~ a feeling of belonging to or having affinity with a particular person or group.
As humans, our need to feel connected is something that we’re born with. Even before we officially enter the world, a deep connection has occurred in the womb, and it continues throughout our entire lives. Feeling truly connected is not just something we wish for; it’s an in-built need and a vital part of being human.
Connectedness is the foundation for developing and expanding so many aspects of who we are as a person, and where and how we belong in this world, so naturally in the early years, it is paramount that children genuinely feel connected in every way. This is true not only with friends and family, but in their early childhood environment too.
Developing genuine connections – not only with each child, but with their families, educators, and the broader community – is imperative for early childhood services to form meaningful, trusting relationships, which is vital for children to not only grow, learn and fully engage in their environment and the world around them, but to thrive.
So, when there is true connectedness in the early childhood environment – not only between children, but among families and educators as well, what does this look like, and why is it so important?
Educators feel valued, respected and understood, which enables them to provide higher quality care and education.
Families are able to develop trusting and meaningful relationships with educators, which in turn provides educators with a much deeper understanding of their child and family.
Children feel as though they are part of an extended family when they sense that their own family and educators have meaningful relationships among one another.
Educators are able to work collaboratively and respectfully, which allows for a high quality educational and care experience for the children.
Families feel more confident in communicating about sensitive issues, which provides the family with a valuable support network.
Children are free to truly learn about who they are, without judgement, bias or expectation.
Educators feel more comfortable in critically reflecting on their work, therefore increasing their motivation to continually improve and expand upon their knowledge and skills into early childhood.
Families feel a true sense of belonging in the service, meaning they feel more empowered to voice their personal beliefs, values and opinions freely, and engage and participate in the service community.
Children feel safe and secure, which allows them to explore, take risks and challenge themselves, knowing they are fully supported.
Children’s ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with peers and educators is increased, and they learn about social skills in a positive environment.
Children feel loved, heard and understood, which enables them to freely express their emotions, and practice how to regulate and manage them.
As you can see, there are so many reasons why true, holistic connection is critical in early childhood services, and these are just a few examples. The need for connectedness is not something that we should simply aspire to; it is a core aspect of early childhood education and care that is vital.