Positive Relationships: All in a day's work - meeting the needs of two-year-olds

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Accepting children from the age of two has brought many changes in our setting, say Nicola Bushell and Hayley Cannell, joint managers of Oakey Dokeys Pre-School in Essex.

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We are now over halfway through our first term with a growing number of two-year-olds on board, and in a position to reflect on our practice and plan ahead with greater knowledge.

We made our decision to accept children from the age of two years, instead of waiting until they had reached two years and six months, at a team meeting just before our summer break.

With the loss of so many children to the new 'single point of entry' to schools and the prospect of financial hardship if our numbers didn't increase, taking on much younger children appeared to be the solution.

We already had siblings who were turning two years old on our waiting list and parents keen for their children to start, so these families were offered the first spaces. But we were cautious about not having too many two-year-olds on the same day, as this would affect our ratios.

Quite a few days of our summer break were spent decluttering the room and garden, making sure our resources were suitable for the new younger members. We also read up on child development to refresh our knowledge, and we started to think more about treasure baskets and cosy corners!

MORE CHANGES

September soon arrived and within a few weeks we realised how much difference six months makes in a young child's life. It became apparent that we would have to make more changes to the environment and to how we supported these younger children if we were to accommodate their needs.

Often when turning two, the road to learning to talk is developing, so the need for communication tools is of even greater importance for children of this age.

Working with parents and carers is a priority for us, and all the more so the younger their child. We found that daily chats were vital in knowing their child's needs, such as sleep patterns and when the child might need their comforter. Having this information can make the difference between a session of tears and a session where the child is settled and happy.

Heuristic play is top of the agenda for our littlest ones; this age is much more about the process, not the end product.

So far, we have all felt that each new development in working with this age group has been wonderful to watch and it really is not about 'the terrible two's' but the 'tremendous toddlers'.

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