of these reviews has identified program typologies, and few have been able to isolate the characteristics of effective prevention programs. However, some reviews have identified characteristics that are ‘common’ to programs. For example, researchers have detailed eight concepts typically taught in prevention programs: 1. Body ownership. This is also known as body integrity, whereby children are taught about ownership of their bodies, including private parts, their right to control access to their bodies and the limited range of situations in which adults or other children would need to touch or see their private parts or take photos of them. 2. Touch. Children are taught to distinguish types of touching, including sexually abusive touch. 3. Assertiveness. Children are taught strategies to use in relation to grooming scenarios, inappropriate touching and other sexual threats. 4. The ‘No–Go–Tell’ sequence. Children are taught to say ‘No’ loudly when someone tries to or does touch them inappropriately, to ‘Go’ or get away from a situation and to ‘Tell’ an adult who can help. 5. Secrecy. Children are taught to distinguish types of secrets, the difference between secrets and surprises, and the concept that secrets should never be kept. 6. Intuition. This is a controversial component, especially for young children, in which children are taught to trust their feelings when they feel something is not right.

CHAPTER 9  Education for the prevention of sexual abuse


7. Support systems. Children are taught to identify adults in their social system and agencies (e.g. helplines) who can help; this is especially important in the event of disclosure of current or past sexual abuse. 8. Blame. Children are taught that they are never to blame if they have been or have almost been abused or victimised; the fault always lies with the adult perpetrator (Bogat & Martinez-Torteya, 2010; Duane & Carr, 2002). The topics most frequently recalled by the 2000 children in Finkelhor’s studies, cited earlier, included telling an adult (recalled by 95 per cent); kidnapping (81 per cent); good touch/bad touch (81 per cent); yell/scream (80 per cent); sexual abuse definitions (80 per cent); incest (74 per cent); abuse is not the child’s fault (74 per cent); confusing touch (70 per cent); and dealing with bullies (63 per cent). In programs, this content is typically taught using a range of pedagogies. Specific peda­gogies associated with more effective programs include a combination of instruction, modelling, role-play, rehearsal/practice, social reinforcement, feedback, discussion, group mastery and review. Delivery formats are varied, and include film/video/DVD, theatrical plays and performances, and multimedia presentations, with additional resources including songs, puppets, mascots, comics, colouring books, storybooks and games. Some researchers have categorised programs dichotomously as either active (i.e. involv-ing modelling–rehearsal–practice in delivery) or passive (i.e. involving ­lecture-type delivery). However, this approach is limited because Multimodal delivery most effective programs employ ­multimodal delivery approaches programs: combination of several different delivery and use several integrated pedagogies, as noted above. Addi­ modalities. For example: a theatre tionally, many effective programs are multi-­ systemic in that presentation, accompanied by they target multiple members of children’s social systems – for discussion, songs featuring key program messages, modelling exam­ple, teachers and parents (Duane & Carr, 2002). This ­multi-­ from adults, opportunities for systemic ­focus is crucial because sexual abuse prevention educachildren to rehearse, practise and obtain feedback, along with tion should never be seen as a replacement for adult responsibility questions and answers. to protect ­children.

CASE STUDY 9.1  THE KEEPING SAFE: CHILD PROTECTION CURRICULUM The Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum (KS: CPC) is an example of a comprehensive curriculum (or learning program) that can be taught with children from kindergarten through to the final year of high school. In South Australia, legislation and school policy require that it be compulsorily taught. Educators must attend one-day training before delivering the KS: CPC to children and young people, and must commit to regular online updates. It comprises rich resources, lesson plans and ideas sequenced in five bands: Early years: ages 3–5; Early years: Years R–2; Primary years: Years 3–5; Middle years: Years 6–9; and Senior years: Years 10–12. Also included are support materials for children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children living with disability and additional needs, and Indigenous children and young people (Department for Education, South Australia, 2019). What curriculum or programs are available for use in your context?


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What is best practice? Program facilitators of sexual abuse prevention education have been waiting for a set of ‘best practice’ guidelines to be identified. Although there is no definitive source, there are tools that, when combined, can assist in answering the question: ‘What is best practice?’ Such guidelines can provide a mechanism for making informed judgements about the most promising or potentially effective education programs for specific settings. In Australia, a report on respectful relationships education in Respectful relationships Victorian schools identified five criteria for good practice: education: a term used primarily in Australia to refer to school-based programs and curricula that aim to promote and model respect, positive attitudes and healthy behaviours in a wide range of interpersonal relationships.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

a whole-school approach a program framework and logic effective curriculum delivery relevant, inclusive and culturally sensitive practice impact evaluation (Flood, Fergus & Heenan, 2009, p. 5).

Similarly, six national standards for sexual assault prevention education were developed in Australia after a rigorous process of program mapping and consultation: 1. coherent conceptual approaches to program design 2. use of a theory of change 3. comprehensive program development and delivery 4. inclusive, relevant and culturally sensitive practice 5. effective evaluation strategies 6. training and professional development of educators (Carmody et al., 2009, p. 23). In the USA, guidelines for programs to reduce child victimisation are broader still because these can aim to prevent all forms of violence, with a focus on child sexual abuse. An education taskforce proposed that these programs should: • be based on accepted educational theories • be appropriate for the age and educational and developmental levels of the child • offer concepts that will help children build self-confidence in order to better handle and protect themselves in all types of situations • have multiple program components that are repeated several years in a row • utilise qualified presenters who use role-playing, behavioural rehearsal, feedback and active participation (NCMEC, 1999, pp. 6–8). Researchers internationally generally agree on what should be considered best practice, and this is best captured by the six practices identified by Daro (1994, p. 215): 1. Instruction must encompass repeated opportunities for children to practise safety strategies. 2. Programs must be tailored to the unique cognitive and learning capacities of different age groups. 3. Content must be presented in a stimulating and integrated way sufficient to capture children’s interest and promote their learning.

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4. General concepts should be part of programs, on account of their value in strengthening children’s responses to everyday situations generally, as well as sexual abuse prevention specifically. 5. Children must be encouraged to tell adults if they are touched in a way that does not seem right without creating negative perceptions of healthy human affection. 6. Longer, staged and more detailed programs are best integrated into the school curriculum for maximum benefit.

CASE STUDY 9.2  LISTENING, REASSURING AND RESPECTING Would you know what to say and do if a child disclosed to you that they had been sexually abused? Providers of child sexual abuse prevention education have told us that children frequently disclose their discomfort, fears and actual abuse during and after prevention lessons. This list, reproduced by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (2015) provides a starting point. Three dimensions are listening, reassuring and respecting: • • • • •

• • • • •

Give the child or young person your full attention. Maintain a calm appearance. Don’t be afraid of saying the “wrong” thing. Reassure the child or young person it is right to tell. Accept the child or young person will disclose only what is comfortable and recognise the bravery/strength of the child for talking about something that is difficult. Let the child or young person take his or her time. Let the child or young person use his or her own words. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Tell the child or young person what you plan to do next. Do not confront the perpetrator.

One way to become comfortable with these responses is to practise by roles-playing. Try it, with a colleague or friend playing the part of a child. You could video-record your efforts and critically reflect. What would you do differently next time?

THE ROLE OF PARENTS IN EDUCATION FOR CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION In recent years, parents have become more aware of child sexual abuse through media reporting of cases and coverage of the topic in popular movies and TV series. Parents can be the most readily available sources of information for their children about prevention of child sexual abuse. Although parents admit to being hesitant about discussing these issues, they generally have positive attitudes towards the teaching of this content at school (Walsh & Brandon, 2012). Different studies have shown that 78 to 100 per cent of parents surveyed in Australia, Canada, China and the USA favour coverage of prevention education in school curricula, and slightly fewer parents prefer coverage in before-school settings (Briggs, 1988; Chen & Chen, 2005; Chen, Dunne & Han, 2007; Elrod & Rubin, 1993; Wurtele et al., 1992).



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Figure 9.1 Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse Source: Australian Institute of Family Studies (2015).

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Over time, parents have become more willing to discuss the prevention of child sexual abuse with their children at home. In the USA, for example, research shows that the proportion of mothers who talked with their children about sexual abuse had increased from 59 per cent in 1992 to 79 per cent in 2010 (Deblinger et al., 2010; Wurtele et al., 1992). Parents’ readiness to enter into dialogue with their children is influenced by many factors, including gender, personal experience of child sexual abuse, access to resources or models, beliefs about age-appropriateness and perceptions of negative consequences. Parents who were exposed to education for prevention of child sexual abuse at school and/or who reported having family discussions about sexual abuse when they were children reported a higher likelihood of talking with their own children about this topic (Walsh & Brandon, 2012). This appears to be part of an inter-generational cycle of prevention that has potential to gain momentum. The challenge for early years educators and providers of prevention education is to find ways to partner with parents to harness their strengths as children’s first teachers.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 9.2 Parents keeping children safe One of the key recommendations from Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was ‘prevention education for parents delivered through day care, preschool, school, sport and recreational settings, and other community settings’ (Recommendation 6.2(c)) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017). What could this look like in your setting?

CONCLUSION Child sexual abuse has serious short-term and long-term effects for individuals and societies. Teaching of prevention education in the early years is one component of a comprehensive prevention approach. Official curriculum documents are always the starting point for considering what can be taught within different school systems and contexts. Curricula can be both complemented and supplemented by judicious use of other evidence-based materials and resources covered in this chapter.

QUESTIONS 9.1 What are some common concepts taught in child sexual abuse prevention education? 9.2

What are key considerations for early years educators when planning to teach child sexual abuse prevention education?



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9.3 A parent asks what will be taught as part of child sexual abuse prevention education, and specifically asks whether anatomically correct terms for body parts will be used. What do you say and do? 9.4

How might child sexual abuse prevention concepts be integrated into the teaching of other key learning areas such as English/literacy?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The research informing this chapter was funded by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project Scheme (DP 1093717). The authors acknowledge the research assistance provided by Leisa Brandon.

REFERENCES Australian Institute of Family Studies (2015). Responding to Children and Young People’s Disclosures of Abuse. Retrieved from disclosure-infographic.pdf Berrick, J.D. & Gilbert, N. (1991). With the Best of Intentions: The child sexual abuse prevention movement. New York: Guilford Press. Bogat, G.A. & Martinez-Torteya, C.M. (2010). Child sexual abuse education: Developmental and practical issues. In M.A. Paludi & F.L. Denmark (eds), Victims of Sexual Assault and Abuse: Resources and research (pp. 121–65). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Briggs, F. (1988). South Australian parents want child protection programs to be offered in schools and preschools. Early Childhood Development and Care, 34(1), 167–78. Carmody, M., Evans, S., Krogh, C., Flood, M., Heenan, M. & Overden, G. (2009). Framing Best Practice: National standards for the primary prevention of sexual assault through education. Retrieved from Report.pdf Chen, J.Q. & Chen, D.G. (2005). Awareness of child sexual abuse prevention education among parents of grade 3 elementary school pupils in Fuxin City, China. Health Education Research, 20(5), 540–7. Chen, J.Q., Dunne, M.P. & Han, P. (2007). Prevention of child sexual abuse in China: Knowledge, attitudes, and communication practices of parents of elementary school children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31(7), 747–55. Commonwealth of Australia (2017). Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Final report preface and executive summary. Retrieved from https:// Daro, D.A. (1994). Prevention of child sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 4(2), 198–223. Deblinger, E., Thakkar-Kolar, R.R., Berry, E.J. & Schroeder, C.M. (2010). Caregivers’ efforts to educate their children about child sexual abuse. Child Maltreatment, 15(1), 91–100. Department for Education, South Australia (2019). Child Protection Curriculum – Information for educators. Retrieved from

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Duane, Y. & Carr, A. (2002). Prevention of child sexual abuse. In A. Carr (ed.), Prevention: What works with children and adolescents? A critical review of psychological prevention programmes for children, adolescents and their families (pp. 181–204). New York: Brunner-Routledge. Elrod, J.M. & Rubin, R.H. (1993). Parental involvement in sexual abuse prevention education. Child Abuse & Neglect, 17(4), 527–38. Finkelhor, D (2007). Prevention of sexual abuse through educational programmes. Pediatrics, 120, 640–5. Finkelhor, D., Asidigian, N. & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995a). Victimization prevention programs for children: A follow-up. American Journal of Public Health, 85(12), 1684–9. ——— (1995b). The effectiveness of victimization prevention instruction: An evaluation of children’s responses to actual threats and assaults. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(2), 141–53. Finkelhor, D. & Baron, L. (1986). Risk factors for child sexual abuse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1(1), 43–71. Finkelhor, D. & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995). Victimization prevention programs: A national survey of children’s exposure and reactions. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(2), 29–39. Flandreau-West, P. (1984). Protective Behaviors: Anti-victim training for children, adolescents and adults. Madison, WI: Protective Behaviors Inc. Flood, M., Fergus, L. & Heenan, M. (2009). Respectful Relationships Education: Violence prevention and respectful relationships education in Victorian secondary schools. Retrieved from StaffHome_staffgroupB%24_bozzetto_Documents_2017000497.pdf Fox, M. & Mullins, P. (1987). Hattie and the Fox. New York: Simon & Schuster. Gibson, L.E. & Leitenberg, H. (2000). Child sexual abuse prevention programs: Do they decrease the occurrence of child sexual abuse? Child Abuse & Neglect, 24(9), 1115–25. Irish, L., Kobayashi, I. & Delahanty, D.L. (2010). Long-term physical health consequences of childhood sexual abuse: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 35(5), 450–61. Ko, S.F. & Cosden, M.A. (2001). Do elementary school-based child abuse prevention programs work? A high school follow-up. Psychology in the Schools, 38(1), 57–66. Kohl, J. (1993). School-based child sexual abuse prevention programs. Journal of Family Violence, 8(2), 137–50. Miller-Perrin, C.L., Wurtele, S.K. & Kondrick, P.A. (1990). Sexually abused and nonabused children’s conceptions of personal body safety. Child Abuse & Neglect, 14(1), 99–112. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) (1999). Guidelines for Programs to Reduce Child Victimization: A resource for communities when choosing a program to teach personal safety to children. Retrieved from https://



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New South Wales Department of School Education (1997). Child Protection Education: Curriculum materials to support teaching and learning in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Sydney: New South Wales Department of School Education, Student Welfare Directorate. Retrieved from .au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/key-learning-areas/pdhpe/child-protectionand-respectful-relationships-education/resources O’Malley, J. & Lawrence, C. (2002). Jasmine’s Butterflies. Perth: Protective Behaviours Western Australia. Plummer, C.A. (1986). Prevention education in perspective. In M. Nelson & K. Clark (eds), The Educator’s Guide to Preventing Child Sexual Abuse. Santa Cruz, CA: Network. ——— (1984). Preventing Sexual Abuse: Activities and strategies for those working with children and adolescents. Washington, DC: National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Prilleltensky, I., Nelson, G. & Peirson, L. (2001). Promoting Family Wellness and Preventing Child Maltreatment: Fundamentals for thinking and action. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Putnam, F.W. (2003). Ten-year research update review: Child sexual abuse. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(3), 269–78. Rowley, T. & Edwards, J. (2007). Everyone’s Got a Bottom. Fortitude Valley, Qld: Family Planning Queensland. Sanders, J. & Smith, C. (2011). Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. Melbourne: Upload Publishing. Sexuality Informational and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) (1998). Right From the Start: Guidelines for sexuality issues: Birth to five years. New York: SIECUS. Retrieved from Stoltenborgh, M., van Ijzendoorn, M.H., Euser, E.M. & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J.A. (2011). Global perspective on child sexual abuse: Meta-analysis of prevalence around the world. Child Maltreatment, 16(2), 70–101. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2009). International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education: Volume II: Topics and learning objectives. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved 20 June 2016 from scan_2C647EB3599034DE=0&bcsi_scan_filename=183281e.pdf Walsh, K., Berthelsen, D., Nicholson, J.M., Brandon, L., Stevens, J. & Rachele, J.N. (2013). Child sexual abuse prevention education: A review of school policy and curriculum provision in Australia. Oxford Review of Education, 39(5), 649–80. Walsh, K. & Brandon, L. (2012). Their children’s first educators: Parents’ views about child sexual abuse prevention education. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21(5), 734–46. Walsh, K., Zwi, K., Woolfenden, S. & Shlonsky, A. (2015). School-based programmes for prevention of child sexual abuse (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2015(4). Art. no.: CD004380. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004380.pub3

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Watts, V. (1997). Responding to Child Abuse: A handbook for teachers. Rockhampton, Qld: Central Queensland University Press. World Health Organization (WHO) (1999). Consultation on Child Abuse: Global initiative on child abuse prevention. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from WHO_HSC_PVI_99.1.pdf ——— (1998). Health-Promoting Schools: A healthy setting for living, learning and working. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from en/92.pdf ——— (1986). Promoting Health Through Schools: The World Health Organization’s global school health initiative. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from youth_health/gshi/en Wurtele, S.K. (2007). The Body Safety Training Workbook: A personal safety program for parents to teach their children. Colorado Springs, CO: Sandy K. Wurtele. Wurtele, S.K., Gillispie, E.I., Currier, L.L. & Franklin, C.F. (1992). A comparison of teachers vs parents as instructors of a personal safety program for pre-schoolers. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16(1), 127–37.



LOOSE PARTS ON THE SCHOOL PLAYGROUND A playful approach to promoting health and wellbeing for children of all abilities

Shirley Wyver, Anita Bundy, Lina Engelen, Geraldine Naughton and Anita Nelson Niehues

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Identify some of the key elements of an effective outdoor-play intervention designed to support children’s wellbeing. • Recognise the importance of multi-level approaches for achieving positive wellbeing outcomes. • Recognise the importance of including multiple stakeholders for achieving positive wellbeing outcomes. • Assess whether outdoor-play interventions are beneficial for all children, regardless of gender and ability.

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INTRODUCTION The importance of risky outdoor play has been identified in a recent systematic review (Brussoni et al., 2015). While this importance is recognised, opportunities are diminishing (Waller et al., 2010). Many practitioners and researchers are now interested in ways to improve outdoor play experiences in schools and child-care centres, often with a focus on ‘loose-parts’ play (Farmer et al., 2017; Houser et al., 2019; Hyndman et al., 2014). In this chapter, we focus on a loose-parts, school-based interPlayfulness: the elements vention to promote ­playfulness. The intervention is known as the of internal control, intrinsic Sydney Playground Project (SPP). The SPP was developed by a motivation, freedom to suspend ­multidisciplinary team, including the authors of this chapter. Key reality and framing (i.e. giving and reading cues about how players ­principles in the creation of the SPP were to find ways to enable wish to be treated in the play). children to engage in more-­frequent, better-quality play, and make the intervention accessible to all children, families and teachers (Bundy et al., 2011). More recently, we have had a particular focus on children with disabilities (Bundy et al., 2015). Goals for children with disabilities include development in areas promoted through play, yet a range of barriers often prevents this group from full participation. Play is difficult to define, so it is important to be clear about what we mean. Skard and Bundy (2008) have identified four elements of playfulness relative to internal control, intrinsic motivation, freedom to suspend reality and framing, which we believe are important in any definition of play. With these elements in mind, it is clear that many environments promote playfulness, not just those specifically designed for children. It is also clear that playfulness can be enhanced by lack of structure in an environment. Structure and equipment with a specific purpose can inhibit children’s creativity. It is important to note that our definition may not include some activities captured in broader definitions of play. However, it is also important to note that both play and playfulness, and each of the four elements of play, represent a continuum, and that it is the sum of these elements that determines relative playfulness (as opposed to non-playfulness). Thus, a greater presence of one element can offset the relative absence of another. Before describing the SPP in detail, we briefly review some of the changes in the social and physical contexts of children that are now understood to have a negative effect on mental and physical wellbeing. Compelling international research provides evidence of direct relationships between children’s play and their wellbeing. There is also international consensus that historically recent lifestyle changes have had the unintended consequence of reducing the quality and quantity of opportunities for play. Decline in opportunities for children to participate in playful experiences has been linked to increases in a range of physical and mental health problems (see Bundy et al., 2011). Changes include inadequate provision of appropriate environments for play and excessive concerns about safety. In Australia, for example, the regulatory requirement for outdoor play spaces for children in long day care is 7 square metres (horizontal space), with limitations to height of equipment (vertical space). Numerous authors have argued that these provisions are not adequate for high-quality play


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involving physical activity or learning through risk-taking (see Little & Wyver, 2014). Opportunities for play have also been compromised by an excessive concern for safety, sometimes referred to as ‘surplus safety’. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of protecting children from injury has been a denial of opportunity for children to engage in activities that promote wellbeing by allowing children to master their bodies and the environment. Concerns about tragic but extremely rare events are magnified and are not rationally balanced against the negative consequences that over-protection can have on wellbeing (Wyver et al., 2010). Issues related to children’s playfulness and wellbeing are best considered using a systems approach, such as ecological systems theory or dynamic systems theory (Bundy et al., 2009). Too often, stereotypes are invoked to blame individuals within the system (e.g. children ‘hooked on’ computers, ‘helicopter parents’), which lead to individually focused solutions that are generally ineffective and can lead to feelings of guilt and disempowerment. In our research, we have found adults quite often are aware that their practices are restricting children’s freedom to play, yet they are concerned about the repercussions of relaxing acknowledged excesses in safety that stymie opportunities for high-quality play. A perceived neglect of ‘duty of care’ by a teacher, for example, may have significant personal and career implications. Success is therefore more likely achieved when addressed within systems, to ensure shared understanding of stakeholders. We will return to this issue in our discussion of the SPP’s ‘risk reframing’ component. For children with disabilities, play is often valued for its therapeutic role rather than being based on children’s interests and explorations. Indeed, it has been argued that exploiting play for its therapeutic value may lead to negative associations, as it becomes associated with areas of difficulty (Gielen, 2005). It was noted nearly 30 years ago that barriers to free play for children with disabilities can lead to secondary impairments such as reduced self-esteem, increased dependence on adults and problems with social skills (Missiuna & Pollock, 1991). The barriers that lead to secondary impairments continue to be in place and, as we have noted (Bundy et al., 2015), recent government reforms in Australia, such as introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, assume people with disabilities have the skills and self-confidence to exercise autonomous ­decision-making. The current focus of the SPP specifically examines whether changes on the playground lead to better coping skills.

CASE STUDY 10.1 KATIE WON’T UNDERSTAND HOW TO PLAY WITH THE OBJECTS Katie has autism. Her play with objects is solitary and tends to be repetitive. She enjoys lining up cars, dolls and other small objects. There was concern at her school that the large loose objects introduced by the SPP team would require a level of abstraction beyond Katie’s abilities and might exacerbate her tendency towards repetitive play. Staff

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at the school decided to observe Katie’s play when the new materials were introduced. During the two-week observation period, they noticed that although she did not play with the materials, Katie remained close by and watched what other children were doing. What are the benefits to Katie of being with staff who are willing to explore new approaches to play, even if they are unsure of the outcomes? Consider this case study with relation to Outcome 3 of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), with educators promoting children’s social and emotional wellbeing by maintaining ‘high expectations of each child’s capabilities’ (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009, p.34).

CHILDREN’S RISK-TAKING AND WELLBEING Although risk is usually considered in terms of potential negative Risk-taking in play: challenging outcomes, in recent years, researchers have been examining the positive children’s limits, allowing for uncertainty and risking potential role of risk in early years learning. Removing barriers to risk-taking in injury (especially scrapes and play has been an important element of the SPP. Below are two examples bruises) during play. that demonstrate the links between risk-taking and wellbeing. A range of international studies show that children benefit from environments that allow risk-taking. From infancy, children respond to environments that offer challenge. Work by Adolph and colleagues (2012), for example, demonstrates that infants use problem-solving skills in the process of learning to walk, which includes variations in gait to adjust to changes in the surface. Infants’ walking occurs most often during their spontaneous free play and they fall regularly when learning to walk (an average of 17 falls per hour in infants aged 12–19 months). Clearly, a very basic skill such as early walking requires children to take risks. It is difficult to elicit the experience of risk during the period when children cannot express their emotions verbally. However, by the preschool years, children start to describe the complexity of mixed emotions. Participants in Sandseter’s (2009) study used terms such as ‘scary–funny’ to describe the shift between negative and positive emotions experienced during risky play. In this sense, risk-taking in the context of play can provide important opportunities for development of emotional awareness and resilience, especially as children are generally able to revisit play episodes to repeat these challenges.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND WELLBEING The rise in overweight and obesity in children has drawn attention to the negative effects of changes in contemporary lifestyles on children. Estimates of prevalence of early learner overweight/obesity in countries such as Australia, the UK and the USA range from 20 to 30 per cent. Thus, even the lowest, most conservative estimates are cause for concern. Attempts to reduce children’s weight by introducing programs to increase physical activity have largely been unsuccessful. Researchers from the UK’s EarlyBird


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study have argued that while many researchers see this as a case for introducing more physical activity, believing the interventions provided have perhaps not elevated physical activity enough, there is a more fundamental problem. The EarlyBird researchers have found from their longitudinal study of 7–10-year-olds that most interventions have been based on the wrong assumption about the direction of causality. Their longitudinal data suggest that overweight/obesity seems to be the cause of low levels of physical activity rather than the consequence (Metcalf et al., 2011). Importantly, the EarlyBird findings considered in conjunction with the difficulties in finding successful interventions for weight reduction suggest that a stronger emphasis needs to be placed on prevention of overweight/obesity. Ensuring adequate or better levels of physical activity from infancy is an important component of any effective prevention strategy. The focus on overweight/obesity has also masked a somewhat more significant problem, namely that many children do not achieve recommended levels of physical activity, regardless of their weight status. In the EarlyBird study, only 42 per cent of boys and 11 per cent of girls met government guidelines for physical activity (≥ 60 minutes of activity with a metabolic equivalent of ≥ 3 per day). This study found improved metabolic health for the children who engage in more physical activity than the government-specified minimum physical activity per day. Metabolic health was estimated from measures of triglycerides, insulin resistance, cholesterol/HDL ratio and mean arterial blood pressure (Metcalf et al., 2008). These metabolic indicators are predictors of chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which are known to be on the rise and affecting children, not just the adult population. A recent Australian study conducted in child-care centres (Ellis et al., 2017) found children spend almost half of their time sitting and less than 20 per cent of their time in physical activity. Underweight children spend more time sitting than overweight children, providing further evidence of the need to look beyond issues related to adiposity. These researchers also found a gender difference, with girls spending more time sitting than boys. In the SPP, for example, we also found that boys engage in more physical activity than girls (Engelen et al., 2013). So, although attention has been directed to the concerning number of children who are overweight/obese, numerous studies have made it clear that many more, perhaps the majority, are detectably at risk of chronic health problems, and that girls are potentially at greater risk than boys. The LOOK Longitudinal Study, conducted with Australian 8–12 year-olds, found that low levels of physical activity in girls was related to potentially modifiable factors, including reduced opportunities and lower expectations relating to girls’ physical activity. Furthermore, children with intellectual disabilities are almost twice as likely to become obese as children without intellectual disabilities, and this appears to be partly attributable to lower levels of physical activity (Segal et al., 2016). To provide interventions for all children who have low levels of physical activity or other indicators of potential chronic health problems would be impractical and expensive. It would involve large-scale, individualised behavioural and physiological measurement of children to detect potential problems, coupled with targeted behavioural ­interventions

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that capture children’s interests, in order to ensure sustainability. Even if the necessary resources were available, most likely there would be many false positives and false negatives in detecting children at risk. Interventions offered are unlikely to be of the type that we discussed in our opening paragraph, namely building on activities children want to do more often and involving all friends and peers. A more reasonable approach is to find a preventive strategy that can benefit all children. This is the approach taken in the SPP, which is discussed in our next section.

THE SYDNEY PLAYGROUND PROJECT The SPP was developed as an inexpensive, school-playground intervention available to  all children regardless of ability. The SPP has two main components: introduction of  large, loose, recycled objects onto the school playground, and Risk reframing: a process by risk reframing for parents and teachers. Although the two compo­ which an individual’s or group’s nents are conceptually separable, they have not been offered or perceptions of the relative evaluated separately. We consider the two components to have a benefits of the risks related to a behaviour or event are changed. synergistic relationship. The full protocol of the SPP is described in Bundy et al. (2011) and detailed content of the risk-reframing workshops can be found at Niehues et al. (2013). Some important aspects of the SPP are: Loose parts: in the context of • The changes made to playgrounds by introducing loose parts lead play, any objects that are not to a change in children’s play behaviours. There is no requirement classified as fixed equipment. In for specialist staff to teach children new skills or to encourage this chapter, we refer specifically to loose parts that are large and physical activity. Changes emerge during free play. Many inter­ have no obvious play purpose ventions require specialist personnel for implementation. This (e.g. a car tyre). contributes to the expenses of schools that usually experience budgetary constraints, and acts as a barrier to sustainability and widespread imple­ mentation, as the intervention cannot occur when the specialists are not available.

Figure 10.1 A typical collection of large loose parts used in the SPP


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• Although specialist staff are not required for implementation, teachers conduct their regular playground duty. Teachers have the opportunity to learn more about children’s social interactions and creativity by observing them in an active play context. • ‘Loose parts’ used are large, heavy objects that have been recycled. We have included car tyres, packing boxes, pool noodles and other similar items. An important principle when selecting items is that they have no obvious play objective. Children are invited to use their imagination and construct their own play scenarios with these objects. Play using this equipment has ranged from simple, short-duration episodes to complex games with rules extended over many episodes. • Because the materials are large and heavy, they are difficult for children to manage. Consequently, play becomes more social as more children are needed to move the materials and play becomes more physically active. Although a child’s primary purpose may be to engage in imaginative play, they need to be physically active to do so with the loose objects we provide. Children who would not usually engage in activities that are purely physical (e.g. jumping rope) and are therefore likely to be inactive on the school playground, find themselves engaged in physical activity in order to achieve their imaginative play goals. Figure 10.2 provides an example of cooperative play using loose objects.

Figure 10.2 Large loose parts promote imaginary play, cooperation and physical activity during school recess and lunch breaks.

• The materials are inexpensive, which means schools can extend the collection we provide or initiate their own collection. The use of recycled materials is consistent with sustainability policies of many schools and local authorities, and supports children’s thinking about the reuse of limited resources. It must be noted that we check materials and remove potential hazards before placing them on the playground. • Although each item is not hazardous and does comply with Australian Safety Standards for playground equipment, children have used materials in ways that increase the physical–emotional challenge of play by increasing the element of risk. For example, play equipment was observed as being used to raise the height for jumping games and to propel children forward when jumping. Increasing the risk component was

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intentional. We have argued elsewhere that most playgrounds in developed countries lack challenges for children, as the element of risk has been removed (Wyver et al., 2012). Importantly, we can report that none of the schools in which our research took place reported an increase in injury rates when the materials were available for children. This suggests that risks did not become hazards or dangers and could be managed by the children, without the need for additional staffing resources. • Increased risk-taking on the playground occurred in a context in which parents and teachers had been involved in a workshop to examine the positive role of risk-taking in early learners’ development. Thus, the adults were encouraged to view play from a different perspective and value risk-taking, rather than giving disproportionate consideration to potentially negative outcomes such as injuries. • An important component of the risk-reframing workshop was that teachers and parents were together. In our pilot study, teachers had expressed concern about risky play, noting their duty of care and potential disciplinary or legal action that may be taken against them if a child is injured. At the same time, teachers understood the potential of risk-taking to enhance children’s development. Parents also expressed concerns such as not wanting to be seen as negligent if they allowed their child to take more risks. The risk-reframing workshop provided an important forum for parents and teachers to see each other’s perspectives (Niehues et al., 2013).

CASE STUDY 10.2 BEN DOES NOT KNOW THE ENGLISH WORDS ­NEEDED FOR PRETEND PLAY When Ben lived in Shanghai he loved playing pretend games at school. He has just moved to Sydney and the children at his new school are friendly, but he doesn’t understand the words they use for play. He hears children say things and then run off excitedly. He tries to join in but has trouble contributing to the play and tends to watch rather than interact. Last week a teacher organised for some large loose objects such as car tyres and barrels to be left on the playground. Some of his classmates signalled for his help to move the objects to build ‘the big castle’, and Ben had a great time jumping from the high platform they built. Why do you think it was easier for Ben to join the others in play when the large loose objects were included on the playground? From this case study, do you see any advantages of using large loose objects on the playground for all children rather than using individualised intervention with Ben to support his peer play? Do you believe some individual instruction for Ben is still required?

To date, the SPP has been evaluated in a single-school pilot study and later in a cluster randomised controlled trial (CRCT). An evaluation in schools for children with disabilities is currently being analysed. As the CRCT is the most scientifically rigorous of the two completed projects, we will confine our discussion to this part of the project. The CRCT



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was conducted in 12 Sydney Catholic schools with children in Kindergarten and first year (5–7 years of age). Each school was randomly allocated to an experimental condition or a control condition. The six schools in the experimental condition received the interventions (i.e. loose materials and risk reframing) and those in the control condition did not have access to either intervention during our evaluation phase, but were offered the interventions after our evaluation was concluded. We randomly selected approximately 20 children from each school (a total of 226 children) to monitor for physical activity, play behaviour, social skills and perceived self-concept. All measures were selected for being reliable and had been used in previous research. All measures provided quantitative data. Data were collected before the period of the intervention to establish a baseline and again at the end of the intervention. During the baseline period, neither the researchers collecting the data nor the schools involved were aware of which schools were in the experimental and which were in the control condition. The duration of the loose parts intervention was 13 weeks. Risk reframing comprised a single 2-hour session in each school. Additional survey data of afterschool activities, interviews with teachers and anecdotal information were obtained during the study. Qualitative data were collected from the risk-reframing workshops. We visited the schools during the intervention to check whether any equipment needed to be replaced, to resolve any problems that may have arisen, check compliance and conduct observations. In some schools we observed children hoarding the equipment during the initial period of the intervention. Although the items we used could otherwise have been destined for the scrap-heap, these were valuable play resources for many of the children. The intervention group experienced a statistically significant increase in physical activity. Re-testing in one of the schools two years later revealed that the increase was maintained (Engelen et al, 2013). Although the increase was significant, it was smaller than expected. We used accelerometers to measure physical activity and, while this was a useful method of capturing movements such as walking and running, it did not capture some of the changes in physical activity that accompanied the intervention, particularly lifting, pushing and pulling. We collected data on a randomly selected group of children aged 5–7 years from each school. Nonetheless, it is important to note that use of the intervention materials was not confined to the participants but were accessed by children of all ages within the schools. Changed attitudes to risk-taking were revealed through comments in the ­risk-reframing workshops (Niehues et al., 2013). Parents and teachers acknowledged that some of their protective behaviours towards children may have a basis in self-protection. They also reminisced about their own early experiences and the importance risk-taking had played. Importantly, parents and teachers were together to share their changing perspectives. Together, they reconstructed the concept of risk to deepen their awareness of its positive contribution to children’s experiences and development. Playground materials introduced to the school playground were reappraised through these new frames. At 3-month follow

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up, participants continued to reflect on the workshop and indicated that their beliefs and practices had changed. Unfortunately, not all parents and teachers in the intervention schools participated in the risk-reframing workshops. It is unclear whether participants shared their new frames with parents and teachers who did not participate or, indeed, with children in their care.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 10.1 Sam’s teacher Sam enjoys rough and tumble play with his friends. His teacher knows he loves rough games, and his style of play makes him popular with other children. Sam’s parents have made it clear that they won’t tolerate injuries, even small cuts and bruises. While his teacher is aware that rough play is promoting Sam’s socio-emotional and physical development, she sometimes redirects him to quieter play due to fear of the consequences if an injury should occur. The teacher has noticed that when Sam’s play is redirected, he sometimes engages in covert teasing of other children. Do you consider that risk reframing might change Sam’s parents’ attitudes to rough play?

Overall, the SPP was successful, and some schools have continued to use the materials. Although we experienced only positive feedback from children, we encountered unexpected negativity from some adults. For example, a number of schools or staff within schools described the materials as looking messy, and therefore did not want to continue using them. We also discovered that some teachers were placing limits on access to the materials, such as making access contingent upon good behaviour or only allowing access on certain days of the week, in order to ensure ‘fair’ access to the materials. The intention of the intervention was for children to have free access to the materials during all free play periods, and it is likely that the rationing of materials in some schools weakened the overall effects of the intervention for children in those schools.

CONCLUSION School playgrounds offer many opportunities for children to enjoy themselves while at the same time enhancing their health and wellbeing. As demonstrated in the SPP and other research, introducing elements to the playground that challenge children and add to risk and uncertainty can promote playfulness. It is important to couple these strategies with risk reframing for adults involved. Changes on the playground that promote playfulness do not need to be expensive or elaborate and, as in the SPP, can involve materials that would otherwise become landfill.



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QUESTIONS 10.1 The core business of schools is the education of children. In this chapter, and particularly through our discussion of the SPP, we have attempted to show that schools can be sites for opportunities beyond traditional learning. Do you think the SPP is consistent with the core business of schools? 10.2 When adults think about changing environments for children, they often draw upon their own childhood experiences to capture what they valued or found burdensome. In the SPP risk-reframing workshops, we worked with adult memory of childhood experiences to provide a cognitive–emotional scaffold for adult understanding of risk-taking in children. What do you see as the benefits of adults reminiscing about their own childhoods when thinking about opportunities for children? Do you see any problems that may arise? 10.3 When you think about your own childhood play, can you remember a time when you took a risk that turned out to be a valuable learning opportunity? Do you have any regrets about risks you have taken? What benefits did you gain? How would the presence of parents have influenced the risks you took? The benefits? 10.4 Do you believe that risk-taking of children with disabilities should be closely controlled by adults or do you believe children can mostly make reasonable judgements to avoid real danger when engaging in risky play? 10.5 Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have limited children’s risky play? If so, what led you to impose limitations? Has information from this chapter helped you to think about how you might respond differently in the future?

RELEVANT WEBSITES Outdoor Play: Playground ideas: PlayPods: Sydney Playground Project:

REFERENCES Adolph, K.E., Cole, W.G., Komati, M., Garciaguirre, J.S., Badaly, D., Lingeman, J.M., Chan, G.L.Y. & Sotsky, R.B. (2012). How do you learn to walk? Thousands of steps and dozens of falls per day. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1387–94. Brussoni, M., Gibbons, R., Gray, C., Ishikawa, T., Sandseter, E., Bienenstock, A. … & Pickett, W. (2015). What is the relationship between risky outdoor play and health in children? A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 6423–54. doi:10.3390/ijerph120606423 Bundy, A.C., Naughton, G., Tranter, P., Wyver, S., Baur, L., Schiller, W., Bauman, A., Engelen, L., Ragen, J., Luckett, T., Niehues, A., Stewart, G., Jessup, G. & Brentnall, J. (2011).

CHAPTER 10  Loose parts on the school playground

The Sydney Playground Project: Popping the bubblewrap – unleashing the power of play: A cluster randomized controlled trial of a primary school playground-based intervention aiming to increase children’s physical activity and social skills. BMC Public Health, 11, 680. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-680 Bundy, A., Tranter, P., Naughton, G., Wyver, S. & Luckett, T. (2009). Playfulness: Interactions between play contexts and child development. In J. Bowes & R. Grace (eds). Children, Families and Communities: Contexts and consequences (3rd edn, pp. 76–88). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Bundy, A.C., Wyver, S., Beetham, K.S., Ragen, J., Naughton, G., Tranter, P., Norman, R., Villeneuve, M., Spencer, G., Honey, A., Simpson, J., Baur, L. & Sterman, J. (2015). The Sydney Playground Project – levelling the playing field: A cluster trial of a primary school-based intervention aiming to promote manageable risk-taking in children with disability. BMC Public Health, 15, 1125. doi:10.1186/s12889-0152452-4 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Retrieved 30 August 2019 from other/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_ australia_0.pdf Ellis, Y.G., Cliff, D.P., Janssen, X., Jones, R.A., Reilly, J.J. & Okely, A.D. (2017). Sedentary time, physical activity and compliance with IOM recommendations in young children at childcare. Preventive Medicine Reports, 7, 221–6. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.12.009 Engelen, L., Bundy, A.C., Naughton, G., Simpson, J.M., Bauman, A., Ragen, J., Baur, L., Wyver, S., Tranter, P., Niehues, A., Schiller, W., Perry, G., Jessup, G. & van der Ploeg, H. (2013). Increasing physical activity in young primary school children – it’s child’s play: A cluster randomised controlled trial. Preventive Medicine, 56, 319–25. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.02.007 Farmer, V.L., Williams, S.M., Mann, J.I., Schofield, G., McPhee, J.C. & Taylor, R.W. (2017). Change of school playground environment on bullying: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 139(5), e20163072. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-3072 Gielen, M.A. (2005). Play, toys and disabilities: The Bio-approach to designing play objects for children with various abilities. Proceedings of the 4th International Toy Research Association World Congress, Alicante, Spain. Retrieved from https://www Houser, N.E., Cawley, J., Kolen, A.M., Rainham, D., Rehman, L., Turner, J., … & Stone, M.R. (2019). A loose parts randomized controlled trial to promote active outdoor play in preschool-aged children: Physical literacy in the early years (PLEY) project. Methods and Protocols, 2(2), 27. doi:10.3390/mps2020027 Hyndman, B.P., Benson, A.C., Ullah, S. & Telford, A. (2014). Evaluating the effects of the Lunchtime Enjoyment Activity and Play (LEAP) school playground intervention on children’s quality of life, enjoyment and participation in physical activity. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 164. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-164 Little, H. & Wyver, S. (2014). Outdoor play in Australia. In T. Maynard & J. Waters (eds), Exploring Outdoor Play in the Early Years (pp. 141–56). Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.



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Metcalf, B.S., Hosking, J. Jeffery, A.N., Voss, L.D., Henley, W. & Wilkin, T.J. (2011). Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness: A longitudinal study in children (EarlyBird 45). Archives of Disease in Childhood, 96, 942–7. doi:10.1136/adc.2009.175927 Metcalf, B.S., Voss, L.D., Hosking, J. Jeffery, A.N. & Wilkin, T.J. (2008). Physical activity at the government-recommended level and obesity-related health outcomes: A longitudinal study (EarlyBird 37). Archives of Disease in Childhood, 93, 772–7. doi:10.1136/adc.2007.135012 Missiuna, C. & Pollock, N. (1991). Play deprivation in children with physical disabilities: The role of the occupational therapist in preventing secondary disability. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45, 882–8. Niehues, A.N., Bundy, A., Broom, A., Tranter, P., Ragen, J. & Engelen, L. (2013). Everyday uncertainties: Reframing perceptions of risk in outdoor free play. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 13(3), 223–37. doi 10.1080/14729679.2013.798588 Sandseter, E.B.H. (2009). Affordances for risky play in preschool: The importance of features in the play environment. Early Childhood Education Journal, 36, 439–46. doi 10.1007/s10643-009–0307-2 Segal, M., Eliasziw, M., Phillips, S., Bandini, L., Curtin, C., Kral, T.V.E., Sherwood, N.E., Sikich, L., Stanish, H. & Must, A. (2016). Intellectual disability is associated with increased risk for obesity in a nationally representative sample of US children. Disability and Health Journal, 9(3), 392–8. Skard, G. & Bundy, A.C. (2008). Test of Playfulness. In L.D. Parham & L.S. Fazio (eds), Play in Occupational Therapy for Children (2nd edn, pp. 71–93). St Louis, MO: Elsevier. Waller, T., Sandseter, E.B.H., Wyver, S., Ärlemalm-Hagsér, E. & Maynard, T. (2010). The dynamics of early childhood spaces: Opportunities for outdoor play? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 18(4), 437–43. doi:10.1080/1350293X.2010.525917 Wyver, S., Tranter, P., Naughton, G., Little, H., Sandseter, E.B.H. & Bundy, A. (2010). Ten ways to restrict children’s freedom to play: The problem of surplus safety. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(3), 263–77. doi:10.2304/ciec.2010.11.3.263 Wyver, S., Tranter, P., Sandseter, E.B.H., Naughton, G., Little, H., Bundy, A., Ragen, J. & Engelen, L. (2012). Places to play outdoors: Sedentary and safe or active and risky? In P. Whiteman & K. De Gioia (eds), Children and Childhoods 1: Contemporary perspectives, places and practices (pp. 85–107). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.



Aileen Luo, Kay Bussey and Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • • • •

Explain the concept of bullying in traditional and cyber contexts. Define bullying roles and explore the factors that are involved in the bullying dynamic. Discuss the effects of bullying on the social–emotional wellbeing of children. Describe programs that are available to target bullying in schools.


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INTRODUCTION Research within Australia and around the world underscores the short-term and longterm negative effects of bullying on children’s socio-emotional health and wellbeing. While there has been a significant increase in the number of studies conducted with upper primary and secondary students, comparatively fewer studies have focused on the prior-to-school and early school contexts. The few studies that have examined the effects of bullying in the early years emphasise its negative effects, with victims and bullies exhibiting psychosocial maladjustment and psychosomatic problems similar to outcomes reported in older cohorts (see Neilsen-Hewett, Bussey & Fitzpatrick, 2017). Bullying poses a significant risk to children’s socio-emotional wellbeing and mental health. A growing awareness of how bullying manifests in early peer contexts is therefore critical in the development of effective, preventative anti-bullying initiatives. The goal of this chapter is to provide a synthesis of this research, including an overview of the causes and correlates of bullying and its effects on children’s socio-emotional wellbeing.

WHAT IS BULLYING? Bullying typically refers to physically or psychologically aggressive behaviours that intentionally cause harm to another child, are repeated over time, evolve from a position of power and are frequently used to establish dominance within the peer group (Olweus, 1993). Direct bullying involves face-to-face encounters between the bully and the victim. This includes physical aggression such as punching, shoving or destroying someone’s belongings. Direct bullying includes verbal aggression such as name-calling. Indirect bullying, or relational bullying, involves more covert behaviours such as harm caused through the damaging of social relationships, and is manifested through social exclusion, withdrawal of friendship or the spreading of rumours (Menesini & Salmivalli, 2017). Cyberbullying, a comparatively new form of bullying, involves Cyberbullying: the use of using information and communication technologies (ICT) to intenelectronic means to intentionally inflict harm on another child. tionally hurt or harm another child. The proliferation of electronic Children are at greater risk of media has provided a platform for bullies to threaten, harass and cyberbullying than ‘traditional’ bullying, due to the ease with humiliate their victims. The multi-contextual nature of this form which harmful content can be of bullying means children are potentially at risk 24/7, with few proliferated online. avenues for escape (Kowalski, Limber & Agatston, 2012). Although cyberbullying is more prevalent in adolescents, the risk is also increasingly extending to younger children. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of social networking sites by children under the age of 13 (Livingston, Ólafsson & Staksurd, 2011), despite age restrictions stated by many social media providers. Cyberbullying can occur anywhere, at any time. It is not limited to the schoolyard as with most traditional bullying. It is also less subject to monitoring by others, particularly by adults, than traditional bullying. Children who are cyberbullied are often reluctant to Bullying: verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful, perpetrated by a more powerful (or perceived powerful) individual or group towards a less powerful individual, and is repeated (or has the potential to be repeated) over time.

CHAPTER 11  Bullying and social–emotional wellbeing


report it to their parents, for fear of losing access to the cyber world, a major avenue for social interaction among young people (Perren et al., 2012). They may also be hesitant to disclose to adults for fear of damaging their peer relationships and because they prefer that parents did not intervene (Young & Tully, 2018). Even when children do disclose cyberbullying to their parents they often do not know how to respond (Tokunaga, 2010). Cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying in that bullies are able to conceal their identities, thereby allowing them to be even more vicious towards their victims than they may be in face-to-face bullying (Runions & Bak, 2015). Cyberbullies justify their bullying by downplaying its effects on Moral disengagement: the target. These justifications are part of the moral disengagement a process that allows bullies to process that enables bullies to engage in bullying behaviour without enact immoral behaviours without remorse (Bussey, Fitzpatrick & Raman, 2015). Moral disengagement remorse. Research has shown that bystanders who observe is one of the factors most strongly associated with all types of bullybullying and do nothing about it ing (see Killer et al., 2019; Kowalski et al., 2014). Furthermore, both also show high levels of moral disengagement. direct and indirect bullying is related to the components of moral disengagement (Bjärehed et al., 2019). Cyberbullying also differs from traditional bullying in that the bully is able to send messages, not only to the victim, but also to an audience of thousands and even millions. Therefore, not surprisingly, the effects on those who are victimised can be even more severe than from traditional bullying (Bonanno & Hymel, 2013). Those who witness the bullying can also be affected, with some people trying to defend the victim and others joining in the bullying (see Allison & Bussey, 2016). Although there are features distinct to each of cyberbullying and traditional bullying, there are many similarities and they are highly interrelated. Most children involved in one form of bullying are also involved in the other (Cross, Lester & Barnes, 2015).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 11.1 Cyberbullying and the responsibility of the school A parent brings a cyberbullying incident to your attention and asks for your assistance in resolving the issue. What responsibility or authority does the school have to regulate or sanction inappropriate behaviour online?

DEVELOPMENTAL TRENDS While there has been considerable debate on whether children are in fact capable of bullying, research focused on younger cohorts reveals that physical bullying is the most prevalent form of bullying in the early years. This is not surprising, as physical aggression is often regarded as relatively normative among early years learners. However, even at this stage, children are beginning to replace physical aggression with relational aggression (Swit, McMaugh & Warburton, 2016). Children


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have been observed engaging in relational aggression (e.g. the child tells a peer they won’t be invited to their birthday party unless they do what the child wants) during the preschool years (Murray-Close & Ostrov, 2009), and it may well occur earlier (Vaillancourt et al., 2007). Longitudinal studies show that the percentage of children reporting victimisation decreases as children age, although their risk of experiencing bullying shifts at various transitional points. These include moving from primary to high school, when issues of identity surface and children are seeking to re-establish their position in the peer group. The age-related pattern of cyberbullying differs from that of traditional bullying, with the highest rates occurring in the later high school years. Younger children are much less likely to have been cyberbullied than older children. One of the reasons for this age difference is that younger children have more restricted access to the internet than their older counterparts.

WHO BULLIES AND WHO IS BULLIED? Although there is general consensus within the literature on the negative effects of bullying, there is less agreement about the actual causes of bullying and the most effective means of reducing it. Research indicates that children’s characteristics and environmental factors work together to affect their risk of being bullied or bullying others. Social–ecological systems theory provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the complexities of individual, familial and contextual factors at play in the bullying context (see Neilsen-Hewett et al., 2017). Individuals also bring with them a complex array of characteristics that either place them at risk or protect them from bullying. Bullying can also be understood in the context of social cognitive theory. This theory states that a child’s bullying behaviour is influenced by a reciprocal interaction between personal, behavioural and environmental factors (Bandura, 1986). In this way, the behaviours of other children in the social environment can influence a child’s thinking and motivation to enact bullying through their evaluation of the acceptability of behaving aggressively and its subsequent consequences.

SPOTLIGHT 11.1 Factors predicting individual differences in bullying and victimisation among young children Bullying is a complex phenomenon, established and propagated over time as a result of a complex interplay between individual, family, peer, community (i.e. media) and ­educational contexts (Yoon & Barton, 2008). Effective interventions designed to reduce bullying need to consider these multiple forms of influence.

CHAPTER 11  Bullying and social–emotional wellbeing


Genetics, gender, age, behavioural and socio-emotional characteristics, social cognitions


Parent–child relationships, parenting practices, familial conflict, family structure and socio-economics status


Group social status, reciprocal friendships, peer group attitudes


Computer games, TV programs, movies

Educational context


Classroom ecologies, preschool climate, quality of teacher–child relationships, teacher mangement strategies

Figure 11.1 Social and personal influences on bullying

PERPETRATORS OF BULLYING Research in the early years has mainly focused on children’s aggressive behaviour rather than their bullying. However, as new measures of bullying are developed, there is an increasing focus on bullying (Camodeca, Caravita & Coppola, 2015) in the preschool age group. Drawing on the well-established research on aggression, it is evident that aggressive behaviour is relatively stable from as early as 2 years of age (Vaillancourt et al., 2007). Much of the literature on aggression paints a picture of the aggressive preschooler and first-grade child as evidencing behavioural maladjustment, externalising problems and being socially rejected by their peers Peers: people who are of similar age or social standing (i.e. a (Evans et al., 2018; Ladd, 2006). In those children whose aggressive class of preschoolers would be behaviour leads to peer rejection, this experience can lead to further considered ‘peers’). aggressive responding, thereby perpetuating a cyclical relationship between peer rejection and aggression. In contrast to children who experience peer rejection, popular children are more sociable with peers, engage in less aggressive behaviour and spend more time in hierarchical play (Braza et al., 2007). These findings extend to relational aggression. That is, relationally aggressive children tend to be socially rejected by their peers. Not all children who use aggressive strategies, however, are rejected by their peers; some are popular. Observational research has shown that children who selectively use both aggressive and pro-social strategies when interacting with their peers in different situations do not incur the typical rejection experienced by aggressive children. These children, who use a combination of strategies when interacting with peers, behave in more socially skilled, aggressive ways than peer-rejected children (Roseth et al., 2007). It is these children who may later develop into bullies.


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Bullies were once cast as oafs and socially unskilled children who could only obtain what they wanted and settle disputes with aggressive behaviour. More recent characterisations of bullies show little support for this view. Instead, bullies are often dominant members of the peer group and use aggression to achieve and maintain their status within the peer group (Smith, 2016). Rather than possessing social deficits that lead them to resolving conflicts aggressively, these children learn during the early preschool years that they can achieve their goals through aggression and social manipulation of their peers. It is important to identify children who are bullying others to achieve social dominance, so that they can be taught other more acceptable and pro-social ways of achieving their goals during the early years.

VICTIMS OF BULLYING Children’s behaviour often places them at risk for being the targets of bullying. However, there is less stability in those children identified as victims in the early years than later in development. Some of the reasons for this lack of stability are related to the perpetrator rather than to the victim. Young perpetrators may be more indiscriminate in their selection of victims until they are more able to anticipate the reactions of specific victims to bullying. Identifying certain reactions, such as timidity and withdrawn behaviours, with specific children may take time to develop. The dominant hierarchies among peers are less firmly established during the preschool years, which may enable children to escape identification as a ‘victim’. Increasingly, as children enter school and dominance hierarchies are more clearly established and behavioural patterns formed, some children become the targets of bullying. In the early years, overt social behaviour such as submissiveness, withdrawal and aggression increase children’s susceptibility to victimisation. As Victimisation: the experience children enter primary school, low self-esteem is one of the most of being the target of physical, verbal, social or psychological robust predictors of victimisation (Guerra, Williams & Sadek, 2011). harm. Emotional reactivity and poor emotional regulation have also been linked to poor peer relationships, including peer rejection and victimisation (Godleski et al., 2015; Iyer et al., 2010). There is also evidence that psychosocial problems, including internalising difficulties, are not only an outcome of peer victimisation, but are also antecedent to it (Arseneault, Bowes & Shakoor, 2010). Moreover, externalising behaviours predict future peer victimisation (Pouwels et al., 2019). As already discussed, social status in the peer group is related to children’s aggression. However, it is less strongly related to their victimisation, at least in the early years (Monks, Smith & Swettenham, 2005). On the other hand, status within the peer group has been associated with loneliness among preschoolers, with some being anxious and others being aggressive (Coplan, Closson & Arbeau, 2007). Most importantly, pro-sociality has been associated with social acceptance in the peer group and high-quality friendships (Sebanc, 2003). It therefore seems that children’s standing in the peer group affords protection from bullying and victimisation by enabling them to develop high-quality friendships and pro-social concern for others. Across the school years, high-quality friendships play a major protective role against peer victimisation.

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CASE STUDY 11.1 JEREMY Jeremy is a 10-year-old boy who often plays alone in the playground. He is well-behaved in the classroom, presenting as shy and soft-spoken, and chooses to keep to himself. Jeremy’s mother, Anna, contacts his teacher and reports that Jeremy often comes home tearful. After class, Jeremy’s teacher approaches him to check in with how he is feeling at school. Jeremy discloses that he has been excluded from his peer groups. If you were Jeremy’s teacher, how would you respond to this incident?

PEER-GROUP INVOLVEMENT IN BULLYING Bullying rarely occurs in isolation, with most incidents being witnessed or even supported. How the peer group responds to acts of bullying may either contribute to the problem or help stop it. Olweus (2001) describes the different roles and modes of reaction of the peer group to bullying incidences in his oft-cited ‘bullying circle’, in which eight distinct bystander roles are identified and characterised with respect to their support for the bully (positive–neutral– indifferent–negative) and the assistance they provide the victim (not intervening–intervening). A significant number of peers are involved in the bullying process, with the role of bully, bully-assistant or reinforcer adopted by up to 40 per cent of school-aged children, and the role of onlooker by a further 30 per cent (Salmivalli, 2010). Students’ modes of reaction/roles in an acute bullying situation




The Bully/Bullies Start the bullying and take an active part


Defenders of the Victim Dislike the bullying and help or try to help the victim

Followers, Henchmen Take an active part but do not start the bullying Supporters, Passive Bully/Bullies Support the bullying but do not take an active part



The Victim The one who Passive Supporters, is exposed Possible Bully/Bullies Like the bullying but do not display open support Disengaged Onlookers Watch what happens but do not take a stand E

Figure 11.2 The bullying circle Source: Olweus (2003).

Possible Defenders Dislike the bullying and think they ought to help (but do not)




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Bystanders react to bullying they observe in different ways. Some students actively support the bully, which can lead to a significant increase in bullying (Salmivalli, 2010). Other bystanders may remain passive when witnessing bullying, which may reinforce normality of the behaviour. In contrast, active bystanders are children who intervene in supDefenders: children who port of the victim. These children, also known as defenders, play intervene in the bullying episode a unique role in the bullying dynamic. Defenders may act aggresto support the victim or try sively (e.g. threatening the bully) or pro-socially (e.g. comforting the to stop it. Defenders may act aggressively or pro-socially. victim), whereby pro-social defending significantly reduces bullying behaviour (Bussey et al., 2020). The social context influences a child’s tendency to defend a victim of bullying (Luo & Bussey, 2019). Defenders are more likely to have good relationships with their peers and perceive that they have strong and supportive relationships with their teachers, school and parents (Lambe et al., 2019). Conversely, social factors may also influence whether children remain passive when witnessing a bullying episode. Specifically, the more that witnesses perceive that their classmates justify the acceptability of bullying, the less likely they are to defend victims (Gini, Pozzoli & Bussey, 2015). These factors highlight the importance of peer-group involvement in all intervention efforts. Bystanders: children who remain passive when witnessing the bullying. Their inaction can sometimes be viewed as normalisation of the aggressive act and may inadvertently encourage bullying.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 11.2 Factors that influence bullying It is evident that a variety of factors influence the occurrence of bullying, including the presence of other children in the bullying environment. How would you encourage other children to intervene pro-socially if they were to witness a bullying episode?

FAMILIAL FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH BULLYING Family characteristics, such as low parental involvement, low levels of parental warmth, low family cohesion and high levels of conflict, have all been associated with increased risk of childhood bullying. Parental use of harsh and power-assertive disciplinary strategies with 5–6-year-old children has been linked to children’s externalising difficulties and physical aggression, especially among temperamentally inflexible children. The use of psychological control techniques – in which parents threaten their child with loss of love – has been associated with children’s relational aggression (see Neilsen-Hewett et al., 2017). Parenting styles have also been related to children’s victimisation. Maternal overprotectiveness, maternal enmeshment, harsh discipline and parental control have all been associated with vulnerability to peer victimisation (Finnegan, Hodges & Perry, 1998; Lereya, Smaara & Wolke, 2013). Studies have also shown that parental rejection predicts future bullying victimisation (Stavrinides et al., 2018). In addition, longitudinal research

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has pointed to the predictive role of child maltreatment, parental depression and familial domestic violence in increased rates of bullying and victimisation among children (see Arseneault et al., 2010).

SOCIAL ECOLOGY OF THE SCHOOL AND CLASSROOM ENVIRONMENT The amount of bullying that occurs in schools and classrooms varies. Classrooms that are well managed in terms of competent teaching, monitoring of homework and behaviour, and caring for students, have less bullying (Olweus, 1993). Apart from teachers’ management strategies, how they intervene in bullying episodes also contributes to the level of school bullying (Leadbeater et al., 2015; Sokol, Bussey & Rapee, 2016). Schools in which there is teacher supervision outside the classroom tend to have lower levels of bullying in comparison with ‘bully-friendly schools’ that involve little teacher supervision, inconsistent handling of bullying and no serious consequences for it.

EFFECTS OF BULLYING ON CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND SOCIOEMOTIONAL WELLBEING All forms of bullying have been associated with negative sequelae among both boys and girls of all ages. Perpetrators and victims of bullying are at risk of experiencing a range of short-term and long-term negative psychological (e.g. feelings of loneliness, anxiety, shame, fear, guilt and depression) and physical (e.g. poor health) concerns. A review by Arseneault and colleagues (2010) shows bullying has long-lasting effects that can extend into adolescence, with victimisation associated with a wide range of serious mental health problems, including internalising, psychotic symptoms and self-harm. Individual differences in children’s responses to bullying underscore the need for researchers to examine both characteristics of the individual and situational factors that heighten the risk of maladaptive outcomes. The following sections examine the consequences of bullying for both victims and bullies.

VICTIMS OF BULLYING Victims of bullying in the early years display psychosocial maladjustment in adolescence and adulthood. In particular, school-aged children who are the victims of bullying have increased incidence of continuing depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, poor academic performance, early school drop-out, delinquency, later involvement in crime, physical health issues, sleep disturbances and suicidal ideation (Arseneault et al., 2010; Gini & Pozzoli, 2013; Reijntjes et al., 2010). Longitudinal research conducted with children in Grades 3 to 6 shows the negative effects of victimisation on their self-perception and depressive cognitions, with children describing themselves as a failure, physically unattractive, socially incompetent and angry. Both relational and physical victimisation were associated with increases in negative cognitions and decreases in positive cognitions, with strongest effects being experienced by boys and children experiencing relational acts of bullying (see Gini & Pozzoli, 2013).



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Internalising difficulties resulting from peer victimisation become most evident during the middle childhood years. Goodman, Stormshak and Dishion (2001) show that peer victimisation in Grade 5 predicted internalising behaviours in Grades 6, 7 and 8, after controlling for initial levels of internalising behaviours. In addition, peer victimisation in Grade 2 and increasing victimisation across Grades 2 to 5 were associated with depressive symptoms and overt aggression in both boys and girls, and with relational aggression in girls in Grade 5 (Rudolph et al., 2011). As previously noted, the consequences of peer victimisation are well-documented. ­Increasingly, however, it has been shown that the effects of peer victimisation on children’s adjustment are quite variable (Kochenderfer-Ladd & Skinner, Socio-emotional 2002). Therefore, a major agenda for the research on peer victimisawellbeing: how an individual perceives (thinks tion has been to identify the factors that moderate the effects of peer and feels) themself. It victimisation on children’s socio-emotional wellbeing. Some of these encompasses mental health, potential moderating variables include the child’s attributional style, resilience and coping, and cultural and social wellbeing. the quality of their friendships and their coping styles.

SPOTLIGHT 11.2 Victim responses Although it is imperative that teachers focus on reducing bullying behaviour, it is also important that they provide advice to children about possible strategies for responding to bullying. The strategies provided in Figure 11.3 are part of the Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek help (WITS) program in Canada; a comprehensive anti-bullying program for handling bullying in schools (

Walk away


Talk it out

Seek help

Figure 11.3 Responses to bullying in the WITS program

CHILDREN’S ATTRIBUTIONS AND LINKS TO ADJUSTMENT Research by Visconti, Kochenderfer-Ladd and Clifford (2013) with 8–11-year-old children suggests children’s beliefs about why they are bullied may help to explain individual differences in socio-emotional adjustment and mental health. Children who believed they were victimised for their ‘uncool’ behaviour (e.g. ‘I don’t wear cool clothes.’) reported

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greater loneliness and lower self-esteem, whereas those who believed their victimisation was motivated by jealousy (e.g. ‘Because I am smart; because I have something other kids want’) reported lower levels of loneliness and greater peer acceptance. These findings complement those of Prinstein, Cheah and Guyer (2005) showing that the more children made critical, or negative, self-referent attributions for their victimisation, the worse were their mental health (anxiety and depression) and social (loneliness) outcomes, compared to children who provided neutral attributions for their victimisation. Not only does low self-regard contribute to victimisation, but the experience of victimisation leads to a further diminution in self-regard over time. It appears that negative views of the self contribute to the cycle of peer victimisation, with poor self-regard occupying a central role in the process. Children who are relationally victimised are at risk of forming negative peer beliefs, which places them in further jeopardy in their future peer interactions. In a study involving 10-year-old children, Rudolph, Troop-Gordon and Flynn (2009) found that the more children were relationally victimised, the more likely they were to develop negative beliefs about the peer they were playing with, especially if the interaction was challenging and involved conflict. Although negative beliefs about peers have the potential to lead to the development of poor peer relationships, it is important to note that relationally victimised children who experience more positive peer interactions while playing with a peer do not develop such negative beliefs about peers. Providing children with positive peer interactions that promote peer relationships may offer children some protection from peer victimisation.

LINKS BETWEEN CHILDREN’S RESPONSES AND SOCIO-EMOTIONAL ADJUSTMENT In examining the effects of bullying, researchers have also shown individual differences in children’s adjustment, depending on their coping mechanisms or response to peer provocation. Behavioural avoidance strategies, whereby victims walk away or ignore acts of bullying, are typically found to be associated with increased risk of maladaptive outcomes (Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2004). Studies comparing boys and girls reveal that avoidant strategies are particularly problematic for girls. Girls who use these avoidant strategies show increased maladjustment, while greater use of these strategies by boys was associated with increased levels of pro-social behaviour (Visconti & Troop-Gordon, 2010). Further highlighting the potential negative effects of avoidant responses, TroopGordon and Quennette (2010) showed that girls and victimised boys report more emotional distress in response to bullying when their teacher advised them to either avoid or stand up to bullying. The potential for coping strategies to moderate the effects of bullying is further highlighted in research comparing problem-focused (i.e. seeking help from a teacher or friend) and emotion-focused (i.e. eliciting sympathy or discussion of feelings) responses. Emotionally focused support that is elicited from an emotional response to bullying tends to heighten negative outcomes and potential maladjustment among victims (Visconti & Troop-Gordon, 2010). In contrast, a problem-based response draws on the support of others in an attempt to combat the stressor and minimise the perception of threat.



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BULLY-VICTIMS Bullies experience a range of negative psychological sequelae including increased risk for psychiatric maladjustment, substance-abuse problems and criminal convictions as adults. Children who are chronic victims show increased risk of internalising difficulties and bullying others when they become adolescents (Barker et al., 2008). Because of their dual role, the risk for adversity is even greater for bully-victims than either victims or bullies, with children showing symptoms of both internalising and externalising problems and worse mental health problems in childhood (Arseneault et al., 2010). Research conducted by Sourander and colleagues (2007) attests to the long-term effects of increased risk of engaging in criminal behaviours between the ages of 16 and 20 years for boys who were classified as bully-victims in childhood. While the combination of being bullied and bullying others is less well understood and less common than being either a victim or a bully, the significant mental health implications for this group of children highlights the need for targeted interventions for this group.

CASE STUDY 11.2 BIANCA Bianca is an 8-year-old girl who recently transferred schools following a prolonged ­experience of being victimised by other children. She is difficult to manage in the classroom, often refusing to follow her teachers’ instructions and becoming upset when she is sent to the principal’s office. Bianca’s teacher is concerned that she may begin to bully younger children on the playground. How would you convey your concerns to the school and to Bianca’s parents?

CYCLE OF BULLYING: IMPORTANCE OF EARLY INTERVENTION Research reviewed in this chapter attests to the early origins of bullying, while highlighting the need for intervention and preventative efforts that target children during the preschool and early school years, before negative patterns of peer interaction are established. The need for early intervention is further reinforced by the limited success of school-based intervention and prevention efforts (Cantone et al., 2015; Yeager et al., 2015), with some adolescent groups reporting increases rather than decreases in bullying following highquality interventions (Finkelhor et al., 2014).

WHAT CAN PRESCHOOLS AND SCHOOLS DO? Findings from studies examining the effectiveness of a range of bullying interventions clearly demonstrate that bullying is significantly reduced when it occurs within a caring and responsive community, which includes the whole-school community of students and teachers (see Neilsen-Hewett et al., 2017). This research highlights, among other factors, the importance of teachers’ understanding and knowledge within the context of a systemic approach to intervention, which is grounded within a bullying policy. Anti-bullying policies


Unweighted within-study antibullying effect Cohen’s d intervention effect on reduced bullying (high values = less bullying)

Cohen’s d intervention effect on reduced bullying (high values = less bullying)

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0.2 0.0 –0.2


1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th

Grade Level



Predicted within-study antibullying effect

0.2 0.0 –0.2 –0.4

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th

Grade Level

Figure 11.4 The efficacy of anti-bullying initiatives has been found to decline as children age Source: Yeager et al. (2015).

that directly address bullying behaviours, the accountability of the offenders and the role of peers, teachers and other school personnel are critical for establishing and maintaining a positive school climate and for reducing bullying in schools. A whole-school approach to bullying intervention highlights the Whole-school approach: one that encompasses all aspects of importance of classroom-level intervention strategies that include the school community – students, regular weekly meetings between students and teachers to discuss teachers, administrators, parents, policies and the physical bullying and peer relational difficulties (Dupper, 2013). These classenvironment. Intervention room meetings illustrate to students that the teacher cares and is approaches ensure a cohesive engaged and help teachers stay on top of what is happening both and collaborative approach targeted at all levels of the school inside and outside the classroom. Additional classroom-level stratcurriculum. egies that have been identified as effective in combating bullying ­include incorporation and integration of anti-bullying themes across the curriculum as well as the modelling of positive interpersonal skills by teachers, coupled with the fostering of positive bystander responses. The importance of including this multi-levelled structure has been highlighted in research, with a recent meta-analytic review encouraging the inclusion of schools, parents, teachers and peers in interventions. Specifically, Gaffney, Farrington and Ttofi (2019) reviewed 100 evaluative studies showing that programs with components including mobilising bystanders and encouraging involvement of parents and teachers were effective in reducing bullying. Such programs include the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Limber et al., 2018) and KiVa (Kärnä et al., 2011; 2013) – two widely disseminated interventions that have been shown to reduce bullying perpetration and victimisation. To prevent peer victimisation, it is crucial that even in early learning contexts evidence-based anti-bullying policies and programs are part of the school curriculum. One such program that has been trialled in Australia is the Friendly Schools Friendly


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­Families program (Cross et al., 2012), which is an extension of the well-researched Friendly Schools intervention (Cross et al., 2019). This whole-school, multi-level program targets three main settings for intervention and prevention: the school, where pastoral care staff receive training and resources in how to prevent bullying; the family, where parents are provided with resources and information about communicating with their children; and the classroom, where children are provided with 8–10 hours of classroom instruction about bullying prevention. Resources and training materials have been developed for children aged 5–14 years. A randomised controlled trial with children in Grades 4 and 6 showed that this program is effective in reducing peer victimisation. A similar program targeting cyberbullying has also been trialled in Australia: the Cyber Friendly Schools program. This whole-school approach has been shown to decrease cyber victimisation immediately after program implementation. However, these effects were not sustained in the longer term (Cross et al., 2016). This study suggests that further support is required to build teachers’ confidence in their ability to implement cyberbullying programs. Although further refinement and implementation of these programs is required in schools, the overall research suggests that anti-cyberbullying programs are effective in reducing incidence of cyberbullying in school-aged children (Tanrikulu, 2018).

Table 11.1  Essential components of a whole-school approach to bullying intervention

School-management level strategies

• • • • •

Effective school leadership in countering bullying Establishment of policies that are widely disseminated Commitment to professional development for all staff Increased adult supervision Understanding of context (which incorporates data-driven ­ decision-making) • Commitment to ongoing evaluation

Classroom-level components

• • • •

Individual-level initiatives

• Children learn to intervene and how to support others • Interventions for different types of victims and bullies • Fostering of high-quality relationships between students and adults

Connections with the home context

• Effective communication with parents • Parents are involved in dealing with cases (where appropriate) • Intervention efforts incorporate parents and extend to the home environment

Regular classroom discussion and clear expectations Anti-bullying themes are integrated throughout the curriculum Teachers encourage the reporting of bullying incidents Teachers recognise some children are at greater risk of being bullied than others • Interventions are consistent and appropriate • Effective classroom management and modelling of appropriate behaviours • Actively support effective bystander behaviour and provide intervention for children who are bullied or who bully

CHAPTER 11  Bullying and social–emotional wellbeing

Anti-bullying programs that provide training for personnel to implement the program, provide resources for students and involve parents offer a promising direction for reducing bullying in schools. In future, it is important to implement whole-school programs with younger children before bullying patterns are firmly established. In this way, it may be possible to provide safe and caring schools in which young learners can maximise their potential, free of harassment and the negative socio-emotional sequelae that accompany victimisation and bullying.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 11.3 Bullying interventions in schools Whole-of-school approaches to minimise bullying often involve providing school staff, families and children with resources and bullying prevention strategies. What strategies have been implemented in your school and how can they be improved?

CONCLUSION In this chapter we have shown that even in the early years children bully each other in school contexts. They engage in a broad array of bullying behaviours, including physical, verbal and relational bullying. The increasing reliance on social media for communication has led to an increase in cyberbullying, starting in the primary school years. The socio-emotional wellbeing of those who bully and those who are the victims of bullying is negatively affected. As bullying typically occurs in the peer group in the presence of other children, the social–emotional wellbeing of those who witness bullying is also negatively affected. Both parents and teachers can play an important role in reducing bullying and victimisation in schools. Bullying in schools is most likely to be reduced when teachers, parents, children and the school work together in the implementation of anti-bullying programs. The earlier these programs are introduced in the school curriculum, the more effective they will be.

QUESTIONS 11.1 The causes of bullying are multi-contextual, extending beyond individual children to encompass both the familial and classroom contexts. What is your role and responsibility as a teacher with respect to working with parents and the broader educational community in reducing the incidence of bullying among early years learners? 11.2 The extent to which victims of bullying suffer negative outcomes is partly determined by how they cope with being bullied. What role can teachers play in shaping the perceptions of, and providing strategies for, early years learners to deal with bullying?



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11.3 Imagine you were given the task of developing an anti-bullying policy for your centre or school. What do you consider to be essential components of this policy and would this differ depending on the age of the child? 11.4 What can you do as a teacher to stop bullying in your classroom?

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Cross, D., Lester, L. & Barnes, A. (2015). A longitudinal study of the social and emotional predictors and consequences of cyber and traditional bullying victimisation. International Journal of Public Health, 60, 207–17. doi:10.1007/s00038-015-0655-1 Cross, D., Runions, K.C., Shaw, T., Wong, J.W.Y., Campbell, M., Pearce, N. … & Resnicow, K. (2019). Friendly schools universal bullying prevention intervention: Effectiveness with secondary school students. International Journal of Bullying Prevention, 1(1), 45–57. Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hadwen, K., Cardoso, P., Slee, P., Roberts, C., … & Barnes, A. (2016). Longitudinal impact of the Cyber Friendly Schools program on adolescents’ cyberbullying behavior. Aggressive Behavior, 42, 166–80. doi:10.1002/ab.21609 Cross, D., Watres, S., Pearce, N., Shaw, T., Hall, M., Erceg, E. … & Hamilton, G. (2012). The Friendly Schools Friendly Families programme: Three-year bullying behaviour outcomes in primary school. International Journal of Educational Research, 53, 394–406. Dupper, D.R. (2013). School Bullying. New perspectives on a growing problem. Oxford workshop series: School Social Work Association of America. Evans, S.C., Frazer, A.L., Blossom, J.B. & Fite, P.J. (2018). Forms and functions of aggression in early childhood. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 48(5), 790–8. doi:10.1080/15374416.2018.1485104 Finkelhor, D., Vanderminden, J., Turner, H., Shattuck, A. & Hamby, S. (2014). Youth exposure to violence prevention programs in a national sample. Child Abuse and Neglect, 38, 677–86. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.01.010 Finnegan, R.A., Hodges, E.V. & Perry, D.G. (1998). Victimization by peers: Associations with children’s reports of mother–child interaction. Journal of Personal and Social Psychology, 75, 1076–86. Gaffney, H., Farrington, D.P. & Ttofi, M.M. (2019). Examining the effectiveness of schoolbullying intervention programs globally: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Bullying Prevention, 1, 14–31. Gini, G. & Pozzoli, T. (2013). Bullied children and psychosomatic problems: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 132, 720–29. Gini, G., Pozzoli, T. & Bussey, K. (2015). The role of individual and collective moral disengagement in peer aggression and bystanding: A multilevel analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 441–52. Godleski, S.A., Kamper, K.E., Ostrov, J.M., Hart, E.J. & Blakely-McClure, S.J. (2015). Peer victimization and peer rejection during early childhood. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 44, 380–92. doi:10.1080/15374416.2014.940622 Goodman, M.R., Stormshak, E.A. & Dishion, T.J. (2001). The significance of peer victimization at two points in development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 22, 507–26. doi:10.1016/S0193-3973(01)00091-0 Guerra, N.G., Williams, K.R. & Sadek, S. (2011). Understanding bullying and victimization during childhood and adolescence: A mixed methods study. Child Development, 82, 295–310. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01556.x Iyer, R.V., Kochenderfer-Ladd, B., Eisenberg, N. & Thompson, M. (2010). Peer victimization and effortful control: Relations to school engagement and academic achievement. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 56, 361–87.



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Kärnä, A., Voeten, M., Little, T.D., Alanen, E., Poskiparta, E. & Salmivalli, C. (2013). Effectiveness of the KiVa anti-bullying program: Grades 1–3 and 7–9. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 535–51. doi:10.1037/a0030417 ——— (2011). A large-scale evaluation of the KiVa antibullying program: Grades 4–6. Child Development, 82, 311–30. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01.557.x Killer, B., Bussey, K., Hawes, D.J. & Hunt, C. (2019). A meta-analysis of the relationship between moral disengagement and bullying roles in youth. Aggressive Behavior, 45, 450–62. doi:10.1002/ab.21833 Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. (2004). Peer victimization: The role of emotions in adaptive and maladaptive coping. Social Development, 13, 329–49. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2004.00271.x Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. & Skinner, K. (2002). Children’s coping strategies: Moderators of the effects of peer victimization? Developmental Psychology, 38, 267–78. Kowalski, R.M., Giumetti, G.W., Schroeder, A.N. & Lattanner, M.R. (2014). Bullying in the digital age: A critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1073–137. doi:10.1037/a0035618 Kowalski, R.M., Limber, S.P. & Agatston, P.W. (2012). Cyberbullying: Bullying in the digital age (2nd edn). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Ladd, G.W. (2006). Peer rejection, aggressive or withdrawn behavior, and psychological maladjustment from ages 5 to 12: An examination of four predictive models. Child Development, 77, 822–46. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00905.x Lambe, L.J., Della Cioppa, V., Hong I.K. & Craig, W.M. (2019). Standing up to bullying: A social ecological review of peer defending in offline and online contexts. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 45, 51–74. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2018.05.007 Leadbeater B., Sukhawathanakul P., Smith D. & Bowen F. (2015). Reciprocal associations between interpersonal and values dimensions of school climate and peer victimization in elementary school children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 44, 480–93. doi:10.1080/15374416.2013.873985 Lereya, S.T., Smaara, M. & Wolke, D. (2013) Parenting behavior and the risk of becoming a victim and a bully/victim: A meta-analysis study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37, 1091– 108. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.03.001. Limber, S.P., Olweus, D., Wang, W., Masiello, M. & Breivik, K. (2018). Evaluation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: A large scale study of U.S. students in grades 3–11. Journal of School Psychology, 69, 56–72. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2018.04.004 Livingston, S., Ólafsson, K. & Staksrud, E. (2011). Social Networking, Age and Privacy. London: EU Kids Online. Luo, A. & Bussey, K. (2019). The selectivity of moral disengagement in defenders of cyberbullying: Contextual moral disengagement. Computers in Human Behavior, 93, 318–25. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2018.12.038 Menesini, E. & Salmivalli, C. (2017). Bullying in schools: The state of knowledge and effective interventions. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22, 240–53. doi:10.1080/13548506.2017.1279740 Monks, C.P., Smith, P.K. & Swettenham, J. (2005). Psychological correlates of peer victimization in preschool: Social cognitive skills, executive function and attachment profiles. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 571–88. doi:10.1002/ab.20099

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Murray-Close, D. & Ostrov, J.M. (2009). A longitudinal study of forms and functions of aggressive behavior in early childhood. Child Development, 80, 828–42. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01300.x Neilsen-Hewett C., Bussey, K. & Fitzpatrick, S. (2017). Relationships with peers. In J. Grace, K. Hodge & C. McMahon (eds), Children, Families and Communities: Contexts and consequences (5th edn). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Olweus, D. (2003). A profile of bullying at school. Educational Leadership, 60, 12–17. ——— (2001). Peer harassment: A critical analysis and some important issues. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (eds), Peer Harassment in School: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized (pp. 1–20). New York: Guilford. ——— (1993). Bullying in School: What we know and what we can do. Oxford: Blackwell. Perren, S., Corcoran, L., Cowie, H., Dehue, F., Garcia, D., McGuckin, C. … & Völlink, T. (2012). Tacking cyberbullying: Review of empirical evidence regarding successful responses by students, parents, and schools. International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 6, 283–93. Pouwels, J.L., Hanish, L., Smeekens, S., Cillessen, A.H.N. & van den Berg, Y.H.M. (2019). Predicting the development of victimization from early childhood internalizing and externalizing behavior. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 62, 294–305. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2019.02.012 Prinstein, M.J., Cheah, C.S.L. & Guyer, A.E. (2005). Peer victimization, cue interpretation and internalizing symptoms: Preliminary concurrent and longitudinal findings for children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 34, 11–24. Reijntjes, A.H.A., Kamphuis, J.H., Prinzie, P. & Telch, M.J. (2010). Peer victimization and internalizing problems in children: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34, 244–52. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.07.009 Roseth, C.J., Pellegrini, A.D., Bohn, C.M., Van Ryzin, M. & Vance, N. (2007). Preschoolers’ aggression, affiliation and social dominance relationships: An observational, longitudinal study. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 479–97. doi:10.1016/j.jsp.2007.02.008 Rudolph, K.D., Troop-Gordon, W. & Flynn, M. (2009). Relational victimization predicts children’s social-cognitive and self-regulatory responses in a challenging peer context. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1444–54. Rudolph, K.D., Troop-Gordon, W., Hessel, E.T. & Schmidt, J.D. (2011). A latent growth curve analysis of early and increasing peer victimization as predictors of mental health across elementary school. Journal of Clinical Child Adolescent Psychology, 40, 111–22. Runions, K.C. & Bak, M. (2015). Online moral disengagement, cyberbullying, and cyberaggression. Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, 18, 400–5. doi:10.1089/cyber.2014.0670 Salmivalli, C. (2010). Bullying and the peer group: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 112–20. Sebanc, A.M. (2003). The friendship features of preschool children: Links with prosocial behavior and aggression. Social Development, 12, 249–68. Smith, P.K. (2016). Bullying: Definition, types, causes, consequences, and intervention. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 10, 519–32. doi:10.1111/spc3.12266



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Sokol, N., Bussey, K. & Rapee, R. (2016). The impact of victims’ responses on teacher reactions to bullying. Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 78–87. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2015.11.002 Sourander, A., Jensen, P., Ronning, J.A., Elonheimo, H., Niemela, S., Helenius, H. … & Almqvist, F. (2007). Childhood bullies and victims and their risk of criminality in late adolescence: The Finnish from a boy to a man study. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161, 546–52 Stavrinides, P., Tantaros, S., Georgiou, S. & Tricha, L. (2018). Longitudinal associations between parental rejection and bullying/victimization. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 23, 203–12. doi:10.1080/13632752.2017.1413526 Swit, C.S., McMaugh, A. & Warburton, W.A. (2016). Preschool children’s beliefs about the acceptability of relational and physical aggression. International Journal of Early Childhood, 48, 111–27. doi:10.1007/s13158-016-0155-3 Tanrikulu, I. (2018). Cyberbullying prevention and intervention programs in schools: A systematic review. School Pyschology International, 39, 74–91. doi:10.1177/0143034317745721 Tokunaga, R.S. (2010). Following you home from school: A critical review and synthesis of research on cyberbullying victimization. Computers in Human Behavior, 26, 277–87. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.11.014 Troop-Gordon, W. & Quenette, A. (2010). Children’s perceptions of their teacher’s responses to students’ peer harassment: Moderators of victimization-adjustment linkages. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 56, 333–60. Vaillancourt, T., Miller, J.L., Fagbemi, J., Cote, S. & Tremblay, R.E. (2007). Trajectories and predictors of indirect aggression: Results from a nationally representative longitudinal study of Canadian children aged 2–10. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 314–26. doi:10.1002/ab.20202 Visconti, K.J., Kochenderfer-Ladd, B. & Clifford, C. (2013). Children’s attributions for peer victimization: A social comparison approach. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 277–87. doi:10.1016/j,appdev.2013.06.002 Visconti, K.J. & Troop-Gordon, W. (2010). Prospective relations between children’s responses to peer victimization and their socioemotional adjustment. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 31, 261–72. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2010.05.003 Yeager, D.S., Fong, C.J., Lee, H.Y. & Espelage, D.L. (2015). Declines in efficacy of antibullying programs among older adolescents: Theory and a three-level metaanalysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 37, 36–51. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2014.11.005 Yoon, J.S. & Barton, E. (2008). The role of teachers in school violence and bullying prevention. In T. Miller (ed.), School Violence and Primary Prevention (pp. 249–75). New York: Springer. Young, R. & Tully, M. (2018). ‘Nobody wants the parents involved’: Social norms in parent and adolescent responses to cyberbullying. Journal of Youth Studies. Advanced online publication. doi:10.1080/13676261.2018.1546838



Wendi Beamish and Beth Saggers

LEARNING OUTCOMES In this chapter, we will: • Explore why the Teaching Pyramid model provides a strong framework for social– emotional learning in the early years. • Acknowledge the obligation of teachers to build positive relationships with all children, particularly those with special needs. • Explain why children with special needs learn better in a supportive and safe classroom environment. • Examine the benefits of using the four SAFE practices (sequenced, active, focused and explicit) for social and emotional learning (SEL) instruction. • Recognise the importance of partnering with families who have a child with special needs.


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INTRODUCTION Research undertaken over the past 20 years provides compelling evidence that early and ongoing development of socio-emotional skills contribute to an individual’s overall health, wellbeing and competence throughout life. Moreover, competence in this domain is now recognised as fundamental to school readiness, school adjustment and academic achievement. Consequently, SEL is an important theme in current educational policy, curriculum frameworks and classroom practice, particularly in the early years of schooling. This chapter focuses on a particular group of vulnerable learners – children with special needs. These children are at high risk of developing social and emotional problems because their presenting conditions negatively influence growth in two critical areas of functioning: attention, planning and problem-solving; and language and communication (Stormont, 2007). It follows that delays in these areas routinely create the conditions for reduced opportunities to engage, interact and learn with others, and also the increased likelihood of developing challenging, unsafe and socially inappropriate behaviours. In this chapter we introduce the Teaching Pyramid (Fox et al., 2003), a validated, multi-level model used to promote children’s social–emotional development in the early years while preventing problem behaviours. Next, we discuss aspects related to ­decision-making about (1) what to teach and (2) how to teach. We then highlight the ­critical importance of social understanding in children with special needs and provide key evidence-informed strategies for teachers to use in their everyday classroom practices to strengthen SEL in the early years. Finally, we argue the case for partnering with families in order to strengthen SEL outcomes of these children across school, home and community environments. Throughout the chapter, connections are made to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), 2011) and some important Australian policy and curriculum documents.

RECOMMENDED TEACHING MODEL FOR SEL The Teaching Pyramid model (Fox et al., 2003) provides a strong framework for supporting SEL, particularly in the earlier years of learning. Its effectiveness in building social–emotional competence and preventing problems has been demonstrated with toddlers and also with school-aged children. The model is both educative and preventative. It comprises four hierarchical and interrelated levels of practice, with each providing the foundation for the next (see Figure 12.1). Within this framework, behavioural intervention Special needs: a term used to is considered because of insufficient consideration given by teachers to describe children (0–12 years) on the autism spectrum, who the lower levels of the model – that is, to building positive relationships, have intellectual and other providing supportive learning environments and the explicit teaching developmental disabilities, of social–emotional skills. Hence, the first three levels of practice in sensory impairments including hearing, vision and physical this model provide a sound structure for teachers seeking to strengthen impairments, communication, SEL in all children, including those with special needs. We describe emotional or behavioural disorders and who have learning each level of practice and provide examples to illustrate how practices difficulties. can be implemented within inclusive settings.

CHAPTER 12  Strengthening learning in children with special needs

Figure 12.1 The Teaching Pyramid Source: Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), Vanderbilt University.

SPOTLIGHT 12.1 Pyramid Model In recent times, the Teaching Pyramid has been renamed the Pyramid Model. If you would like to know more about this model for promoting social–emotional competence in infants and young children (the Pyramid Model), consider watching this video (11.12 minutes): The Pyramid Model: ‘Pyramid Model Overview’ – v=A_byPfNPkKM

BUILDING POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS The quality and reliability of relationships with important ‘others’ has a significant influence on children’s wellbeing, development, academic success and future life outcomes. From birth, responsive relationships and shared interactions between carers and young children promote the development of secure attachments, the confidence to explore and learn, and a framework for moral behaviour and emotional regulation. From the early years of formal schooling, and extending through the primary years, successful interaction with peers is a strong predictor of positive mental health and school success. For these reasons, building secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships with and around all children is vital. Building positive relationships is essential to the professional practice of teachers and their ability to create and maintain supportive learning environments (APST 4; AITSL, 2011). Many young children with special needs experience substantial difficulties in establishing and maintaining positive relationships and interactions with both adults and peers. Personal attributes, competencies and



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actions often set them apart and prevent them from being connected and belonging to the group (Beamish & Saggers, 2013). Because interaction is a two-way process, and positive interactions are the building blocks for rapport and relationships, teachers need to interact positively and frequently with this group of learners and role models for other staff and peers. Responding sensitively and promptly to any communication attempts (verbal and non-verbal), inserting exchanges with the child across classroom routines and activities, and acknowledging children’s efforts are examples of everyday strategies that need to be employed in order to show all children that they are valued and contributing members of classroom communities.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 12.1 Building relationships What other actions can teachers take to show children with special needs that they care about them and value them as learners?

BULLYING OF STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Bullying is one issue that can often be a barrier to children with special needs being accepted by peers as valued members in the classroom context and as well as the larger school community. Children with special needs are at greater risk of being bullied, and compared to peers, may experience more verbal abuse, social exclusion and physical aggression. Children who are on the autism spectrum are particularly prone to having difficulty with communication and social interaction. Bullying can have a significant effect on a child’s self-esteem, mental health, socialisation and academic achievement. SEL can help to strengthen protective factors and minimise vulnerability to bullying. It may be difficult to identify that a child is being bullied because their reactions can vary; however, physical signs (e.g. feeling sick, bruising), changes in behaviour (e.g. not wanting to come to school) and emotional responses (e.g. mood swings, crying) are often evident. If you suspect that bullying is occurring, it is important to gather information to help you determine the best way to address the issues. This information is best gained from other staff, the child, peers and the families of the children involved. Bullying prevention is most effectively implemented within a school-wide approach. Examples of school-wide practices to prevent bullying and promote positive relationships include: • a strict ‘no bullying’, zero-tolerance policy enforced throughout the school • supervised options for activities at lunchtimes, to offer children the choice of a ‘safe haven’ (e.g. library activities, or computer, chess, music or gardening clubs) • a designated, supervised safe place in the school that children know they can access if they need help

CHAPTER 12  Strengthening learning in children with special needs


• a designated member of staff to whom children know they can report bullying, or a ‘bully box’ to use if they don’t want to speak to a person • recognition and acknowledgement of peer support across the whole school • a structured peer buddy or mentoring support system across the whole school, for all children.

CASE STUDY 12.1 BULLYING Amon is 5 years old and has an intellectual disability. He is having trouble fitting into his Preparatory year. The other boys in his class call him names and tell him they don’t want him to play with them because he looks and smells funny. When Amon’s teacher becomes aware of this issue she requests a case conference at the next staff meeting and presents her concerns so that a whole-school solution to this problem can be developed by all staff. What additional social and emotional learning strategies could be implemented schoolwide to minimise the incidents of bullying in children with special needs and to support the development of positive relationships for Amon?

PROVIDING SUPPORTIVE AND SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS As an essential element of teachers’ professional practice, creating Supportive and safe learning and maintaining supportive and safe learning environments is the environments: environments that are accepting, interactive focus of APST 4 (AITSL, 2011). Central to this standard are notions and responsive, in which positive of supporting student participation and maintaining student safety. relationships are developed, communication is promoted, and Supportive and safe learning environments foster the healthy self-esteem and confidence are growth, wellbeing and SEL of all children within them. Simply fostered. put, they are places where children want to be. Providing an environment in which to actively support SEL in children with special needs, however, is no easy matter. It demands careful consideration, planning, management and monitoring. First, the learning environment needs to be welcoming, accepting and responsive, so that the child has opportunities to interact positively with staff and selected peers, formally and informally. It also needs to be a space in which the child is listened to, and new communication skills and social–emotional skills and behaviours are modelled and learnt. Over time, these interactions and exchanges provide a starting point from which the child can develop a sense of belonging, build positive relationships with peers and, ultimately, establish and maintain friendships. Second, the learning environment needs to be sensitively structured so that the child feels safe and secure, engages in classroom activities, and develops independence and self-direction. Structuring involves preparing and adjusting the physical environment conducive to the management of time, space, furnishings, materials and equipment. Time management is a crucial factor to be considered when teaching children with special


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needs. Most of these children feel safe and learn best when they are provided with a predictable routine and follow a regular schedule of activities. Visual schedules can be used to prepare them ahead of time for transition to the next activity or to changes in the regular schedule. Spaces also can be creatively adjusted to serve a multitude of purposes. Third, the learning environment needs to be managed carefully so that the child progressively learns to monitor their own behaviour and emotions. If careful attention is given to fostering self-management skills, these children can become more self-determined learners who, in the long term, can take control of many aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, many children continue to respond impulsively to social situations without pausing to appreciate the perspectives of others or connecting consequences to their actions. Adherence to classroom rules and codes of acceptable behaviour is fostered when clear and fair behavioural expectations and consequences are consistently put into effect. Gaining the child’s attention before giving directions, individualising the directions and giving the child sufficient time to respond to directions increases the likelihood of compliance. Noticing and reinforcing instances of good behaviour by providing acknowledgement, access to a favourite activity or earning a special job frequently increases coping, tolerance and engagement across daily routines and activities. Finally, spending time understanding, preventing and responding effectively to low levels of problem behaviour can often alleviate the need for intense behavioural intervention at a later date. However, despite teacher care, organisation and responsiveness, behaviours requiring additional support still occur. In today’s busy world, anxiety is of increasing concern globally for teachers and parents.

ANXIETY AND CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Anxiety: a social–behavioural, internalised problem that can take many forms. Separation anxiety, social phobias, generalised anxiety and obsessive–compulsive disorder are among the most commonly identified disorders related to anxiety in school-aged children. More extreme examples include selective mutism, panic attacks and school refusal.

Students with special needs, particularly those diagnosed with autism and learning difficulties, are at greater risk of exhibiting symptoms related to anxiety. Social–behavioural difficulties generally tend to present in one of two ways: 1. T  hrough externalising behaviours such as anger and aggression that are outwardly directed and create discomfort and conflict in the surrounding environment, or 2. Through internalising behaviours such as anxiety and depression that are inwardly directed and generate distress within the individual.

Children experiencing anxiety frequently display signs of fatigue, restlessness and irritability, and routinely have difficulty concentrating. They may also complain of experiencing headaches or stomach-aches. Further, as anxiety affects our ability to think, many children living with anxiety become more anxious, worried and tense when required to complete particular cognitive and/or socially oriented tasks. It follows that children dealing with anxiety are more likely to experience difficulties with peer relations, and have low self-esteem, poor academic achievement and future social–emotional adjustment problems.

CHAPTER 12  Strengthening learning in children with special needs

Figure 12.2 A child expressing symptoms of anxiety

It is important that teachers recognise when children are not coping and are experiencing anxiety. The APST 1 requires teachers, as part of their professional knowledge, to know their students and how they learn (AITSL, 2011). Further, teachers need to ensure that they have adequate knowledge of the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of all students they teach. In order to do this effectively, teachers need to know each child well, especially in terms of temperament, individual and typical response patterns, ways of expressing emotions and family circumstances. Recognising observable signs of anxiety enables teachers to support each child as quickly as possible before the anxiety increases.

CASE STUDY 12.2 ANXIETY Jessica is 7 years old. She has recently been diagnosed with a social-communication disorder. In addition to being generally restless and inattentive in the classroom, she frequently tries to avoid literacy based activities, especially those requiring sustained concentration and thinking. At these times, she complains of a stomach-ache and feeling sick, and sometimes asks to go home. The class teacher seeks information from the parent and refers to the speech language report in Jessica’s file before discussing Jessica’s case at the next year-level planning meeting. What social–emotional learning strategies would you recommend to support Jessica and minimise her anxiety during literacy based activities?



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SEL can help strengthen social–emotional regulation, coping skills and resilience in children experiencing anxiety. Support should be provided at two levels.

LEVEL 1: IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO SIGNS OF ANXIETY AND NOT COPING The focus should be on communicating with the child and assisting them to return to a more positive emotional state. Examples of practice include sensitive questioning, genuine requests for information and responding to the need within the child’s message.

LEVEL 2: ASSESSMENT AND SKILLS BUILDING The focus should be on undertaking an early assessment, team problem-solving and the design, implementation and evaluation of a plan of action that will deliver meaningful outcomes for the child and their family over time. Examples of practice include: • Recording observations of behaviour(s) of concern for a number of days • Communicating with the school guidance officer or psychologist before discussing matters with the family or intervening in any way • Teaming with other professionals and the family to develop a plan for teaching the child coping thoughts and behaviours through explicit instruction and real-life experiences.

TEACHING CRITICAL SOCIAL–EMOTIONAL SKILLS The APST 2 highlights the importance of teachers knowing curriculum content and how to teach that content (AITSL, 2011). For SEL, applying this standard means that teachers need to make decisions about what social–emotional skills children with special needs need to learn and how to teach those skills. The ‘what’ refers to individually targeted SEL content that needs to be referenced to the curriculum and specified in terms of the scope of knowledge and the skill or behaviour to be learnt. The ‘how’ refers to the key learning arrangements through which the targetted content will be delivered (e.g. teaching strategies, equipment and materials, pace of instruction, embedded learning opportunity).

DETERMINING WHAT TO TEACH Critical social–emotional skills need to be acquired in a structured and sequenced way across the years of schooling. Curriculum frameworks, areas, content descriptions and achievement standards typically provide the anchors for the scoping and sequencing of skills. For many years, the internationally recognised SEL framework developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has provided key areas for guiding what to teach (2003). These areas are: • self-awareness – identifying and recognising emotions; accurate self-perception, recognising strengths, needs and values; and self-efficacy • self-management – impulse-control and stress-management; self-motivation and discipline; goal-setting and organisational skills

CHAPTER 12  Strengthening learning in children with special needs

• social awareness – perspective-taking; empathy; difference-recognition; respect for others • relationship management – communication, social engagement and relationshipbuilding; working cooperatively; negotiation, refusal; conflict management; helpseeking • responsible decision-making – problem-identification and situation analysis; problemsolving; evaluation and reflection; personal, social and ethical responsibility. At the curriculum level, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), in common with educational institutions in many other countries, has drawn upon the CASEL framework for structuring SEL content. In the Australian Curriculum, SEL is embedded in the General Capabilities dimension under the label of Personal and Social Capabilities. Importantly, personal and social capability skills are specifically equated to social–emotional skills and referenced to SEL. They are also recognised as foundational supports to student learning across the curriculum: Personal and social capability skills are addressed in all learning areas and at every stage of a student’s schooling. This enables teachers to plan for the teaching of targeted skills specific to an individual’s learning needs to provide access to and engagement with the learning areas (ACARA, 2013, p. 2).

Hence, the progressive levels of skills detailed in the Personal and Social Capability Learning Continuum within the Australian Curriculum provides content relevant to children with special needs, under the elements of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social management. In general, determining what to teach requires initial and thoughtful consideration on the goodness of fit between the child’s age, ability, curriculum demands and classroom activities with peers. SEL content then needs to be selected carefully according to the child’s assessed social–emotional needs and cultural background. Family involvement in this decision-making is recommended, together with increased input from the child over time. In addition, SEL content should target only one or two specific skills or behaviours for a particular period of time. When making these decisions, a number of factors should be considered – for example, the social significance of the skill, the level of home–school cooperation and the learning diversity in the class. Spotlight 12.2 identifies some recommended websites for accessing resources associated with SEL content contained in this chapter.

SPOTLIGHT 12.2 Recommended websites • Be You, a national mental health initiative for Australian educators




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• Beyond Blue (age 6–12) • Bullying No way! (a website for Australian schools) • CSEFEL (Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning) • CASEL • Telethon Kids Institute

DETERMINING HOW TO TEACH Social–emotional skills need to be taught within the security of positive relationships and supportive learning environments. In common with academic learning, SEL for children with special needs requires explicit teaching, practice and reinforcement across a range of activities and settings, to ensure that skill generalisation and maintenance take place. Skills need to be taught to mastery and also consolidated through motivational activities that ensure frequent use of skills. Furthermore, teaching social–emotional skills should be anchored by SAFE practices (Durlak et al., 2011). SAFE-recommended practices are: • Sequenced – new and more complicated skills are frequently broken down into smaller steps and sequentially mastered by the child. • Active – teaching activities are focused on actively engaging the child in learning. • Focused – sufficient time and attention are devoted to each task so that learning occurs. • Explicit – a clear and specific learning objective is set for the teaching and assessment of each skill.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 12.2 SAFE practices How could you embed SAFE-recommended practices into your SEL preparation and planning?

In addition, determining how to teach requires a responsive pairing of a systematic and intentional teaching approach with the child’s interests, preferences and learning style. When activities and materials have a goodness of fit with these inclinations,

CHAPTER 12  Strengthening learning in children with special needs

l­earning is promoted through increased motivation and engagement. It is important to remember that children with special needs are typically poorly motivated because they are used to repeatedly experiencing failure.

INCREASING SOCIAL UNDERSTANDING Social understanding is a crucial component of SEL because it is commonly viewed as the root of our social behaviour. Acquiring this understanding permits us to navigate our social world, interact effectively with each other, form successful relationships and become members of a community. Social understanding has both social and cognitive aspects. It stems from being aware of the self and evolves over time through communicative interactions with others and one’s cognitive interpretation of these experiences, beliefs and emotions (Carpendale & Lewis, 2004). This complex process involves becoming aware of one’s ideas, inferring these ideas to others, becoming aware that others have ideas and reflecting on the ideas of others in relation to self (Kostelnik et al., 2012). From a curriculum perspective, and using the personal and social capabilities elements,  good social understanding comprises adequate self-awareness, efficient ­ self-management, appropriate social awareness and effective social management. Within this framework, self-awareness provides the child with the ability to effectively understand the self, as well as the skills to recognise emotions. Self-management and self-­regulation allow the child to exercise control over personal actions, thoughts and emotions. Social awareness provides the child with the ability to cultivate a sense of self and understand the perspective of others, while skills in social management allow the child to maintain social rules, interact effectively and successfully work with others. It is also important to recognise that increased social understanding and related skill acquisition also contribute to aspects that make a positive difference to children’s learning and children’s lives – namely self-identity, self-confidence, self-discipline and resilience. Children with special needs typically have very poor social understanding. Taken as a group, language and cognitive delays, coupled with difficulties in attending to others and the environment, often contribute to these children experiencing problems in developing an awareness of self as an independent being and an awareness of feelings and emotions. They also experience difficulties in differentiating between feelings and behaviours. This group in general lacks the ability to adequately reflect on feelings, control impulses, monitor behaviours and deal with stress. They also lack the ability to solve social problems, which is closely related to the development of social understanding. Social problem-­ solving is the process used to analyse, understand and respond to everyday social issues and conflicts. It involves learning to identify what the problem is, how to generate appropriate solutions to the problem, the skills needed to select the most suitable solution, and being able to evaluate and reflect on the success of the chosen solution. It follows that incidental and structured SEL activities in the classroom are not sufficient to promote adequate social understanding, competence and problem-solving in this group of children. In most cases, strategic small-group and/or individualised SEL ­interventions are warranted to build social knowledge, interactions and skills from e­ arly



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years through to the end of primary schooling. While typically developing children construct social understanding through a process of observation, self-reflection and ­imagination, children with special needs require a teacher-directed approach to gradually acquiring these understandings. Increasingly, interventions are becoming multi-modal in nature, and feature promising strategies such as video-priming and self-modelling, social stories and specialised visual supports. Spotlight 12.3 outlines some important strategies that support SEL instruction with this group of children.

SPOTLIGHT 12.3 Strategies for SEL instruction Core strategies suited to all age groups Strategies to strengthen SEL for students with special needs include opportunities for learning that: • • • •

Explicitly teach new skills in supportive and safe real-life contexts. Practise and rehearse new skills regularly with peers. Receive constructive feedback and praise on new skills. Offer problem-solving opportunities and encourage the generation of alternative solutions • Encourage independence and calculated risk-taking.

Age-specific strategies to support social understanding 4–5 years • Strengthen basic social rules with adult modelling and support of skill development (e.g. sharing, using your words, being gentle). • Engage in simple turn-taking games, card games and board games. • Encourage the use of language to express emotions by labelling emotions (e.g. ‘You look like you are feeling happy’). • Engage in active listening to get the child’s version of what happened and what they are experiencing. • Help the child to identify activities or things that are calming or promote relaxation.

5–8 years • Strengthen social rules for greetings, everyday interactions at school and home, and joining a group. • Identify, express and label emotions, using language. • Provide opportunities to practise simple role-play and modelling activities to solve social situations. • Give children roles and responsibilities to support group activities. • Use video-priming and self-modelling, social stories and visual supports to reinforce the understanding of key concepts associated with a skill. • Share concerns so children realise it is normal to feel worried.

CHAPTER 12  Strengthening learning in children with special needs

Figure 12.3 Children playing card games

PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES SEL for children with special needs is substantially boosted through partnering with families. When families are supported, the home can provide the best conditions for fostering emotional security and the natural conditions for learning many social skills. Moreover, when there is strong alignment and consistency in support across environments, optimal conditions are provided for the repeated practice, consolidation and generalisation of critical social–emotional skills. It is noteworthy that engaging with families is featured within two standards for teachers: APST 3.7 and APST 7.3 (AITSL, 2011). Further, the new Australian Student Wellbeing Framework (ASWF; Education Services Australia, 2019) emphasises the active participation of children in their own learning and also the need for teachers to partner with families and local communities. Partnering with families often requires teachers to take the lead in building a trusting relationship with parents and caregivers, and actively striving to understand the family and the home ecology. Learning about family structure, culture, values and child-rearing practices often provides insight into parent–child relationships and the day-to-day challenges faced by both the family and the child. Research confirms that the burden of raising a child with special needs results in many parents having significantly elevated levels of stress and reduced marital satisfaction, compared to parents of typically developing children. Moreover, as children with special needs are more prone to experiencing both anxiety and bullying, partnering with parents and caregivers in these circumstances is not an option; it is essential.



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Supporting families to strengthen SEL in the home involves not only sharing specific information about the child and the targetted learning, but also making connections to explicit practices at home. While much of this information can be provided on an individual basis, school-wide family engagement activities and workshops, the creation of a SEL lending library or resource centre, and even a SEL advisory board, can be used to promote SEL and partnering with families. Once SEL partnering has been established, maintaining effective communication with families is essential. The following strategies provide effective ways to support communication and partnerships with families: • Child-centred communication that is specific to the child • Constructive information that is meaningful and useful because it provides families with clear and concrete suggestions • Specific information about classroom and school-wide policies and practices • A back-and-forth journal or folder shared by parents and teachers • Invitations for families to actively participate in SEL classroom activities • Regular newsletters to keep parents informed and involved.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 12.3 Partnering with families Identify two additional modes of maintaining communication with parents and caregivers of young children with special needs.

CONCLUSION Locally and globally, social–emotional wellbeing is viewed as the passport to success at school and in life. Guiding children’s SEL, therefore, is no longer optional for teachers. As a consequence, teachers are being pressed to provide quality SEL experiences to all children in their classrooms, including children with special needs. Teachers need to promote SEL at school and support families in fostering SEL at home.

QUESTIONS 12.1 Why is it important for an educator to have positive beliefs about children with special needs? 12.2 What can be done to build positive relationships with and around children with special needs? 12.3 How can the classroom environment be adjusted so that it is more responsive to children with special needs and their SEL? 12.4 Consider why it is important for teachers to encourage and support families of children with special needs to partner in SEL.

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FURTHER READING Diamond, L.L. (2018). Problem solving using visual support for young children with autism. Intervention in School and Clinic, 54(2), 106–10. Joseph, J.D. Rausch, A. & Strain, P.S. (2018). Social competence and young children with special needs: Debunking ‘mythconceptions’. Young Exceptional Children, 21(1), 48–60. Saracho, O.N. (2017). Bullying prevention strategies in early childhood education. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(4), 453–60.

REFERENCES Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2013). General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) (2011). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from standards Beamish, W. & Saggers, B. (2013). Diversity and differentiation. In D. Pendergast & S. Garvis (eds), Teaching Early Years: Curriculum, pedagogy and assessment (pp. 244–58). Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Carpendale, J.M. & Lewis, C. (2004). Constructing an understanding of mind: The development of children’s social understanding within social interaction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 79–151. Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) (2006). Promoting the Social Emotional Competence of Young Children: Facilitator’s guide. Retrieved from Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) (2003). Safe and Sound: An educational leader’s guide to evidenced-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. Retrieved from Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D. & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–32. Education Services Australia (2019). Australian Student Wellbeing Framework. Retrieved from Fox, L., Dunlap, G., Hemmeter, M.L., Joseph, G.E. & Strain, P.S. (2003). The Teaching Pyramid: A model for supporting social competence and preventing challenging behavior in young children. Young Children, 58(4), 48–52. Kostelnik, M.J., Gregory, K.M., Soderman, A.K. & Whiren, A.P. (2012). Guiding Children’s Social Development and Learning (7th edn). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Stormont, M. (2007). Fostering Resilience in Young Children at Risk of Failure: Strategies for Grades K–3. Columbus, OH: Pearson.




Andrea Nolan, Ann Taket and Siobhan Casey

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Explore resilience in the early years setting and how it is defined. • Identify and reflect on factors that support resilience in young children. • Implement evidence-informed strategies to facilitate children’s agency in educational settings.

CHAPTER 13  Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience


INTRODUCTION Resilience is complex and multi-faceted, attracting research across a number of disciplines. The focus of this chapter is on the importance of teachers’ everyday practice in early years settings (preschools and schools) to support resilience. Examples are drawn from a longitudinal study funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), titled Interagency Collaboration Supporting Resilient Students, Families, Schools in Disadvantaged Communities, which studied resilience during times of significant transitions in the lives of children and young adults in low socio-economic communities experiencing vulnerability. The conditions and characteristics of resilience were explored with consideration for the educational, health, work-related or leisure interventions that support and foster resilience. Findings from the early years cohort of the study point to the practical approaches and strategies that promote and protect resilience in young children, as outlined in this chapter. These strategies relate to environments, relationships, classroom practices and play skills, and give prominence to aspects such as supportive relationships with adults, developing self-regulation, promoting social–emotional learning (SEL) and the provision of positive learning environments. Our focus is on the implications for teachers and the classroom environment. The chapter begins with a brief definition of resilience and highlights why the building of resilience is an important element in children’s learning, as noted in curriculum frameworks that guide teachers’ practice. It then describes ways in which teachers work across the early years to promote resilience. The final section of the chapter lists questions that can be useful to help early years teachers reflect on their own practice in relation to resilience.

THE NATURE OF RESILIENCE The word ‘resilience’ conjures images of confident children with well-developed, positive peer relationships, who bounce back from adverse situations and events. In our research we define resilient children as those who thrive and develop despite challenging circumstances. Resilience is a dynamic process, contingent on a person’s personal Resilience: being able to attributes, caregiver relationships, and psychosocial and sociothrive despite challenging circumstances. cultural environments. Having an easygoing temperament and the ability for internal self-regulation (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009), Self-regulation: understanding your own emotions and the average to high IQ, connections and attachments (Alvord & Grados, emotions of others, and being 2005) and high curiosity about new situations are all associated with able to manage and monitor your feelings, thoughts and resilience (Condly, 2006). Parental behaviour, such as displaying behaviours. warmth and positive attitudes, being involved with their children and Attachment: a deep emotional providing strong guidance are closely linked with children’s social bond that connects one person to and emotional wellbeing (Kim-Cohen et al., 2004; Sunderland, 2007). another. Parents being involved in cognitively stimulating activities during a child’s preschool years is also a predictor of resilience in the face of stressful events later in life and favourable behaviour development (Cowen et al., 1995; Serbin & Karp, 2004). Taking a socio-cultural view of resilience acknowledges the influence of family and significant others, as well as the material situation within a specific location. Children’s


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interactions at school, with their teachers and peers, help to shape their resilience in ways that impart – for particular students – a sense of agency, or the capability to analyse, make choices and act to change themselves or their situation. Teachers play an important role in supporting the process and production of resilience in their students. Therefore, while there may be personal attributes involved in the construction of resilience, it is more appropriately conceived as a human capacity that can be developed and strengthened in all people. The important role teachers play in supporting the building of resilience is noted in the curriculum documents that guide practice in the Australian context. For example, in the Australian Curriculum (Foundation to Year 12) alongside subject content there are General Capabilities such as Personal and Social Capability. The skills relating to personal and social learning are identified and plotted on a continuum, and teachers are expected to nurture these in the students they teach (see Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), n.d.). Skills such as the appropriate expression of emotions, the ability to set goals, to be confident, resilient and adaptable, and to be able to negotiate and resolve conflict are all valued as important to learners and their engagement in the learning process. In the early childhood sector, the document that guides pedagogy is Belonging, Being & Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009). This document sets out five learning outcomes for children, with resilience named within Outcome 1: ‘Children have a strong sense of identity’. Here, teachers are encouraged to support children (aged 5 years and under) to develop their emerging autonomy, interdependence, resilience and sense of agency (see DEEWR, 2009). The presence of resilience within documents such as these illustrates the importance of resilience to development.

SUPPORTING RESILIENCE IN THE EARLY YEARS Early years settings are important sites in which teachers’ everyday practices can support, promote and protect resilience. From the research we have conducted into resilience in classrooms through the project Interagency Collaboration Supporting Resilient Students, Families, Schools in Disadvantaged Communities, we have been able to identify four aspects for teachers’ consideration: the environment, relationships, classroom practices and play skills (see Figure 13.1). Each aspect is discussed in turn, drawing on the voices of the participating teachers (see Nolan, Taket & Stagnitti, 2014).

Aspects for teachers to consider



Classroom practices

Figure 13.1 Aspects for teachers to consider in relation to resilience

Play skills of students

CHAPTER 13  Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience


THE ENVIRONMENT The environment affects children in a number of ways. Teachers talk about the need to provide a space for children in which they can feel calm and connected to their environment. This calming environment and a sense of belonging can be fostered through an acceptance of children’s feelings and emotions about who they are. Emily (preschool teacher) explains her work with children aged 4 to 5 years: If someone is crying, you don’t say, ‘Oh well, you don’t miss Mum … don’t be silly.’ You accept it, and you say, ‘Mum will be back’ and suggest, ‘You can give her a hug when she comes back’.

Building a positive, supportive classroom environment lets children know that the teacher  is there to support them, and this is stated regularly to remind them. Lydia (Foundation year teacher) comments: Foundation year: the first year I’ll often say to the children in my discussion with them that I am there to support them. I care about them and my role is to help them. ‘If I’m going to help you, you need to be able to talk to me and tell me about some of the things that are going wrong.’

of formal schooling; also known variously across the Australian states and territories as the Preschool, Prep/Preparatory, Reception or Kindergarten year.

The development of a trusting relationship, which statements like these promote, is considered in the next section. The psychological and social characteristics of the setting, such as the attitudes, feelings and values of both the students and staff, need consideration. Creating positive learning environments involves fostering a sense of belonging within the children. This can be as simple as providing each child with a pigeonhole, tub or locker that is designated as their own space within the classroom setting. One Foundation year teacher (Jacinta) plays lots of circle games at the beginning of the school year so that the children learn the names of all their peers and unique features about them, such as information about their pets, siblings, favourite colours and so on. Well-established routines ensure that expectations are clear for everyone and assist children to build a sense of connection to their environment. It is particularly important to establish a culture in which mistakes are expected and accepted as a normal part of learning. As Finoula (Foundation year teacher) explains: I always try to encourage the children to try new things and develop their learning because they’re not going to take their learning further if they’re not willing to have a go. So one of my big things is I always say, ‘I like you to make mistakes and I don’t mind it if it’s wrong. I’d much rather see you having a go.’

This was echoed by a number of teachers across all early years’ classrooms. Ideally, the physical environment should be able to be arranged flexibly to allow for social-skills building through partner work, small-group play or larger-group engagement. It is often in smaller groupings that children build confidence in their interactions and interpersonal communication skills with those around them.


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RELATIONSHIPS Numerous studies point to the importance of developing positive, respectful, reciprocal and responsive relationships with the children we teach and their families. Relationships with adults (in this case, teachers) need to be sensitive to, and supportive of, assisting children and their families through critical situations. This means that sensitive and ongoing communication with parents or guardians should be prioritised. This helps teachers to understand the child’s home and community situation. In our study, parents – specifically mothers – spoke of the importance of their connection with their child’s teacher in supporting resilience. They spoke of mobilising different modes of communication encouraging collaboration to counter threats to their child’s resilience (Taket, Nolan & Stagnitti, 2014). Understanding and being aware that young children need time to be listened to and have their feelings acknowledged helps build reciprocal and responsive relationships. As Jacinta (Foundation year teacher) states: We listen a lot to what the children are saying, and we develop that relationship with them so they’re at this stage … they’re the centre of the universe and ­everyone else’s universe, so we encourage that. We listen to what they have to say. We try and build that connection so it’s like a friendship/relationship.

This is even more important during times when difficulties are present in a child’s life. The value placed on listening was reiterated by Pam (preschool teacher), who outlines the two most important roles of the preschool staff as ‘keeping the children safe’ and ‘just really listening’. Showing a genuine interest in each child and what they wish to share with you demonstrates that you value them – who they are and what they experience. As one of the Foundation teachers in our study – Christine – states: We make sure that all of the children are treated as individuals and that their individual voice is heard.

Building strong relationships with young children provides insight so you can tell when they require extra care or when they may be feeling a little more vulnerable. This point is emphasised by Diane (preschool teacher): Even my resilient children do occasionally go through sensitive times where they get more fragile and they just need that little bit more extra care.

Part of building relationships is re-emphasising the importance of the caregiver or guardian relationship: We reaffirm their relationship with their parent or that person. You know, ­reminding them about the things that person might do for them. (Diane, preschool teacher)

The teachers in our study consciously highlighted the importance of the role of the parent or guardian in each child’s life, as well as their own role of being available for each child when needed. Feeling connected to adults strengthens children’s attachment and influences their current and future relationships.

CHAPTER 13  Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience

Working with young children is also about helping them to build relationships with  each other. In our study, successful strategies noted by the teachers included encouraging children to listen respectfully to each other, providing opportunities for the children to practise this skill and holding the expectation that everyone will ‘get along’ within the classroom.

CASE STUDY 13.1  CIRCLE TIME Christine (Foundation teacher) recounts her ‘circle time’ activity, which she finds a useful strategy to encourage individuals to speak out while also listening to their peers: One of those strategies I utilise is ‘circle time’. I have a ball and the only person who’s allowed to speak has the ball. Usually I model whatever it might be that we’re talking about. Just last week we had a situation outside and something wasn’t going so well and so when we came in straight after lunch time I sat them all down and said, ‘Okay. We’re going to have Circle Time.’ Then I had a ball and I started. I said ‘I feel … (a certain emotion) when this happens’, and then each child had to go around and actually say if there was anything bothering them. So, if there wasn’t something bothering them they just passed the ball on and said they had nothing at that time to share. But it gave each individual the opportunity and they all had to either acknowledge that there was something that was bothering them or that there wasn’t – they all had an individual turn. I think if they don’t have that time … if you just did it haphazardly, it wouldn’t happen for some. It would work for the ones who speak out but not for quieter students, so you’ve got to be very aware of your students’ individuality.

What other ways could you help children to express their feelings in a supportive environment?

CLASSROOM PRACTICE Practice needs to be informed by research, to ensure that it is mindful and artful, and that each child is provided with the conditions and opportunities to develop to their full potential. Focusing attention on a child’s SEL within the classroom has a demonstrated positive effect on their mental health and the success they experience (Durlak et al., 2011), both cognitively and in terms of wellbeing (Bird & Sultmann, 2010). Being able to collaborate and cooperate with others, to show empathy, demonstrate independence, be motivated to set and achieve goals, and to be able to self-regulate one’s emotions (McCombs, 2004) aids in the development of social consciousness (Berman, 1997) and good citizenship (Durlak et al., 2011). However, SEL involves more than acquiring a set of skills; it is a process that takes into account an individual’s understandings of their own emotional abilities (Hargreaves, 2000). The teachers we interviewed and observed in our resilience study implemented strategies to reinforce the elements of emotional intelligence (Petrides & Furnham, 2001) to varying degrees, and these practices are



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outlined next. We group them under the headings of modelling behaviour and language; teaching social skills; supporting self-regulation; and giving choices and providing structure (see Figure 13.2).

Classroom practices

Modelling behaviour and language

Teaching social skills

Supporting selfregulation

Giving choices and providing structure

Figure 13.2 Classroom practices

Modelling behaviour and language Teachers act as influential role models of desirable behaviours. By accompanying positive role-modelling with appropriate language cues and prompts, teachers are able to assist children to experience possible ways of acting in particular situations. One strategy is for the teacher to make mistakes deliberately when working with the children. These mistakes are then accompanied by statements that use positive language, thereby giving the message that you need to be persistent and persevere with tasks to be successful. Another strategy is providing prompts to help children consider particular situations and events they may experience. This encourages them to think about possible actions they may take and gives them appropriate words to use. As Diane (preschool teacher) articulates: We might say to them ‘Well you need to say to Bill, “Bill I’m playing with that. You can play with it in a few more minutes.” Or you might say to Bill, “Bill, you need to say can I please have a go of that, or when can it be my turn?” ’ So that we give them those kinds of … not directions, but cues that they can use in another situation if it were to arise again.

This way of working encourages children to make an initial attempt to deal with situations independently, which can promote a sense of empowerment when successful. Talking through the options available to children in various situations also provides them with opportunities to make better choices. For example, Lara (Grade 1 teacher) uses scaffolding successfully to prompt and remind children of possible ways forward when faced with difficult situations. This helps the children to make connections with past experiences through guided reflection. In one Foundation classroom we visited, children were encouraged to reflect on what resilience was as a key objective. When they saw others showing resilience, it was highlighted; therefore, the children were able to add examples of other people being resilient if something didn’t go their own way.

CHAPTER 13  Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience

PAUSE AND REFLECT 13.1 Reconsidering choices Children can be encouraged to re-evaluate their choices through the teacher asking questions such as ‘I wonder if there was a better choice?’, ‘I wonder how you could do that differently?’ without labelling past choices made as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. This way of working encourages the child to reflect and re-evaluate their own behaviour. Reflect on examples from your own practice when you have or could have used ­questions like these.

Developing a consistent language and consciously using common phrases and words such as ‘persistence’, ‘having a go’, ‘trying your best’ and ‘we all make mistakes to learn more’ within and outside of the classroom reinforces notions of resilience.

Teaching social skills Many teachers are constantly teaching or reinforcing social skills with the children in their classrooms, through discussions relating to what is or is not acceptable behaviour in specific scenarios. All preschool teachers in this study had very clear objectives behind the many and varied experiences they provided within their programs. In this mix of experiences, a small group of children worked alongside each other or shared materials. The teachers provided the support and modelling of appropriate social–emotional learning as they moved around the environment, stopping to work with each group of children. This was a deliberate strategy to further develop the children’s social and emotional skills. Diane (preschool teacher) notes the importance of having all of the children in one classroom sit down together for group conversations. Conversing with adults or sharing a meal with others were occurrences that were becoming scarce in the lives of the children she taught. While this teacher places importance on these group conversations, any type of small-group or large-group event provides opportunities to encourage, support and role model positive social skills in group situations. Role-play was also used as a strategy to introduce children to acceptable ways of behaving with others. Phillipa (Grade 1 teacher) shares her practice: In the classroom we have circle time where we talk about different strategies and role-play how we can just deal with situations.

Most of the role-plays used by teachers deal with strategies to overcome difficulties in the school playground – for example, when no one will play with a child, or a child is being bullied: If someone comes in at the end of play time and obviously something has happened, I will get the children involved and we’ll role-play what they could have done in a more resilient way. ‘What could you have done? Could you have said this? Let’s role-play it. Right, someone else get up and do it’ (Bianca, Foundation teacher).



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This gives children the words they can use and the experience of trying them out in a safe, secure environment. Explicitly exposing children to the steps to take when they find themselves in confronting situations is valued by the early years’ teachers: Basically we … give them coping strategies in difficult situations. We do a bit of role-playing and if there has been conflict we don’t try and move on too quickly where the students are left confused. We talk about it and do the restorative justice stuff, and that positive talk around where they can see both sides of the situation and are able to talk comfortably about it with the different parties and come to an understanding – whether they agree with it or not – but they can see where both sides are coming from and why there was conflict and how to resolve that (Louise, Grade 1 teacher).

CASE STUDY 13.2  CATASTROPHE SCALE Pauline, a Grade 1 teacher, employs a ‘catastrophe scale’ (from 1 to 10) which she finds useful in helping children see the severity – or not – of any given situation. As Pauline explains: I talk about the catastrophe scale. I ask children where the issue is on the catastrophe scale so they give it a number, and in doing that they consider if it is really that bad … there are things that are worse. This prompts them to start to think that there are worse things. So, I ask them again to look at where this is on the scale, and what they can do to change what they don’t like.

Conversation about this positioning between the teacher and student enables the child to put into perspective (and in words) how they are feeling and, in the process, recognise that there are other things that are far worse. How successful do you think this strategy would be for children younger than those in Grade 1?

Supporting self-regulation Being able to understand your emotions and the emotions of others, and managing and monitoring your feelings, thinking and behaviour (Thompson, 2009) is seen as selfregulation. Caregiver relationships that are both positive and supportive can influence children’s self-regulation. Giving feedback about emotions and talking through possible positive solutions to employ in peer interactions can support the development of appropriate and adaptive social behaviours. Children’s social participation with peers and adults assists them to become more socially competent and reframe from inappropriate social behaviour (Bronson, 2000).

CHAPTER 13  Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience

The sensory-based program Sharon (preschool teacher) incorporates into her preschool program draws from the ideas of the ALERT program (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996), in attempting to assist children to develop strategies that recognise states of alertness, hyperactivity and agitation, versus states of calm. Children have access to ‘fiddle’ toys in a quiet corner of the room, breathing exercises with music, and a quiet corner that they are free to access at all times, either independently or with teacher guidance. Sensory experiences such as water trays, slime trays and finger painting have long been incorporated into early childhood programs to calm and foster feelings of reassurance and coping in children. In early years’ classrooms in schools, teachers scaffold children to help them become more independent in managing their behaviours in relation to others. As Libby (Foundation teacher) explains: When a situation occurs we talk about what would be the good option and why we would do it that way. What could be another way? We talk about those kinds of things, especially social issues in the playground at the beginning of the year when you have children trying to find their ground and not mixing well with others.

This strategy is echoed in responses from Grade 1 teachers, such as ‘We involve children in lots of discussing as things happen, asking them how they could deal with things differently’, in an attempt to connect past experiences and reflection in the development of peer relationships and self-regulation.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 13.2 Thinking about others When a child says or does something that is likely to hurt another child, they can be encouraged to develop empathy and empathic behaviour if the teacher asks questions such as ‘How would that make you feel?’ (delivered privately). Reflect on examples from your own practice when you have or could have used a question like this.

Giving choices and providing structure Providing a predictable routine helps children to settle into the environment because they know what to expect and what will be expected of them. However, children also need to be able to make choices about things that affect their lives, so assisting them with decision-making processes is important. Teachers tend to begin by offering one or two choices, so children don’t become overwhelmed by having to make too many decisions. For example, Joanne (preschool teacher), suggests: ‘You can do this or you can do that’.



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This can be scaffolded further with ‘First you can choose this, then you can do that’. This strategy has been helpful in moving children around the various learning experiences, especially in preschool programs where teachers are mindful that children need some boundaries; and they also need to know that at times there are things you have to do, whether you want to do them or not. Taking responsibility for one’s actions was something expected by all the teachers in our study. As Diane (preschool teacher) states: We all have to share the space. We all have to look after each other.

The teachers generally felt that having high expectations of children about taking responsibility within the classroom was one way to foster their independence and, for children identified as resilient, this was often observed and described as leadership qualities within the classroom. Teachers saw it as important to provide these opportunities because there was a perception that opportunities to take responsibility were lacking in some children’s family lives.

PLAY SKILLS Play as a child’s way of learning and making sense of the world needs to be embraced: Learning in early childhood is not just about pre-set curricula outcomes; it is about child-initiated discovery, children exploring and learning through play and successfully engaging and communicating with a range of people (Nolan, Kilderry & O’Grady, 2006, p. 1).

Play can be seen as a motivating force in a child’s intellectual development – a way of growing and coming to terms with life, and most importantly as a vehicle for learning while still having fun (Johnson, Christie & Wardle, 2005). While play provides a rich context for learning, it also has the capacity to provide an important medium for teaching (Hedges, 2000). When viewed as active learners, children are involved in the co-construction of knowledge. They are not passive learners; they actively drive their own learning through the choices they make and the experiences they encounter in stimulating environments. Play can advance the aims of early years’ education in social, emotional, intellectual, creative and physical competencies. A play-based curriculum, which is common in preschools and is also beginning to be taken up in some early years’ classrooms in schools, enables children to explore their environment as active learners. It is set up in a way that allows each child to follow their interests while also promoting independence in choice of activity, interaction within the experience and the opportunity to solve problems. Previous research has identified that children demonstrating skills in social competence also engage in high levels of shared symbolic play with peers; that is, they are able to discuss the meaning of their play using unstructured materials with their peers and come to a shared understanding of the direction in which the play is taking (Casey et al., 2012).

CHAPTER 13  Teachers’ understanding and support for resilience

PAUSE AND REFLECT 13.3 Allowing time to reflect Within a play-based curriculum, teachers allow time for children to reflect on the choices they make, and use prompts to assist them in their choices when they are unsure. Reflect on examples from your own practice when you have or could have supported children to reflect on the choices they made.

Through a combination of the provision of resources (activities), and the time and support to make decisions, children are able to direct their own learning. Teachers closely observe each child and then step in to support and extend the learning where and when necessary. Working in this way promotes decision-making, clear thinking and organisational skills. Teachers play an essential role within play-based programs, as their knowledge and purposeful actions and interactions ensure that each child’s learning is further enriched and enhanced (Raban, 2012).

SPOTLIGHT 13.1 Resilience, rights and respectful relationships Following the completion of the research on which this chapter is based, the ARC project Interagency Collaboration Supporting Resilient Students, Families, Schools in Disadvantaged Communities, the Department of Education and Training in Victoria released in 2016 a series of learning materials, entitled Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships ­(Department of Education and Training, 2016a). These were designed for teachers in primary and secondary schools to develop the social, emotional and positive relationship skills in students. The resources cover Foundation to Year 12. Many of the activities given for use in the Foundation year and Levels 1 and 2 (Department of Education and Training, 2016a, 2016b) mirror those expressed by the teachers in the study described here.

CONCLUSION In this chapter, we have presented multiple strategies that teachers can employ to promote resilience in young children in their classrooms. Environmental and social supports, coupled with a focus on building respectful, reciprocal and responsive relationships, can facilitate the development of a child’s resilience. While highlighted in curriculum and documents to guide teachers’ practice, it is apparent that the active role a teacher plays is important in protecting and fostering the development of resilience. This can be accomplished through the provision of positive learning environments and being aware of children’s SEL.



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It is important to note that the teachers in our study were working in areas in which both children and families were experiencing vulnerabilities and complex issues, so their work on resilience with their students could be viewed as even more critical than in classrooms in other socio-economic locations. If we believe the adage that it takes a community to raise a child, then the role that preschools and schools, and individual teachers, play in supporting resilience needs to be acknowledged.

QUESTIONS 13.1 In your practice, how conscious are you about protecting and promoting resilience in the children you teach? 13.2 What strategies do you employ in your classroom to support children’s resilience? Could the effectiveness of these be strengthened by the addition of more strategies and, if so, which ones and why? 13.3 How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies you currently employ? What criteria do you use to ‘assess’ a child’s level or development of resilience? 13.4 Do you feel confident that you could identify resilient children in your classroom? What makes you think this? Do you think other teachers would identify the same students that you nominate? Why or why not?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We would like to acknowledge our industry partners in the research reported in this chapter: the Victorian Department of Education and Training, VicHealth (the statewide health promotion agency) and Community Connections (a state-wide non-government organisation). We would also like to acknowledge other team members who worked on the wider study, and the early years teachers who participated in the study, without whom this work would not have been possible.

REFERENCES Alvord, K. & Grados, J.J. (2005). Enhancing resilience in children: A proactive approach. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36(3), 238–45. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (n.d.). Personal and Social Capability Learning Continuum. Retrieved from https://www Benzies, K. & Mychasiuk, R. (2009). Fostering family resiliency: A review of the key protective factors. Child & Family Social Work, 14(1), 103–14. Berman, S. (1997). Children’s Social Consciousness and the Development of Social Responsibility. New York: State University of New York Press.

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Bird, K.A. & Sultmann, W.F. (2010). Social and emotional learning: Reporting a system approach to developing relationships, nurturing well-being and invigorating learning. Educational & Child Psychology, 27(1), 143–55. Bronson, M.B. (2000). Self-regulation in Early Childhood: Nature and nurture. New York: Guilford Press. Casey, S., Stagnitti, K., Taket, A. & Nolan, A. (2012). Early peer play interactions of resilient children living in disadvantaged communities. International Journal of Play, 1(3), 311–23. Condly, S. (2006). Resilience in children: A review of literature with implications for education. Urban Education, 41, 211–36. Cowen, E., Wyman, P., Work, W. & Iker, M. (1995). A preventive intervention for enhancing resilience among highly stressed urban children. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 15, 247–60. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR. Department of Education and Training (2016a). Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships: Foundation learning materials. Retrieved from ——— (2016b). Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships: Level 1–2 learning materials. Retrieved from LandingPage?ObjectId=29b6985a-935d-4053-97c9-f776a99b0fb6 Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D. & Schellinger, K. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–32. Hargreaves, A. (2000). Mixed emotions: Teachers’ perceptions of their interactions with students. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16, 811–26. Hedges, H. (2000). Teaching in early childhood: Time to merge constructivist views so learning through play equals teaching through play. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 25(4), 16–21. Johnson, J.E., Christie, J.F. & Wardle, F. (2005). Play, Development and Early Education. New York: Pearson. Kim-Cohen, J., Moffitt, T., Caspi, A. & Taylor, A. (2004). Genetic and environmental processes in young children’s resilience and vulnerability to socioeconomic deprivation. Child Development, 75, 651–68. McCombs, B.L. (2004). The learner-centered psychological principles: A framework for balancing academic achievement and social-emotional learning outcomes. In J. Zins, R. Weissberg, M. Wang & H.J. Walberg (eds), Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What does the research say? (pp. 23–39). New York: Teachers College Press. Nolan, A., Kilderry, A. & O’Grady, R. (2006). Children as Active Learners. Canberra: Early Childhood Australia.



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Nolan, A., Taket, A. & Stagnitti, K. (2014). Supporting resilience in early years classrooms: The role of the teacher. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and practice, Special Issue: Teachers and Resilience – Interdisciplinary Accounts, 20(5), 595–608. Petrides, K.V. & Furnham, A. (2001). Trait emotional intelligence: Psychometric investigation with reference to established trait taxonomies. European Journal of Personality, 15(6), 425–48. Raban, B. (2012). Quality area 1: Educational program and practice. In B. Raban (ed.), The National Quality Standard: Towards continuous quality improvement – a practical guide for students and professionals (pp. 16–23). Melbourne: Teaching Solutions. Serbin, L.A. & Karp, J. (2004). The intergenerational transfer of psychosocial risk: Mediators of vulnerability and resilience. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 333–61. Sunderland, M. (2007). What Every Parent Needs to Know: The remarkable effects of love, nurture and play on your child’s development. London: Dorling Kindersley. Taket, A., Nolan, A. & Stagnitti, K. (2014). Family strategies to support and develop resilience in early childhood. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 34(3), 289–300. Thompson, R.A. (2009). Doing what doesn’t come naturally: The development of selfregulation. Zero to Three, 30(2), 33. Williams, M.S. & Shellenberger, S. (1996). How Does Your Engine Run? A leader’s guide to the ALERT Program for self-regulation. Albuquerque, NM: TherapyWorks.



Maryanne Theobald, Susan Danby, Catherine Thompson and Karen Thorpe

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • • • •

Identify the characteristics of children’s friendships. Explore why having a friend is important. Identify strategies that children use to make friends. Discuss ways that educators can support children to make friends in their classroom, especially in classrooms characterised by linguistic diversity.


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INTRODUCTION This chapter investigates friendships and children’s wellbeing in the early years of schooling. Having a friend, and being a friend, is closely connected to children’s health and wellbeing in the early years. Friendship safeguards children from social isolation and is associated with academic attainment and social success. In early childhood, children often make friends through play, having common interests and doing shared activities. Through children’s direct accounts and visual representations of Strategies: plans and their friendships, we explore characteristics of friendship and the associated actions used to achieve a goal. strategies that children use to make friends and manage disputes as they negotiate their social and emotional relationships through play and shared spaces. Three aspects of friendships are evident in the children’s accounts: friendship is enduring, friendship is a mutual relationship and friendship involves an emotional investment. This chapter provides educators with an understanding of the important role of friendships in young children’s everyday lives, and to their happiness and wellbeing in the early years.

IMPORTANCE OF FRIENDSHIPS IN THE EARLY YEARS Children’s friendships are usually accomplished in the social and educational spaces outside of family contexts, and include childcare, preschool and school settings. These contexts provide children with opportunities to interact with other children outside  of the home. Having a friend is associated with a child’s success at school. Children with friends enjoy school more than those who do not and are happier to attend preschool and school (Buhs & Ladd, 2001). Friendships are particularly important when children attend their first year of school, because children with friends tend to adjust quickly and have positive attitudes towards schooling (Dunn, Cutting & Fisher, 2002). Whether at preschool or school, children with friends join in with activities more often than those without friends (Tomada et al., 2005), and their participation in class activities is associated with positive effects for achievement at school. Friendships provide children with the social and emotional supResilience: a person’s capacity port that is important for resilience in times of change, and with to cope with challenging feelings of happiness and wellbeing (Danby, 2008; Dunn, 2004). situations, adversity or stress. Friends offer strong supports that can reduce feelings of anxiety, Transitions: periods when confusion, angst and loneliness in children. In the early years, situations in life change. Transitions friendships facilitate positive outcomes for children and can reduce in childhood may be involve a change in situation, context, family stress in times of change or transition, such as going to school for circumstances or health. the first time (Dunn, 2004; Hartup, 1992). Friendship: interactions between two or more participants, whereby the relationship is one of reciprocal emotional and social connectedness. Being a friend means being available emotionally for the other person, and trusting and supporting each other.

CHAPTER 14  Friendships


Not having friends means children may be left out of social activities, and they may become alienated from peers. Being left out of social activities is associated with social isolation, which is a threat to children’s mental health and their social and emotional wellbeing (Dunn, 2004; Laursen et al., 2007). Social isolation: when an Social isolation can lead to depression over the long term and is individual has little or no social associated with high incidence of suicide in adulthood and old contact with others; this can have age (Cacioppo, 2006). Research shows that up to 13.9 per negative effects on the person’s mental health and feelings of cent of Australian children and adolescents are diagnosed with wellbeing. mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, lasting longer than 6 months (Lawrence, 2015). These problems affect children’s healthy development and can contribute to youth substance abuse, violence and suicide. A key preventative measure for mental health is having strong relationships with others. A key preventative measure for mental health and wellbeing is having friends, which entails connectivity, good communication and strong relationships with others. Children’s friendships share many of the same elements as adult Intimacy: a close relationship in friendships, including having positive feelings, happiness and ­intimacy which people share their feelings (Dunn, 2004). It is sometimes thought that making friends comes natand a sense of togetherness. urally for children because of the view that childhood is a ‘natural’ state (García-Sánchez, 2017). It is a misconception to think that children’s friendships are in some way lesser than adults’ friendships. Listening to children discussing their concepts of friendship, they identify and discuss the complexity of friendships. For example, findings from studies on children’s friendship identify the mutuality of friendships and show that children appreciate having friends. Being ‘together’ means being able to spend time together doing things, and sharing ideas and activities. In their study of friendships with Swedish children aged 10 to 11 years, Kostenius and Ohrling (2008) found that friends play an important role of being helpful to each other and supporting each other – particularly in difficult times. As one child in their study reported, ‘friendship is like having an extra parachute to unfold when your own is not opening up’ (pp. 29–30). Both being a friend and having a friend ‘plays a critical part in their acquisition of social identity and selfhood’ (James, 1993, p. 2001) that occurs in peer culture and Peer culture: ‘a stable set of activities or routines, artefacts, across the lifespan. values and concerns that children To be a friend requires particular skills and affective states. Havproduce and share in interaction with peers’ (Corsaro, 2009, ing a friend offers social opportunities to become skilled at underp. 301; Corsaro & Molinari, 1990, standing the standpoints of others – an important consideration in p. 214). helping children to participate in peer groups and activities in early years settings. The capacity to be able to recognise another’s point of view and get along with others is an important communication skill and a key predictor of successful relationships in later life (Hartup, 1992). Sometimes, children need help to build these skills and affective stances, and it is here that the role of the educator is critical – not least in modelling how to communicate with empathy and care for others, regardless of their age and status.


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Friendships do not always go to plan, however, and may result in the relationship being fractured through disputes (Danby, 1998; Danby & Theobald, 2012). When the bond between children is strong, they are capable of engaging in repair of the friendship during such challenges. Sometimes, children need support and targetted intervention to develop the skills needed to build and maintain friendships. Some children, for example, may have difficulty Intervention: an action or understanding the perspective of another child (Rendle-Short, 2003). process undertaken to alter a Educators can provide encouragement and specific strategies to likely outcome. build and manage relationship disputes. These are important points for social learning in which educators can provide guidance in presenting the perspective of others. Indeed, preschool rooms with greater social diversity have been found to be those that provide opportunity for deeper quality of friendships among children (Thorpe et al., 2010). Dispute: a social practice whereby participants disagree or argue about a matter. A dispute, often based on disagreement, is actually a collaborative activity, as it involves two or more to participate (Maynard, 1985).

RESEARCHING CHILDREN’S FRIENDSHIPS To investigate friendships in the early years, this chapter draws upon young children’s accounts of friendships in two studies by the current authors. The first aimed to understand friendship from the children’s perspectives; about how they made friends when starting school. The second study explored how children made friends when they did not share a common language. There were two cohorts of children. Study 1 involved 70 preschoolaged children aged 3–4 years and Study 2 involved 162 children in the first year of formal schooling, aged 5–6 years. In both studies, the researchers engaged in informal interviews with small groups of three to four children. The children were invited to draw pictures of their experiences of friendship as they talked with the researcher, and some of these images are included in this chapter. The drawings were designed to help children feel comfortable about expressing their views. The researchers encouraged the participants to use their own images and words to communicate their perspectives on friendship (Danby, Ewing & Thorpe, 2011; Kostenius & Ohrling, 2008), and our approach recognised the child’s agency as a research participant (Danby & Farrell, 2004; Thorpe et al., 2007). The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed using pseudonyms to protect the participants’ anonymity. The children’s accounts discuss who their friends are and what they like to do as friends. As well as identifying the qualities of friendship that they share, the children identify the strategies they use to build friendships.

CHARACTERISTICS OF FRIENDSHIPS Friendships are not the same as other peer relationships in children’s lives. While shared experiences may be evident in peer interactions, there are additional aspects of being a friend, including ‘doing things together’ (Corsaro & Molinari, 1990, p. 221) and having

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common interests and shared moments. Reciprocity and commitment Reciprocity: when each are elements of friendships that make friendship mutual among participant receives equal benefit from a relationship. children (Hartup, 1992). The next section presents case study extracts of research conversations with young children about making friends. In Case study 14.1, Angela and a researcher explore dimensions of friendship, with a particular focus on playing together and sharing intimate moments.

CASE STUDY 14.1  WHAT DO FRIENDS DO TOGETHER? Researcher:  When you think about friends, what do you think of? Angela:  They play together. Researcher: Playing together. That’s a good idea. What sorts of things do friends do together? Angela:  They play with each other. They hug each other. Researcher: They do, don’t they? Could you make a drawing about what you think friends do together? Angela:  Mmmm . . . and sit together. Researcher:  They do sit together. Angela:  I’ll just draw the sitting one. Researcher:  And I expect they even chat together? Angela: Yep. Researcher:  Do you do that? Angela: Yep. Researcher:  And what sorts of things do friends chat about? Angela:  Lots of things. Researcher:  Just any old thing? Angela: Yep.

Angela begins with an account of what friends do – that is, friends ‘play together’. She then elaborates on ‘what sorts of things’ friends do and provides examples, suggesting friends ‘play with each other’, ‘hug each other’ and ‘sit together’. The researcher adds ‘chat together’, to which Angela agrees. In this way, Angela and the researcher build a collaborative account of the activities that friends do together that highlights reciprocity and sharing some form of intimacy. An aspect of friendship identified by Dunn (2004), Figure 14.1 is Angela’s representation of her and her friend sitting together.


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Figure 14.1 Friends ‘sit together’ (Angela, Case study 14.1) Source: Thorpe et al. (2006–08).

In Case study 14.2, the researcher asks Ophea about the expected behaviours of friends.

CASE STUDY 14.2  HOW DO FRIENDS BEHAVE? Researcher:  What sorts of behaviour do friends have with each other? Ophea: Nice. Researcher:  That’s true. Can you think of other things that friends are together? Ophea: Nice. Researcher: Yeah, they certainly are nice. What about if you fell over when you were playing puppies? Ophea:  They would look after you. Researcher:  They would, wouldn’t they? Ophea:  They would tell the teacher. Researcher: They would. And if you’re a good friend to somebody, you would do the same thing, wouldn’t you? Can you think of anything else that friends do? Ophea:  Play together.

Evident in Ophea’s account is an emphasis that friends are ‘nice’ and ‘would look after you’. This attention to the caring role of friendships shows the emotional elements that children expect and invest in friends. When asked about her drawing (Figure 14.2), Ophea replies that it is about ‘puppy games’, her favourite game to play with her friends.

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Figure 14.2 ‘We always do puppy games’ (Ophea, Case study 14.2) Source: Thorpe et al. (2006–08).

In Case study 14.3, Angela is asked to talk more about how friends ‘respect’ each other. She identifies a number of characteristics of friendship that provide a more detailed description of friendship.

CASE STUDY 14.3  HOW DO YOU RESPECT A FRIEND? Researcher:  I was just asking you how you respected your friend, Amy. Angela: Well, I share things with her. We do play, like, a lot of times, more than you could ever imagine and we both love horses. Researcher: That’s great. What do you think Amy does that shows you she respects you? Angela:  Well, she sits next to me when I’m sad. Researcher:  So, she’s kind as well?

As Angela explains, friends ‘share things’ and have similar passions that continue over time. She provides the example of her interests shared with her friend; they ‘play, like, a lot of times’ and ‘both love horses’. When asked further about ‘respect’, Angela suggests that a friend ‘sits next to me when I’m sad’, which the researcher identifies as being ‘kind’. These times demonstrate shared activities that they both enjoy, and also the characteristic



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of friendship that friends have empathetic responses and care when they see that their friend needs support. Angela’s response highlights that being a friend involves seeing each other as equals, with an expectation of emotional support. She emphasises key elements of friendship: that friendships are enduring, with shared interests that occur a number of times, and are mutual – with friends liking the same things. In Case study 14.4, a new aspect of friendship is introduced when Maya suggests that friends ‘could help you learn’.

Empathetic: being able to understand how another person might be feeling.

CASE STUDY 14.4  DO FRIENDS DO OTHER THINGS? Researcher:  They do play. Do they do other things as well, if they’re your friends? Maya: They could help you . . . Sometimes, if they know something, they could help you learn. Sometimes they do some . . . Sometimes they help you do books at school. Researcher:  So, friends can help you learn; and they can also play with you.

Case study 14.4 begins as the researcher introduces ‘play’ as an activity done with friends. When asked about what other activities friends might do, Maya suggests that an attribute of friendship is ‘they help you learn’. Maya elaborates that ‘they help you do books at school’. Her suggestion that friends help each other in learning tasks is one that is matched by studies that suggest the associated influence of friends on success at school (Ladd, 1990). The researcher summarises Maya’s account that friends support each other: ‘friends can help you learn, and they can also play with you’. Maya’s drawing of the monkey bars and oval where she plays with her friends (Figure 14.3) highlights the

Figure 14.3 ‘The monkey bars that me and Tom use’ (Maya, Case study 14.4) Source: Thorpe et al. (2006–08).

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importance of sharing place (such as playgrounds) and also having time together to participate in these shared activities. Across many interviews, children provided similar accounts of friends, and identified similar characteristics of friendship. For the children, having friends is associated also with protecting access to play spaces (Cromdal, 2001). Case study 14.5 shows that friends offer support to participate in peer activities.

CASE STUDY 14.5  WHAT IS A FRIEND LIKE? Researcher: How do you know if someone is a friend to you? What is a friend like to you? Petra: Kind. Researcher: They’re kind, Petra. How else? How do you know if someone is being your friend, David? How do you know if someone is your friend? David:  They play with you. Researcher: They play with you. What about you, Paul, how do you know if someone is being a friend to you? Paul:  Some kids are very, very nice that they play with me. When they let me play. David:  Like so they don’t leave you out? Paul: Yeah. Researcher:  Friends definitely don’t leave you out.

As in previous case studies, the children first identify the attribute of being ‘kind’ and the activity of ‘play’ as aspects of being a friend. In this Case study 14.5, Paul provides information about gaining access to peer groups and activities: ‘Some kids are very, very nice that they play with me. When they let me play’. His comment about being a member of a peer group suggests the importance of being included and gaining membership in social interaction. Calling upon a friend is one strategy used by young children to access peer groups (Corsaro, 1985; Danby & Baker, 2000; Theobald et al., 2017). David asks Paul a clarifying question, ‘Like so they don’t leave you out?’ Paul agrees, and the researcher says, ‘Friends definitely don’t leave you out’. The sense of being included is very strong here – the idea of not being isolated and alone, but of belonging and having membership in a friendBelonging: feeling and being a part of a group, or a situation. ship pair or group. The sense of inclusion comes across in the children’s drawings as well: Petra skipping with her friends (Figure 14.4) and David playing crocodiles (Figure 14.5).


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Figure 14.4 Friends are ‘kind’ (Petra, Case study 14.5) Source: Thorpe et al. (2006–08).

Figure 14.5 Friends ‘play with you’ (David, Case study 14.5) Source: Thorpe et al. (2006–08).

MAKING FRIENDS IN THE EARLY YEARS Children’s friendships are built as they play and interact with others. Influencing factors include the location of the activity, the timing of interactions, the involvement of participants and the activity itself. These influences show that friendships are continuously being built and maintained.

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Children use a variety of strategies to make friends in the early years. As Danby et al. (2012) show, children use three main strategies: requesting to join in an already occurring game, forming a team or a club with other children who have common interests, and helping others. These strategies require children to understand the intricacies of relationships and skills such as picking up on other children’s displays of emotion and understanding what they mean (Dunn et al., 2002). Children may spend time ‘surveying the scene’, or they may have experiences in a particular setting – such as the playground – before they employ one strategy over another (see Case study 14.6).

CASE STUDY 14.6  HOW DID YOU MAKE YOUR FRIENDS? Researcher: What was the best thing about starting school, or what was the worst thing about starting school? Sally: I went to school and I didn’t know it was so fun. And then I knew it was fun and I made lots of new friends. Researcher:  How did you make your friends? Ben:  By asking them. Sally:  When they needed to do something or when they . . . Researcher:  So you helped them when they needed to do something.

Having friends helps children transition into new school contexts (Dunn et al., 2002). When the researcher asks Sally and Ben about what was ‘the best’ or ‘the worst’ thing about starting school, Sally suggests that she did not think that school could be so much fun and that it was a bit unknown. Sally then explains that her feelings about school changed once she made ‘lots of new friends’, making her experience of the transition to school enjoyable and positive. When asked how the children make friends, Ben answers that he uses the strategy of asking others to be friends. Sally says that she looks out for others needing assistance. The researcher formulates that helping others is a strategy that Sally uses to make friends. Sally’s drawing (Figure 14.6) illustrates her sad face, representing her initial feelings of sadness before she made a friend at school. In Case study 14.7, Tim describes his strategies for making new friends. His drawing shows a number of friends lined up, as he ‘asked people if they wanted to play’ (Figure 14.7). Tim outlines a successful strategy for making friends: ‘asking others to play’. He explains that he used a technique of asking everyone their names. When Tim was asked about how long it took to become friends, he replies that it took a little while to get to know each other. His insight provides a glimpse into understanding the complexities of children’s friendships. For most, friendship does not happen instantaneously, and friendships need time and attention in order to flourish, as shown in Case study 14.8.



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Figure 14.6 Making friends at school (Sally, Case study 14.6) Source: Thorpe et al (2006–08).

CASE STUDY 14.7  HOW DID YOU MAKE A NEW FRIEND? Researcher:  How did you decide how to make a new friend? Tim:  I asked people if they wanted to play with me and they would. Researcher:  How did you find Cam to be your friend? Tim:  Because I asked everyone their names and they told me. Researcher: Yeah, and what made you pick Cam to be a special friend? Were you his friend right from the very first day you started here, or did it take you a little while to get to know each other? Tim:  It took a little while to get to know each other.

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Figure 14.7 ‘I asked people if they wanted to play’ (Tim, Case study 14.7) Source: Thorpe et al. (2006–08).

CASE STUDY 14.8  WHAT IS A FRIEND TO YOU? Researcher:  So, Ryan, what is a friend to you? Ryan: John. Researcher:  John is a friend. Why is he a friend? Ryan:  Because he plays with me. A lot of time. I think it’s 20. Researcher: He plays with you a lot of the time. So, a friend is someone that spends a lot of time with you? Ryan: Yeah, and he does it when we were in Prep he did it 15 and now he does it with me 100. Researcher:  100? Wow! Ryan:  He still plays with me.

Ryan elaborates on his suggestion that friends do things together. Not only do friends engage in shared activities, they spend ‘a lot of the time’ together. Ryan provides a historical account of the number of times that he and John played together ‘when we were in Prep’. He explains that he and John play together even more now than when they were in the Prep class: ‘… in Prep he did it 15 and now he does it with me 100’. In Ryan’s description, friendship clearly requires a quantifiable, sustained and shared interaction. In Case study 14.3, Angela similarly emphasised the sustained time spent in interaction, saying: ‘We do play, like, a lot of times, more than you could ever imagine’. These ac-



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counts highlight the time needed to foster friendships, and that ‘doing things together’ offers opportunities to build a social relationship that endures. When considered within a school context, it means that educators should offer both opportunity and time for children to make friends.

DISPUTES AMONG FRIENDS AND WITHIN PEER GROUPS Friendships do not always run smoothly. In Case study 14.9, Angela talks about a rupture in a friendship.

CASE STUDY 14.9  FRIENDSHIP ‘BUMPS’ Angela: Yeah. Well my cousin, well she … well one of her best friends bumped her and then didn’t become her best friend at all. Researcher:  Oh, really? Angela:  Because she bumped her when she was supposed to do some neat colouring in. Researcher:  Oh, I see and so then they stopped being best friends, did they? Angela:  Yeah, and then she came friends with other people. Researcher: Do you think that’s fair enough to not be a friend just because somebody bumped you? Angela: No. Researcher: No. Angela:  Because you got out of the lines. Researcher: But do you think that she bumped her purposely or was it an accident, do you reckon? Angela:  It was an accident, I think. Researcher: So, do you think you would still be somebody’s friend if it was just an accident? Angela: Yeah.

On hearing about the rupture in friendship, the researcher provides alternative ways to view what happened by talking through ideas about friendship and calling into account Angela’s identity as a certain sort of friend. By asking, ‘So, do you think you would still be somebody’s friend if it was just an accident?’, the researcher suggests that the action was an accident and that the lack of intention would not jeopardise the friendship. In other words, if an accident, such an action might be allowable. The researcher does not accept Angela’s original formulation of what happened, nor provides a lecture on what to think. Rather, questions are asked to explore aspects of Angela’s identity formation, to consider the matter from both her perspective and those of others. These kinds of conversations are relevant for classroom interactions, as they provide reflections on what happened and other potential ways to understand the event.

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PAUSE AND REFLECT 14.1 Consider your actions as educator in this situation Marnee and Rebecca often play together at preschool. One day, Marnee becomes upset when Rebecca plays with Johanna instead of her, and tells you Rebecca is not being her friend. As an educator in this situation, what would you do? As an educator, how might you help Marnee to express her feelings to Rebecca? How might you encourage Marnee to find someone else to play with? What game or object might help Rebecca, Marnee and Johanna to play together?

MAKING FRIENDS IN MULTILINGUAL SETTINGS Friendships can help children develop language and communication skills (Piker, 2013). Children making and maintaining friends when there are language differences among them may present challenges. Having a shared language and sharing cultural identities are part of making friends in multilingual settings (Pica-Smith et al., 2017). However, as Theobald, Busch & Laraghy (2019) found from interviewing 70 children about making friends in a multilingual preschool in Australia, children are persistent and try many strategies to overcome language differences in order to make friends. Case study 14.10 shows the perspectives of two children when asked about making friends with someone they did not share a common language with.

CASE STUDY 14.10  WHAT IF YOU DIDN’T UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? Researcher: What if somebody came to preschool and they didn’t understand what you said and you didn’t understand what they said. How would you make friends then? Claire:  Wave so they can know what I’m doing. Researcher:  Yes. What would you do instead of talking? [to Sam] Sam:  Play snakes and ladders. Researcher:  You play snakes and ladders? Do a game.

Gestures and play objects enable children to interact with peers when there are ­language differences (Theobald, 2017). In Case study 14.10, Claire suggests ­making contact by waving at other children. This strategy draws on a universal meaning of a greeting, able to be translated in any language. Sam’s response is to identify playing a game of snakes and ladders, as a means to avoid confusion that may possibly occur when there is no common language. The game incorporates turn taking and focuses on ­participation; it might provide opportunity to avoid possible misunderstandings to do with talking. At the same time, though, such a game requires shared cultural understandings of games in general, and snakes and ladders in particular.



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Multilingual: being able to understand and use two or more languages in oral, manual or written forms at a basic level (International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech, 2012).

Case study 14.11 highlights that children choose to talk as a key way of making friends, even in multilingual settings. When Owen is asked how he would make friends if there were misunderstandings with language between him and another child, he suggests a language exchange, by copying each other’s talk. This example illustrates children’s attention to the co-production of a conversation in order to make friends.

CASE STUDY 14.11  LANGUAGE EXCHANGE Researcher: What might you do if you couldn’t understand what you were saying to each other? How would you make friends? Owen:  You’d say something what they say and they say something what you say. Researcher:  So, talk in their language and they might talk in your language. Okay.

Considering the quality of interactions between children and supporting their relationships with others in school settings provides children with a healthy start to life. This is complex interactional work in which they engage. Play offers children occasions to construct real-life relationships through the pretend frame (Bjork-Willen, 2012). For example, children might ‘play out’ a scenario about when someone is left out of a game. As they play out the scenario, they express how that child might feel and this helps them to understand the perspectives of others. Such occasions give children a chance to work out and re-order the typical power relations of a peer group in ways that might otherwise not be afforded.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 14.2 Consider your actions as educator in this situation It is Raj’s first day at preschool, a few weeks into the school year. Raj has recently moved to Australia from India. He speaks Tamil and Gujarati, and is learning to speak English. As an educator, what might you do to help Raj build friendships in the class? As an educator, how might you encourage Raj and his peers to play together? What potential barriers are there that might hinder Raj and his peers from building friendships? What opportunities for interaction might you provide to help Raj and his peers get to know each other?

EDUCATORS’ ROLE IN SUPPORTING CHILDREN’S FRIENDSHIPS Educators play an important role in supporting children’s friendships in the early years. Fostering a sense of belonging for children is a key goal in the Australian National Quality Standards (NQS), which regulate the provision of early childhood education facilities, staffing and program delivery in prior-to-school settings (ACECQA, 2018). The curriculum framework

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that underpins learning for children in early childhood education settings, Belonging, Being & Becoming (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009), suggests that educators should provide learning opportunities for children to develop effective positive relationships with others. Outcome 1 of the five learning outcomes details the importance of children’s increasing awareness of others’ needs and rights, expressing their emotions, and being aware of the emotions and perspectives of others. Outcome 2 emphasises the importance of children being part of a group and being able to ‘“read” the behaviours of others’ (DEEWR, 2009, p. 26). Outcome 5 outlines the importance of effective communication for building shared interests and sharing feelings in order to establish and maintain respectful, trusting relationships with peers. Having good relationships with others increases children’s feelings of belonging and their sense of self and identity. Educators are well placed to support children as they attempt to build friendships. Strategies for educators include helping children to initiate and join play activities already underway, modelling appropriate language in play and when making social connections. Educators might also set up ‘communication stations’, whereby children use a variety of modes (e.g. drawing) to communicate (Theobald, Busch & Laraghy, forthcoming). Children can be encouraged to express their feelings and ideas in positive ways with peers, so that they can form positive relationships. Another important strategy is to teach children to look for and pick up on the social cues of others. Play objects and having a joint goal in a play activity will also help to foster playful exchanges that can lead to friendships, These strategies will help children to feel connected and contribute to their social environments. Children are often under-estimated when making friends or sustaining relationships, and they are not always considered capable of providing thoughtful accounts of what it means to be a friend. The specific role of educators is to understand the value of children’s friendships and to support them to make friends through modelling and strategies. Encouraging children to ‘have a go’ and join in games, follow the rules of play and start conversations can help them to build relationships in classrooms. There may be times, however, when an educator’s intervention may have an adverse effect. For example, Theobald and Danby (2012) show how an educator’s intervention and enforcement of playground rules initiated a dispute between two children. Similarly, Svahn and Evaldsson’s (2012) Swedish study showed that telling the teacher amplified the influence of bullying, with one child being further excluded after she had told the teacher about the bullying. Educators are not neutral participants in children’s friendship attempts, as their interventions involve power relations and can have unintended consequences. In settings with language diversity, bilingual practices can help children make friends (Cummins, 2007; Watson & Hua, 2017). For example, educators might teach familiar songs and use greetings in the languages of the children in the group that may differ from the dominant language of instruction. Such linguistic strategies help to promote positive attitudes towards diversity and build inclusive practices in early years settings (Theobald et al., 2019). Educators can support children to take turns, share feelings and be good listeners. Sometimes, there are occasions when children have trouble making a friend. For ­example,



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some children may find it difficult to maintain an extended conversation and to maintain eye contact (Rendle-Short, 2003). In these circumstances, children can make friends with sensitive and careful intervention by adults, helping them to develop skills such as maintaining eye contact. Making friends takes time and children need many opportunities to share social activities and unscheduled blocks of free play for them to develop relationships. As ‘places for meeting, bonding and bridging’, early years settings are ideal for fostering ‘social connectedness and shared values’ between peers (Thorpe et al., 2010). Providing physical space, shared objects and time for children to play games and share things in common helps children to successfully make friends.

SPOTLIGHT 14.1 Understanding friendships The key messages highlighted in this chapter are: • Even having one friend can protect children from negative external influences and can help them to feel comfortable and that they belong. In addition, having a friend means that children are more likely to experience transition into new school contexts more easily, as well as do better at school. • Friendships require time and opportunities for social interaction, shared conversation and finding a common interest. • Playgrounds are important places for making friends in the school setting. Children need time away from regulated activities in school playgrounds to explore social relationships with others. • Educators who support children to participate in games and spaces within the peer culture can help build social relationships in classrooms even when there are language differences. • Children who are successful in making friends have had opportunities to develop their social skills in turn taking, initiating a conversation, sharing feelings, ‘reading’ social cues and listening.

SPOTLIGHT 14.2 Characteristics of friendships Three central characteristics of friendship that are highlighted in the accounts are: 1. Friendships are enduring and involve doing things together, for sustained periods or a repeated number of times. 2. Friendships are reciprocal and mutual – there is affiliation based on shared interactions, similar interests and equal status. 3. Friendships involve feelings and displays of intimacy (such as hugging).

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CONCLUSION Having a friend is important for children’s good health and wellbeing in the early years. Drawing on children’s accounts of the characteristics and qualities of friendships, their descriptions implicate moral framings of friendship with associated rights and responsibilities. The children’s accounts construct the identity of a friend as someone who offers concern for a friend’s wellbeing, help and support, such as easing a friend’s entry into a peer group. All children require opportunities to build relationships and make friends.

QUESTIONS 14.1 What are the characteristics of your friendships? Do you think that children share similar characteristics? 14.2 How can you, as an educator, support children in making friends in your classroom, especially if there are language differences? 14.3 How do you provide for children to spend sustained periods of time in activities that will assist them to make friends? 14.4 What do parents need to know in order to support their children’s friendships?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This chapter draws on research from two projects. The first was supported under the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme (grant no. DP0666254). The Office of Education Research at Queensland University of Technology supported the second project. We thank the Australian Twin Registry and Australian Multiple Birth Association, Catholic Education (Queensland), Education Queensland, participating members of Independent Schools (Queensland), the Lady Gowrie Queensland Association and the Crèche and Kindergarten Association of Queensland for assistance in recruiting children to the study. We also thank the participating children, families, schools and teachers who gave their time. Thanks to Cathy Thompson, Maryanne Theobald, Toby Thompson and Sandy Houen, who conducted the interviews with the children.

REFERENCES Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) (2018). National Quality Standard. Retrieved from Bjork-Willen, P. (2012). Disputes in Everyday Life: Social and moral orders of children and young people. Bingley: Emerald Group. Buhs, E.S. & Ladd, G.W. (2001). Peer rejection as antecedent of young children’s school adjustment: An examination of mediating processes. Developmental Psychology, 37(4), 555–60. Cacioppo, J.T., Hughes, M.E., Waite, L.J., Hawkley, L.C. & Thisted, R.A. (2006). Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: Cross-sectional & longitudinal analyses. Psychology and Aging, 21, 140–51



PART 2  Dimensions of health and wellbeing

Corsaro, W.A. (2009). Peer culture. In J. Qvortrup, W.A. Corsaro & M.-S. Honig (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Childhood Studies (pp. 301–15). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ——— (1985). Friendship and Peer Culture in the Early Years. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Corsaro, W.A. & Molinari, L. (1990). From seggiolini to discussione: The generation and extension of peer culture among Italian preschool children. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 3(3), 213–30. Cromdal, J. (2001). Can I be with? Negotiating play entry in a bilingual school. Journal of Pragmatics, 33(4), 515–43. Cummins, J. (2007). Rethinking monolingual instructional strategies in multilingual classrooms. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique appliquée, 10(2), 221–40. Danby, S. (2008). The importance of friends, the value of friends, friendships within peer cultures. In L. Brooker & M. Woodhead (eds), Developing Positive Identities: Diversity and young children (pp. 36–41). Milton Keynes: Open University Press. ——— (1998). The serious and playful work of gender: Talk and social order in a preschool classroom. In N. Yelland (ed.), Gender in Early Childhood (pp. 175–205). London: Routledge. Danby, S. & Baker, C.D. (2000). Unravelling the fabric of social order in block area. In S. Hester & D. Francis (eds), Local Educational Order: Ethnomethodological studies of knowledge in action (pp. 91–140). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Danby, S., Ewing, L. & Thorpe, K. (2011) The novice researcher: Interviewing young children. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(1), 74–84. Danby, S. & Farrell, A. (2004) Accounting for young children’s competence in educational research: New perspectives on research ethics, Australian Educational Researcher, 31(3), 35–50. Danby, S. & Theobald, M. (eds) (2012). Disputes in Everyday Life : Social and moral orders of children and young people (Vol. 15). New York: American Sociological Association/ Emerald. Danby, S., Thompson, C., Theobald, M. & Thorpe, K. (2012). Children’s strategies for making friends when starting school. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37(2), 63–71. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR. Dunn, J. (2004). Children’s Friendships: The beginnings of intimacy. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Dunn, J., Cutting, A. & Fisher, N. (2002). Old friends, new friends: Predictors of children’s perspective on their friends at school. Child Development, 73(4), 621–35. García-Sánchez, I. (2017). Friendship, participation and multimodality in Moroccan immigrant girls’ peer groups. In M. Theobald (ed.), Friendship and Peer Culture in Multilingual Settings (pp. 1–32). London: Emerald. Hartup, W.W. (1992). Having friends, making friends, and keeping friends: Relationships as educational contexts. ERIC Digest. Retrieved 9 January 2020 from https://eric.

CHAPTER 14  Friendships

International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech (2012). Multilingual Children with Speech Sound Disorders: Position paper. Bathurst, NSW: Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE), Charles Sturt University. James, A. (1993). Childhood Identities: Self and social relationships in the experience of the child. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Kostenius, D. & Ohrling, K. (2008). ‘Friendship is like an extra parachute’: Reflections on the way schoolchildren share their lived experience of well-being through drawings. Reflective Practice, 9(1), 23–35. Ladd, G.W. (1990). Having friends, keeping friends, making friends, and being liked by peers in the classroom: Predictors of children’s early school adjustment? Child Development, 61(4), 1081–100. Laursen, B., Bukowski, W.M., Aunola, K. & Nurmi, J. (2007). Friendship moderates prospective associations between social isolation and adjustment problems in young children. Child Development, 78(4), 1395–404. Lawrence, D., Johnson, S., Hafekost, J., Boterhoven De Haan, K., Sawyer, M., Ainley, J. & Zubrick, S.R. (2015). The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Canberra: Department of Health. Maynard, D.W. (1985). On the functions of social conflict among children. American Sociological Review, 50(April), 207–23. Pica-Smith, C., Antognazza, D., Marland, J.J. & Crescentini, A. (2017). A cross-cultural study of Italian and US children’s perceptions of interethnic and interracial friendships in two urban schools. Cogent Education, 4(1), 1280255. doi:10.1080/2331186X.2017.1280255 Piker, R.A. (2013). Understanding the influences of play on second language learning: A microethnographic view in one Head Start preschool classroom. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 11(2), 184–200. Rendle-Short, J. (2003). Managing interaction: A conversation analytic approach to the management of interaction by an 8-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 13(2), 161–86. Svahn, J. & Evaldsson, A.-C. (2012). ‘You could just ignore me’: Situating peer exclusion within the contingencies of girls’ everyday interactional practices’, Childhood, 18(4), 491–508. Theobald, M., Bateman, A., Busch, G., Laraghy, M. & Danby, S. (2017). ‘I’m your best friend’: Peer interaction and friendship in a multilingual preschool. In M. Theobald (ed.), Friendship and Peer Culture in Multilingual Settings (pp. 171–96). London: Emerald. Theobald, M., Busch, G. & Laraghy, M. (forthcoming). Children’s Views of Friendship in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Settings. ——— (2019). Children’s views and strategies for making friends in linguistically diverse English medium instruction settings. In I. Liyanage & T. Walker (eds), Multilingual Education Yearbook 2019: Media of instruction and multilingual settings (pp. 151– 74). Switzerland: Springer. Theobald, M. & Danby, S. (2012). A problem of versions: Laying down the law in the school playground. In S. Danby & M. Theobald (eds), Disputes in Everyday Life: Social and moral orders of children and young people. New York: Emerald.



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Thorpe, K., Danby, S., Hay, D. & Stewart E. (2006–08). Compromised or Competent: A longitudinal study of twin children’s social competencies, friendships and behavioural adjustment. CSIRO. Project ID: DP0666254. Thorpe, K., Staton, S., Morgan, R., Danby, S. & Tayler, C. (2010). Testing the vision: Preschool settings as places for meeting, bonding and bridging. Children and Society, 26(4), 328–40. Thorpe, K., Tayler, C.P., Bridgstock, R.S., Grieshaber, S.J., Skoien, P.V., Danby, S.J. et al. (2007). Preparing for School: Report of the Queensland Preparing for School Trial 2003/04. Brisbane: School of Early Childhood, Queensland University of Technology. Tomada, G., Scheider, B.H., de Domini, P., Greenman, P.S. & Fonzi, A. (2005). Friendship as a predictor of adjustment following a transition to formal academic instruction and evaluation. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29(4), 413–22. Watson, J. & Hua, H. (2017). Intercultural learning and friendship development in short-term intercultural education programmes. In M. Theobald (ed.), Friendship and Peer Culture in Multilingual Settings (pp. 231–52). London: Emerald.




Wendi Beamish and Fiona Bryer

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Explore the concepts of social and emotional competencies. • Explain why social and emotional learning (SEL) is important in the early years of schooling. • Appreciate how SEL is framed for education. • Describe how SEL can be taught in classrooms. • Recognise why professional learning and development are essential.


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INTRODUCTION This revised chapter builds on two previous versions (Beamish & Bryer, 2014; 2017). The first version introduced an emerging interest in social and emotional competencies, organised into the international Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework and its Australian application to the design of the personal and social capability (PSC) elements within the national curriculum. The second version introduced a general approach to an assess–plan–implement– Social and emotional evaluate cycle of teaching for SEL in the primary classroom. This competencies: the nonacademic skills and behaviours third version is focused on the early years: it provides more specific needed to make responsible coverage of recommended approaches to teaching for SEL, inspects decisions, recognise and manage one’s emotions, develop practices that can be embedded into everyday classroom activities empathy for others and show a and considers the trending mantra of student wellbeing. compassionate response to the In the chapter, five questions guide discussion and reflection on distress of others and oneself, and form positive relationships. teaching for SEL in the early years’ classroom: Related competencies may include disciplinary and other school concerns about negative experiences, such as teasing and bullying, exposure to trauma and mental health issues.

Developmental pathways and outcomes: pathways having two kinds of developmental outcomes: short-term (e.g. fewer problem behaviours and increased social connectedness and emotional wellbeing) and long-term (e.g. academic achievement, school adjustment and mental health). Teacher qualities: teachers’ experience, social and emotional competence and pedagogical skills. Classroom conditions: classroom culture and climate (e.g. healthy relationships and classroom management), and effective implementation of SEL (e.g. explicit skills in teacher instruction and formal and informal opportunities for students to practise these skills). Policy context: state, national and international policies relating to the development of student wellbeing and the teaching of social and emotional competencies.

1. What are social and emotional competencies? 2. Why is SEL important in the early years of schooling? 3. How is SEL framed? 4. How can SEL be taught in classrooms? 5. Why is professional learning and development essential? First, social and emotional competencies are described in teacher-­ friendly language. Second, a rationale is given for prioritisation of these competencies in early years’ classrooms. Third, the nature, types and uses of frameworks with particular connections to SEL in Australia are introduced. Fourth, an overview of the four major approaches and related practices that contribute to successful teaching for SEL comprises the largest section of this chapter. Fifth, the chapter concludes with an examination of the essential role of professional learning and development in improving wellbeing within a school community, student learning outcomes and professional sense of efficacy. The five questions address the importance of teaching for SEL as part of everyday classroom practice. Stephanie Jones and colleagues have provided a model by which teachers might understand the complex interactions between student social and emotional competencies and four other core components: (a) age-appropriate outcomes on tasks related to developmental pathways and outcomes, (b) teacher qualities, (c) classroom conditions, and (d) the current educational policy context (Jones & Bouffard, 2012). Jones and colleagues, moreover, are continuing to refine their model, to advocate for effective application in schools, and to provide a raft of professional development activities (see Easel Lab, n.d.).

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The first four core components of this model, which address the learning outcomes outlined above, are threaded throughout the chapter. While the policy component of the model is not directly concerned with SEL, it deserves a brief mention in this introductory section because it provides an understanding of the broader contextual influences on what should taught. It also outlines current recommendations about when, where and how it should taught. Moreover, current policy on student safety and wellbeing sets the occasion for making changes in educational systems (government and non-government) across this country. At the time of writing, each Australian state and territory has distinct clusters of legislation, policy and resources on student safety and wellbeing. The review of the National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) by the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training (2017) has highlighted educational policy positions for improving student wellbeing at state and national levels. Three other major Australian reviews and reports are supporting the case for improving student wellbeing in concert with national productivity. Developmental outcomes, national capability curriculum and mental health have been highlighted. Specific issues targeted in one review include children’s psychological and physical safety, health, learning and participation (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, 2014). A national strategy for implementing a 21st-century capability curriculum embraces personal and social capabilities as well as critical and creative thinking (Lucas & Smith, 2018). A third review examines the personal and community benefits of interventions to improve mental health (Productivity Commission, 2019). Each review has broad connections to the case for teaching social and emotional competencies in order to improve student safety and wellbeing in schools. The topics addressed in these reviews resonate with the guiding model developed by Jones and colleagues for the teaching and learning of social and emotional competencies.

WHAT ARE SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL COMPETENCIES? There is worldwide consensus about social and emotional competencies and the classification scheme originally described by the CASEL and used by Jones and colleagues in their model. Because these competencies are developmental in nature (Denham, 2018), they should be viewed as successes and failures on key tasks faced by the student at each age range, from early childhood through to adolescence, and into adulthood. The three primary dimensions of human development that contribute to competencies are cognition, emotion and social interaction. Students need to review their early global mix of thinking, feeling and behaviour, and acquire the skills to re-integrate these to deal effectively with the increasing complexity of daily tasks and life challenges encountered over time. Age-appropriate skills at any stage in development comprise cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies, with earlier skills acting as the building blocks for the development of new and more complex skills. Throughout their development, students improve on their responsible decision-­making (cognitive competence), their self-awareness and self-management (intrapersonal competence), and their social awareness and relationship skills (interpersonal competence).



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Cognitive competence involves the capacity to make constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across settings (home, school, community). Intrapersonal competence involves understanding and regulating one’s emotions and behaviours. Interpersonal competence involves compassion for others (empathy) and healthy relations with others (adults and peers). Moreover, teachers need to understand that cognitive development affects the learning of social and emotional competencies, and vice versa. Cognition drives academic learning and helps the student to make decisions, to process and express emotions, and to think and use words to guide actions appropriate to a situation.

Figure 15.1 Teachers’ social and emotional competencies contribute to student learning of social and emotional skills

WHY IS SEL IMPORTANT IN THE EARLY YEARS OF SCHOOLING? Teaching social and emotional competencies in the early years of schooling fits well with the established approaches and practices of early childhood teachers whose training and experience are focused on the development of the whole child, a wide range of childresponsive pedagogical skills, and a natural and intuitive inclination to combine SEL with academic learning (Jones & Bouffard, 2012). Teachers of young children routinely use social and emotional situations to teach SEL informally. They use naturalistic strategies such as adult modelling and verbal coaching in teachable moments to build social and emotional skills in infants, toddlers and young children. Using these strategies well may require several years of actual classroom experience. Adding formal lessons progressively

CHAPTER 15  Teaching for social and emotional learning

through the early years can provide instructional supports for the teacher and strengthen the students’ understanding of the importance and usefulness of these competencies in their daily lives. For these reasons, early childhood teachers are well positioned to promote SEL formally as well as informally. They are ready to prevent problems in adjusting to school and to foster early academic achievement. Student success in early learning of essential social and emotional competencies is critical because it maximises the successful learning of more advanced social, emotional and academic skills. The new press for SEL in schools also may help to counter adverse effects of the current push-down of academic learning (e.g. phonics, desk work) into the early years’ classrooms. According to a 2019 national government initiative, Be You (Beyond Blue, 2018), early childhood teachers can help young children who are showing early signs of mental distress. They can (a) notice early signs of mental health issues in children, (b) inquire about child and family circumstances in a sensitive way and (c) provide support to families and offer referral for the child to outside mental health services. Research has shown that teachers’ own social and emotional competencies contribute to student learning of social and emotional skills. When the teacher interacts positively with the class, students respond positively to the teacher, and the teacher provides more encouragement for learning. This pattern of positive interaction creates a feedback loop (Jones & Bouffard, 2012; Jones et al., 2017). There is growing recognition that some teachers are more successful than others in responding to the social and emotional challenges faced by some students. When students struggle with core learning tasks such as understanding their emotions and interacting with others, they lose opportunities to learn, and their disruptiveness typically become frustrating to both their teacher and peers. Under these circumstances, a negative feedback loop can develop if the teacher responds negatively to the disruption, ignores the student and reduces efforts to interact with and teach that student. Successful early childhood teachers use positive feedback to help and guide their students toward better choices, calmer feelings and more socially desirable behaviours in their everyday interactions (Van Manen, 2007).

CASE STUDY 15.1  POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE FEEDBACK LOOPS Finn is 6 years old. Other children at his Year 1 group table are applying themselves to drawing models of farm animals, but Finn talks a lot about his drawing of a horse. He cheerfully waves his arms and legs while he describes feeding carrots to a Shetland pony and grabs an orange crayon from another boy to draw carrots. His teacher praises his interesting story, suggests adding more mane to the pony and reminds him to ask before taking. This is an example of a teacher responding positively to an unproductive behaviour, which encourages Finn’s continued participation in group activities while giving mild but explicit corrective feedback. What might a negative teacher response to this situation look like?



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HOW IS SEL FRAMED? SEL frameworks are tools that organise ideas and allow teachers to share ways of thinking with colleagues and families, setting learning goals for students and choosing courses of actions to implement SEL (Blyth, Jones & Borowski, 2018). These frameworks signal a positive investment in student development and in pro-social and preventative teaching. A clear framework informs instruction and SEL implementation by providing a system and common language for teaching efforts across the school and its year levels. At the present time, several lenses on SEL in Australian schools, provided by national professional bodies or federal education authorities, contribute separate views on what to teach and how to teach it. In Australia, the PSC framework within the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2013) provides a consistent way to talk about social and emotional competencies needed for student success. Table 15.1 shows the links of the PSC to the CASEL framework and its competencies (Zins et al., 2004). The PSC framework adopted self-awareness, self-management and Table 15.1  Connections between PSC and CASEL frameworks

ACARA (2013): PSC elements

CASEL (2004): SEL Competencies

Self-awareness Recognise emotions, recognise personal qualities and achievements, understand themselves as learners and develop reflective practice

Self-awareness Identifying and recognising emotions; accurate selfperception recognising strengths, needs and values; self-efficacy

Self-management Express emotions appropriately, develop selfdiscipline and set goals, work independently and show initiative, and become confident, resilient and adaptable

Self-management Impulse control and stress-management, selfmotivation and discipline, goal-setting and organisational skills

Self-awareness Appreciate diverse perspectives, contribute to civil society and understand relationships

Self-awareness Perspective-taking, empathy, difference recognition, respect for others

Social management Communicate effectively, work collaboratively, make decisions, negotiate and resolve conflict, and develop leadership skills.

Relationship management Communication, social engagement and relationship-building; working cooperatively; negotiation, refusal and conflict management; help-seeking Responsible decision-making Problem-identification and situation analysis; problem-solving; evaluation and reflection; personal, social and ethical responsibility

Sources: ACARA (2013); Zins et al. (2004).

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social awareness competencies directly from CASEL; it adapted relationship management into a social-­management element; and it absorbed competencies related to responsible decision-­making into the other four elements identified in the Australian framework (ACARA, 2013). Specific skills in these four elements are described in a PSC learning continuum from Prep to Year 10, with each skill also linked directly to skills in other PSC elements and in relevant learning areas of the Australian Curriculum. By specifically embedding SEL content into the core curriculum, ACARA is acknowledging that students need to achieve non-academic outcomes alongside academic success. However, close inspection of the PSC continuum to the end of Year 2 indicates that many of the proposed student outcomes far exceed the nationally recognised developmental tasks set for children in their first few years at school. Therefore, early childhood teachers being guided by this framework need to recognise that some of the proposed outcomes are unrealistic for some of their students, and instead they should provide learning ­experiences that are more foundational in nature (e.g. learn to follow social rules such as turn taking).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 15.1 Comparing terms within frameworks Compare the language used to describe the content of the ACARA PSC elements with CASEL SEL competencies. For example, what is the difference between ‘express emotions appropriately’ and ‘impulse control’? Does the meaning affect what teachers do?

However, the general content and focus of the PSC continuum to the end of Year 2 is aligned with the five student-centred outcomes identified for the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009), namely that children have a strong sense of identity, a connection with their world, a strong sense of wellbeing, confidence as learners and effective communication skills. In turn, EYLF is linked to the National Quality Framework for early childhood education and care (ACECQA, 2018) and its seven-part standard for ensuring high-quality services for children and their families. Another allied framework for Australian teachers to consider is the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), 2011). Two of the seven standards for teacher education and career



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progression are closely concerned with the safety and wellbeing of all students: Knowing students and how they think, feel and learn (Standard 1) and also Providing supports for student success in the classroom (Standard 4). Finally, a new framework for teachers to incorporate into their classroom practice is the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework (ASWF) (Education Services Australia, 2019a). This framework is the current national reference point for student safety and wellbeing, which views wellbeing and learning as inseparable (see Education Services Australia, 2019b). It responds to educational changes in schools and extends the previous National Safe Schools Framework. Moreover, ASWF seeks to encourage a common understanding of how to support student learning, safety, and wellbeing across the Australian Curriculum, AITSL standards, previous state and territory initiatives, and any emerging state adaptations of the ASWF. The ASWF identifies five elements and related principles that face school communities as they address the wellbeing and safety needs of students. The five guiding elements in this framework concern: 1. value for diversity and promotion of inclusion 2. active participation of students in their own learning 3. support for student safety and wellbeing though technology 4. professional learning to build teacher capacity in student safety, wellbeing, and positive learning outcomes for all students 5. partnering with families and communities. Recommended areas of practice also accompany these elements and principles. Professional learning modules for teachers and resources for student activities are to follow. Taken together, these four national frameworks (PSC linked to CASEL, EYLF, APST and ASWF) provide a megastructure for schools and teachers to deliver programs and practices that have the potential to achieve positive academic and social outcomes for all Australian students. Teachers need to be aware that, because these frameworks were developed for different reasons, they describe various features of wellbeing and social and emotional competence in fairly broad terms and combine these features in varying ways. Also, there are more pitfalls and challenges when national frameworks are adapted to state/territory versions. For example, one of the five ASWF features is active listening to student voice, yet the Queensland Department of Education does not include this important feature. Instead, it focuses on connections between wellbeing and learning (psychological, physical, cognitive, social and personal). In addition, Queensland’s Department of Education plans to develop a standardised measure of wellbeing based on such data as attendance rate, learning days lost due to student disciplinary absences and School Opinion Survey responses. Yet, European research into children’s wellbeing and children’s rights is focusing on assessing students’ perceptions of their own subjective sense of wellbeing (Casas, 2017). Cross-­national surveys indicate that niceness and kindness are valued by children who recognise that niceness begets more friends and that kindness leads to acceptance and inclusion.

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PAUSE AND REFLECT 15.2 Comparing frameworks • Map the features and connections across the PSC, EYLF, APST and ASWF Australian frameworks. • In the two child-focused frameworks (PCS and EYLF), compare the overlapping features (e.g. self-awareness and identity). • In the two teacher-focused frameworks (APST and ASWF), compare the overlapping features (e.g. APST 3.7 Engage with parents/caregivers and ASWF Partnerships).

HOW CAN SEL BE TAUGHT IN CLASSROOMS? Four approaches from the USA (Dusenbury at al., 2015) can be used to explicitly and systematically teach specific skills across the PSC learning continuum. One approach uses free-standing lessons that provide step-by-step instructions for teaching. The second approach identifies general teaching practices that create supportive conditions for classroom learning. A third approach guides school teams about how to teach SEL as a school-wide initiative. The fourth approach supports the teaching of social and emotional competencies within the context of the learning areas of the Australian curriculum. In summary, the first two approaches are classroom-based, the third is school-wide and the fourth is appropriate for year-level planning. Yet, these approaches are not completely independent. They share common needs for systematic and explicit planning and teaching of lessons. Four practices for effective SEL lessons have been recommended by Durlak et al. (2011). The acronym SAFE is used to identify this suite of practices.

SPOTLIGHT 15.1 SAFE practices Sequenced. New behaviours and more complicated skills usually need to be broken down into smaller steps and sequentially mastered. Active. Effective teaching emphasises the importance of active forms of learning. Focused. Sufficient time and attention need to be devoted to any task for learning to occur. Explicit. Clear and specific learning objectives are preferred over general ones.

APPROACH 1: FREE-STANDING LESSONS? This approach employs individual lessons that typically target the teaching of a specific skill in both small-group and whole-class situations. Ample opportunities need to be provided for students to receive guided practice and feedback on the new skills beyond



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the lesson and throughout the day, including during academic lessons. In most instances, skills need to be broken down into learning steps that are small enough to be readily managed (understood, imitated and reproduced) by students. Hence, this approach typically involves a series of free-standing lessons. Spotlight 15.2 shows the use of SAFE practices in relation to an example of lessons for teaching self-management of anger in different commercial packages. Such packages routinely apply SAFE practices to lessons devoted to selected SEL skills. They tend to break down the teaching of a skill into multiple lessons and learning steps; provide learning activities such as role-play, rehearsal and discussion in which students actively participate; allocate finite times for each step and activity within a lesson; and specify explicit objectives for each lesson. Therefore, inspection of lessons provided in these packages can provide models and materials for practicum lessons addressing particular classroom needs for SEL.

SPOTLIGHT 15.2 Application of SAFE to commercially available lessons in managing emotions SSIS Early Elementary

Skillstreaming Elementary

Lesson 4: Dealing with anger

Unit 8: Stay calm with others

Skill 36: Self-control (alternative to aggression)


Four-step skill: • Count backwards • Make if–then statements • Use self-talk • Self-evaluate action

Four-step skill: • Feel • Think • Talk • Do

Four-step skill: • Stop and count to 10 • Think about body feelings • Think about choices • Act


Role-play Activities Homework

Model and role-play Discuss video clips Homework

Model Practise & feedback Homework


Sixteen pages of scripts and transparencies on four activities: • Define anger • Describe control skills • Apply to negative and positive situations • Generalise

Ten pages on three lessons

Extensive coverage of teaching procedures

Timed sequence of activities and scripts: • Tell (4 mins) • Show (4 mins) • Do (7 mins) • Monitor (2 mins) • Practise (4 mins) • Generalise (4 mins)

Three pages of skill outline and two practice sessions

SAFE practices Strong Kids K–2

Link to relaxing skill

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SSIS Early Elementary

Skillstreaming Elementary

Lesson 4: Dealing with anger

Unit 8: Stay calm with others

Skill 36: Self-control (alternative to aggression)

Understand anger (Identify triggers, Think about situation and Recognise emotion)

Control temper in conflict Use skill to identify with peers feeling when angry or upset Identify what ­triggers anger and use Sometimes delay dealing ­anger-reduction skills with problem when upset

SAFE practices Strong Kids K–2


Manage aggression (Choose action, Act & Review consequence)

Sources: Elliot & Gresham (2008); McGinnis (2012a); Merrell, Parisi & Whitcomb (2007).

APPROACH 2: GENERAL TEACHING PRACTICES This approach involves the use of general teaching practices that create classroom conditions for SEL while adapting the specific interactions and techniques to suit ageappropriate needs (Dusenbery et al., 2015). These practices are designed to establish positive social norms and foster teacher–student relationships. They include questioning that fosters student voice, encouraging student interests and strengths through choice of activities and inquiry-based learning, giving authentic feedback and involving families in a meaningful way in class activities. Spotlight 15.3 shows how CASEL (2017) has explicitly embedded these practices into sample teaching activities. Student objectives and lesson instructions are provided for each of its five core SEL competencies identified in Table 15.1, together with a range of ongoing teaching practices. These sample activities for the early childhood teachers and related K–2 materials provided by McGinnis (2012b) are recommended resources for lessons in early years practicum.

SPOTLIGHT 15.3 Sample teaching activities Self-awareness Accurately recognising one’s own feelings and thoughts and their i­ nfluence on ­behaviours Students will be able to … Correctly label their own emotions. Recognise that emotions are temporary and can and will change.




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What teachers can do in Lessons and Instruction Provide scenarios and ask students how each situation or experience might make them feel. Discuss age-appropriate physical and emotional cues of a certain feeling/emotion (i.e. the physical cues that help them know when they’re feeling angry, happy, sad etc.). What teachers can do through Ongoing Teaching Practices Routinely talk about physical and emotional cues that tell us how we’re feeling in different situations in age-appropriate ways. e.g., with younger children, ‘You’re feeling really excited right now, I can tell by the big smile on your face. How can you tell on the inside you’re feeling happy?’ Younger children can role-play the feelings of characters or their own feelings and talk about the way they look and feel.

Figure 15.2 Young child drawing and expressing an emotion

Self-management Regulating one’s emotions, cognitions and behaviours Students will be able to … Use awareness of emotions as a guide to decision-making. Exercise self-control.

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What teachers can do in Lessons and Instruction Lead students in an age-appropriate discussion of how to use their awareness of e ­ motions to guide decision-making. With younger children this might mean thinking about what adult they can ask for help or support when they are sad or angry. Teach effective, age-appropriate self-management techniques (belly breathing, yoga, counting to 10, self-talk, relaxation exercises, mental rehearsal). What teachers can do through Ongoing Teaching Practices Establish a separate space in the classroom for individual self-management (e.g. cozy corner, happy place, cool-down corner, reading corner). Give students age-appropriate, authentic praise for self-management (e.g. ‘I saw the way you waited your turn just now [e.g. to hold the bunny, to look in the microscope]. I know you were excited and it was hard to do, but I saw you take a breath. I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself.’). Source: CASEL (2017, pp. 3–7).

APPROACH 3: SCHOOL-WIDE INITIATIVE This approach involves the delivery of SEL instruction through school-wide investment in policies, organisational structures and resources. This formal and ongoing investment enables sharing of responsibility for SEL curriculum development, implementation and monitoring across staff within a school. It also fosters differentiated Multi-tiered system of instruction across a multi-tiered system of supports (McIntosh & supports: a comprehensive Goodman, 2016). system implememented across a Multi-tiering acknowledges that the needs of most students can school to meet the SEL needs of all students. The system typically be met through explicit and purposeful classroom teaching (unicomprises three levels: universal; versal). However, it recognises that, to become more successful needed by most students; targeted, needed by some learners, some students require more focused, small-group instudents; and intensive, needed struction (targetted) and that a few students need personalised by a few students. teaching (intensive). For example, anxiety can be addressed in most learners through instructional support (e.g. explicit teaching, immediate feedback). Some students may not respond to this universal, tier 1 support and may require targetted group coaching in emotional skills development. A few students may require intensive intervention with personalised plans developed through education–health– family partnerships. The school-wide approach harnesses the advantages of teacher learning communities and scales up the opportunities for learning success (Hattie, 2015). Adoption of this approach means that a school can respond meaningfully to the contextual needs of their community; better catering to learning needs within the school boosts student academic and socio-behavioural outcomes. Successful adoption relies on a school-wide infrastructure that includes committed leadership and sufficient resources, documented


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decision-making procedures and data-gathering tools, as well as staff training and collaboration (Anderson & Borgmeier, 2010). Thus, the school-wide approach with effective infrastructure means that teachers are better supported to implement SEL instruction within a class (Tier 1), SEL groupings across the school (Tier 2) and individualised SEL teaching (Tier 3).

CASE STUDY 15.2  TIER 3 EXAMPLE All children have to deal with feeling angry and acting on this emotion. When this emotion is frequent, intense and complex, the situation demands immediate and ongoing teacher attention for a few children. While Ryan has commenced Year 1, he has not yet learnt to control his anger and handle everyday disappointments. His teacher searches on the website of the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL, n.d.) for a specific strategy to help this child and finds the Turtle Technique. She finds an article by Joseph and Strain (2003), which outlines the four-step procedure for using this strategy, together with a cartoon visualising these steps for Ryan to follow. How might you talk to Ryan about the consequences for him and others in acting out this feeling in a negative way? How might you explain that curling up inside a turtle shell means that he can relax for a few moments, take three deep breaths to relax and then think of a better choice for responding to the situation (e.g. ignore the person, ask the teacher for help).

APPROACH 4: INTEGRATION This approach integrates SEL within the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum. This integration needs to be both systematic and coordinated across schools and their yearlevel planning teams. It is likely that key personnel, such as the head of curriculum and coordinator of wellbeing and behaviour, will need to lead this work as they are primarily concerned with planning and overseeing the development and implementation of the school’s curriculum. Initially, it is likely that PSC capabilities will be integrated into Health and Physical Education (HPE) as it is the most opportunistic learning area for explicitly teaching for SEL. The challenge will be to reconcile the new PSC content and processes with the HPE achievement standards. Because PSC is a general capability of the Australian Curriculum, social and emotional skills should be taught across all learning areas, at every stage of a student’s education, in line with their individual learning needs. Actual progress to integrate PSC with these learning areas (i.e. English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, the Arts, Technologies and Languages) may occur at different paces. Whatever the case, authentic integration demands that teachers deliver SEL across all curriculum learning areas and in the classroom on a daily basis.

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PAUSE AND REFLECT 15.3 Comparing approaches to teaching SEL Drawing from your experience at your most recent school placement, share and discuss with your group the approach or combination of approaches to teaching SEL that you observed.

WHY IS PROFESSIONAL LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT ESSENTIAL? Since wellbeing and SEL are fresh items on the educational agenda, it is to be expected that change and reform at the school and classroom levels will take time and effort. It is internationally understood that there is a serious policy-to-practice gap between new educational ideas, guidelines for implementation into classroom practice and teacher professional learning and development. In Australia, there are efforts to bridge the gap between framework priorities and teaching for SEL in schools. For example, some educational regions are introducing wellbeing coaches, and some schools are introducing internal instructional coaches. The trending topics of mental health and wellbeing for both students and staff across many national conferences and seminars indicate the growing awareness and perceived need for action in these areas. These professional learning opportunities deliver information passively and without follow-up into the classroom. Classroom-based and teacherled activities are more likely to change teacher practice and ultimately improve student outcomes in SEL. For example, online professional learning communities and in-school discussion groups create meaningful opportunities for active networking, collaborative learning, reflection on practice and a culture of continuous improvement. At this time, individual teachers need to carry the responsibility for investing time and effort into professional learning activities related to SEL and for selecting those activities most relevant to their own practice and to their class needs. For preservice teachers, one way to prepare to be workplace ready for SEL teaching is to explore recognised websites with their wide array of multimedia materials (see Spotlight 15.4).

SPOTLIGHT 15.4 Recommended websites • Be You, a national mental health initiative for Australian educators • Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL)




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• Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) • The Ecological Approaches to Social Emotional Learning (EASEL) Laboratory

CONCLUSION SEL is a fundamental part of curriculum because it prepares students to work, live and participate in an increasingly complex and changing world. The key points highlighted in this chapter are that: 1. Social and emotional competencies continue to develop throughout the life of each student. As skills and related knowledge are acquired, students are better able to (a) manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, (b) apply these increasing capabilities to protect their own safety and wellbeing, and (c) achieve academic and non-academic success. 2. Early childhood teachers need to appreciate that social and emotional competencies taught in the early years provide a solid foundation for positive interactions within the classroom and for continuing success throughout schooling. They also need to appreciate that positive child-responsive interactions prevent negative feedback loops. 3. Four approaches can be used by early childhood teachers to systematically teach for SEL. All approaches employ SAFE criteria to plan, implement and evaluate lessons. 4. Professional learning for SEL should be an essential part of both initial teachereducation programs and in-service training activities. Teachers qualified specifically for the early years’ classroom are likely to have the most extensive preparation in observational method and the documentation helpful for understanding each student, knowledge of their early development and learning, and practical experience in managing socio-emotional situations as they arise (e.g. when students fight, don’t share, are dependent and anxious, or angry and quick to tantrum, and act before they think). SEL websites provide valuable support to teachers’ capacity building.

QUESTIONS 15.1 Why is it important to teach the four PSC elements of social and emotional competence in the early years’ classroom? 15.2 How does the ASWF strengthen the delivery of PSC elements in early years’ classrooms? 15.3 Are opportunities for professional learning about teaching for SEL more available through professional organisations (conferences and workshops) and online sites than through university based programs (undergraduate and postgraduate)?

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REFERENCES Anderson, C.M. & Borgmeier, C. (2010). Tier II intervention within the framework of schoolwide positive behaviour support: Essential features for design, implementation, and maintenance. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 3(1), 33–45. Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) (2018). Guide to the National Quality Framework. Retrieved from guide Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2013). Personal and Social Capability. Retrieved from Australian Government, Department of Education and Training (2017). Review and Update of the National Safe Schools Framework 2017. Retrieved from https:// Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Ltd (AITSL) (2011). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from standards Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) (2014). The Nest Action Agenda: Improving the wellbeing of Australia’s children and youth while growing our GDP by over 70%. Retrieved from item/182 Beamish, W. & Bryer, F. (2017). Teaching for social and emotional learning. In S. Garvis & D. Pendergast (eds.), Health and Wellbeing in Childhood (2nd edn, pp. 197–209). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ——— (2014). Assessment and programming for social and emotional learning. In S. Garvis & D. Pendergast (eds), Health and Wellbeing in the Early Years (pp. 163–177). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. Beyond Blue (2018). Be You. Educators handbook: Early learning services. Retrieved from Blyth, D.A., Jones, S. & Borowski, T. (2018). SEL Frameworks: What are they and why are they important? CASEL Framework Briefs, Introductory Series (1 of 3). Retrieved from Casas, F. (2017). Children’s subjective wellbeing and children’s rights: New research giving relevance to children’s perspectives. Developing Practice, 47, 96–110. Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) (n.d.) (Website). Retrieved from Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) (2017). Sample Teaching Activities to Support Core Competencies of Social and Emotional Learning. Retrieved from Denham, S. (2018). Keeping SEL Developmental: The importance of a developmental lens for fostering and assessing SEL competencies. CASEL Framework Briefs, Special Issues Series. Retrieved from Frameworks-DevSEL.pdf



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Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being & Becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR. Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D. & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–32. Dusenbury, L., Calin, S., Domitrovich, C. & Weissberg, R.P. (2015). What Does Evidencebased Instruction in Social and Emotional Learning Actually Look Like in Practice? Retrieved from Easel Lab, Harvard Graduate School of Education (n.d.). Ecological Approaches to Social Emotional Learning (Website). Retrieved from Education Services Australia (2019a). Australian Student Wellbeing Framework. Retrieved from ——— (2019b). Student Wellbeing Hub (Website). Retrieved from https:// Elliott, S.N. & Gresham, F.M. (2008). SSIS Classwide Intervention Program: Teacher’s guide. Minneapolis, MN: NCS Pearson. Hattie, J. (2015). What Works Best in Education: The politics of collaborative expertise. Retrieved from Jones, S.M., Barnes, S.P., Bailey, R. & Doolittle, E.J. (2017). Promoting social and emotional competencies in elementary school. The Future of Children, 27, 49–71. Jones, S.M. & Bouffard, S.M. (2012). Social and emotional learning in schools: From programs to strategies: Social policy report. Sharing Child and Youth Development Knowledge, 26(4), 1–22. Joseph, G.S. & Stain, P.S. (2003). Comprehensive evidence based social-emotional curricula for young children: An analysis of efficacious adoption potential. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23(2), 65–76. Lucas, B. & Smith, C. (2018). The Capable Country: Cultivating capabilities in Australian education. Mitchell report No. 03/2018. Retrieved from http://www.mitchellinstitute McGinnis, E. (2012a). Skillstreaming the Elementary School Child: A guide to teaching prosocial skills (3rd edn). Champaign, IL: Research Press. ——— (2012b). Skillstreaming in Early Childhood: A guide to teaching prosocial skills (3rd edn). Champaign, IL: Research Press. McIntosh, K. & Goodman, S. (2016). Integrated Multi-tiered Systems of Support: Blending RTI and PBIS. New York: Guilford Press. Merrell, K.W., Parisi, D. & Whitcomb, S.A. (2007). Strong Start – Pre–K. A social and emotional learning curriculum for students in Grades K–2. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

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Productivity Commission (2019). The Social and Economic Benefits of Improving Mental Health. Productivity Commission Issues Paper. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from mental-health-issues.pdf Van Manen, M. (2007). Reflectivity and the pedagogical moment: The practical-ethical nature of pedagogical thinking and acting. Reprinted in I. Westbury & G. Milburn (eds), Rethinking Schooling. London: Routledge. Originally published in 1992 as Reflectivity and the Pedagogical Moment: The normativity of pedagogical thinking and acting. The Journal of Curriculum Studies, 23(6), 507–36. Zins, J.E., Weissberg, R.P., Wang, M.C. & Walberg, H.J. (eds) (2004). Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What does the research say? New York: Teachers College Press.




Susan L. Whatman

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Explore how health, physical activity and wellbeing are affected by educational disadvantage. • Identify key international and national requirements to promote health, physical activity and wellbeing in the early years. • Discuss the importance of community partnership in taking a strengths-based approach to the promotion of health, physical activity and wellbeing. • Critique two case studies illustrating successful school–community partnership approaches to health, physical activity and wellbeing with early years learners.

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INTRODUCTION This chapter focuses on how early years’ educators can foster Educationally disadvantaged: having unequal educational wellbeing through learning in health and physical education. opportunity, resulting from There are many children in Australia attending school who are schooling which fails to account educationally disadvantaged, meaning they often derive the for, or makes assumptions about, sociocultural and economic least benefit from the education system in Australia. They may contexts and other broader include children from low socio-economic urban fringes, migrants, structural inequalities, such as limited access to resources refugees and asylum seekers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait (Lingard, Sellar & Savage, 2014). Islander children. This chapter is organised into sections that provide the background knowledge relevant to the health promotion and wellbeing of all early years’ learners, paying particular attention to students with backgrounds who for many reasons can be described as e­ ducationally disadvantaged. Recent policies that should guide educator decision-­ making across the dimensions of health and physical education and wellbeing are canvassed. Insights are given into the relationStrengths-based (salutogenic): an approach ship between recognition of culture and identity and educational to understanding health and rights, building resilience, safety and pride in the early years and physical education and wellbeing the educator’s role in fostering their development. While this that draws attention to the qualities, abilities and knowledge ­discussion does canvass some social and contextual factors underthat students already have pinning healthy development for children who experience disadand can further develop – a strengths-based approach. It vantage, the focus is on what you can do as a teacher to promote is a perspective on how to these dimensions from a strengths-based, or salutogenic, approach teach so that students may (Antonovsky, 1996; Quennerstedt, 2008; 2019). The chapter conlearn in ways that enrich their lives and strengthen them as cludes with a case study of how teachers can act locally and in healthy citizens, contributing to partnership with national and community level organisations to fasustainable community health development (Antonovsky, 1996; cilitate wellbeing in early years learners via the health and physical Quennerstedt, 2008; 2019). education learning area.

PROMOTING HEALTH, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND WELLBEING IN THE EARLY YEARS OF EDUCATION: OVERARCHING POLICIES Physical activity and wellbeing are typically addressed in the early years through whole-of-school approaches to health promotion and wellbeing, specifically through the health and physical education curriculum, such as where it appears in the Australian Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (AC: HPE). This section introduces overarching international policies that inform the design of learning experiences for the early years across many countries, as well as specific national policies that should inform design in Australia.


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UNITED NATIONS DECLARATIONS Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Under Article 29.1c: Education of the child shall be directed to … the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate and for civilizations different from his or her own.

Like many countries with a history of colonisation and migration, Australia has over 7 million migrants, representing 29 per cent of the population (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2018). Almost one-third of the population was born overseas: ‘every single country around the world … represented in Australia’s population’ (ABS, 2018). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are Australia’s Indigenous peoples, whose status as Traditional Owners and overall health and wellbeing have been devastated by colonisation. The rights of indigenous peoples around the world are enshrined in Article 14.1 of the United Nations Permanent Forum and Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that: Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

The key messages here are that home languages and ways of learning should be valued and supported in the early years. This might take the form of bilingual education programs where the population of students speaking language is substantial, such as in remote Aboriginal communities and large urban schools with significant refugee and migrant populations (Calma, 2008). Or it can be achieved through the inclusion of diverse learners’ languages in the pedagogies and material resources of the classroom, including the teacher’s personal language repertoire. This can be done through the inclusion of games and typical play activities, which can be sourced from their communities – see, for example, the Yulunga Indigenous Games website, listed at the end of this chapter.

OTTAWA CHARTER FOR HEALTH PROMOTION The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO, 1986) is a commitment by countries all around the world to improving the health of their citizens through eight basic rights or prerequisites: peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justice and equity. Health comprises not only a physical state, but also spiritual and psychological states, underpinned by access to, and achievement of, these basic rights. The relationships between health, education, income, home language and cultural background and social justice and equity are well discussed in the literature (Lonsdale, 2013; Lonsdale et al., 2016). The effects on early years learners are equally well documented – for example,

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the longitudinal study of Indigenous children, known as Footprints in Time (Department of Social Services, 2014), and the Poverty in Australia 2018 (Davidson et al., 2018). There is clear evidence that having English as the main home language and living in a twoparent, higher-income household aligns with better health and education outcomes (Davidson et al., 2018). Many early years’ learners do not live in such conditions, with 17.4 per cent of households where the main language is not English are considered impoverished (living on less than 50 per cent of the median income for Australians) compared to 11.1 per cent of English-speaking households (Davidson et al., 2018, p. 60). At the 60-per-cent median income mark, this figure jumps to 26.9 per cent, meaning that more than one-quarter of households in which English is not the home language is considered at or below the poverty line. The Poverty line: the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) most recent report from the Australian Council of Social Services defines the poverty line as when (ACOSS), Poverty in Australia 2018 (Davidson et al., 2018) reports individuals or families earn less than 50 per cent of the median that ‘there are just over 3 million people (13.2 per cent) living income in Australia. below the poverty line of 50 per cent of median income – including  Poverty gap: according to 739 000 children (17.3 per cent). In dollar figures, this poverty line the Organisation for Economic in 2018 works out to $433 a week for a single adult living alone; Co-operation and Development or $909 a week for a couple with 2 children’. This proportion of (OECD), the poverty gap is the ‘ratio by which the mean income the non-English speaking demographic on low income is greater of the poor falls below the than reported in the 2014 report, indicating that the poverty gap is poverty line. The poverty line is defined as half the median widening (ACOSS, 2014). household income of the total Many of these factors are systemic in nature, and beyond the population. The poverty gap immediate control of teachers; these are the responsibilities of govhelps refine the poverty rate by providing an indication of the ernments and communities to address. However, improving your poverty level in a country. This understanding of the effects of socio-economic circumstances upon indicator is measured for the total population, as well as for people early years learners’ capacity to be physically active and to develaged 18–65 years and people op their health and wellbeing provides a solid basis for deciding over 65. For example, the poverty what you can do in your professional practice to make a difference. gap in Australia is around 0.28, compared to Finland’s ratio of Educators and schools are interrelated stakeholders in all systemic 0.21 and the USA’s ratio of 0.38’ measures. (OECD, 2019) The role of schools in health promotion is acknowledged and supported by health-­promoting schools’ associations and movements around the world. In Australia, a health-promoting school is one that ‘implements policies and practices that respect an individual’s well-being and dignity, provides multiple opportunities for success, and acknowledges good efforts and intentions as well as personal achievements’ (Australian Health Promoting Schools Association (AHPSA), 2000, p. 8). To be a health-promoting school involves a whole-of-community approach that resonates well with the need to bring parent and community stakeholders into partnership with schools. Culturally safe support of students is highlighted as a key priority outcome in urban, rural and remote schools (AHPSA, 2000, p. 20), so these community partnerships are essential, no matter where your school is located. The connections between respecting one’s culture and identity, building opportunities and partnerships for success, and acknowledging


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different ways of doing things are well-argued. Health and wellbeing from a ‘healthpromoting’ approach then comprises not only opportunities for early years learners to be physically active, but also to ‘be’ who they are, which is as a member and extension of their community.

THE AUSTRALIAN EYLF The EYLF (DEEWR, 2009) states that: ‘[c]hildren belong first to a family, a cultural group, a neighbourhood and a wider community. Belonging acknowledges children’s interdependence with others and the basis of relationships in defining identities. In early childhood, and throughout life, relationships are crucial to a sense of belonging.’ (p. 7). For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners, Martin (2012, p.  27) describes such relationships, or ‘relatedness’, as being the ‘ultimate premise of Aboriginal worldview and critical to the formation of identity’. Relatedness sustains ancestral, social, physical and spiritual aspects of a child’s family, clan and community. Martin (2012, p. 28) notes that it is through the daily practices and activities of a community with which children engage that relatedness becomes known and enacted. The EYLF states that the development of children’s wellbeing requires sensitivity to their emotional states, their sense of place and belongingness, and provision of safe learning environments, which in turn develop children’s sense of self-efficacy, resilience and willingness to learn more.

MELBOURNE DECLARATION ON EDUCATION GOALS FOR YOUNG AUSTRALIANS The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), 2008) is particularly concerned with improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged young Australians, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds (p. 10). Targetted support for early years learners may take many forms, but in terms of promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing, schools need to invest in providing students with opportunities to learn about how to build upon their individual and community strengths (McCuaig, Quennerstedt & Macdonald, 2013), to participate in physical activity without the financial constraints of commercialised provision of sports and recreation, or of cultural insensitivity, and to be nurtured as young learners in safe and supportive environments.

ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER EDUCATION POLICY It is particularly important to become familiar with Indigenous education policies, as these extend beyond general appreciation of the effects of socio-economic disadvantage upon Indigenous learners to valuing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges and world-views, and community partnerships in educational decision-making. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy (Department of Education and Training, Australian Government (DET), 2015) was developed after many years of

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intensive consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators, communities and education providers. The national plan builds upon a long history – since the federal Education Department published the National Aboriginal Education Plan (NAEP) in 1989 – of lobbying by Indigenous communities around Australia for a unified commitment and approach to funding and development of education for Indigenous children (Whatman & Duncan, 2012, p. 127). Figure 16.1 illustrates the priority areas from the National Strategy upon which teachers can focus when designing curriculum and learning experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander early years learners.






All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people will achieve their full learning potential, are empowered to shape their own futures and are supported to embrace their culture and identity as Australia’s First Nation peoples.


Figure 16.1  Priority areas of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy, Version 3 Source: DET (2015). Reproduced with permission from Education Services Australia.

The central cycles of ‘Culture and Identity’ and ‘Partnerships’ give direction to teachers, school administrators and education departments on why and how to develop learning experiences for Indigenous Australian and other early years learners. Furthermore, the interdependencies illustrated in Figure 16.1 assist teachers to consider what they could adopt at the local level and what requires institutional support or external partners.



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Figure 16.1 shows the complex interplay between stakeholders in Indigenous education, which represents sites of contrast and, often, tension between priorities for education, and opportunities for contrasting perspectives to support common goals. Nakata (2011) describes this overlapping space as the ‘cultural interface’. For example, literacy, numeracy and attendance may be regarded as the most important outcomes in the plan by school administrators and Education Department staff whose daily work consists of collecting data on such outcomes. How these outcomes are to be achieved may be conceptualised in a totally different way by someone who believes that engagement and connection are the most important outcomes, from which literacy and numeracy will develop. Figure 16.1 shows that these priority areas are important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and communities throughout the year levels, but the focus will be on different aspects at different times. In the early years, the focus is most definitely on transitions and building readiness for school.

UNDERSTANDING HOW CULTURE, IDENTITY, SAFETY AND PRIDE PROMOTE HEALTH, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND WELLBEING Cultural safety: a constantly negotiated process incorporating the ongoing development of cultural awareness and sensitivity by care and service providers of children and young people; a locally defined understanding of cultural safety from the perspective of the care recipients emerges through this process (Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), 2018).

In this section, the intersections between culture and identity, cultural safety in the classroom and pride in cultural background are discussed to illuminate their importance in promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing in the early years. Three case studies are provided as examples to showcase the effects upon health, physical activity participation and overall wellbeing, both negative and positive, when educators do (or do not) pay close attention to the cultures, identities, lives and realities of young learners in their care.

CULTURAL SAFETY IN THE CLASSROOM Culture comprises many things, including language, daily practices, beliefs, laws, relationships and locality. Culture is neither fixed nor totally fluid  – it is enduring yet shifting; culture is developed by the experience of the everyday. It is affirmed by seeing yourself and your family in the everyday experience. Consequently, it is also challenged by not seeing yourself and your family in the everyday experience. It is clear, then, that building a safe learning environment that affirms children’s cultures and identities must be achieved through the inclusion of community people in educational decision-making, bringing educators into contact with their perspectives and knowledges. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s briefing paper on cultural safety with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people (AHRC, 2018) notes that cultural safety emerges out of a constantly evolving process; first, by having cultural awareness, defined as understanding that differences exist (2018, p. 4). Second, care providers need to possess cultural sensitivity, which means that they understand and accept the legitimacy of difference and consider the effects of their own cultural positioning

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and life experiences upon the children with whom they work. Cultural safety then is negotiated out of these steps and ultimately defined by the recipients of care or services themselves (AHRC, 2018, p. 4). In other words, culturally safe practices can never be assumed or transplanted from elsewhere – they need to be developed out of respectful relationships between teachers and students and the communities in which they learn and work, which requires deep knowledge of one another (Martin, 2012).

RECOGNISING EPISTEMOLOGICAL VIOLENCE To better understand how you as a teacher build and promote cultural safety each and every day in class, you need to consider the consequences of not doing so. School is often the site of Indigenous early years learners’ first experience Epistemological violence: the of epistemological violence. This means that the way they view interpretation of social evidence themselves and the world is challenged and questioned by other on ‘the Other’, produced (and early years learners in shocking ways and with real and traumatic experienced) when that evidence is hegemonically interpreted consequences. It is often the first time they comprehend that as showing or ‘proving’ the someone else believes there is something ‘wrong’ or ‘inferior’ inferiority or problematising of ‘the Other’ (Teo, 2010). with their identity and of being ‘Other’ (Teo, 2010). It is often the first enduring experience and memory of racism. For example, as illustrated in Spotlight 16.1, early years’ schooling experiences may be the first time a student hears racist name-calling and experiences irrational anger and disgust directed at them from students whom they regard as their peers. Acceptance by your peers of your culture, your language and your way of being in the world is essential to childhood wellbeing (Martin, 2012). Spotlight 16.1 presents an excerpt from Leesa Watego’s blog, Not Quite Cooked (Watego, n.d.), which illustrates the effects of epistemological violence on children, their families and the entire education system.

SPOTLIGHT 16.1 Recognising epistemological violence in schools ‘I wonder what Johnny’s mum was up to today’ Yesterday little ‘Johnny’ (not his real name) told my son that he ‘should go back to where he came from’ (among other things). That meant I was up at the office this morning discussing racism with the Deputy Principal. It wasn’t the first time that little Johnny expressed his disgust at my son’s apparent Asian-ness (apparently his surname is not Australian enough for little Johnny). The school response was fine. They took little Johnny to the guidance counsellor. But not only does little Johnny have no idea why what he said was racist, turns out there’re about five kids who have been saying a whole bunch of racist stuff (rather than Asianness being a problem, for them it was his Indigenous-ness) towards my boy for a couple of months.



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So it got me thinking … It occurred to me that after my – • drive to the school for an emergency conference with the Deputy Principal • talking to the Deputy an hour later with an ‘I’m sorry but it seems that it’s bigger than we imagined’ conversation • an hour or so digesting and absorbing the toxic pit of epistemological violence I send my son to each day • conference with husband over the phone about ‘what this means’ and ‘what do we do?’ • a few angry tears of frustration • a quick scroll around the Education Department’s website to look for a fact sheet or two about ‘what to do if your child is a victim of racism in our schools’ (and finding nothing) • a call to the Education Department’s Indigenous section who transferred me to a school community liaison officer who quickly suggested that I should simply peruse the bullying resources cause racism/bullying: ‘it’s basically the same’ • a few more angry tears of frustration • composing a letter to the Deputy Principal about my course of action • questioning and doubting myself (am I just being overly sensitive?) • picking up said son from school early, and • debriefing him about feelings, ideas, attitudes of Australians and the impact on him and us and Murris in general … … so after all that, I got to thinking ‘I wonder what little Johnny’s mum was doing today …?’ I wondered what she had the privilege of having to deal with today. I know I would rather have been doing something else. Racism sux. Source: Watego (2010). Reproduced with permission.

VALUING HOME LANGUAGES IN THE CLASSROOM An essential approach that supports and affirms the cultural identity of early years’ learners and their sense of belonging is the inclusion of their home languages wherever feasible in formal and informal learning settings. Not only do bilingual education programs outperform English-only language instruction, they also provide a natural opportunity for community participation and partnership in schools. Bilingual education programs are effective in promoting academic achievement, and sound educational policy should permit and even encourage the development and implementation of bilingual education programs (Calma, 2008, p. 1). Consider how bilingual programs, or programs that encourage the use of home languages in the classroom, involve parent helpers and are designed to meet EYLF curriculum outcomes, such as Outcome 4: ‘Children are confident and involved learners, who develop dispositions for learning through enthusiasm and persistence, transfer learning

CHAPTER 16  Strengths-based, community led approaches with disadvantaged children

from one context to another, [and] resource their own learning though connecting with people, place and natural materials’ (DEEWR, 2009, p. 34). The privileging of culture and cultural knowledge through the use of language affirms identity through the inclusion of community members in formal learning and simultaneously fulfills standard curriculum requirements of all early years’ learners.

PROMOTING HEALTH, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND WELLBEING THROUGH STRENGTHS-BASED (SALUTOGENIC), COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP APPROACHES Taking a strengths-based, or salutogenic, approach to wellbeing means regarding the attributes, characteristics, experiences and knowledges that individuals and communities have as strengths and resources rather than deficits. Quennerstedt (2008) applied this concept of salutogenesis to his critique of the physical education curriculum in Sweden. A strengths-based approach is a key proposition underpinning the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (AC: HPE). The Australian Curriculum more broadly has prioritised the inclusion of Asia-Pacific and Indigenous peoples’ perspectives and knowledges across every discipline (see Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2019). However, each discipline is tackling such perspectives and knowledges from ‘within’ the discipline, shaping its possibilities and therefore placing the limits around its potential. The AC: HPE, for example, suggests multiple points of access for the inclusion of these knowledges and perspectives, including exploring the importance of extended family and community, salutogenic or strengths-based approaches to community health development (McCuaig et al., 2013) and games from around the world as choices for physical activity, fitness and motor skill development (Leahy, O’Flynn & Wright, 2013). The challenges for embedding diverse cultural knowledges in your own teaching context are very similar to those facing policy writers seeking to determine ‘when’ and ‘where’ such knowledges ‘fit’ in the curriculum. You are responsible for developing essential school knowledge in young learners while validating their existing knowledges as they are introduced to the cultural and discursive practices of the discipline (Nakata, 2007). This requires you to see early years learners as more than empty vessels to be filled.

CASE STUDY 16.1  SUPPORTING THE WELLBEING OF REFUGEE STUDENTS This case study focuses upon how education providers, peers and the wider school ­community can support the resilience and wellbeing of refugee children. Specifically, developing an understanding of, and empathy for, the experiences of children whose families have sought a peaceful life in another country assists in supporting their sense of belonging, and social and emotional wellbeing. Too often, the stories of asylum seekers




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Figure 16.2 Ali and the Long Journey to Australia Source: Mervi Kaukko and students from Noble Park Primary School, in conjunction with Monash University. Animation by Clem Stamation. Production by Rodney Dekker and Lara McKinley.

are retold through the eyes of adults. Ali and the Long Journey to Australia (Monash Education, 2018) is a short video compilation of experiences of war, perilous journeys by sea and ‘being a refugee’ in Australia through the eyes of primary school children. Created through a partnership between Monash University and an urban primary school in Melbourne, it is a novel stop-motion animation that uses clay figures to tell the fictional, yet achingly real, story of ‘Ali’ and his long journey by boat to Australia. The project spanned 18 months and the 13 refugee children who participated wanted to create a book (and then a video) of their combined experiences. Kaukko and Wilkinson’s (2018) research showed that successful refugee learners find a way to use their experiences to help them learn, adapt and thrive in a new country. It speaks to the need for teachers to recognise these children’s experiences as having worth, as a strength and a foundation for learning, rather than an empty deficit to be ‘overcome’ with their Australian education. It helps to understand the children’s strategies for socialising and play, and to see it is a strength, rather than sign of withdrawal. For example, in the video project, the researchers found that early years’ refugee learners like to build ‘hiding places, nests and nooks, where they feel safe and happy’, important both for play and learning (Monash University, 2018). A teacher who does not empathise with or understand the children’s experiences may decide this kind of play is a sign that the children are not joining in or coping, and yet the research shows that the children are adapting their playground to increase their sense of belonging and safety. Ali and the Long Journey to Australia serves as a useful example of a salutogenic approach to teaching all early years’ learners. Kaukko and Wilkinson (2018) argue that resources can assist children to articulate their own experiences of being a refugee or to build empathy with peers through informative, persuasive or imaginative texts. It is part of a larger, Finnish–Australian research project ‘Educational Success through the Eyes of a Refugee Child’ by Kaukko and Wilkinson (2018), with additional work on the teaching resource by Anna Keary and Kay Rothstadt (Monash University, 2018).

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PAUSE AND REFLECT 16.1 Developing understanding and empathy Many early years’ learners in schools all around the world have experienced unimaginable trauma as displaced citizens. Witnessing extreme violence, separation from or death of family members and friends, and loss of their homes and belongings, are some (or all) of the traumatic events that refugee children have experienced. What aspects of ‘everyday’ practice in your school might be unsettling for children with this experience? Do other children in the class have the capacity to empathise with their journeys? What can you do to develop understanding and empathy among early years’ learners and staff about contexts so traumatic, complex and, generally, little understood?

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY The Australian Government established national guidelines for physical activity for children in 2004. It notes that children between the ages of 5 and 12 years need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and should not spend more than 2 hours a day using electronic media for entertainment (Department of Health, 2004). The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) (2014) notes that teachers should equate moderate physical activity with student ‘huffing and puffing’. It is not only their cardiovascular fitness that improves with physical activity, but key phases of motor learning and development are also facilitated and enhanced via ‘affordances’ obtained only through such activity. Gross and fine motor skills, coupled with hand–eye coordination, are typically established between the ages of 2 and 8 years (Haywood & Getchell, 2009) and can only be refined in physically active settings; for example, applied as sports skills, once they have been successfully established in the early years. A key issue for students who experience educational disadvantage is that their socio-economic status and/or geographic location and/or family care circumstances may affect their ability to pursue sport, physical activity and other motor learning affordances, particularly in these crucial early years. Access to weekend competitive club sport or afterschool recreation may be very limited, so the chance to develop their motor abilities and therefore their lifelong competence and confidence in physical activity (ACARA, 2015), may only occur in school time. A landmark study by Sallis and colleagues (1997) into the effects of a two-year, health-based, physical activity focused program for primary school students in the USA (the SPARK program) found that physical activity opportunities and fitness outcomes improved for girls when public schooling paid particular attention to health-based, rather than sport-based, learning opportunities. Recent research into physical activity in preschool settings (McEvilly, Atencio & Verheul, 2015) notes that educators cannot leave motor-skill acquisition up to early years



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learners’ ‘play time’. Educators need to structure outdoor play and actually play with the children, modelling the skills: … if you just keep throwing balls at children and letting them lie around, they’ll play with them, but they never actually get the skill of catching the ball, because they need an adult to do it with them … (p. 11).

It raises a key issue about incidental (or haphazard) physical activity, again which can disadvantage girls and all students from disadvantaged backgrounds. If educators assume that all young learners have equal opportunity to develop what Tinning (2010) described as ‘physical capital’, then the unequal outcomes that exist in wider society are unintentionally reproduced within schools. If boys over girls already are encouraged to pick up a ball and throw and catch outside of school, then this is what will happen within school. Meaningful physical activity, developed and delivered within a quality HPE curriculum by and with adults, is required to ensure girls and boys from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the opportunity to physically flourish, drawing upon principles such as respectful social interaction, challenge, fun, personally relevant learning and delight. (c.f. Beni, Fletcher & Ní Chróinín, 2017, p. 291; Meaningfulpe, 2019). Educators should also recognise that early years’ learners develop these skills at different rates for a range of reasons, including affordances. Burrows and Wright (2001) warn that primary physical education programs often operate from ‘a normative, hierarchical trajectory for child development (which) categorises, classifies and marginalises groups of children whose developmental patterns differ from those mapped out in the syllabus’ (p. 165). Key requirements for designing physical activity include to start from their existing capabilities then extend these, in order to give as much opportunity to improve these capabilities in school time and with school resources, and, as Beni and colleagues (2017) also argue, to make it as enjoyable as possible so that students whose developmental rates and interests vary are not marginalised from structured physical activity.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 16.2 Girls’ physical activity learning Have you watched girls and boys play in the playground? Do the girls have the same ‘affordances’ as the boys to develop their gross and fine motor skills through structured play? Through unstructured play? Knowing that deliberate planning, meaningful challenges and specific provision of opportunities in school time produce noticeable improvement in girls’ physical activity learning, what can you do to ensure the girls in your early years’ classes benefit from your allocation of daily learning time to AC: HPE curriculum outcomes?

CHAPTER 16  Strengths-based, community led approaches with disadvantaged children

CASE STUDY 16.2 A COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP APPROACH TO PROMOTING HEALTH AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN REMOTE REGIONS OF AUSTRALIA In 2005, the Western Australian (WA) government instigated an inquiry into the health benefits of projects providing public swimming pools for remote Aboriginal communities in WA and the Northern Territory (NT). The Education and Health Standing Committee visited the communities of Karalundi, Jigalong, Mugarinya, Burringurrah, Warmun, Balgo and Bidyadanga, the remote townships of Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing and the community of Wadeye (Port Keats) in the NT. Associated health, wellbeing, educational and social benefits were considered in the provision of the pools themselves, as well as in conjunction with programs run by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) under a co-funded national scheme to bring swimming pools to remote communities. This ongoing project is called the Remote Aboriginal Swimming Pools Project (RASPP). Six of these remote partner communities in WA implemented a ‘no school, no pool’ policy as a part of the RASPP (Cunningham-Dunlop, 2008; Juniper, Nimmo & Enkel, 2016) which, in some cases, showed increased school attendance, particularly in the 8–10 years age range, and particularly for girls on school days where pool activities were available (Juniper et al. 2016, p. 41). Otitis media (a persistent middle-ear infection also known as ‘glue ear’) and respiratory and skin infections affect significant numbers of children in remote communities, and the effect of the swimming pool programs on such afflictions has been specifically examined. Results indicate that the communities that have persisted with RASPP have seen significant reductions in ear problems and skin infections (Juniper, et al., 2016). Clearly, such an approach requires the educational partnership of schools and teachers to work, but it aligns very well with Recommendation 4 of the parliamentary report, that schools with access to swimming pools should consider including pool-related educational activities to enhance school attendance (Education & Health Standing Committee, Parliament of Western Australia, 2006), rather than making access to swimming a reward for school attendance (and, subsequently, prevention of swimming a punishment for non-attendance). The most recent evaluation of RASPP (Juniper et al., 2016) took a visual ethnographic, or ‘photovoice’, and yarning approach (Bessarab & Ng’andu, 2010) to gathering perspectives of community members and students who participated. The report documented many additional benefits to the community, including higher school attendance, lower rates of ear and skin infections, decreased rates of crime and better communication between the school, the pool staff and parents (Juniper et al., 2016).




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Figure 16.3 Student perspectives on the RASPP Source: Juniper et al. (2016), courtesy of Royal Life Saving WA.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 16.3 RASPP Consider further the effects and benefits for health, physical activity and wellbeing of community partnership programs like RASPP. Read the RLSS’s Photovoice Report (Juniper et al., 2016) and watch the video clip to consider the issue of pool access as reward or punishment for school attendance. If you were an educator at a similar school, would you instigate a ‘no school, no pool’ access policy, based on the evidence presented in this activity? Why or why not? Do the community benefits of the scheme outweigh the students’ right to unrestricted access to a public pool? (Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the video may contain images and voices of deceased persons).

CONCLUSION Being educationally disadvantaged should not consign young Australians to a lifetime of poor health and wellbeing or physical inactivity. Teachers of early years’ learners have an essential role and great examples to draw upon from communities around Australia of partnerships in overcoming educational disadvantage among early years’ learners. To develop early years learners’ confidence and resilience, and to establish important learning dispositions, these final three key points from Armstrong and colleagues (2012,

CHAPTER 16  Strengths-based, community led approaches with disadvantaged children

pp.  6–7) serve as a useful forward-thinking guide and strengths-based approach that teachers can employ with early years learners: • Build upon existing capacities in familiar, enjoyable and engaging tasks  – such as providing opportunities to demonstrate and develop visual–spatial awareness and fine motor skills with culturally familiar physical activity tasks. • Employ home language alongside Standard Australian English wherever possible – such as displaying posters and books and other multimedia resources that feature the home languages of students. • Bring family members into the school learning domain – to contribute to learning experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom. As practical as these approaches are, teachers themselves must have the capacity to come to know diverse student capacities, to appreciate what is familiar and enjoyable, and to be supported as they develop their own capacity to build solid relationships with parents and community members in order to bring the home and school learning domains closer together. This is where systemic support becomes essential and can take the form of professional development opportunities by employers or professional associations.

QUESTIONS 16.1 Why is it important for you to consider international policies such as human rights declarations and the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion in developing your teaching and learning approaches for early years’ learners who experience educational disadvantage? 16.2 Explain your understanding of promoting cultural safety. For example, learning and teaching approaches and whole-of-school approaches that affirm culture and identity. 16.3 What are three teaching and learning approaches that can assist you to take a strengths-based or salutogenic approach to promoting health, physical activity and wellbeing with educationally disadvantaged learners in the early years? 16.4 What future steps will you take to continue your professional learning journey to better understand educational disadvantage and design learning opportunities for those early years’ learners who continue to benefit least from schooling?

FURTHER READING Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation: www.achper This is the peak professional association for AC: HPE teachers in Australia. The website links to an extensive range of health and wellbeing resources.



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Critical Classroom Indigenous Education Resources: This website is curated by renowned Australian Indigenous educator Leesa Watego and is designed as a digital space to encourage teachers to seek out Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in educational resources. Learning about Meaningful Physical Education (LAMPE): www.MeaningfulPE This is a longitudinal research and teaching project funded in part by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Irish Research Council, focusing on ways to prepare future physical education teachers and coaches to foster meaningful engagement in physical activity through physical education and youth sport. Future directions will focus more specifically on primary/elementary schools. Roads to Refuge: Resources for Teaching Refugees: http://www.roads-to-refuge This is a project site co-funded and developed by the New South Wales Government, the University of New South Wales and the Centre for Refugee Research. It has helpful resources for myth-busting, developing empathy for the journey of people seeking asylum and learning more about the human rights of young people. Yulunga – Traditional Indigenous Games, Ausport: yulunga This resource is designed to encourage teachers and sports coaches to learn Indigenous games as a way to validate and appreciate Indigenous knowledges in these teaching and learning spaces.

REFERENCES Antonovsky, A. (1996). The salutogenic model as a theory to guide health promotion. Health Promotion International, 11(1), 11–18. Armstrong, S., Buckley, S., Lonsdale, M., Milgate, G., Bennetts Kneebone, L., Cook, L. & Skelton, F. (2012). Starting School: A strengths-based approach towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from http://research.acer Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2018). Australia’s Population by Country of Birth. 3412.0 Migration, Australia, 2017–2018. Retrieved 10 January 2020 from https://[email protected]/Latestproducts/3412.0Main%20Features22017-18 Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) (2014). (Website). Retrieved 3 May 2019 from Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) (2014). The Poverty Report. Strawberry Hills, NSW: ACOSS. Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2019). Crosscurriculum Priorities. (Website). Retrieved 10 January 2020 from https://www.acara ——— (2015). Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education. Rationale. Retrieved 10 January 2020 from health-and-physical-education/

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Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (2018). Cultural Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People: Cultural Safety Background Paper. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from Bessarab, D. & Ng’andu, B. (2010). Yarning about yarning as a legitimate method in Indigenous research. Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 3(1), 37–50. Beni, S., Fletcher, T. & Ní Chróinín, D. (2017). Meaningful experiences in physical education and youth sport: A review of the literature. Quest, 69(3), 291–312. Burrows, L. & Wright, J. (2001). Developing children in New Zealand school physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 6, 165–82. Calma, T. (2008). Keynote address: Bi-Lingual Education Programs. World Indigenous Peoples Conference, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, 9 December. Retrieved 3 July from Cunningham-Dunlop, E. (2008). No School No Pool. Perth: ABC Productions and Film and Television Institute, Western Australia. Retrieved 3 July 2016 .com/watch?v=uqZtQEe9maY Davidson, P., Saunders, P., Bradbury, B. & Wong, M. (2018), Poverty in Australia, 2018. ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership Report No. 2. Sydney: ACOSS. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Australian Government (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 3 July 2016 from Department of Education and Training, Australian Government (DET) (2015). National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy_v3. Canberra: DET. Retrieved 3 July 2016 from Department of Health, Australian Government (2004). Physical activity guidelines for children 5–12 years old. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 3 July 2016 Department of Social Services, Australian Government (DSS) (2014). Stepping Out: Findings from Wave 5 of Footprints in Time: The longitudinal study of Indigenous children (LSIC). Canberra: DSS. Retrieved 3 July 2016 from default/files/documents/02_2015/wave_5_community_booklet.pdf Education and Health Standing Committee, Parliament of Western Australia (2006). Swimming Pool Program in Remote Communities. Perth: Government Printer. Retrieved 3 July 2016 from .nsf/(Report+Lookup+by+Com+ID)/A412641A157BE6CD48257831003E9698/$file/ Report+on+Swimming+Pools+Final+Report.pdf Haywood, K. & Getchell, N. (2009). Lifespan Motor Development (5th edn). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Juniper, A., Nimmo, L. & Enkel, S. (2016). The Photovoice Project: Remote Aboriginal swimming pool research. Perth: Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from



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rlsswa/research-and-reports/royal0372_photovoice_project_report_digital. pdf?la=en&hash=6DF3A681BECEDBD4483B97761873391E06A484FF; see also video clip: Kaukko, M. & Wilkinson, J. (2018). ‘Learning how to go on’: Refugee students and informal learning practices. International Journal of Inclusive Education. Retrieved from Leahy, D., O’Flynn, G. & Wright, J. (2013). A critical ‘critical inquiry’ proposition in Health and Physical Education. Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 4(2), 175–87. Lonsdale, C., Lester, A., Owen, K.B., White, R.L., Moyes, I. & Peralta, L. et al. (2016). An internet-supported physical activity intervention delivered in secondary schools located in low socio-economic status communities. BMC Public Health, 16(17). Retrieved 3 May 2019 from articles/10.1186/s12889-015-2583-7 Lonsdale, M. (2013). Making a difference: Improving outcomes for Indigenous learners. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from Lingard, B., Sellar, S. & Savage, G. (2014). Re-articulating social justice as equity in schooling policy: The effects of testing and data infrastructures. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(7), 710–30. Martin, K. (2012). Aboriginal early childhood: Past, present and future. In J. Phillips & J. Lampert (eds), Introductory Indigenous Studies in Education: Reflection and the importance of knowing (pp. 26–35). Sydney: Pearson Australia. McCuaig, L., Quennerstedt, M. & Macdonald, D. (2013). A salutogenic, strengths-based approach as a theory to guide HPE curriculum change. Asia Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 4(2), 109–25. McEvilly, N., Atencio, M. & Verheul, M. (2015). Developing children: Developmental discourses underpinning physical education at three Scottish preschool settings. Sport, Education and Society. doi:10.1080/13573322.2015.1114917 Meaningfulpe (2019). Preliminary principles of meaningful physical education in schools. Lampe, 29 March blog post. Retrieved from https://meaningfulpe.wordpress. com/2019/03/29/preliminary-principles-of-meaningful-physical-education-inschools/ Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (2008). Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Melbourne: MCEETYA. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_ Australians.pdf Monash Education (2018). Ali and the Long Journey to Australia. (Film). Clayton, Vic.: Monash University. Retrieved from watch?v=FMuSHtBlCo0 Monash University (2018). New animated film created with primary school students from refugee backgrounds. 17 June. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from education/news/new-animated-film-created-by-refugee-children

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Nakata, N.M. (2011). Pathways for Indigenous education in the Australian Curriculum Framework. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 40, 1–8. ——— (2007). Disciplining the Savages: Savaging the disciplines. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2019). Poverty Gap (indicator). Retrieved 20 December 2019. doi:10.1787/349eb41b-en Quennerstedt, M. (2019). Healthying physical education: On the possibility of learning health. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 24(1), 1–15. ——— (2008). Exploring the relation between physical activity and health: A salutogenic approach to physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 13(3), 267–83. Sallis, J., McKenzie, T., Alcaraz, J.E., Kolody, B. et al. (1997). The effects of a two year physical education program (SPARK) on physical activity and fitness in elementary school students. American Journal of Public Health, 87(8), 1328–34. Teo, T. (2010). What is epistemological violence in the empirical social sciences? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(4–5), 295–303. Tinning, R. (2010). Pedagogy and Human Movement: Theory, practice, research. London: Routledge. Watego, L. (n.d.) Not Quite Cooked. (Blog). Retrieved from .au/ ——— (2010). I wonder what Johnny’s mum was up to today … Not Quite Cooked (blogpost) 14 October. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from au/ 2010/10/14/i-wonder-what-johnnys-mum-was-up-to/ Western Australia Health Promoting Schools Association (WAHPSA) (2020). Health Promoting Schools Framework. (Website). Retrieved 10 January 2020 from http:// Whatman, S. & Duncan, P. (2012). Learning from the past: In policy and practice. In J. Phillips & J. Lampert (eds), Introductory Indigenous Studies: Reflection and the importance of knowing (2nd edn, pp. 114–39). Sydney: Pearson Australia. World Health Organization (WHO) (1986). The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved 3 May 2019 from conferences/previous/ottawa/en/index.htm




Jennifer Cartmel, Marilyn Casley and Kerry Smith

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • • • •

Explore strategies to listen to children’s ideas. Explore how to facilitate conversations between children. Consider how children’s rights shape the strategies used in classroom communication. Define the difference between listening activities and understanding children’s perspectives. • Learn that children have different experiences of conversation patterns.

CHAPTER 17  Talking Circles

INTRODUCTION Through the process of talking to one another, children become creators of their own future as they collaborate and build relationships. Talking Circles are designed to encourage children to ask questions about their lives and how they can make a difference for themselves, each other and their community. This process helps to build the resilience and leadership skills of children. These qualities are important in helping children to consider their day-to-day challenges and contribute to their sense of wellbeing. Children experience many issues that can be interpreted in different ways. If we view children as strong, capable individuals who co-construct their experience, we as children’s services educators, in conjunction with parents, are teaching children the skills needed to live in contemporary times. This chapter explores a concept called Talking Circles, which can be used to build relationships with other children and adults, and help children understand their everyday experiences. The chapter begins by describing the structure and process of the Talking Circles. Next, it describes the importance of the Talking Circles to the wellbeing of children. Finally, it outlines the range of strategies that can be used within the Talking Circles to foster and support children’s abilities to engage in conversations with other children and adults. These strategies form the basis of the Talking Circles and, when used on a regular basis in school classrooms and child-care settings, have a profound influence on children’s wellbeing.

THE TALKING CIRCLE PROCESS The Talking Circle process is an effective way to build relationships both between adults and children, and between children. It is a process that helps to develop communication skills, including talking and listening, needed to build strong and responsive relationships between adults and children. Talking Circles provide children and adults with a safe environment in which to practise their relationship-building (Cartmel & Casley, 2014). Being provided with opportunities to develop relationships is critical to children’s wellbeing. The Talking Circle process strengthens children’s capacity to negotiate, problem-solve and show empathy towards their peers. Further, establishing and maintaining relationships is made possible in the Talking Circles through the capacity of the adult educator to create a safe space and the necessary time for children and adults to establish a sense of connection with each other.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 17.1 Classroom conversations Can you think of a time at school when you had a classroom conversation? What do you remember about the conversation? How did you feel during the conversation?



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Figure 17.1 Teacher and students engaging in a Talking Circle

The Talking Circle process is underpinned by a children’s rights perspective. The process is designed to help adults uphold children’s rights to participate in matters that affect them. Listening to children gives people the opportunity to understand children’s lived experiences, or in fact what their reality is about. A discussion about listening to children needs to consider also the notion of talking. In this context, Lundy (2007) conceptualises four elements to consider: ‘[C]hildren must be given the opportunity to express a view; children must be facilitated to express their views; the view must be listened to; the view must be acted upon, as appropriate’ (p. 933). This should be especially evident in the conversations held in the Talking Circle, as there needs to be a willingness to hear and understand each person’s experiences, knowledge and perspectives. This is imperative for each person to realise who they are and to understand their potential for responsible decision-making. These elements seem to be the key to developing leadership skills within individual children as well as their sense of belonging to a group or a community.

HOW THE TALKING CIRCLES BEGAN Socio-cultural development: the development of children occurs through relationships within the family, neighbourhood, community and society.

The development of the Talking Circles (Cartmel & Casley, 2010) concept was based on a guided conversation process that was mindful of the socio-cultural developmental characteristics of children. These circles helped undergraduate students to ‘get to

CHAPTER 17  Talking Circles


know’ children better by using a conversational process. Each semester, students were allocated to child-care services for work-based learning in field placements. In these settings, they undertook the guided conversations that became known as Talking Circles with children aged between 5 and 12 years. Each university student was the designated educator of the Talking Circle conversation, which encouraged children to learn to look within themselves to identify their inherent capabilities and discuss their everyday experiences. Children learn to organise their worldviews through interaction with others (Ulvik, 2014; van Nijnatten, 2013). These views are supported through the development of trusting relationships between adults and children. The voices of children are heard in the exchange of thoughts, and children are given the opportunity to present and negotiate their identities. Consequently, in the conversations, children were able to develop a sense of agency Agency: a child has agency when they have influence over and take an active role in what happened to them and the decisions things that happen to them; their made for them. They developed perspectives about their past and thoughts are heard and they are given the capacity to negotiate. present, and were able to project themselves into the future. The Talking Circle process encouraged individual children to hear from Self-awareness: having present, conscious thoughts others so that barriers between them dissolved. It also allowed chiland knowledge regarding your dren to consider and understand new perspectives, enabling them own actions and emotions, in an introspective way, and having the to make connections between each other based on their ideas and ability to adjust your responses their capabilities. This self-awareness led the children to make posaccordingly. itive changes in their circumstances and enhanced their wellbeing. Furthermore, it encouraged them to think about their role in and responsibilities to their families and the local community, including their school-age care service. The authors had previously used guided conversation with educators in the children’s services sector. These conversations helped educators become self-aware, strengthened their relationships with each other and developed their practices in working with children and their families (Cartmel et al., 2015). In revising the process to use this method with groups of children, it was necessary to consider what the student educators would need to know. We thought that in order to facilitate a Talking Circle session, they would need to be knowledgeable about children’s learning and development, attachment theories, conversational processes and, in particular, the ‘U theory’ (Scharmer, 2018). These ideas were based on the premise that educators understand that knowledge is socially constructed rather than acquired (Moss & Petrie, 2002, p. 119), and that they see the child as a co-constructor of knowledge, in partnership with the adult and the other children. To facilitate conversations, educators needed to be able to know how to initiate and promote healthy relationships with and between the children. Educators also needed to consider how they could provide a safe space, both physically and psychosocially. Meeting these expectations allowed for the conversations to occur. The Talking Circle format was designed on the basis of the U-process (Scharmer, 2018). The U-process was developed through intensive learning-by-doing in a range of settings around the world, as a strategy for addressing highly complex challenges,


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solving complex problems and realising opportunities. The process is based on ‘ancient wisdom’ and systems thinking, which focuses on the shared learning that occurs between individuals in the group. Every member of the groups needs to build relationships with the others, and needs to make the necessary connections to share what each other knows so that together they can co-create new opportunities and innovative ideas that address their most complex challenges (Scharmer, 2018). The U-process afforded the children and the student educators the opportunity to learn more about themselves and each other. The process has three phrases that build on each other. The authors have linked the work of Scharmer (2018) and Yukelson (2008) to describe the process (see Figure 17.2).

Able to make changes for best possible future



Deeper understanding of world-view Exposure to other ways of perceiving the world

Co-sensing Sense of belonging and connecting to group Sense of self and sense of collective group



Co-create change Deeper understanding of self and the needs of their community

Figure 17.2 Phases of the U-process Sources: Adapted from ‘Figure 1.2: Five Movements of the U Process’ in Scharmer (2008), p. 19.

The U-process is based on a special type of listening called g­ enerative listening, which is defined as listening to oneself, listening to others and listening to what emerges from the group (Scharmer, 2018). Generative listening requires each individual to be focused on the conversation that is emerging from the whole group. For the children, generative listening meant that they had to be thinking about the life experiences of other children – not just about themselves. A feature of generative listening is that it means suspending judgement. It also means being focused on the ‘here and now’, and thinking about what is emerging from the whole-group conversation. It helped the children start to consider other children’s perspectives and circumstances rather than just their own experiences. Also, children were listening to and thinking about the ideas of others, which helped them to understand their own situations.

Generative listening: an approach to listening that requires deepening connections to the content. ‘You know that you have been using generative listening when you realize that, at the end of the conversation, you are no longer the same person you were when you started the conversation’ (Scharmer, 2009).

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SPOTLIGHT 17.1 Generative listening Through generative talking and listening, children gain a sense that they are widening their perception, and they are able to feel more connected to the group as a whole. The group of children is able to move from hearing multiple perspectives Co-creating: the process to co-creating future possibilities. The children identify themselves of forming and designing a as one group rather than a number of individuals. We listen self-reflectively to ‘hear ourselves through others’ ears’ (Kahane, 2002, p. 4). The educator helps the children to listen to each other. The children recognise and respect the diversity of values, ideas and opinions of their peers. The children eventually take ownership of the group processes, relying less on the adult to support them to engage in the process of actively exchanging knowledge and ideas, thereby identifying their capabilities and thinking about future possibilities.

framework or prototype through collaboration; the desired outcome is for a blend of all parties’ opinions and values to be present within the final product, and that it mutually benefits all parties within the group.

CASE STUDY 17.1  ANNA’S STORY Anna was the educator of the Talking Circle at Waterdale School-Age Care Service. She facilitated eight Talking Circles during her field education placement. At the end of the field placement, Anna told the children that she would not be able to continue the Talking Circles. The children expressed their disappointment. If you were Anna, what would you have done next? Anna used the process of the Talking Circle to help the children problem-solve about the situation. The children decided to write a petition to the supervisor of the service to ask whether the Talking Circles could continue. The supervisor was impressed with the children’s enthusiasm and commitment. She assigned a staff member to facilitate the Talking Circles, and the process continued. If you were Anna, what would you have done next? Describe Anna’s values and beliefs about children? What do you think the petition said that influenced the supervisor’s decision?

The Talking Circle process may not always be a positive experience for all the children; however, the skills of the educator can alter the tone and opportunities of the process for the children. One strategy is for the educator to allow the children the opportunity to control the agenda of the Talking Circle. This creates a context in which children can talk about the things that most affect them.


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CASE STUDY 17.2  SURVIVING A CHALLENGING SESSION Millie, aged 9 years, and Carly, aged 11 years, asked Ella, their Talking Circle educator, whether they could take a turn at facilitating a session. Ella agreed, and the children led the group for a session. The experience was disastrous for all concerned. Millie and Carly led the group using language that bullied the rest of the children. Some children started to cry. Millie and Carly were shouting as they tried to take control of the group. Ella intervened. What do you think Ella did next? Ella stopped the session and then the following week, she facilitated the session to debrief the children. Using a series of carefully planned questions, she helped the children to understand each other’s perspectives about what happened. They listened to each other, described their feelings and together made suggestions about how they could lead the group differently in future sessions. What do you think Ella did next? How do you think Ella felt when she stopped the session? Write the questions that you think Ella may have used with the group. How do you think Ella felt after the session in the following week?

The educators facilitating the talking and listening process between groups of children are influenced by the conversations. These educators display a very genuine interest in the lives of the children through generative listening. Generative listening is fluid rather than static, as the children talk and listen with ‘open hearts’ – which is linked to the ability to think creatively and spontaneously. Moving to generative talking and listening requires us to ‘move outside ourselves’ (Kahane, 2002, p. 4). The more involved the educators are in using the process, the more skilled they become in providing the opportunities for the children to be self-aware. This self-awareness helps children to experience the sense of agency that contributes to their feelings of resilience and wellbeing. The ability to be actively involved in decision-making is a rite of passage in enabling them to take control of their needs, take healthy risks, build resilience and set out strong pathways for their future (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2019). A critical aspect of Talking Circles is the physical space in which the program is designated to occur. The space needs to be calm for the children to be able to focus on the communication skills required to sustain the conversation. One of the Talking Circles groups met weekly in the Peace Room. After the third week, the educator was told by school staff that this room was where children were sent during the school day to reflect on inappropriate behaviour. The negative associations with this environment affected the children’s willingness to be involved, and thereafter the Talking Circles were held in an alternative room, with cushions instead of chairs. The children’s engagement in the process was markedly different: their willingness to engage in respectful behaviours increased dramatically, compared to previous weeks. By building a safe space for conversations, as well as attending to the physical environment, the educator

CHAPTER 17  Talking Circles


carefully built an emotional space in which the children would be able to build connections with each other. Sometimes it is difficult for children to listen to what the other children were saying and stay connected with the group. This was the case for Tim (aged 8 years), who attended the Meadow Park Talking Circle once a week on Thursday afternoons. A student educator, Bree, facilitated the group, which included Tim and his brother, Mitch. The children had decided that if a child did not want to be part of the group anymore, they could leave the group or, if a child was disruptive, they could be asked to leave the group. Tim was really keen to be part of the group, though he was unable to sit still and listen to what the other children were saying. The educator asked the children what they thought should happen for Tim, and they responded that as there were two educators (a student educator plus the university supervisor), one of them could sit with Tim while the other interacted with the other children. This was not possible, as the university supervisor was not going to be in attendance in future weeks. The children then decided that each of them would spend time with Tim, as when he had someone with him he was able to sit quietly and not distract the others. In this way, Tim was able to feel like he could belong to the group and Mitch was able to participate without constantly feeling responsible for Tim’s behaviour.

SPOTLIGHT 17.2 Self-regulation Self-regulation: the act of being Self-regulation is important to children’s wellbeing, and this attribute able to manage your emotional develops during early childhood. The Talking Circle is an opportunity and physical reactions during for the children to learn to self-regulate. The protocols for the Talking stressful experiences. This is Circles developed by the group meant that children were free to achieved through numerous socially acceptable and safe leave the circle if they felt they were unable to focus on the converexercises that do not require sation. Children were also able to negotiate to rejoin the group when external support. they felt that they could concentrate. This process allowed children to practise self-regulation, and gave the group an opportunity to assist in this process with each other.

STRUCTURE OF THE TALKING CIRCLES The format for the Talking Circle was such that it created time and space for the children to make connections and build trust with each other and the educator, making the way for open and genuine conversation. The student educators started each Talking Circle session with an activity designated as ‘getting connected’. This was to help the children get to know each other and build relationships. Each Talking Circle ended with a closing activity that involved each child and the educator reflecting on what happened for them during the session.


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PAUSE AND REFLECT 17.2 Resources for Talking Circles Make a list of resources you might need to conduct a Talking Circle. How would you choose these resources?

To enable the children of different ages and abilities to tell their stories, various ways, such as through play activities, art, music and storytelling, were used to ‘create a methodological framework that children fill with their own meaning’ (Veale, cited in Christensen & James, 2017, p. 131). This work was kept as a means of documenting the story of the group’s journey using the Talking Circle process. In the Talking Circle process, each individual and group was unique. Even though a certain range of activities was recommended, there was no step-by-step plan to be followed routinely. The educator listened for the subtleties within the group and used different activities to increase opportunities for children to tell their stories. The process of allowing the children to take the lead gave them the opportunity to take ownership of the Talking Circle, which in turn lessened the power imbalance between adults and children, and enhanced children’s confidence.

BENEFITS OF TALKING CIRCLES The Talking Circles program is based on the idea that learning occurs when a cycle of reflection and action takes place, and consequently children and adults can create knowledge and act together out of their individual and common experiences. According to Senge and colleagues (2005), all learning integrates thinking and doing. Learning is about how we interact with the world and the skills that develop because of our interactions. If we think about learning as a sense of awareness of self and belonging or connection, we have an opportunity to understand more about how we learn and change. If we always think in the same way, we continue to see the world from a place where we are comfortable, or from our own world-view, and we disregard other options that are different from what we already know. This hinders the learning process (Senge et al., 2005). The overall framework for the Talking Circles comes from thinking about Community building: using learning as a process of self-awareness and community building. practical and socially based The learning that emerged from the Talking Circle process acapproaches to build a sense of crued benefits for both the children and the educators. This secbelonging and acceptance within an established group. The desired tion discusses the benefits as perceived by the children. It is foloutcome of this approach is to lowed by a description of the benefits as outlined by the student create awareness and supportive peers for all young people. educators. The features of the Talking Circle that indicated change for the children included each child’s ability to self-reflect, development of communication skills through talking and listening, social and emotional growth with the ability to have open

CHAPTER 17  Talking Circles

and questioning relationships with others, the development of problem-­solving skills and a willingness to negotiate change. The group of children became confident to lead and facilitate the Talking Circles with their peers. There was a high level of consciousness to ensure everyone in the group had a chance to contribute and work together. Children’s capacity to listen, take notice of others, respect others and be supportive of their peers increased during the Talking Circle process. The children were able to describe the changes they were experiencing. For some children, the Talking Circles were a place where their emotions felt balanced and in control: It’s calm, it’s peaceful and I feel less stressed. (Chani, age 11) We can talk about things that we can’t at the oval. We talk about ourselves. (Mitch, age 9)

For other children, the Talking Circle was a place where they felt they belonged: People like me here. I have made more friends. I can trust people here. (Tiani, age 9) I don’t get into trouble anymore at school. We can get tips when we are having hard times. We get to share our life. (Zac, age 10) It’s a place to get away from noise and others. We can talk about our problems and we can share our feelings and share about our families. (Manni, age 8)

There was also a change in the social interactions that occurred in the playground: I don’t get bullied anymore. (Reece, age 9)

Children looked forward to the weekly gatherings to build their confidence and selfesteem. The student educators indicated that change for them during the Talking Circles process included an improvement in their ability to self-reflect, the development of skills to communicate with children, the ability to have open and questioning relationships with children, the ability to let go of habitual ways of ‘managing’ a group of children, and enhanced confidence in problem-solving with children. Students often commented that they were not confident in their abilities and understandings about developing relationships with children. Many commented on their fear of letting go of the ‘power’ and their lack of understanding of how to ‘manage’ the groups’ behaviour. Children were looking to the educator to take control, and when that didn’t happen there was often chaos! For the student educators, the opportunity to reflect on the process each week with their peers and lecturers was significant in building their capacity to work with children in a meaningful way. This circumstance gave the students the ideas and confidence to try out new things each week, and to include the children in the problem-solving process: Students were not confident in their abilities and understandings about developing relationships with children. (Marilyn, university lecturer)



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The children and educators continued to practise building relationships with each other, and a feeling of trust began to emerge. As the sessions progressed, many educators found that the power differential in their relationships between themselves and the children started to diminish. Both the children and educators were gaining skills and confidence in their ability to communicate with each other. Furthermore, the children were able to open up to the group and talk about things that really mattered to them: The children actually listened to each other’s stories. The children are very open and they are interested in each other’s stories. They have an idea about what is fair and an understanding about what is serious in someone’s life. Some faces were shocked when they heard some of the other children’s stories. They are able to empathise because they are old enough to understand. (Ella, student educator)

HOW TO CONDUCT TALKING CIRCLES Educators need to plan all aspects of the process when introducing and conducting Talking Circles. Features to be considered include the space, time and communication skills necessary for the process to happen. The communication processes are complex, and the facilitation capacities of the educators involved are important considerations. When children become more aware of the manner in which they develop relationships with each other through the Talking Circles, they are more able to listen and talk to each other about topics that matter to them and to their community. This self-reflection and self-awareness contribute to their overall sense Self-reflection: the ability to independently understand and of wellbeing. reflect without bias on one’s own First, in order for the Talking Circle to be successful, consideractions and emotions; through contemplation and reflection, ation needs to be given to both the physical surroundings and the personality characteristics and emotional climate. The space provided for the Talking Circles needs communication skills can develop to be quiet and relaxing, giving children the opportunity to be feel within the individual. the sense of ‘presence’. Presence gives the child and educator the space to notice what is going on within and between individuals. In order to ‘listen and talk’ to others, all other activities need to be suspended; reducing distractions means that children are able to focus solely on the conversations in the Talking Circles. In one of the Talking Circles in the early program, the educator asked a child, ‘Can you listen while you are reading the book?’ The child replied, ‘Yes, I can hear you.’ The educator responded, ‘But can you listen?’ The book represented a barrier to the process. This exchange led to the child putting the book away so that she could join the group as a listener who was present in the Talking Circle, fully aware of all the conversations that were occurring between everyone. In turn, this experience created a sense of belonging and community building, which led to an even deeper engagement in the conversation process.

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The development of psychological safety requires time for Psychological safety: e­ veryone – children and educators – to develop trust in each oththe foundation required to create interpersonal connections with er. E ­ veryone needs to perceive each other as respecting each perothers and for all parties to feel son’s contribution to the process. Development of group protocols is safe to contribute and share their opinions. Without psychological critical. Protocols initiated by children’s ideas provide guidance for safety, interpersonal risks ­everyone about how the group will ‘be together’. This discussion cannot be taken and people may leads to the development of trusting relationships. not feel safe to speak without fear of judgement or negative Second, the educator of the Talking Circle needs to consider the consequences within the group. development of their own communication skills. They need a deep understanding of how the process of conversation builds trusting relationships between the children and the adult, and between the children. The critical feature of interaction during communication is that it is a three-way process (Stanfield, 2000), as there is a better chance of the meaning of a conversation being understood. Scharmer (2009) describes this three-way process as generative conversation (talking and listening). It is an active process in which all participants exchange thoughts and ideas, gaining a deeper understanding about each other and creating opportunities for future engagement.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 17.3 Three-way process Have you ever considered conversation as a three-way process that includes talking, listening and thinking about each person’s perspective, and their reaction to the information they receive? Think about the most recent conversation you have had with a peer or a colleague. Can you identify the features of the three-way process?

Talking Circle participants sense a widening of their perception, and can thus be connected to the group as a whole. Further, as shared meaning is developed, there is a shift in power and the ability of the educator to let go of particular ways of thinking about how adults are in relation to children. This shift in power allows children to perceive themselves as contributing equitably to the process. They sense a genuine conversation, in which the power base is seen as a more democratic process of guiding rather than telling:

Power: the social hierarchy within communities and groups, whereby adults are perceived as authority figures over young people. Power is often referred to as a balance between interpersonal exchanges, where the power can shift to different individuals, or may be shared equally within a Talking Circle.

Adults are different here because they don’t talk at us. They are nice. (Madison, aged 11)

Subsequently, Talking Circle participants have a greater sense of trust in each other that has developed through the communication process. In addition, the educator needs to be aware that eventually children will take ownership of the group. This shift is an indicator of the developing capacities of children.


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The educator needs to ensure that children have the self-awareness and self-reflection skills to sustain their contribution to the Talking Circle. The Talking Circle process is dynamic and fluid, yet it has a significant effect on development of a child’s sense of identity and agency, which in turn influences their capacity for resilience and wellbeing. The Talking Circle process uses guided conversations with children and is underpinned by the key principle of practice based on the concept that the child is a strong, powerful, competent and complex individual. Talking Circles make a difference for children’s wellbeing. These differences in the children are described as the child’s ability to self-reflect, develop communication skills, problem-solve and willingness to negotiate change. In turn, this allows for the development of healthy relationships between adults and children, and children and children, which are essential to children’s wellbeing.

CONCLUSION Talking Circles use a conversational process that assists in building healthy relationships between adults and children, and between children. This process is based on shared learning, whereby the adults and children get to know each other and share what each person knows so that together they can develop understandings and ideas to respond to life challenges. This process helps children’s social and emotional growth and enhances their potential for problem-solving and decision-making. Talking Circles are effective if they are conducted in quiet, safe and relaxing spaces that are considered emotionally safe by the children. Together, the adults and the children develop the protocols for being together in that space. Only through safety and trust can the capacity for new ways of thinking about life’s challenges be made possible. The adult facilitator of the Talking Circles must have the required communication skills to build trusting relationships with children. The communication skills necessary for building trusting relationships between adults and children require the adult to use generative talking and listening. Evidence suggests the Talking Circle process has the potential to build relationships and lessen the power imbalance between adults and children, opening up new possibilities for child participation.

QUESTIONS 17.1 Why is it important that adults and children are able to converse with each other? 17.2 What characteristics do adults need to display in order to build relationships with children? 17.3 Describe the type of listening skills that are most effective in conversations between adults and children. 17.4 What has changed in your thinking? How might this affect your practice?

CHAPTER 17  Talking Circles

FURTHER READING Children’s Rights Report 2015: AHRC_ChildrensRights_Report_2015_0.pdf The Children’s Rights Report is produced on an annual basis to report matters relating to the human rights of children and young people in Australia. In this report, Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner, discusses issues pertaining to children’s rights in legislation and court proceedings and in matters about how children are affected by family and domestic violence. Generative listening: Generative listening is a feature of the Theory U. This website provides a brief overview of the elements of theory, with a focus on the different types of listening that help individuals to be aware of the social system in which they are operating. Having conversations with children: childhood/parents/health/ecparentnws18conversations.docx Meaningful conversations are important in building relationships with children. This fact sheet describes the features of having conversations with babies, toddlers and older children. It has tips for starting and sustaining conversations with children. Talking Circles guidebook: Talking_Circles This is the original version of the resource developed to support student educators to host Talking Circles. It outlines, step-by-step how to create a Talking Circle with children.

REFERENCES Australian Human Rights Commission (2019). Children’s Rights in Australia: A scorecard. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission. Cartmel, J. & Casley, M. (2014). Talking circles: Building relationships with children. Communities, Children and Families Australia, 8(1), 67–80. ——— (2010). Talking Circles: Gathering the wisdom of children. Brisbane: Early Childhood Australia Queensland Branch. Cartmel, J., Macfarlane, K., Casley, M. & Smith, K. (2015). Leading Learning Circles for Educators Engaged in Study. Brisbane: Griffith University. Christensen, P. & James, A. (2017). Research with Children: Perspectives and practices (3rd edn). New York: Routledge. Kahane, A. (2002). Changing the World by Changing How We Talk and Listen. Retrieved 20 December 2013 from Kahane%20on%20talking%20and%20listening.pdf Lundy, L. (2007). Voice is not enough: Conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. British Educational Research Journal, 33(6), 927–42.



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Moss, P. & Petrie, P. (2002). From Children’s Services to Children’s Spaces. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer. Scharmer, O. (2018). The Essentials of Theory U: Core principles and applications. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler. ——— (2009). U Theory. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler. ——— (2008). Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. Oakland, CA: BerrettKoehler. Senge, P., Scharmer, O., Jaworski J. & Flowers, B. (2005). Presence. London: Nicholas Brealey. Stanfield, B. (2000). The Art of Focussed Conversation. Victoria, BC: New Society Publishers. Ulivk, O. (2014). Talking with children: Professional conversations in a participation perspective. Qualitative Social Work, March, 1–16. doi:10.1177/1473325014526923 van Nijnatten, C. (2013). Children’s Agency, Children’s Welfare: A dialogical approach to child development, policy and practice. Bristol: Policy Press. Yukelson, A. (2008). Into the Wave of Life: An exploration of Dreamcatchers’ healing work. Halifax, NS: ALIA Institute.



Sivanes Phillipson

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Explore the family’s role in children’s wellbeing. • Explore the concepts of partnership with families in the context of child wellbeing. • Identify the role of educators in partnership with families to meet Australian standards for child health and wellbeing. • Explore ways to reach out to families to develop a relationship for family partnership.


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INTRODUCTION This chapter focuses on how to explore opportunities to partner with families in articulating support systems for child health and wellbeing. In particular, it explores how student educators and educators can reach out to families and develop the necessary partnerships to successfully support parents in their parenting and caring roles, with the aim of positively influencing children’s family lives, health and wellbeing. Nationally and internationally, there is clear recognition that families are central to children’s development and wellbeing (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 2015; 2018; Phillipson, Sullivan & Gervasoni, 2017). This recognition is evident through a growing body of research literature and the inclusion of family partnership as a key consideration in national early years frameworks. For example, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) states, ‘From before birth children are connected to family, community, culture and place. Their earliest development and learning takes place through these relationships, particularly within families, who are children’s first and most influential educators’ (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 2009a, p. 7). Families, being children’s first educators, play a major role as children’s main support in the ecology of their care and wellbeing (Phillipson, Sullivan et al., 2017). Within the ecology of children’s development, families are the main carers for children at home and they also act as support systems for children’s learning within early childhood environments, such as preschools. A disparity between what happens at home and outside of home, in particular in the early childhood education environment, can affect children’s health and wellbeing. For example, some families tend to put their children to bed late, resulting in these children being tired when they arrive at the learning environment. Hence, it is imperative that early childhood educators find ways to connect and partner with parents to support children in their early years of development and learning. A warm, caring, consistent and responsive environment underpins a quality care and education experience for early years learners (OECD, 2015; Wilke, Hachfeld & Anders, 2017).

FAMILIES AND THEIR CHILDREN’S WELLBEING CASE STUDY 18.1  THE STORY OF MICHAEL AND ANNIE Michael is a single parent of 4-year-old Annie. They live in a regional town in Victoria. Being the sole carer for Annie, Michael has to juggle full-time work and care for Annie. He wants to see his daughter happy and successful in the future, and believes that she should have a wholesome upbringing despite their personal circumstances. Michael makes sure that Annie has healthy food and engages in plenty of outdoor physical activities. He makes an effort to limit her viewing of the ‘idiot box’ (TV) so that she spends more quality time on her educational activities, and with him. How else do you think Michael can engage with Annie?

CHAPTER 18  Partnering with families

Michael is one of those parents who tries to achieve a holistic development for their child’s wellbeing. The OECD (2015) stresses that families have the main role in looking after their children’s whole wellbeing, including their physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. In recent years, … neuroscience research has provided crucial evidence of the importance of early nurturing and support for early learning and later success (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). Shonkoff and Philips noted the importance of children’s interaction with their environment, in particular with their family, as a major factor influencing their learning. Their notation assumes that early experiences affect the brain development of young children, and thus the foundation of intelligence, emotional health and educational outcomes (Elliott, 2006).


OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development): a congregation of 34 economies (countries) and 70 non-member economies that work together to promote economic growth, prosperity and sustainable development. Families: may include parents, siblings, grandparents and others in the extended family group. Families can also be headed by single parents, blended, hetrosexual or same-sex parents. Parents usually are a mother and a father of a child.

(Phillipson, Sullivan et al., 2017) Shonkoff (2012) also postulated that early experiences are biologically embedded and carried over to adulthood, hence highlighting the importance of supporting children’s wellbeing from an early age. He argued that for adequate support to be given at an early age, it is crucial for the adults who care for and educate children to have the appropriate mindset to support children’s wellbeing. (Phillipson, Sullivan et al., 2017)

In other words, healthy and nurturing early experiences are enhanced by positive family and other proximal interactional environments such as children’s informal and formal educational environments, and these early experiences are the foundation for children’s wellbeing. Wellbeing can be viewed across three interactive dimensions: (1) physical development and health; (2) cognition, encompassing processes of communication, thinking and problem-solving, as well as processes that underpin social relationships with others and healthy lifestyles; and (3) a socio-emotional dimension that encompasses the development of identity, self-concept and self-esteem, and pro-social skills (Zaff et al., 2003). Given the inextricable links between children’s physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development, there is a clear need for educators and other professionals who work with children to collaborate with families to promote each of these dimensions (Durlak et al., 2011; Sammons et al., 2008), especially in the early years. Daniel (2015) found that Australian parental involvement in children’s formal educational environments declines as children grow older. It is Collaboration: when people important to encourage early years collaboration between educawork together in negotiation of space, time and values that meet tors and families, before children progress to mid-primary levels a set of goals. (Daniel, 2015).


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PAUSE AND REFLECT 18.1 Family involvement The policies of many early childhood centres have been to actively involve parents in their daily routines. This expectation is reflected in the EYLF, especially in the guide for educators (DEEWR, 2009b). Why do we have to start thinking about family involvement in children’s wellbeing from the early years?

PARTNERSHIP CONCEPT In Case study 18.1, Michael’s belief in, and trust of, his child’s early childhood educator is fundamental to the concept of partnership in establishing and maintaining his child’s wellbeing. Michael’s trust in, and involvement with, his child’s educator is especially interesting since work commitments and other challenges can make it difficult for parents to engage well in their children’s schooling activities, even at early childhood levels (Auger, 2014). Involvement of parents is paramount because family involvement in children’s education and care has long been recognised as central to optimising children’s developmental and learning outcomes. Several decades of researchs show that effective, sustainable school and early childhood contexts – as well as good childhood outcomes – are achieved when educators, communities and families have a sense of connectedness and work in partnership (Davies, 2000; Elliott, 2006; Epstein & Jansorn, 2004; Hornby, 2011).

Partnership: a collaboration in which partners share values and beliefs to achieve target outcomes.

CASE STUDY 18.2  ANNIE’S TEACHER Michael raves about Annie’s teacher, Kathy Lawson: Kathy Lawson, you know … she is great! Full of life experience and knows what children need, I have time for her … I know that I can leave my baby with Kathy, knowing that she will be looked after … Annie is full of beans when I pick her up, talking about things she learned, who she played with … and you know what, Kathy has time for me too!

What is Kathy doing right in building a relationship with Michael?

Of all the models for educators and families working together, the partnership model has long been seen as the most suitable (Hornby, 2011). The concept of partnership implies mutual or synchronous awareness and understanding within and between members of a group or community. It is more than ‘parental involvement’; it signifies a deep level

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of engagement with caring, teaching and learning. Turnbull and colleagues (2011) suggest that there are seven elements in partnership: trust, respect, competence, communication, commitment, equality and advocacy. These elements form a complex layer of relationship within a collaborative framework. Further to this, Hornby (2011) proposes a framework for parental involvement that emphasises the needs of the families and how they might engage in the sphere of their children’s education and wellbeing. Regardless of which theoretical framework one uses, the fundamental objective of partnership with families must be based on building trust, respect, open communication and shared beliefs, values and goals. Importantly, it must embody mutually respected values about development and learning, and shared expectations about the respective roles of family and school, with an articulated vision for each child’s developmental journey (Elliott, 2006; Hornby, 2011).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 18.2 Respectful behaviours and actions The concept of respect can be simple yet abstract. People who are involved in friendships, relationships or some sort of liaison show respect through many facets of behaviour and action. What are some of these behaviours or actions? Think of them in relation to a conversation you might have with a parent who has little time to spare.

EDUCATORS’ ROLE AND AUSTRALIAN STANDARDS Partnership cannot exist without close reciprocal relations between all players. The reciprocity of relationships is important as the two-way interactions contribute to development of sustainable partnership. In turn, these interactions are dependent on caring, committed and knowledgeable teachers and inspired education leadership and governance, as well as families that want to be involved in their children’s wellbeing. Internationally, there is strong evidence demonstrating links between students’ ­academic success and school–family relationships. Extensive meta-analysis by researchers such as Hattie (2009) and Sammons et al. (2008) demonstrate that teachers and schools are instrumental in children’s academic success. Effective teachers and schools are most likely to have a positive effect on children’s overall wellbeing and their engagement with learning. Schools with a cohesive sense of ‘community’ have meaningful communications with families, more harmonious climates, better academic results and higher school-retention rates than those in which families and students are disengaged (Davies, 2000; Epstein, 2001; Jordan & Plank, 2000; Rowe, 2005). Effective and responsive schools have especially positive effects on early years learners who face multiple



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disadvantages, especially those linked to poverty (Daniel, Wang & Berthelsen, 2016; Melhuish et al., 2008). Nationally, the importance of school–community involvement and partnerships is widely recognised and accepted (Australian Children’s Education Care and Quality Authority (ACECQA), 2016; Australian Government, 2008). The Educational Goals for Young Australians in the Melbourne Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century stress that parents as children’s first and continuing educators should be pivotal in curriculum planning, and that all schools should have ‘a commitment to collaboration’ with families. The EYLF highlights the centrality of ‘genuine partnerships’ with families who are ‘children’s first and most influential teachers’ (Australian Government, 2008, p. 12). The educators’ guide to the EYLF emphasises that: ‘Partnerships are based on the foundations of understanding each other’s expectations and attitudes, and building on the strength of each other’s knowledge’ (DEEWR, 2009b, p. 11). Established in 2012, the National Quality Framework, or more precisely its key quality guidelines, the National Quality Standards, capture the EYLF model of families’ partnership by advocating that educators work closely with families for the benefit of children (ACECQA, 2016). Standard 6 in particular outlines guidelines for educators and professionals in building partnerships with families to support children’s overall wellbeing. (Phillipson, Richards et al., 2017)

The National Professional Standards for Teachers (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2012) also highlight the importance of partnerships with families in promoting children’s sense of self and wellbeing, valuing diversity and promoting cultural identity. The Standards specify four levels of competence in engaging with families: 1. Graduate. Understand the strategies for working effectively, sensitively and confidentially with parents/carers (7.3.1, p. 19). 2. Proficient. Establish and maintain respectful collaborative relationships with parents/ carers regarding their children’s learning and wellbeing (7.3.2, p. 19). 3. Highly accomplished. Demonstrate responsiveness in all communications with parents/ carers about their children’s learning and wellbeing (7.3.3, p. 19). 4. Lead. Identify, initiate and build on opportunities that engage parents/carers in both the progress of their children’s learning and in the educational priorities of the school (7.3.4, p. 19). Although the standards for educators and professionals describe ways for ­educators to collaborate with families to support children’s learning, research highlights that a disparity between informal family settings and formal education settings affects children’s learning (Hildenbrand et al., 2015), which can ­extend to their wellbeing. It seems that this disparity may exist due to educators’ and professionals’ lack of confidence, and perhaps even lack of knowledge,

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of ­family characteristics and how diverse families engage with their children (Blackmore & Hutchison, 2010; Saltmarsh, Barr & Chapman, 2015; Stacey, 2016). (Phillipson, Sullivan et al., 2017)

CASE STUDY 18.3  MICHAEL’S BLENDED FAMILY Michael has started dating Laila, who has two children. Laila has a Turkish background. Annie loves spending time with her new ‘step-siblings’, and they are developing into a blended family. Annie’s kindergarten is having its annual special disco, which happens to fall on the same day that she usually spends with Laila and her children. Michael tries to convince the director of the kindergarten to allow Laila’s children to join Annie at the disco along with him, but the kindergarten refuses, on the basis that blended families are not part of the kindergarten’s concern. Annie is disappointed! What should parents like Michael, along with teachers and schools, do to cater for the ever-changing context of families and schooling?

Educational contexts for children – whether they are schools or early learning settings – are diverse. While many have strong, shared cultural ties and affiliations with families, others are characterised by extreme social, cultural and economic diversity (Phillipson, Phillipson & Kewalramani, 2018). In reaching out and engaging with families, it is paramount that educators embrace the diverse constellations of families’ influences, experiences and beliefs about children and childhood. Each family is unique, and educators must get to know each family on a one-to-one basis to truly facilitate early childhood or school experiences. A one-size-fits-all approach to family partnerships almost never works because of the unique situation of each family – and especially the most vulnerable families. Even within ‘named’ socio-cultural groupings, such as Aboriginal families, or Muslim, Tongan or middle-class Australian families, for example, there can be dramatic variation (Phillipson et al., 2018). In other words, diversity exists even within a single socio-cultural grouping, so that no two families are the same. This includes single-parent families, blended families and same-sex parent families. Most families wish to be included in activities that support their children’s health and wellbeing (Lam, Wu & Fowler 2014), and hence it is important to find ways to work with these diverse families in promoting their children’s health and wellbeing. Most schools and early learning centres implement a range of activities and events to involve families, but with varying degrees of success. Some have high family engagement in numerous activities, whereas others struggle to get sufficient response from families to run a single activity. While the National Professional Standards for Teachers, the EYLF, and the National Quality Framework require educators to have a high level of family engagement, the process of engaging families can be a complex matter.



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PAUSE AND REFLECT 18.3 Dealing with parents Educators have to interact and engage with parents as part of their daily activities. How can educators do this in a sensitive manner?

Figure 18.1 Educator interacting with parent and child

ENGAGING AND PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES While the rhetoric for partnering with families is strong, actually building those partnerships is complex – especially with families experiencing significant economic and educational disadvantages, or having considerable linguistic and cultural diversity. In early childhood contexts, where children tend to participate on a parttime basis and perhaps for a year or two only, establishing genuine Communication: the process of using words, actions and connectedness with families can be challenging. At the same time, gestures to express one’s parents are usually most interested in their children’s development feelings, thoughts and ideas. when they are very young. On a continuum of partnership with Communication is highly context-specific and, in relation families, from communication to involvement, and on to partnerships to parents, the feelings, thoughts and connectedness, proactive strategies are needed to reach out to and ideas are around their concerns for their children’s individuals and communities in ways that are meaningful, such as wellbeing. the way Kathy Lawson does with Michael (see Case study 18.4)

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(Elliott, 2006; Hornby, 2011). This is no easy task, given the range of individual families using early childhood services and schools, and the demands on personnel and teaching resources.

CASE STUDY 18.4  MICHAEL’S CONNECTION TO ANNIE’S SCHOOL Michael works as a plumber for a local business. He does a full working day for up to six days a week. Hence, he usually misses Annie’s school-led ‘family activities’ if they are held during school hours. Kathy Lawson, Annie’s teacher, phones Michael and reports to him on what happens during these activities; she also sends him pictures and notes to keep him engaged. Michael feels grateful for these notes and messages because it makes him feel connected to what is happening with his child. What steps can teachers take for parents who wish to be informed and engaged in their children’s daily schooling?

Figure 18.2 Building partnerships with families through communication

Our job as educators and educational leaders is to initiate and sustain an engagement process that suits each family. We must provide support and encouragement on a oneto-one basis so that each family engages in a way that is supportive for their child. Educators sometimes need guidance on this process, so a framework, or guiding principles, can help them to partner with families. Guiding principles can be found in works by Hornby (2011); Phillipson, Richards et al. (2017); Turnbull et al. (2011) and Sukkar, Dunst



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and Kirkby (2017). They include strategies for clear communication, building trust, nonjudgemental liaisons and flexible and culturally relevant responses. The process of building partnerships requires a team approach that is paved by inspired and dedicated leadership and implemented by committed and competent educators who value and respect each child in their group or class, and each child’s family. Developing partnerships with families is not a job for the lone educator, nor is it one to be pushed onto the centre’s director or school executive. It must be a collaborative effort on the part of everyone within a school or early childhood centre. At the same time, the educator must assume the key responsibility for connecting with families, as they have the day-to-day responsibility for children’s learning and wellbeing, and this is reflected in the way Kathy communicates with Michael (see Case study 18.4). Partnership starts with communication channels and approaches that are sensitive to the changing needs of children and their families. Myriad interacting family structures and economic conditions, and diverse cultural and linguistic characteristics, together with work, time and family pressures, ensure that each family is unique. Reliance on ‘old’ communication tools such as printed newsletters and classroom volunteering are unlikely to work on their own because they do not employ basic ‘getting to know you’ strategies; and they rarely target individuals. Family engagement must be more than a one-off event or involvement in a specific task such as preparing for a National Quality Framework assessment or contributing to a school mission statement, fundraising effort or welfare policy. Genuine family involvement and connectedness comes from much deeper levels of engagement that may not even be recognisable or measurable in a snapshot, formal assessment process (Sheridan & Kim, 2015). But the benefits and effects of such deeper levels of engagement are likely to be much more effective in the longer term.

SPOTLIGHT 18.1 Strategy for communication Interactive communication usually involves talking ‘face to face’ (although perhaps at a distance), and enables the sharing of information, observations, ideas, feelings and concerns. It can occur during centre or class visits, or at formal parent–child–educator meetings, via electronic media such as phone calls and videoconferencing, and during conversations at drop-off or pick-up time. Educators need to be persistent in establishing contact with ‘hard-to-reach’ families.

Not surprisingly, given the diversity of families, while research highlights the importance of communication, collaboration and partnerships in promoting children’s learning, it stresses that genuine family engagement does not happen easily, spontaneously or quickly (Epstein, 2001). The pathway to partnership with families is necessarily slow because it takes time to get to know them and build their trust. At the core of this partnership is the act of listening to families, supporting their goals for their children, respecting

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and embracing cultural diversity and traditions, and meeting families’ aspirations and expectations for their child’s developmental outcomes and experiences.

SPOTLIGHT 18.2 Strategy for building trust Listen to parents and try to understand their feelings and concerns; get to know each family on a one-to one basis; share observations, insights and ideas. Build familiarity with the school, centre and teacher. These first contacts help parents feel comfortable with you (as an educator) and their child’s learning environment.

Engaging with families means understanding and respecting where they are in their lives. As we build trust and confidence, we discover what works and makes sense for each family. Each one has a different capacity for, and level of, involvement and we have to be careful not to ‘judge’ a family based on its ability to be ‘involved’ or to contribute – especially in a material or physical way. Phillipson, Richards et al. (2017) found such an approach useful when engaging with families from disadvantaged backgrounds. In their study, which facilitated families to help their children with mathematics learning at home, the authors worked with families to identify their own resources that could be used to engage with their children’s learning. The researchers provided materials and suggested activities for families who sought advice, respecting at all times the families’ background and characteristics. As a result, the researchers were able to visit the families repeatedly to assist them with their children’s learning. It is important to remember that for educators to engage with families they need to have an open-minded, generous-spirited view of the classroom, early years learners and families. When our perceptions of children and families are clouded by assumptions based on experiences of previous families, previous school practices or cultural stereotypes, we will either not reach out in a meaningful way or our efforts will fail. When family events are held at times when most of parents cannot attend (usually for morning or afternoon teas) – due to their work or other commitments – lack of engagement is inevitable. Failing to be flexible in response to differing family needs – such as the one in Michael and Annie’s situation (see Case studies 18.3 and 18.4) – also requires some rethinking about school rules if families are to be engaged in meaningful ways. While there are industrial, workplace, insurance and occupational health and safety compliance issues that must be considered when planning any family outreach activities, it is also evident that to engage families we need to know them as people, value them as individuals and understand something of their lives. And sometimes we need to ‘go the extra mile’ to support children; for example, the way Kathy Lawson made a difference in engaging a busy parent like Michael (Case study 18.4). Early childhood educators are often parents’ first educational contact since they left school themselves and, for some parents, school was not a happy experience (Kewalramani & Phillipson, 2019). In the early parenting years, when parents are at their most



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unsure about child-rearing, there are good opportunities to influence attitudes about child development and learning, to learn from parents about their family and their child, and to form enduring partnerships. Ensuring these first interactions are warm, caring, nurturing, respectful and supportive will facilitate longer-term parental engagement. If parents are not involved when children first start school or child care, it is generally difficult to involve them later (Daniel, 2015). It is acknowledged that parents want the best for their children, and that they want their children to be happy and to succeed (Epstein, 2001; Phillipson et al., 2018; Sarra, 2005; Volk & Long, 2005). However, the challenges of contemporary life – with work, social and economic pressures – mean that parents cannot always provide the nurturing that children need. Growing pressures to juggle work and family cause many parents to struggle with managing day-to-day life and events, let alone keep abreast of educational developments and the school events calendar. But this does not imply a lack of care; it means they may need support. Where children’s families are not able to fully support their wellbeing, it is more important than ever that educators create safe, rich, personalised learning contexts for each child (Hayes et al., 2006).

SPOTLIGHT 18.3 Strategy for positive and practical support Whatever the situation, always start on a positive note when talking with parents. Share something about the child’s progress and activities on a weekly – or preferably daily – basis. Provide practical support around wellbeing in small ways: a weekly tip sheet with suggestions for promoting wellbeing at home, such as ideas for guiding positive behaviour or packing healthy lunches, or organising regular family after-work get-togethers over an early barbecue, teamed with a visit from an ‘expert’ who can informally chat about a relevant parenting or wellbeing issue. A text message, short email or note every day or so helps you keep in touch. When parents or caregivers come to collect their child, make sure someone is available to have a conversation about the child’s day. Regardless of the purpose of the conversation, start and finish on a positive note.

CONCLUSION This chapter sets out how, as educators, we must first connect with families as partners in order to meet the developmental needs of early years learners. The rationale is that children tend to thrive better when educators partner with their families to nurture the children and promote their wellbeing. The chapter presented various approaches for educators to connect with families in order to support children’s wellbeing. The main thread of this chapter was that getting to know families and partnering with them – especially those who might otherwise be marginalised for various reasons – is the best insurance for a child’s wellbeing.

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QUESTIONS 18.1 What features should be in an early childhood or school policy to ensure it is family friendly and promotes true connectedness with families? 18.2 Discuss the importance of connectedness in your community. What are some of your connections to your community? 18.3 What steps could you take to develop links with community services and health professionals in your area? 18.4 The mismatch between home and school is usually more pronounced when children participate in an educational program far removed from their home community – for example, one close to their parents’ workplace but far from their home, or one where educators’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds are very different. Often, educators do not live near their workplace so they have little firsthand knowledge of the community they serve. Reflect on what this might mean in terms of educators getting to know each family, and for families using the centre.

REFERENCES Auger, A. (2014). Child Care and Community Services: Characteristics of service use and effects on parenting and the home environment. (3669357 PhD thesis). University of California, Irvine. Australian Children’s Education Care and Quality Authority (ACECQA) (2016). National Quality Framework. Retrieved from Australian Government (2008). The Melbourne Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2012). National Professional Standards for Teachers. (Website). Retrieved from Blackmore, J. & Hutchison, K. (2010). Ambivalent relations: The ‘tricky footwork’of parental involvement in school communities. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 14, 499–515. Daniel, G. (2015). Patterns of parent involvement: A longitudinal analysis of family-school partnerships in the early years of school in Australia. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 40(1), 119–28. Daniel, G.R., Wang, C. & Berthelsen, D. (2016). Early school-based parent involvement, children’s self-regulated learning and academic achievement: An Australian longitudinal study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 168–77. doi: Davies, D. (2000). Supporting Parent, Family and Community Involvement in Your School. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009a). Belonging, Being, Becoming: Early Years Learning Framework. Canberra: Australian Government.



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——— (2009b). Belonging, Being & Becoming: Educators’ guide to the Early Learning Framework. Canberra: Australian Government. Durlak, J.A., Weissberg, R.P., Dymnicki, A.B., Taylor, R.D. & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–32. Elliott, A. (2006). Models of School-community Connectedness. Report to ACT Department of Education and Training. Sydney: ACER. Epstein, J.L. (2001). School, Family and Community Partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Epstein, J.L. & Jansorn, N.R. (2004). School, family and community partnerships link the plan. The Education Digest, 69(6), 19–23. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Oxford: Routledge. Hayes, D., Mills, M, Christie, M. & Lingard, B. (2006). Teachers and Schooling: Making a difference. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. Hildenbrand, C., Niklas, F., Cohrssen, C. & Tayler, C. (2015). Children’s mathematical and verbal competence in different early education and care programmes in Australia. Journal of Early Childhood Research. doi:10.1177/1476718X15582096 Hornby, G. (2011). Parental Involvement in Childhood Education: Building effective schoolfamily partnerships. New York: Springer. doi:978-1-4419-8379-4 Jordan, W. & Plank, S. (2000). Talent loss among high achieving poor students. In M. Sanders (ed.), Schooling Students Placed at Risk: Policy, research and practice in the education of poor and minority students (pp. 86–108). Mahwah, NJ: LEA. Kewalramani, S. & Phillipson, S. (2019). Parental role in shaping immigrant children’s subject choices and career pathway decisions in Australia. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 1–21. doi: Lam, W., Wu, S.T.C. & Fowler, C. (2014). Understanding parental participation in health promotion services for their children. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 37(4), 250–64. doi:10.3109/01460862.2014.95113 Melhuish, E.C., Phan, M.B., Sylva, K., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Taggart, B. (2008). Effects of the home learning environment and preschool center experience upon literacy and numeracy development in early primary school. Journal of Social Issues, 64(1), 95–114. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2008.00550.x Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2018). Engaging Young Children: Lessons from research about quality in early childhood education and care, Starting strong. Paris: OECD Publishing. ——— (2015). Skills for Social Progress: The power of social and emotional skills. OECD Skills Studies. Paris: OECD Publishing. doi: .au/10.1787/9789264226159-en Phillipson, S., Phillipson, S.N. & Kewalramani, S. (2018). Cultural variability in the educational and learning capitals of Australian families and its relationship with children’s numeracy outcomes. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 41(4), 348–68.

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Phillipson, S., Richards, G. & Sullivan, P.A. (2017). Parental perceptions of access to capitals and early mathematical learning: Some early insights from [email protected] project. In S. Phillipson, A. Gervasoni & P.A. Sullivan (eds), Engaging Families as Children’s First Mathematics Educators: International perspectives (pp. 127–145). Singapore: Springer. Phillipson, S., Sullivan, P.A. & Gervasoni, A. (2017). Engaging families as the first mathematics educators of children. In S. Phillipson, A. Gervasoni & P.A. Sullivan (eds). Engaging Families as Children’s First Mathematics Educators: International perspectives (pp. 3–14). Singapore: Springer. Rowe, K. (2005). Report of the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. Canberra: DEST. Saltmarsh, S., Barr, J. & Chapman, A. (2015). Preparing for parents: How Australian teacher education is addressing the question of parent-school engagement. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 35, 69–84. Sammons, P., Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Siraj-Blatchford, I., Taggart, B. & Jelicic, H. (2008). Effective Pre-school and Primary Education 3–11 Project (EPPE 3–11): Influences on children’s development and progress in Key Stage 2: Social/behavioural outcomes in Year 6. Nottingham: DCSF. Sarra, C. (2005). Imagine the Future by Learning From the Past. Paper presented at the Communities in Control Conference, Melbourne, 7 June. Sheridan, S. & Kim, E.M. (2015). Processes and Pathways of Family–School Partnerships Across Development: Research on family-school partnerships. Champaign, IL: Springer. doi:978-3-319-16931-6 Shonkoff, J.P. (2012). Leveraging the biology of adversity to address the roots of disparities in health and development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(Sup. 2), 17302–307. Shonkoff, J.P. & Phillips, D.A. (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Stacey, M. (2016). Middle-class parents’ educational work in an academically selective public high school. Critical Studies in Education, 57(2), 209–23. Sukkar, H., Dunst, C.J. & Kirkby, J. (eds) (2017). Early Childhood Intervention: Working with families of young children with special needs. London: Routledge. Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R., Erwin, E.J., Soodak, L.C. & Shogren, K.A. (2011). Families, Professionals and Exceptionality. Boston: Pearson. Volk, D. & Long, S. (2005). Challenging myths of the deficit perspective: Honoring children’s literacy resources. Young Children, 60(6), 12–19. Wilke, F., Hachfeld, A. & Anders, Y. (2017). How is participation in parent-child-interactionfocused and parenting-skills-focused courses associated with child development? Early Years, 38(4), 411–28. doi:10.1080/09575146.2017.1288089 Zaff, J.F., Smith, D.C., Rogers, M.F., Leavitt, C.H., Helle, T.G. & Bornstein, M.H. (2003). Holistic wellbeing and the developing child. In M.H. Bornstein, L. Davidson, C.L.M. Keyes & K.A. Moore (eds), Wellbeing: Positive development across the life course. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.




Alison Black, Gillian Busch and Christine Woodrow

LEARNING OBJECTIVES In this chapter, we will: • Discuss how contemplative practices support educators’ wellbeing in early learning contexts. • Discuss reflection as a meaning-making process and its importance for educators, given the highly relational nature of their work. • Explore the concept of mindfulness and identify several practices educators can use. • Redefine the concept of leadership in terms of collective activity and processes of negotiation directed towards achieving shared understandings and a common purpose for provision of quality education.

CHAPTER 19 Using contemplative practices

INTRODUCTION Teaching is a multidimensional undertaking that calls on educators to engage in responsive interactions and decision-making as they navigate complex and ambiguous contexts, examine deeply held beliefs and values, and integrate personal and professional knowledge. Such an undertaking requires personal integrity and continuing reflective practice. This chapter considers how mindfulness might become an integral part of reflective practice and can support holistic approaches to interactions, contexts and experiences. Mindful and contemplative ways of paying attention to the current moment are important strategies for negotiating the multi-faceted and relational challenges of teaching, learning and leadership. Mindfulness can help us attend to the personal, emotional and interactive dimensions of our work, and to the implications of actions for the longer term. Mindfulness can support our ability to connect with and respond to children and make a positive difference to their learning, health and wellbeing. Bringing ourselves fully and purposefully to the practices of teaching and leadership requires self-understanding and appreciation of our personal histories, identities, strengths and experiences, as well as awareness of our values and aspirations. Working mindfully supports the development of interpersonal relationship and ethics. Heightening our abilities to listen and bring caring and compassion to our collaborative interactions contributes to leaderful practice and sustainable professionalism. To support the application of this knowledge, this chapter offers some everyday resources and specific practices to support the development of mindfulness through self-study and self-reflection. Incorporating these into daily practice will encourage authenticity, intentionality and agency, and will facilitate meaning, wellbeing and purpose.

Figure 19.1 Mindfulness can support our ability to connect with and respond to children



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Contemplation Mindfulness is important. In the activity of my life, I take time to stop, listen, and reflect. I slow my pace. I do not rush. Throughout the day I pause … and engage mindfully with stillness. I re-establish serenity. I am led in the way of focused productivity, through the art of awareness and attention in the present moment. Even though I have so much to undertake and complete each day, I will not worry, for I know who I am and what gives meaning to my work. Practicing mindfulness keeps me balanced, and fully conscious in my experiences. Contemplative practices refresh and renew. They support my wellbeing and my learning to see. I watch how children experience the world. I tap into their sense of wonder, curiosity and playfulness. I look with children’s eyes to see the magic in everyday things. I appreciate my relationships and employ an ethic of care. Inspiration and purpose flow into all that I do. Harmony and effectiveness are the products of my efforts as I engage consciously, deliberately, intentionally and meaningfully. I work leaderfully, collaboratively and compassionately. My work is fulfilling and rewarding. I am where I want to be. (Authors’ original work inspired by Toki Miyashina, ‘Psalm 23 for busy p ­ eople’.)

‘BEING’: A FOUNDATION FOR INQUIRY This chapter invites reflection on personal ways of knowing. As part of becoming and being effective educators and leaders, we need to know how our human self is interwoven into our work and practice. Reflection – on issues of self and identity, on who we are, and the personal and intellectual characteristics and personal or professional knowledge we bring to our work – is important. It is widely acknowledged that teaching is a caring profession, and the nature of teachers’ work is ambiguous, demanding, sometimes overwhelming and often stressful. As the nature of this work is highly relational, educators undertake what might be described as ‘emotional labour’ in building trusting relationships with children, families and their colleagues (Jovanovic 2013). Educators also manage many expectations and responsibilities – including families, themselves, other educators and those mandated in nationally standardised frameworks such as the Australian Institute for Teaching and

Reflection: a ‘meaning-making’ process; when we reflect we are thinking, we are engaged in inquiry and we are interacting with ideas and with others.

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School Leadership (AITSL, 2018) and the National Quality Standards (Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), 2018). Standardised frameworks are very powerful because they codify what is expected, privileged and silenced. Currently, holistic views of teachers and teaching are being challenged by wider social, economic and political contexts. Often, human, personal and relational domains seem overshadowed by the increased emphasis on accountability, performativity and empirically measurable outcomes. In this chapter, we offer a reverse discourse to value the pivotal role of teachers and the human dimensions of teaching. Rather than focusing on technical skills for doing the work of a teacher, we consider the relevance of being in our work. Relationships: underpin Human relationships loom large in teaching, and it is suggested everything that we do as early that we teach who we are (Palmer, 1997). Self-reflection and self-­ childhood educators. For children, understanding are essential for the educator engaged in negotiating the trusting relationships they develop with educators and complex environments and expectations, and striving to be innosignificant others in familial vative, responsive, authentic and balanced. Emerging in the latest and social contexts form the foundation for the construction of research is the idea of ‘being mindful in leadership’ – putting value identity. When we think about the on how we live and lead, and the importance of ‘wellbeing’, ­‘being’ nature of these relationships we and ‘contemplative practices’ that promote awareness, curiosity, are thinking about characteristics like responsiveness, being open-mindedness and mindfulness (Sinclair, 2015). and feeling connected, Mindfulness works alongside the action of leadership. It enables listening, trusting and nurturing interactions. us to do our leadership work differently – with more joy and love, and less judgement of self and others. By focusing attention on the Mindfulness: awareness and interactions and relationships of leadership in action – of working the effort required to be fully present in the moment. It is about alongside and with others, being connected to others and appreciagiving our full attention to our tive of their efforts, and being reflective about ourselves – leadership experience and the people and environments with which we are becomes a collective practice rather than an individual role (Harris, interacting. 2014; Sinclair, 2015). Conceptualising and enacting leadership in this way aligns with emerging understandings of leadership as distributed, whereby leadership is viewed as ‘a collective process … not reducible to the leader or one individual’ (Waniganayake et al., 2017, p. 4) and where relationships are pivotal. Viewing teaching and leadership as a mindful, relational practice that is linked to self-understanding and action provides us with a foundation for inquiry.

WAYS OF KNOWING AND EXPERIENCING OUR WORK There are many ways that we know and experience our work. Paying attention to emotional and relational qualities supports the caring orientation that we have towards our work. Our ways of knowing and being are interconnected and creative, and have personal, emotional and relational dimensions that involve artistry and story (Lessard et al., 2015). They are also often tacit, which means that we need to actively and deliberately engage in reflective practices to be able to understand our deeply held beliefs. Understanding


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our ways of knowing contributes greatly to achieving meaningful goals and vibrant relationships, which in turn support wellbeing. Wellbeing is closely linked to our personal and professional identities, to emotional and social capabilities, and to mental, physical and spiritual health. Wellbeing is a state in which we experience a sense of self-worth, where we feel we are managing the normal stresses of work and life, and are living to our potential with optimism, a sense of purpose and contribution to community. When we experience wellbeing and purpose, we are more able to navigate difficulty and complexity, and more likely to experience enjoyment, longevity and productivity in the teaching profession. However, the daily work of teaching, the constant interactions and the many ongoing demands and accountabilities can challenge wellbeing and leave little opportunity or space for reflection on our knowledge or the values that drive what we do. We can lose connection with the teacher we want to be and the difference we want to make. We can lose heart. In these situations, opportunities to engage with practices that support reflection and self-understanding are all the more important. Contemplative practices can contribute to a wellbeing strategy for us and for the children we teach (see Spotlight 19.1). Well teachers are more able to influence and enable the wellbeing of children in their care (Cumming, 2016; McCallum & Price, 2010). We influence children not only by how and what we teach, but also by how we relate, listen and respond to them – through the quality of our relationships and interactions with them. Contemplative practices support our abilities to relate, listen and respond.

SPOTLIGHT 19.1 What are contemplative practices? Contemplative practices encompass a wide assortment of approaches that value reflection, awareness, ways of knowing and self-study. Rituals such as journalling, storytelling, creative expression, movement, yoga, dance, enjoyment of friends and family, volunteering, spending time in nature, meditation and prayer are all ways of cultivating connections with who we are and what gives us meaning. These are everyday practices that serve to renew and replenish.

CASE STUDY 19.1  ADELE AND PETER For more than 20 years, Adele and her husband Peter have owned and managed a busy and high-quality learning service. During the establishment phase of developing the service, Adele and Peter worked long hours to lead pedagogy, build the business and teach within the service while at the same time raising their young family. More recently, Adele

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has experienced the loss and serious illness of family members. Throughout the history of their involvement in early childhood education, both Adele and Peter have generously shared their knowledge with others and welcomed and nurtured staff. This nurturing of staff has been at both the professional and personal levels, and staff have been embraced as part of an extended and supported family. Adele and Peter often host staff functions at their home or at a nearby beach location. As part of these staff functions, the staff and their families enjoy the hospitality of their hosts. There is a genuine desire by Adele and Peter to build relationships with staff and to ensure that staff know they are valued. Adele is a passionate learner who engages with emerging literature pertaining to early childhood education and has been influenced by the scholarship originating from Reggio Emilia. Drawing inspiration from the work of scholars in Reggio Emilia, Adele is committed to communicating children’s competence and curiosities, and she recognises the value of the arts and pedagogical documentation. This means that she leads staff in l­onger-term projects with children; for example, she developed a project with children, staff and an artist in residence that focused on mindfulness through connection with nature. Such a commitment can result in an exhausting workload that encompasses intellectual and emotional labour. Adele recognised early on that individually (herself) and collectively the family and staff need time to take care of their wellbeing. To ensure this occurs, Adele enacts several strategies, including include: • Setting aside one night each week to enjoy a family dinner (siblings and parents), and giving time to sharing a meal and reconnecting with each other • Enjoying time in nature – walking on the beach, paddling or sailing, or just sitting on the deck • Taking time to be with friends – to engage in conversation, to laugh and have fun • Nourishing a desire to learn through engaging in intellectual conversations – seeking out a diversity of conversational partners/mentors to sustain engagement with contemporary views and perspectives • Self-awareness – checking in to notice mind, body and emotions, and the effects of situations or acts of self-care. Using these strategies supports Adele to maintain her personal wellbeing.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 19.1 Wellbeing Having engaged with the Case study of Adele, consider the following questions: • • • •

What can contribute to the intense nature of an educator’s work? Why does supporting her own wellbeing and the wellbeing of her staff matter? How does Adele support her own wellbeing? What strategies do you use to support your own wellbeing?



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Mindfulness is probably the best-known contemplative approach. Research shows that the benefits of practising mindfulness are many, including improved mental focus and attention, self-monitoring and self-awareness, resilience and creativity, and the reduction of stress. Mindfulness is an approach to being present in the moment and fully aware of attitudes and interactions. It has been described as a ‘particular way of paying attention’ that can be learnt and practised; a ‘way of looking deeply into oneself in the spirit of self-inquiry and self-understanding’ (Kabat-Zinn, 2009, p. 12). It is achieved by focusing attention on our thoughts and emotions, noticing and observing thoughts and emotions as they arise, and refocusing attention to the present moment. In the state of being mindful, we are aware of ourselves and our thoughts; we are aware of our surroundings; we are fully present in our interactions and focused on the information we are giving and receiving. This is not easy to do in the fast-paced, multi-tasking world in which we operate – often on ‘auto-pilot’. So, while we might appear to be engaged in an interaction, our mind can drift to the next pressing task to which we need to attend. A feature of mindfulness is that it involves noticing what is happening and how we are thinking about what is happening, but without judging, evaluating or reacting. Employing this type of noticing helps us to ‘see more’ in our experiences, and nurtures more intentional responses. Mindfulness often involves ‘slowing down’ to pay attention to what is happening, but this is not always necessary. The essential component is the ‘focusing’ of our attention on the present moment rather than thinking about the past or the future. We acknowledge that bringing this kind of mindful approach to our observations and interactions is not easy, particularly when we have been taught in teacher education to be on the lookout for teachable moments, and to interpret and analyse learning situations. Mindfulness is also about our interpersonal relationships and ethics. It includes being aware of our behaviours and the quality of our relationships. It is about bringing caring and compassion to our interactions, bringing consciousness and appreciation into our listening, into our speaking, into our relationships and into our thoughts and actions. When our work is with children, mindfulness enables us to be open, receptive and responsive to their ideas and who they are as people. Mindfulness helps us see the world as children do: curiously, playfully, as though for the very first time (Kolbe, 2007). As we engage in the art of awareness we are present in the moment and able to listen to and observe children’s perspectives (Curtis & Carter, 2012). When we are working in mindful ways, we are less likely to respond in reactive, judgemental or automatic ways to internal and external circumstances. A recent shift in conceptualisations of leadership in educational contexts resonates with these views about mindfulness, interpersonal relationships and ethics. Contemporary Australian frameworks of leadership are recognising the importance of self-knowledge and self-management (including attending to personal wellbeing) as central to successful leadership practices. This shift has been informed by research that highlights the shared, distributed and relational dimensions of effective leadership, and the recognition of leadership as an empowering practice that can be exercised within and across organisations by all participants. Although the concept of distributed leadership is not explicitly identified in the Australian National Quality Standards, several of the attributes associated with it are

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mentioned. For example, reflective questions posed in Standard 7.2 refer to developing the ‘skills and capacity of team members in a way that leads to improved shared leadership’ (ACECQA, 2018 p. 298). Additionally, the use of words such as ‘collaborate’ and ‘collective knowledge’, and reference to the ‘importance of supporting colleagues to grow professionally’ signal these as relevant aspects of leadership. The key message is that we are all capable of working together in leadership, and leadership is not a role but rather a social practice that is fundamentally about relationships and interactions (Harris, 2014).

PAUSE AND REFLECT 19.2 Leadership We are now looking at leadership not so much as role responsibility but leadership as the practice, the enactment of leadership (Harris, 2014).

Watch the video, in which Alma Harris (UCL Institute of Education, 2013) talks about educational leadership in a changing environment. As you watch, reflect on the question Alma Harris poses and your experiences of leadership. What forms of leadership actually make the difference to organisational improvement and change? If leadership exists in the interactions between individuals, if it is a practice or the ‘enactment’ of leadership, how will you share and build the collective leadership through your daily interactions with others?

CASE STUDY 19.2  COLLABORATION, SHARED LEADERSHIP AND CHANGE In an era when change is a constant, staff and children in early childhood centres might find reassurance and comfort in the stability offered by familiar routines and pedagogical practices. Is that a concern? Should there be more attempts by staff to try new things? Theresa wonders about these things. She has been the director of the community based early childhood centre, Orange Tree Early Learning, for 7 years and had noticed that while the centre is running well, staff turnover is low, parents seem satisfied and quality assessment ratings are high, the educators seem reluctant to ‘mix things up’. They do not want to innovate or take risks in their routines and practices with children and families. Having undertaken some recent professional learning herself (about children’s early literacy), Theresa feels there is room for greater intentionality in the literacy experiences being offered to children. She decides to spend more time in each of the rooms, interacting with children and staff. She then approaches each of the educators, asking for the opportunity for talk to them about their aspirations for the children, the centre and themselves. She prepares a summary of the responses, anonymising the respondents and workshopping the responses at a staff meeting. Theresa realizes that there is an appetite for change, but people are feeling uncertain about how to go about it and whether




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they will have their colleagues’ support. Staff are enthusiastic about having an external adviser and mentor work with each room leader. Over several months, all the staff from each room learn how to use a learning environment assessment tool. They self-rate their room on opportunities for literacy learning, select an area to work on (e.g. picture book reading, dramatic play, use of rhymes) and develop a change plan to strengthen that aspect of their literacy teaching and learning. Over the course of the implementation of the change plan, Theresa ensures that all educators in each room have allocated time to work together to review their progress, collaborate with the mentor and revise their implementation plans. At the end of the year, the educators re-rate their rooms with the evaluation tool and are elated to see how in every case they have expanded and strengthened literacy learning opportunities. They share these projects of successful innovation with the families. Although this process takes more than 8 months and is demanding on room leaders, Theresa and the educators comment on the positive pedagogical changes and the enhanced sense of working as a team this approach has generated. There is a freshness and new energy in relationships and teaching and learning across the centre.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 19.3 Communication Having engaged with Case study 19.2 about Theresa’s centre, consider the following questions and prompts. • What would you see as the key factors involved in the success of this project? • How are opportunities created for: –– Open communication –– Collaboration within staff teams and across the centre –– Ownership of the change projects • How important do you think the involvement of all staff (not just the teacher or room leader) is in the success of this initiative? • Is the first step Theresa takes (individual interviews) a good way to start? What do you think this achieves? Are there risks in doing it this way, or would it be better to have an open staff meeting first? What are the risks and benefits of Theresa’s approach?

Leaderful practice: a redefinition of leadership from something individual to something collective. Leaderful practice is about being collaborative and compassionate and showing deep consideration and care for others.

Related to these discussions about leadership is the idea of a leaderful practice (Raelin, 2010). Leaderful practice emerges during negotiation of shared understandings and in the everyday activities of what people do together to accomplish a shared purpose. In leaderful practice, there is a commitment to collaboration and collective leadership at the same time, for the common good. And there is recognition of the views of others, of how values are

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i­nterconnected with leadership and participation. Ultimately, opportunities to co-create with like-­minded people (including children) in collaborative endeavours supports active participation and the development of connected and productive learning communities (Woodrow & ­Busch, 2008). Sustainable professionalism: Sustainable professionalism is a useful framework that aligns a framework for leadership, with and supports the concepts of mindfulness, shared or distributcomprised of ethical ed leadership, and leaderful practice (Fasoli, Scrivens & Woodrow, entrepreneurship, futures orientation, collaboration, 2007). This framework values personal and professional renewal and activism and care. collaboration and care. This type of leadership is action-­oriented, connected, caring, collaborative and located in everyday p ­ ractice. (For a full elaboration of the conceptual components of the framework and its usefulness for leadership practice, see Fasoli et al., 2007). An ethic of care, including caring, is a core value of the teaching profession, and it is also a key component of mindfulness and this sustainable professional framework. Together, these help us to consider the reciprocal and collaborative nature of care and how taking care of ourselves supports our ethical practice. Looking at these new understandings and frameworks for leadership as practice, we can see the importance of self-knowledge, self-awareness and presence of mind. We can see how bringing self-understandings and mindful approaches to interactions and practices can support the building of meaningful and productive relationships wherein we are ethically connected within and across our work contexts and communities.

LIFELONG PRACTICES AND COMMITMENTS The process of becoming and being a mindful educator is lifelong. Continuous processes of reflection and daily intrapersonal and interpersonal mindfulness practice are needed. Mindfulness as a regular and core practice will help us become self-reflective and conscious of our interactions and relationships with children and with others. Becoming self-reflective supports self-management and empowers us to be architects of our own wellbeing development and leaderful leadership practice. In the preamble to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (AITSL, 2018), the pivotal contribution teachers make to children’s learning is celebrated. The statement declares that: ‘Effective teachers can be a source of inspiration and … provide a dependable and consistent influence on young people’ and further acknowledges that: The greatest resource in Australian schools is our teachers. They account for the vast majority of expenditure in school education and have the greatest impact on student learning, far outweighing the impact of any other education program or policy (AITSL, 2018, p. 2).

However, teachers’ capacity to deliver on these wonderful promises is partially dependent on their own sense of worthiness and wellbeing. As we recognise the links between our wellbeing and the wellbeing of the children in our care (Cumming, 2016), we can see the crucial contribution of contemplative practices.


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If we are to have a positive effect on children’s wellbeing, we must be well ourselves – a great incentive for engaging regularly with mindfulness strategies. When we are mindful and responsive in our interactions and relationships with children, they are also more likely to experience a sense of trust, connectedness, security and community – all of which are necessary for children to experience wellbeing, and to thrive socially, emotionally and academically. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to supporting the development of mindfulness, wellbeing and leadership practice through self-study and self-reflection. A series of everyday resources and specific practices to support contemplation and mindfulness follow. These resources and activities are aimed at heightening understanding of your personal history, identities, strengths and experiences. They will help you become more alert to your ways of knowing, and your values and aspirations. They will support clarity about what matters in your work, remind you of your purpose and passions, and enrich your experience of connectedness and wellbeing. They will also enhance the quality of your relationships with children and with others. Because we sometimes need support in accessing the knowledge that we have and bring to our work, it is helpful to engage with a range of processes, approaches and representations. You will discover many useful approaches for representing knowledge and experience, and for supporting attention on practice and encouraging reflection and creative inquiry. We include some possible strategies in Spotlight 19.2, but there are many others, and we encourage you to engage in as part of your own research. Using search terms such as ‘mindfulness’, ‘meditation’, ‘character strengths’ and ‘contemplative practices’ will support your initial investigations on the internet.

SPOTLIGHT 19.2 Helpful books and websites to get you started There are many wonderful books and websites available to support your inquiry and self-reflection. Some of our favourites include: • Mark Bryan with Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen, The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the dragon; • Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life; http://www • Ken Robinson, The Element: How finding your passion changes everything; http://sirkenrobinson .com/ • Ian Gawler and Paul Bedson, Meditation: An in-depth guide. • Beyond Blue and pillar/wellbeing/cooking-meditation-in-disguise and Attending conferences is also a great way to engage in professional learning. There are many annual conferences for educators. In terms of conferences in Australia aimed at

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mindfulness and wellbeing, consideration could be given to: Happiness and Its Causes. Often, the websites for these conferences have videos and resources from past speakers and presenters; for example: TED Talks are also sources of inspiration, and can be accessed via the internet.

PRACTISING MINDFULNESS STRATEGIES When you are practising mindfulness, you are intentionally anchoring your mind and your awareness to the present moment. You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it does require a level of discipline and application. One strategy is to experience the present by anchoring attention through the five senses. Paying attention to sights, sounds and physical sensations helps us live more fully and with greater awareness of our experience and interactions. You can practise anchoring your attention through your senses as you take a shower, eat a meal, have a conversation with a friend or walk along the beach. For one of the authors of this chapter, mindfulness was developed during the process of learning ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. During the process of flower arranging, she began to focus more and more on the visual and the colours and the shapes of the flowers. She then gave attention to her other senses. Noticing, observing and attending to the flowers using all of her senses helped her be fully present in the moment. Another mindfulness strategy is to focus your attention on the breath and on the act of breathing. A focus on the breath has been found to promote awareness and reflection. To begin this practice, you will find it helpful to take a few deep breaths and then relax and be calmly attentive to your breathing. Notice your diaphragm expanding and contracting. Notice the feeling of your breath as it flows through your nostrils. Spend a few minutes just focusing on your breathing. If you notice your mind wandering, just bring your attention back to your breath. Focusing on your breathing can help you develop greater control over your internal and emotional responses, and support emotional balance, empathy and compassion. This kind of mindfulness practice supports the development of a positive state of mind and reduces stress. As a way of developing your relationships with others (and with children), make a commitment to practising mindful listening. Choose at least one person (a child?) a day to practise mindful listening with (they do not need to know you have chosen them). As that person speaks to you, ‘really listen’ to them. Listen intently. Give time to listening closely. Avoid the temptation to rush conversation. Notice and be curious about the words they are using. Watch their facial expressions and their body language closely. Consider the tone and sound of their voice and the way they are speaking. See if you can read their emotional state. Pay attention to every detail of their face. Notice the colour, shape and movement of their eyes; the colour, shape and movement of their eyebrows. Listen without thinking about your own reply. Bring your full attention to what they are saying,



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feeling and communicating. If you feel your mind wandering, just bring your attention back to the other person. Notice what you have become aware of during this interaction. Pay attention to your own reactions, body language and physical sensations. How has empathy and understanding been supported? Did you become aware of emotions or meanings that would otherwise have remained unseen due to rushing, inattention or business? How might engaging in mindful listening with children support their sense that they can trust you and that they are respected, listened to and cared for? Engaging with such mindfulness strategies for even one minute a day has benefits. Bringing mindfulness into your life and your workplace can help you be more empathetic and compassionate. It can support your listening skills, your social and emotional skills, and your leadership practice. It can support the development of skills such as responding to difficult conversations and building trusting relationships and teamwork. Deeper thinking and heightened awareness about situations and interactions improve ethical d ­ ecision-making, understanding of the bigger picture, making connections and responsiveness. Mindful listening and respectful communication contribute to supportive, responsive and encouraging relationships. Daily mindfulness strategies support our relationships with children and the development of optimal social and emotional environments. They support smoother transitions, lower levels of conflict, more respectful communication and problem-solving to encourage positive learning outcomes and wellbeing experiences. In short, mindfulness strategies promote high-quality teacher–child relationships, and support effective social and emotional learning, health and wellbeing for both teacher and child. You, as a teacher, are an important contributor to the development of supportive relationships and healthy learning environments. Healthy learning environments directly contribute to children’s social, emotional and academic outcomes. Children learn best when they have trusting relationships with responsive adults, and when they feel happy, heard, respected and cared for. Healthy learning environments also reinforce your enjoyment and love of teaching, your commitment to the profession and your overall sense of wellbeing and efficacy.

REFLECTIVE WRITING Engaging in reflection through writing provides opportunities to explore the knowledge and beliefs that form the underpinnings of our work, and encourages awareness and analysis of daily experiences. Writing for personal and professional learning is a wellestablished practice in teacher education. The power of this type of writing emerges when it moves beyond the telling or description of life experiences to an active way of constructing, representing and interpreting identity. You might like to buy a visual diary to record and revisit your reflections and stories. You might use images and drawings, concept maps, magazine pictures or poetry alongside your writing. These arts-based forms can help to access and illustrate feelings, relationships and meaning-making. One of the authors keeps a visual diary in which she includes drawings, images and sources of inspiration. She reflects on experiences using

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stories and poetry. Her visual diary is a tool for recording and identifying what is important, what is troubling her and what is motivating her. It helps her to galvanise a sense of agency over her life, and to recognise, express and understand her emotions and experiences. Like her, you might write about a range of things such as: • Specific situations or specific dilemmas or conflicts; situations in which you feel you ‘don’t know’ enough and can identify knowledge needs • The influence of your life history (childhood, family, schooling experiences) and past experiences on your current decisions, understandings and everyday actions • The influence of university, reading, research and relationships on your ideas and everyday actions • Your emotions, feelings, images of self, images of teaching • Your guiding philosophy and values for working with young children, what you hope for your relationships with children, what you hope for their learning and wellbeing, and for their futures • Whatever is on your mind. Sometimes, engaging in writing an unedited stream of consciousness is helpful. This type of writing – a loose internal monologue – can help siphon off the thoughts on the mind’s surface and help you get to the deeper thoughts and meanings that lie beneath daily mind-chatter and ‘voice-over’. It can connect you to emotions, feelings, points of view and intuitions, and help you metabolise your life. Of highest importance is that you make the time and opportunity to reflect in ways and on things that have relevance for you. You will find that, upon reflecting on your experiences, insights will emerge in terms of how past experiences influence and colour your current actions. For example, you might reflect on experiences that you had as a child. You might remember a teacher who made you feel stupid or invisible, or one who touched your life, cared for you and captivated you with their passion. Memories like these might bring to the surface values and practices that influence and shape your teaching approaches. You might consider how you are influencing the wellbeing of children through your daily interactions and practices. As you reflect, you are supporting your personal and professional learning, and exploring connections between your inner life as an educator, your daily interactions and the legacy you hope to leave.

PAUSE AND REFLECT 19.4 Reflection You may find you need some starter questions to help you begin reflection. You may find you want to talk out loud first, sharing your thoughts with a friend or colleague, before putting pen to paper. Holly’s (1984) work on journal writing, Keeping a Personal–­Professional Journal and particularly her section on ‘Journal keeping – a writer’s manual’ offers some




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really useful suggestions. She suggests (pp. 42–3) readers engage with these sorts of questions: • Why, when and how did you decide to become a teacher? • Was there anyone or anything that influenced you? • As you look back, even to your early years of schooling, what feelings and images remain? • Which teachers do you remember, and why do you remember them? What do you remember about them? What feelings do you associate with them? • What would you like to change or work on to improve your own teaching and leadership practice?

Figure 19.2 Journaling as reflection

You might decide to direct your reflection specifically to wellness and wellbeing with questions such as: • • • • • • • •

How might my wellbeing influence children’s wellbeing? How important is it that I care for myself? How do I care for and replenish myself? What are my personal rituals for letting go of stress and for cultivating contemplation? What rituals and mindfulness strategies can I build into my daily routine? How do I express my care and compassion for others and for children? How am I promoting their wellbeing? What aspects of my work inspire me and give me meaning?

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Here is an example of an early childhood teacher’s reflections, as she responded to Holly’s (1984) questions and engaged in some life-history writing: My childhood experiences have certainly shaped who I am. The values that drive my practice are clearly connected to memories from my early years – memories of relationships and interactions and discovery. My childhood was filled with happy memories … of regular trips to the beach; of riding my bike to visit my friends; of constructing cubbies in the backyard; of floating on my back in the ocean; of visiting my grandparents and the delights we shared like drinking tea, playing board games, searching for strawberries, and feeding the chooks. Some memories are less positive, and strangely enough are linked to school or learning experiences. I remember how my dance teacher disciplined me for being late to class and how bad that felt. I remember another teacher who made me feel afraid. I was humiliated by this teacher, and so was my friend. Later, as a young adult, gainfully employed as a teacher myself, I saw that teacher in the distance and immediately a sense of fear ran through my body. Recording these memories has made me think about a number of things. I think of Henry, a child I know. Henry doesn’t want to go to school. His schooling experiences haven’t been positive. My commitment to relationships and genuine intergenerational relationships is sharpened. What I knew intuitively was that the adults in my home life were fully present with me and interested in me. I am reminded again why mindful and compassionate interactions are so important. I can also see how important being connected to the outdoors and to nature was in my childhood. And this is still important for me now. I recognise how just walking along the beach serves to refresh me after a long stressful day. Being in nature calms me and nourishes me. Being in nature supports my goal to be fully present. I notice the changes in the colour of the water as the sun goes down. I feel the wind and salt on my skin. I feel the sand between my toes. I feel calmer, more grounded. I know that in my work as a teacher, I want to find ways for children to have a real connection with the earth. I want them to have opportunities to plant things and see them grow. I want them to have an opportunity to care for animals. I want to give them time to just be.

As this teacher looks over her reflection, she can reconnect with what mattered to her as child and to what matters to her as an educator. She can identify the important role of responsive interactions, caring relationships and experiences in the natural world in supporting wellbeing. She can see the importance of her role as a teacher in terms of creating warm and nurturing learning environments, being emotionally responsive and forming caring and supportive relationships with children. Articulating these things renews her awareness and commitment to promoting her own wellbeing and, in turn, the wellbeing of children. Give time to writing your own life reflections. Once you have written your reflections, look over them again. What common issues, keywords or enduring themes are emerging? What connections or ideas keep popping up in your writing? Can you identify words or



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phrases that sum up your experiences or your feelings? What have you connected with? Dreams? Realities? Dilemmas? Possibilities? Interests? Passions? Relationships? What does your writing suggest you need to do more of or less of?

USING METAPHOR AND DRAWING Metaphors are another useful reflective tool. Metaphors can help us describe what our work is like, and what being an early years’ educator involves (Black, 2013). Metaphors capture the experiential ways in which we know and feel about our work. They can also bring to light unexplored and unexamined tensions. Can you identify a metaphor that captures what your work has been like for you this year?

PAUSE AND REFLECT 19.5 Play with metaphor Have some fun engaging with some multiple-choice options. As you read the following questions, imagine there is only one choice. Explain why the metaphor you have chosen is the right one for you: 1.

Being a teacher is like: a. white-water rafting b. working in a garden c. putting a puzzle together d. training for a marathon e. juggling

f. playing a game of strategy such as chess.


Managing the relationships of my work is like: a. building a house b. knitting a jumper c. surfing d. bush walking e. creating an art work.

You might find it helpful to find some images or create some drawings as you explore your chosen metaphor. In the example in Figure 19.3, early years educator Debbie identifies ‘juggling’ as a metaphor for her work (Black, 2000). Debbie feels that at university she focused on just one ball. That ball was studying. Now, in her real work of teaching, there are so many more dimensions and so many more balls to juggle. Her drawing illustrates this for her.

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Figure 19.3 Being a teacher is like juggling – Debbie’s metaphor and drawing

After identifying her juggling metaphor and representing it in a drawing, Debbie engages in some written reflection. This is an excerpt from her reflection: This representation of ‘my teacher self as juggler’ has helped me clarify what I was feeling, and address these feelings. After seeing myself as a juggler, and the ball representing my needs being significantly smaller than the rest, I became more deliberate in terms of my self-care. I carefully reflected on my needs and feelings as part of decision-making processes. An important step for me!

Metaphors are useful because they inherently make visible and bring to awareness the emotional, sensory and complex dimensions of our experiences. They encourage us to review experiences and examine feelings and tensions. They can also encourage exploration of alternatives and intentions. What insights do your metaphors offer you?

CONCLUSION Teaching is an important but demanding undertaking that requires navigation of complex and ambiguous contexts and attention to personal, emotional and interactive dimensions. Learning how to be in our work, more than doing the work, is perhaps the real work of teaching. This requires personal integrity and continuing reflective practice. Self-reflection and self-understanding are vital, particularly since ‘we teach who we are’. Becoming and being a mindful educator is a lifelong process. Preparing for any kind of ‘becoming’



PART 3 Social and emotional wellbeing

requires the cultivation of practices and knowledge. Mindfulness, as an integral and everyday part of reflective and contemplative practice, supports self-reflection and the conscious development of knowledge, relationships and ethics. It supports wellbeing strategies and sustainable professionalism by connecting us to our values and heightening our ability to engage in leaderful leadership practices, to bring authenticity, caring and compassion to our collaborative interactions and relationships with children and others.

QUESTIONS 19.1 What have you learnt about mindfulness after engaging with this chapter? 19.2 What ideas have resonated with you the most? How will you incorporate these into your future teaching and leadership practices? 19.3 What relationships can you see between your own wellbeing and your ability to promote children’s health and wellbeing? 19.4 What practices or rituals will you build into your daily routines and interactions to cultivate mindfulness, reflection, knowledge and compassionate relationships with children?

REFERENCES Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) (2018). Guide to the Australian National Quality Framework. Sydney: ACECQA. Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) (2018). The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Melbourne: Education Services Australia. Black, A.L. (2013). Picturing experience: Metaphor as method, data and pedagogical resource. In W. Midgley, K. Trimmer & A. Davies (eds), Metaphors For, In and Of Education Research. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ——— (2000). Who Am I as Teacher? Promoting the active positioning of self within teaching realities (PhD thesis). Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology. Cumming, T. (2016). Early childhood educators’ well-being: An updated review of the literature. Early Childhood Education Journal, 45(5), 583–93. doi:10.1007/s10643-016-0818-6 Curtis, D. & Carter, M. (2012). The Art of Awareness: How observation can transform your teaching (2nd edn). St Paul, MN: Redleaf Press. Fasoli, M., Scrivens, C. & Woodrow, C. (2007). Challenges for leadership in New Zealand and Australian early childhood contexts. In L. Keesing-Styles & H. Hedges (eds), Theorising Early Childhood Practice: Emerging dialogues. Sydney: Pademelon Press. Harris, A. (2014). Distributed Leadership Matters: Perspectives, practicalities, and potential. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Holly, M.L. (1984). Keeping a Personal–Professional Journal. Geelong, Vic.: Deakin University.

CHAPTER 19 Using contemplative practices

Jovanovic, J. (2013). Retaining early childcare educators. Gender, Work and Organisation, 20(5), 528–44. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2009). Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion. Kolbe, U. (2007). Rapunzel’s Supermarket: All about young children and their art (2nd edn). Byron Bay, NSW: Peppinot Press. Lessard, S., Schaefer, L., Huber, J., Murphy, S. & Clandinin, J. (2015). Composing a life as a teacher educator. In C.J. Craig & L. Orland-Barak (eds), International Teacher Education: Promising pedagogies (Part C). Advances in Research on Teaching, (Volume 22C, pp. 235–52). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. McCallum, F. & Price, D. (2010). Well teachers, well students. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 4(1), 19–34. Palmer, P.J. (1997). The heart of a teacher: Identity and integrity in teaching. Change Magazine, 29(6), 14–21. Raelin, J.A. (2010). The Leaderful Fieldbook: Strategies and activities for developing leadership in everyone. Boston: Davies-Black. Sinclair, A. (2015). Possibilities, purpose and pitfalls: Insights from introducing mindfulness to leaders. Journal of Spirituality, Leadership and Management, 8(1), 3–11. UCL Institute of Education (2013). Education leadership in a changing environment. Alma Harris, Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, in conversation with MBA student Christopher Price. Retrieved from watch?v=rn8tFU8hQ60 Waniganayake, M., Cheeseman, S., Fenech, M., Hadley, F. & Shepherd, A. (2017). Leadership: Contexts and complexities in early childhood education (2nd edn). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Woodrow, C. & Busch, G. (2008). Repositioning early childhood leadership as action and activism. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 16(1), 83–93.


INDEX Entries in bold indicate images; entries in italics indicate tables. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, 47, 281, 282, 284, 285–6 case study, 291 disadvantage, 13, 38, 42, 43, 46, 279, 280 education policy, 282–4, 285, 287 swimming programs, 291, 292 Adolph, K.E., 122, 175 advertising, 109 Africa, 4 African languages, 133 Agbenyega, J., 120 agency, 222, 238, 301, 304, 341 aggressive behaviour, 100, 186–8, 189, 190, 192, 208 see also bullying Aladdin, 84 ALERT program, 229 Ali and the Long Journey to Australia (video), 288 allergies, 119 latex, 119–20 allostatic load, 48–9 Alpha Generation, 4–6, 17 anxiety, 86, 190, 195, 210–12, 217, 237, 271 Armstrong, S., 292 Asia-Pacific, 287 Asian languages, 134 asylum seekers, 41, 279, 288, 294 attachment, 87, 221 attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), 100 Australia, 8, 13–17, 40, 41, 44, 45, 47, 104–5, 126, 164, 165, 175, 197, 289 Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), 265, 318, 331 Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), 289 Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), 281 Australian Curriculum, 57, 58, 62, 213, 222, 264, 265, 266, 272, 279, 287, 290 Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 16, 213, 265

Australian Department of Education and Training (DET), 261 Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), 29, 133, 318 see also Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) Australian Department of Health, 121 Australian Department of Health and Ageing, 16 Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 45 Australian Department of Social Services, 47, 281 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), 15, 43 Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), 14, 15 Australian Health Promoting Schools Association (AHPSA), 281 Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), 284 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 6, 13 Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), 206, 265, 266, 331 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 98 Australian National Guidelines for Daily Physical Activity for Children, 57 Australian National Quality Standards (NQS), 116, 250, 318, 331, 334 Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST), 16, 211, 212, 265–7, 337 Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), 6, 16 Australian Research Council (ARC), 221, 231 Australian Safety Standards, 178 Australian Social Inclusion Board, 46 Australian Student Wellbeing Framework (ASWF), 217, 266–7 autism, 174, 206, 208, 210


babbling, 136, 141 Bailey, R., 59 Be Safe!, 162 Be You, 214, 263, 273 becoming, 62, 133, 330, 337, 345 behavioural problems, 48, 100, 149, 156 being, 133 belonging, 133, 223, 243, 250–1, 282, 286, 287, 300, 306, 308 Belonging, Being & Becoming (DEEWR), 251 Beni, S., 290 Better Life Initiative, 7 Beyond Blue, 214, 263, 338 Bidi Bidi refugee camp, 41 The Big Bang Theory, 81 The Biggest Loser, 61 bilingualism, 286–7 bio-ecological models, 42, 50 birthday cake candles, 87, 125 body dismorphic disorders (BDD), 78 body image and bullying, 81, 89 case studies, 79, 82, 84–7 combating early childhood issues, 90–4 and diversity, 84–8 eating disorders, 78 educational practice, 88 designing programs, 89 family influence, 78 meaning, 80–2 media influence, 78, 80, 81, 82–4 physical disabilities, 84–7 burn victims, 84–7, 94 research, 85–6 princess phenomenon, 79, 83, 89, 90 and psychodynamic theories, 82 and self-concept, 78, 82–4, 89 and social stigma, 80 thinness ideal, 77–82 body mass index (BMI), 80 Body Structures, 24, 31 Bradshaw, J., 7 Bravehearts, 162 Break the Silence, 162 breathing, 229, 339 Bronfenbrenner, U., 42, 50, 155 Brown, F.L., 78, 80, 81 bullying, 43, 80, 81, 157, 163, 185–204 anti-bullying programs, 197, 198 and body image, 81–2, 89 bullying circles, 191

case studies, 191, 196, 209 characteristics, 186–8 cyberbullying, 186–8, 199 cycle of bullying, 189, 196–9 developmental trends, 186–8 direct and indirect, 186, 187 moral disengagement, 187 participants, 189–93 bystanders, 187, 191, 197 defenders, 192 familial factors, 192 peer groups, 189, 190, 191–2, 194, 195, 197, 199 perpetrators, 189–93 victims, 190, 192, 193, 194–7, 199 predictive factors, 188 prevention approaches, 283–4 role of schools, 193, 251 anti-bullying programs, 196–9 intervention, 196–9 whole-school approach, 187, 196, 199 socio-emotional effects, 186, 189, 193–6, 199 students with special needs, 208–9, 217 WITS program, 194 burn victims, 84–7, 94 Burrows, L., 290 Callcott, D., 56 Canada, 165, 194 Canadian Red Cross, 162 candles, 87, 125 Cantonese (language), 143 capacity, 26 cardiovascular disease, 47, 48, 176 case studies, 247 body image, 79, 82, 84–7 bullying, 191, 196, 209 classifying health and wellbeing, 24, 27, 31, 32 communication, 27, 146–7, 150 contemplative practices, 336–7 educational disadvantage, 287, 291 family partnerships, 190, 316, 321 food, 101, 107 friendships, 235, 240–4, 247, 248–9, 250–3 generations, 5 partnership with families, 316, 319, 321–2, 323 physical education, 57, 63 resilience, 221, 228




case studies  (cont.) safety, 122, 125 school playgrounds, 174, 179 sexual abuse, 163, 165 social determinants, 41, 50 social and emotional learning, 211, 263, 272 social inequality, 44 special needs, 211 Talking Circles, 303, 304 teaching standards, 16 Castle, Jill, 108 Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), 214, 272, 273 chickenpox, 121, 123 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act 1974 (US), 156 Child Help Speak up, Be Safe, 162 Child Well-Being Index, 8, 9–11 Children’s Headline Indicators (CHI), 13, 14 children’s rights, 7, 8, 266, 280, 300 China, 165 choking, 122 Circle of Security (CoS), 85, 87, 94 circle time, 221, 227 classroom conditions, 260 Closing the Gap, 45 co-creating, 303 Cobb-Clark, D.A., 38 collaboration, 315, 335–7 Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), 261, 264, 265, 266, 269, 274 colonisation, 280 Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 109 communication, 21, 132–53, 237, 249, 251, 299, 320, 336–7 alternative communication, 144 case studies, 27, 146–7, 150 characteristics, 133–41 development and strategies, 141–6, 189 developmental sequence 0–1 year (babies), 141–2 1–2 years (toddlers), 142–4 2–5 years (preschoolers), 144–6, 147 5–12 years (school-aged children), 148–150 family partnerships, 320, 321, 322 form, content and use, 133–5, 143

language, 133, 141 non-verbal, 133, 151 roles of speaker and listener, 135 communication difficulties, 142, 144, 145, 146–7, 149, 150, 215 Communities for Children Facilitating Partners, 47 community building, 306 community partnerships, 281, 282 conferences, 339 conflict-resolution strategies, 120 conjunctivitis, 123 contemplative practices, 328–47 ‘being’ foundation, 330–1 books and websites, 338–9 case studies, 156–8, 335–6 characteristics, 332 communication, 336–7 lifelong practices, 337–8 metaphor and drawing, 344–5 mindfulness, 328–31, 334–5, 337, 338, 339, 340–4 reflection, 339–40, 342 reflective writing, 340–4 and relationships, 334, 340 ways of knowing, 331–7 and wellbeing, 332, 333, 337–8 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 8, 280 Council of Europe, 162 Crawford, R., 61 The CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids, 109 cultural safety, 284–7 bilingual education programs, 286–7 in the classroom, 287 epistemological violence, 285–6 culture, 284 Cyber Friendly Schools program, 198 cyberbullying, 186–8, 199 Danby, S., 245 Daniel, G.R., 315 Daro, D.A., 164 decision-making, 261, 300, 304 Dengate, Sue, 101 depression, 49, 86, 193, 195, 210, 237 development, 122 developmental levels, 122 0–1 year (babies) communication, 141–2, 189 risk-taking, 175


safety risks, 128 sexual abuse, 159 1–2 years (toddlers) communication, 142–4, 189 safety risks, 124, 128 sexual abuse, 159 2–5 years (preschoolers) communication, 147, 189 risk-taking, 175 safety risks, 128 5–12 years (school-aged children), 149–50, 189 communication, 148–9 physical activity, 289 physical education, 64, 65 safety risks, 128 bullying, 133–41 special needs, 216–17 developmental pathways and outcomes, 260 diabetes, 99, 176 disabilities, 33, 163, 173 biopsychosocial model, 22 intellectual disabilities, 176 medical model, 88 physical disabilities and body image, 84–7 burn victims, 84–7, 94 motor difficulties, 64–5 research, 85–6 and play, 174 secondary impairments, 174 social model, 88 discourse analysis, 83 discourses, 6, 60 military, 60 obesity, 63 scientific, 61 sporting, 61 diseases, 48 chronic, 48, 98, 102–3, 176 infectious, 121–3, 124 exclusion periods, 122 Disney princesses, 79, 83–4, 89, 90 Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure, 162 DNA methylation, 43 dominant movement patterns (DMPs), 64 dramatic play, 84 drawing, 135, 145, 146, 147, 238, 242, 243, 245, 246, 270, 344–5 Drummond, C., 104

dumb blonde, 80 Durlak, J.A., 267 duty of care, 174, 179 Eager, David, 126 ear infections, 291 Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), 58 Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), 29–30, 59, 90–4, 133, 151, 175, 222, 265, 279, 282, 286, 314, 318, 319 EarlyBird, 175–6 Eat Well South Australia Project, 98 eating disorders, 78 The Ecological Approaches to Social Emotional Learning (EASEL) Laboratory, 274 ecological perspective, 155 Education and Care Services National Regulations, 118, 119 Education and Health Standing Committee, 291 educational disadvantage, 278, 89, 292–3 case studies, 287 overarching policies, 279–84 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education policy, 282–3 Australian EYLF, 282 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, 282 Ottowa Charter for Health Promotion, 280–1 United Nations declarations, 280 educators, 293 anti-bullying, 193, 196–9 children’s nutrition, 97–114 family relationships, 315, 322, 323 friendship support, 249, 250–2 health promotion, 5, 6 playgrounds, 181 refugee students, 288 relationships, 207, 285, 301, 323, 331 SEL teaching, 262, 273, 274 social determinants, 48–50 sustainable professionalism, 4–6, 329, 346 Talking Circles, 307–8, 309, 310 teacher qualities, 260 see also contemplative practices; resilience electricity, 125 empathy, 87, 229, 242, 262, 288, 289, 340 English (language), 134, 143, 145, 281, 286 Environmental Factors, 27–9, 31, 223




epigenetics, 43, 47 epistemological violence, 285–6 The Equality Trust, 44 Ereaut, G., 6 eye contact, 136, 141, 252 facilitators/barriers, 28, 30 fairy tales, 78, 82 falling, 122 families, 315 Family Matters, 81 family partnerships, 83–4, 213, 314, 320–4 building trust, 323 case studies, 190, 319, 321 communication, 320, 322 dealing with parents, 319–21 diversity, 319 guiding principles, 321 partnership concept, 316–17 role of educators, 314, 315, 317–19, 320, 324 role of families, 313–24 special needs, 217–18 support strategies, 319 family violence, 44, 155, 193 feedback loops, 263 fiddle toys, 229 film industry, 80–4 Finkelhor, D., 163 Finland, 281, 288 fire, 127–8 Fitts, P.M., 65, 66 food additives, 101 food environment, 107 food insecurity, 41 food and nutrition, 43, 48, 97–114, 124 case studies, 101, 107 education settings, 103–5 food and nutrition literacy, 98, 103–5, 106, 111 health and wellbeing overview, 102 healthy diets, 104–5 healthy food choices, 109, 110 healthy food projects, 104–5, 106, 110, 111 and learning, 100–3 brain development, 100–1 breakfast and learning, 102 food intolerance and behaviour, 101 and obesity, 43, 47, 48, 49, 98, 99 physical health and wellbeing, 98–9 role of parents and caregivers, 104–5

role of schools, 106 safety at meal times, 117 school canteens, 104 school lunches, 107–8 and SDGs, 99 whole-school approach, 105 Foodbank Australia, 41 Footprints in Time (Department of Social Services), 281 Foundation year, 223 Freud, Sigmund, 82 Friendly Schools Friendly Families program, 198 friendships, 49, 149, 151, 190, 209, 267 and belonging, 243, 250 case studies, 240, 245, 246, 247 activities together, 239, 242 behaviour, 240, 241 characteristics, 244, 247 disputes, 248–9 language exchange, 250 learning, 235–53 multilingual settings, 249, 250 new schools, 246 respect, 240 characteristics, 236, 238–44, 247, 252 contexts, 236 developmental level preschool (3–4 years), 238 school age(5–6 years), 238 disputes, 238, 248–9, 251 importance in early years, 236 making in the early years, 243, 244, 248 multilingual settings, 249–50, 252 and play, 242, 243, 245, 247, 250, 251 researching, 238 role of educators, 249, 250–2 strategies, 243, 245, 249 transitions to school, 245 understanding, 252–3 Frozen (film), 79, 82, 90 fundamental movement skills (FMS), 55, 63, 65–7, 68, 69, 70 fussy eaters, 108 Gaffney, H., 197 gender differences, 11, 12, 83, 88, 89, 90, 176, 195, 290 Generation Z, 4, 5 generations, 4, 5, 17, 44


generative conversation, 309 generative listening, 302, 305, 310 glass and crockery, 117 glycemic index (GI), 102 Golden J., 83 Goodman, M.R., 194 Grimm Brothers, 78 guided conversations, 300, 301, 304, 310 gymnastics, 64, 69 hand hygiene, 124 Happy Days, 81 Harris, Alma, 335 Hattie, J., 317 health, 6, 62 Australian context, 13–17 evidence base, 7 global context, 8–13 importance, 6 SDGs, 13 Health is Academic, 103 health and physical education, see physical education Health and Physical Education (HPE), 272 Health-Promoting Schools Framework, 103, 104, 159, 281 health promotion, 6 healthism, 60, 61 Healthy School Communities, 103 hearing, 31, 32, 38, 142, 144 Hellison, D., 60 herpes simplex, 123 Hickey, C., 61 hidden curriculum, 60 holistic approach, 111, 329, 331 Holly, M.L., 341, 343 home languages, 286–7 Hornby, G., 317, 321 HPA systems, 48, 49 human movement theory, see physical education humanitarian migrants, 41 hygiene, 124 Iceland, 80 ideology, 60, 61, 155 ikebana, 339 immunisation, 121–3 impairment, 23, 24, 32, 33 income disadvantage, 40, 45 India, 42, 162, 250

Indigenous peoples, see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples indoor safety, 118–25, 129 developmental-level risks, 122, 5–125 education spaces, 119, 124 environmental hazards, 118–19 glass and crockery, 117 latex, 119–20 sleeping, 118 ventilation and natural light, 118–19 influenza, 123 intellectual disabilities, 176, 209 Interagency Collaboration Supporting Resilient Students, Families, Schools in Disadvantaged Communities, 221, 222, 231 International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), 22, 23–34 Activities and Participation, 25, 27 contextual factors, 27–9 Environmental, 27–9 Personal, 29 application, 30–2, 280 in professional practice, 31 in research, 32 Body Functions and Structures, 22, 24–25 case studies, 24, 27, 31, 32, 171 Environmental Factors, 28, 40 linking the ICF and EYLF, 29–30 participation and relationships, 29–30 using the ICF, 22 intimacy, 237 iodine deficiency, 100 IQ, 100–1, 221 Italian (language), 134 Japan, 8 Jones, S.M., 260–1 Joseph, G.S., 272 journaling, 341 Kaukko, M., 288 Keary, Anna, 288 Keeping Safe, 163 Kelly, B., 107 KIDS Foundation, 87 Kirk, D., 60 KiVa, 197 Korea, 84 Kostenius, D., 237




language, 88, 133, 136, 138, 141, 249, 251, 286–7 form, content and use, 133–5 language exchange, 250 latex, 119–20 leaderful practice, 336, 337 leadership, 60, 300, 329, 331, 334–6 and mindfulness, 331 sustainable professionalism, 4–6, 329, 346 learning environments, 209–12, 340 Lee, L., 84 life expectancy, 4, 15, 38, 40 light, 118–19 listening, 135, 224, 266, 300, 339 generative, 302, 305, 310 literacy, 138, 147 The Little Mermaid, 84 locomotor skills, 64 longitudinal studies, 100, 101, 158, 176, 188, 193, 221, 281, 294 LOOK Longitudinal Study, 176 loose parts, 172, 173, 177, 178, 180 Lundy, L., 300 Malaysians, 81 Mandarin (language), 143 manipulative skills, 64 Martin, K., 282 Martorano, B., 8, 15 Mauritius, 100 McCrindle, M., 5 McGinnis, E., 269 McLeod, S., 145 MDGs, 11, 12 Meadow Park Talking Circle, 305 measles, 123 media, influence on body image, 78, 80, 81, 82–4 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, 16, 282 Melbourne Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century, 318 Mellor, D., 81 mental health, 49, 78, 99, 100, 101, 156, 174, 193, 195, 196, 210, 237, 263, 273 meta-analysis, 100, 197 metabolic activity, 102 metalinguistic skills, 148 metaphor, 344–5

military discourse, 60 Millennium Development Goal (MDGs), 11 mindfulness, see contemplative practices Miyashina, Toki, 330 modelling, 31, 107, 144, 147, 197, 216, 226, 251, 262, 290 Monash University, 288 monkey bars, 64, 126, 242 moral disengagement, 187 motor development, 68, 289 multi-tiering, 271–2 multilingualism, 134, 251 and friendships, 249–50, 252 multimodal delivery programs, 163 mumps, 123 Nakata, N.M., 284 National Aboriginal Education Plan (NAEP), 283 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy (DET), 282, 283–4 National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN), 156 National Child Measurement Programme, 63 National Curriculum for England, 58, 61, 64, 67 National Disability Insurance Scheme, 174 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 121 National Professional Standards for Teachers, 318, 319 National Quality Framework, 265, 318, 319, 322 National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF), 261, 266 natural light, 118–19 neighbourhood safety, 49 neophobia, 108 nerds, 81 Nest Action Agenda, 15 New Zealand, 8, 134 niceness, 267 non-verbal communication, 133, 151 obesity, 43, 47, 48, 49, 63, 98, 99, 175 O’Brien, K.S., 80 Ohgi, S., 86, 87


Olweus, D., 191, 197 Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, 197 omega-3 fatty acids, 99, 100 O’Neill, Susie, 87 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 7, 9, 40, 281, 314, 315 oromotor structures, 141 Otherness, 77, 94, 285 otitis media (middle-ear infections), 24 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, 6, 280–1 outdoor safety, 129, 173 developmental-level risks, 128–9 equipment, 125–6 fire, 127–8 playgrounds, 174, 179 sun safety, 126–7 travel, 127 see also playgrounds parenting styles, 109, 192 parents, 47, 48, 49, 51, 87, 108, 187, 192, 199, 217, 221, 320 and nutrition literacy, 98 see also family partnerships participation restriction, 25 partnerships, 47, 316–17 family partnerships, 217–18 school community involvement, 318 see also family partnerships pathway model, 47–8 Peace Room, 304 peer culture, 237 peer relationships, 5, 190, 195, 207, 237, 238, 243, 248, 252, 285 bullying, 191–2 peers, 189 Perceptual Motor Program (PMP), 70, 71 performance, 26 perpetrators, bully-victims, 196 personal and social capability (PSC), 264, 265, 272 pertussis (whooping cough), 123 Phillipson, S., 321, 323 phonological awareness, 147 physical activity, 57, 97–114, 176, 178, 289–90 and obesity, 175–6 and play, 180 in remote areas, 291 and wellbeing, 175–7

physical disabilities and body image, 84–7 motor difficulties, 64–5 physical education, 55–75 case studies, 57, 63 information processing model, 69–70 motor control model, 63–70 acquisition of motor skills, 65–7 children’s movement and development, 66 dominant movement patterns in the playground, 64–5 experiences of movement, 70 fundamental movement skills (FMS), 55, 63–5, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70 motor development, 68 motor difficulties, 64–5 quality physical education, 63 best practice, 57 discourses, 60 health and wellbeing, 57–63 implementation problems, 63 optimising positive experiences, 62 socio-cultural approach, 58, 60–63 teaching a physical education class, 66 physical health, 98–9 Plan International, 162 play, 56, 58, 89, 120, 127, 138, 142, 173, 177, 290 and body image, 83, 84 children with disabilities, 173, 174 and friendship, 242, 243, 245, 247, 250, 251 and physical activity, 175–7, 180 and resilience, 230 and risk-taking, 173, 174, 175, 177–9, 180 and wellbeing, 173, 175–7 playfulness, 173, 181 playground duty, 178 playground equipment, 43, 64, 128, 129, 178 injury prevention, 126 loose parts, 177, 178 monkey bars, 64, 126, 242 outdoor safety, 125–6 sandpits, 43, 126 playgrounds, 43, 64, 128, 172–84, 252 case studies, 174, 179 duty of care, 174 rules, 251




playgrounds (cont.) space regulations, 173 see also Sydney Playground Project (SPP) population, 4, 13–17, 280 poverty, 41, 43, 44, 48, 281, 318 Poverty in Australia Report, 281 poverty gap, 281 poverty line, 281 power, 309 pregnancy, 48 prelinguistic behaviours, 142 princess phenomenon, 79, 83, 84, 89, 90 Prinstein, M.J., 195 professional development, 274, 293, 339 see also contemplative practices protective factors, 49 psychodynamic theories, 82 psychological safety, 309 Public Health Nutrition, 104 Pyramid Model, 6, 206–7 quality physical education, see physical education Queensland Department of Education, 266 Quennerstedt, M., 287 racism, 44, 285–6 reading, 150 reciprocity, 239, 317 recycled materials, 177, 178 reflection, 305, 330, 339–40, 341 reflective writing, 340–4 refugee students, 279, 280, 287–8, 289 Reggio Emilia, 333 relatedness, 282 relational aggression, 188, 189, 192, 193, 194, 195 relationship management, 213 relationships, 207–8, 282, 285, 301, 331, 334 and resilience, 224–5 respectful, 30, 60, 88, 164, 231, 241, 285, 304, 317 special needs, 207–8, 213 see also Talking Circles Remote Aboriginal Swimming Pools Project (RASPP), 291, 292 research methods applying the ICF, 32 interviews, 238 longitudinal studies, 158

meta-analysis, 100 randomised controlled trials, 101 systematic reviews, 158 systems approach, 174 resilience, 47, 220–32, 236, 304 case studies, 221, 228 catastrophe scale, 228 circle time, 221 classroom practice, 225–31 choices and structure, 229–30 modelling behaviour and language, 226 play skills, 230 reconsidering choices, 227 reflection time, 231 self-regulation, 228 teaching SEL skills, 227–8 Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), 222 and emotional intelligence, 225–6 empathy, 229 nature of, 221–2 resilience, rights and respectful relationships, 231 role of teachers, 222–5 building relationships, 224–5 physical environment, 223 Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships, 231 respect, 317 respectful relationships, 60, 88, 164, 231, 241, 285, 304, 317 Response Ability, 16 Reulbach, U., 82 risk-reframing, 180, 181 risk-taking, 174, 175, 177–9 Robbins, G., 59 Rogers, Carl, 82 Rothstadt, Kay, 288 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, 167 Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), 292 rubella (German measles), 123 Rudolph, K.D., 195 Ruffman, T., 80, 89 SAFE practices, 214, 267–9 safety, 115–31, 173 birthday cake candles, 87, 125 case studies, 122, 125 choking and suffocation hazards, 122


cultural, 287 developmental levels, 129 environmental management, 116, 117 injury prevention, 116 interpersonal safety, 120 exclusion periods, 122 hand hygiene, 124 immunisation, 121 at meal times, 117 neighbourhoods, 43, 49 potential risk, 116 role of educators, 116, 117, 119, 124, 127, 128, 129 role of parents, 129 sandpits, 126 see also indoor safety; outdoor safety Sallis, J., 289 salutogenic approach, 279, 287, 288 Sammons, P., 317 sample teaching activities, 269–71 self-awareness, 98 self-management, 270–1 sandpits, 43, 126 Sandseter, E.B.H., 175 Scaglioni, S., 108 Scharmer, O., 302, 309 school canteens, 104 school food policies, 104 school lunches, 107 science education, 61 scientific discourse, 61 SDGs, 11, 12–13, 45, 99 See More Safety Program, 87 self-actualisation, 82 self-awareness, 212, 213, 215, 261, 264, 269, 270, 301, 304, 306, 308, 310, 333, 334, 337 self-direction, 60 self-knowledge, 334, 337 self-management, 210, 212, 213, 215, 261, 264, 265, 270, 271, 334, 337 self-motivation, 60 self-reflection, 303, 306, 307, 308, 310, 329, 337, 345 self-regulation, 221, 225, 228, 305 Senge, P., 306 Setter, T., 104 sexual abuse prevention education, 154–71 best practice, 164–5 case studies, 163, 165

curricula curriculum-to-practice examples, 160 explicit and implicit statements, 161 Keeping Safe Curriculum, 163 place of prevention education, 158 planning sequence, 160, 161 defining, 155–6, 158 developmental levels, 159, 160, 163 grooming, 156 history, 156–8 listening, reassuring and respecting, 165 prevention measurement, 158 role of educators, 161–2 role of parents, 165–7 types of programs, 162–4 multimodal delivery approaches, 163 typical content, 162–3 Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), 159 Shonkoff, J.P., 315 Skard, G., 173 Skillstreaming, 268–9 sleeping areas, 118 Snow White, 78 social awareness, 213, 215, 261, 264 social cognitive theory, 188 social determinants, 37, 39–40, 42, 45, 51–54 case studies, 41 disadvantage over the life-course, 43 role of educators, 48–50 see also social inequality social disadvantage, 41, 43, 50, 290, 323 social–ecological systems theory, 188 social and emotional learning (SEL), 58, 214, 225, 262 approaches, 259, 267–73 free standing lessons, 268–9 general teaching practices, 269 integration, 272 school-wide initiative, 268–9 social and emotional competencies, 260 social understanding, 215–16 social gradients, 42, 45 social inclusion, 45, 46 social inequality, 40–8 addressing, 44–7 case studies, 41, 44, 50 causes, 42, 43–44 models, 47–8 and stress, 47–8




social isolation, 237 social management, 213, 215, 264 social problem-solving, 215 social stigma, 86 social understanding, 215–16 socio-cultural approach, 4, 55, 56, 58–63, 65, 66, 69, 70, 78, 221, 279, 300 socio-emotional wellbeing, 194 Sourander, A., 196 South Australia, 163 SPARK program, 289 special needs, 163, 205–18 anxiety, 210–12 building relationships, 207–8 bullying, 208–9 case studies, 209, 211 learning environments, 209–12 partnering with families, 217–18 SAFE practices, 214 teaching SEL skills, 212–16 content, 212–13 developmental levels, 217–16 increasing social understanding, 215–16 methods, 213–15 Pyramid Model, 206–7 strategies, 217–16 websites, 214 speech, 136 sporting discourse, 61 Sputnik 1, 61 SSIS Early Elementary, 268 stereotyping, 80, 81, 89, 174 strengths-based (salutogenic) approach, 279, 287, 288 stress, 40, 44, 47–8, 50, 215, 217, 236, 318, 330 Strong Kids K–2, 268 Stronger Communities for Children, 47 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), 118 suffocation hazards, 122 suicide, 237 Sukkar, H., 321 sun exposure, 126–7 sun safety, 126–7 surplus safety, 174 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 11–13 sustainable professionalism, 4–6, 329, 346 Svahn, J., 251 Sweden, 251, 287 swimming, 69, 291 swimming pools, 128, 291–2

Sydney Playground Project (SPP), 173, 174, 176, 177–9 loose parts, 179, 180 risk-reframing, 177–9 studies, 179–81 systematic reviews, 158 Talking Circles, 298–310 benefits, 120–5 case studies, 303, 304 characteristics, 299 conducting, 308–10 generative listening, 302, 305 origins, 300–2 physical space, 304–5, 308 process, 299–300, 309 structure, 304 teachers, see educators Teaching Pyramid model, see Pyramid Model TED Talks, 339 Theobald, M., 249, 251 thinness ideal, 77–82 Threats, T., 29 transitions, 188, 210, 221, 236, 245, 252 travel, 127, 128 Troop-Gordon, W., 195 Turnbull, A., 317 U-process, 301–2, 302 United Nations, 4, 8, 12, 38, 45, 70, 155 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 8, 280 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 8 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 8, 151, 280 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 280 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), 4 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 63, 159 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 41 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 11 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 11–13 University of Adelaide, 98


Valois, R.F., 103 varicella (chickenpox), 121, 123 ventilation, 118–19 victimisation, 157, 164, 187–9, 190–1, 192–3, 195, 197–9 see also bullying Victorian Department of Education and Training (VDET), 88, 231 Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF), 16, 57, 58 violence, 10, 42, 43, 160, 164 epistemological, 285–6 family, 44, 155, 193 Visconti, K.D., 194–5 Vygotsky, L., 69 walking, 175 Watego, Lisa, 285 Watts, Vivienne, 161–2 welfare payments, 44 wellbeing, 6, 56, 58, 59, 62, 175–7, 315, 332 Australian context, 13–17

evidence base, 7 global context, 8–13 importance, 6 SDGs, 13 Western Australia, 291 whole-community approach, 6, 281 whole-school approach, 104, 105, 159, 164, 187, 196–9, 267, 268–9, 283–4 wicked problems, 38, 39, 45, 50–1 Wilkinson, R., 42 Williams, B.J., 56, 63, 65, 68 WITS program, 194 work–life balance, 324 World Bank, 42, 45 World Economic Forum, 40 World Health Organization (WHO), 6, 21–2, 27, 85–6, 103, 155, 159, 280 see also International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) Yulunga Indigenous Games, 280 zone of proximal development, 69