What is belonging?
A difficult emotion to describe is belonging. We can discuss attachment ideas or a feeling of safety and security. But what exactly do these words mean?
“Belonging” in our context means that kids:
- Have important connections with others who care about them.
- Feel safe and shielded from harm by grownups or other important individuals in their lives.
- Have constructive interactions with their family, friends, and neighbors.
- Through significant aspects of their lives, such as their cultural and/or religious values and practices, children can develop a distinct sense of their position in the world.
- Get chances to play with friends and form brand-new, trustworthy relationships.
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Why is belonging so important?
One of our fundamental needs is to belong. When we are young, we all have an instinctive drive to create and establish strong bonds with other people through play, companionship, and the help of our families.
A child’s capacity to establish trust and confidence in others is influenced by belonging. Children who feel like they belong are more likely to:
- Develop dependable connections.
- Control their feelings in a healthy and resourceful manner.
- Become aware of their value and importance.
- Feel safe and secure
- Feel valued and appreciated in their own identity
- Recognize that other kids, adults, and community members care about them and are available to them when they need help.
Creating a sense of belonging is important in childcare and can significantly impact a child’s overall development and well-being. When children feel like they belong, they are likelier to be happy, confident and engaged in their environment. On the other hand, when children do not feel like they belong, they may become anxious, withdrawn, or behave poorly. Here are some tips for creating a sense of belonging in childcare settings.
Foster a Sense of Community
As humans, we have always been social creatures. That’s exemplified by our need to create community. For children, it’s crucial. That’s why one of the most effective ways to develop a sense of belonging is to foster a sense of community within the childcare setting. It’s done by organizing group activities and encouraging children to participate. From this, it can also be helpful to encourage children to help each other and to be supportive of one another.
Encourage Positive Relationships
Building positive relationships between children and caregivers is another important aspect of creating a sense of belonging. It’s achieved through regular one-on-one interactions, such as reading stories or playing games together. Children’s formative years are important, so it’s best to ensure a positive one. That’s why it’s also important to be responsive and attentive to children’s needs and to provide emotional support when needed. Creating positive relationships can encourage them to foster positive relationships with others too.
All children are different – which is what makes them so unique and beautiful. That’s why creating an inclusive environment is essential for promoting a sense of belonging among children. How exactly can you encourage inclusivity? You can ensure that all children are treated with respect and given equal opportunities to participate in activities. It is also important to be sensitive to all children’s needs and cultural differences and to celebrate diversity.
Provide a Sense of Belonging Through Routines & Rituals
Establishing routines and rituals can help children feel a sense of belonging and predictability in their environment. These routines and rituals help their development and community – if done with others. What are some rituals and routines that are important? Certain daily routines that come to mind are activities such as morning circle time or snack time, as well as special events or holidays.
Children are new to the world and are naturally filled with wonder. In turn, they’re vast wells of untapped creative potential. Yet, children may still struggle to articulate themselves in their formative years. That’s why it’s important to figure out the best way they can express themselves. Not only does it promote their sense of self – but also their sense of belonging. Allowing children to express themselves creatively through art, music, or other self-expression forms can help facilitate that. Thankfully, there are plenty of activities that can foster this. These include painting, drawing, singing, or playing instruments.
Help Children Develop a Sense of Ownership
Giving children the opportunity to make decisions and have some control over their environment can help them feel a sense of ownership and belonging. Nowadays, parents encourage this and childcare providers can do the same. You can do this by allowing children to choose their own clothes or helping to plan activities.
Provide Positive Reinforcement
Providing positive reinforcement for good behaviour and effort can help children feel valued and have a sense of belonging. You can get creative in how you show positive reinforcement. In childcare, many commonly do so through verbal praise, stickers, or other nonverbal support.
Encourage Social Skills
Teaching children social skills, such as making friends, sharing, and communicating effectively, can help them feel more connected to others and have a sense of belonging. Activities such as role-playing or practicing social skills during group activities greatly help children develop their social skills.
Overall, creating a sense of belonging in childcare settings is an important aspect of child development and can have a lasting impact on children’s well-being. As you can tell, plenty of factors contribute to promoting belonging in childcare. All of them are unique and integral to ensuring children belong, no matter their differences. In turn, childcare that considers these factors has children’s care at the forefront.
A sense of belonging can grow in many ways
- Discover the desires of families, get to know them, and convey your appreciation for them.
- Introduce each family and child to your program with a sign that includes their names or pictures.
- Create areas for parents and children (personal cubbies, mailboxes, parent bulletin boards)
- Include elements of a homey ambience, such as aesthetically acceptable wall colors, cozy lighting, and comfy furniture.
- Encourage conversations; involve family members; provide group project work; create environments and resources that support discussions.
- Make sure that the surroundings and curriculum reflect the children’s thoughts and work.
- Check your attitude to see if you’re being uplifting, helpful, and communicative.
The emotional and social development of children depends on fostering a sense of belonging in the childcare setting. These techniques can be used by daycare workers to encourage children to feel important, safe, and part of the group. Children who have a sense of belonging are more likely to develop strong relationships, speak their minds with assurance, and have a better overall experience.