Posts in October 2022

How to create the best learning environment for playful learning?

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Early childhood is defined as the period from birth to compulsory primary school age. It is a time of remarkable growth and important milestones in brain development. During this stage, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them. (Unesco 2020)

In early childhood, children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them.

That being said, it is good to assess how the whole learning environment is set up to support children's playful learning such as:

  • Educator's pedagogical skills and competencies when working with the children
  • Curriculum and learning objectives for playful learning
  • Action plans, syllabus, weekly and daily plans
  • Lesson plans and activities
  • Learning materials such as toys, building blocks, painting and writing materials, etc.
  • Observations, documentation, and formative assessment of learning
  • The activity areas

These should encourage and support the children to play, interact, and practice cognitive processes such as problem-solving and controlling feelings. Play motivates children, brings joy, and supports the children's well-being. It allows them to learn new skills whilst enjoying the learning.

In this blog post, we focus on the physical activity areas.

Physical activity areas

The learning environment should take the whole child into consideration - social, emotional, cultural, linguistic, physical, and cognitive side - and provide activities in all those aspects.

To do this, you can for example include activity areas that offer opportunities for both hands-on, play-based learning and developmentally appropriate instruction of academic skills. Activity areas should invite children to inquire, explore, test, discover, and engage in play and learning.

How to support children's mental health?

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the mental health of children around the world.

The State of the World’s Children report by UNICEF examines child mental health and calls for commitment, communication, and action in order to promote good mental health for every child.

Building a good base for mental health starts already when we are babies. There are multiple ways how educators too can support children's mental health. On the other hand, there are also some alarming signs that are good to be aware of.

How to lay the base for good mental health?

Adults play a super important key role in the lives of small children. When children are as little as 0-5 years old, the foundation for good and strong mental health, growth, learning, and happy and healthy life is built.

Little children look for love, affection, learning, and a feeling of safety. So what small children need the most is time together with safe, friendly, and familiar adults, their primary caregivers.

A lifetime of balanced mental health is constructed on top of a good and loving relationship. A relationship that makes children feel they are cared for, and secure and that they are special, important, and loved.

How to support children's mental health?


  • Spending time together with familiar adults
  • Playing together
  • Cuddling, caring, showing affection and love
  • Communicating with and talking
  • Noticing initiatives, responding to baby sounds and expressions
  • Taking care of primary needs (food, sleep, hygiene)
  • Having a routine and safe, familiar environment to spend time at
  • Showing emotions


  • Supporting the child's interest in exploring the world
  • Exploring the environment outside together
  • Reading books together and naming objects around you
  • Playing together and having fun
  • Encouraging to learn new skills
  • Spending time around other children and people in general
  • Encouraging, supporting, and praising when practicing new skills
  • Naming and learning about emotions as well as empathy


  • Interacting with people
  • Playing with other children
  • Solving simple age-appropriate problems
  • Helping with simple age-appropriate chores (eg. Please place your boots on the shoe rack!)
  • Sticking to clear rules, boundaries, and routines (right - wrong)
  • Providing clear age-appropriate options when making decisions about what to wear, eat or play (eg. Would you like to wear a blue or red hat?)
  • Having respect for a child's personal choices, likes, and dislikes

How to improve your preschool in a smart way?

What to look out for?

The smaller the child, the more often they have difficulties with expressing and managing emotions.

Day of the Girl

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

According to PLAN Investing in girls' education is the best investment in the world! Investing in girls' education is an investment in a better future. When also girls get to go to school, economical equality increases.

Around the world, girls are unfortunately still discriminated against every day for just being girls – and PLAN is working hard for achieving gender equality. On October 11th it is the 10th anniversary of the Day of the girl, so let's focus on the education of girls for a moment and celebrate girls! 

Girls have the right to a safe, educated and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women.

- PLAN International

How many children accessed early education in 2020?

Overall, the general participation in preschool programs increased from 65% in 2010 to 73% in 2019.

Participation in organized pre-primary learning varies around the world. In 2019, the participation rate was 43% in sub-Saharan Africa, while in Latin America and the Caribbean it was 93%.

Participation in pre-primary learning dropped in 2020 globally during the COVID-19 pandemic because early education closed in most countries. This left many children reliant on parents or other caregivers at home, where increased poverty, unsafe conditions, and lack of stimulation impacted negatively on their development.

In 2020, around 40% of children below primary-school age needed child care but they were unable to access child care. As gendered social norms expect, girls and young women took care of small children instead of educated early childhood educators. COVID-19 worsened the burden of childcare on women and girls.

What is early childhood education and care?

How can girls reach their full potential in learning?

Everything starts from early on. In order to develop well and succeed in life, all children need balanced cognitive, social, and emotional development in addition to good care, food, nutrition, and protection.

For balanced cognitive development, children need a safe and interesting environment to explore with their primary caregiver. For example reading books, naming objects, rhyming, singing, playing memory games and puzzles, and trying to solve little problems supports cognitive development. In short: giving the child's brain some tasks in a safe and inspiring environment with an adult.

For balanced social development, children need a primary caregiver who is supportive, loving, trustworthy, and interested in what is best for the child. Talking to the child, responding to her initiatives, discussing, asking questions, and questioning actions support the child's social development. Also, ethics of right and wrong and friendship skills are part of social development. Children should be exposed to live social contacts, the company of other children, and respectful communication.

For balanced emotional development, children need a lot of practice in a safe and supportive environment. Emotional development includes noticing emotions, expressing emotions, and managing emotions. Emotional skills play an important role when forming relationships and friendships with other people. It is important to learn to recognize and name others' emotions and some ways to respond to them. Also, it is important that children are allowed to show their emotions and not to hide everything inside.

In order to let girls develop into their full and greatest potential, in addition to balanced emotional, social and cognitive development, girls need to have good support, opportunities, and practice as well as achievable successful moments in education.

How to improve children's learning environment?

How educators can support girls in education?

All educators should make sure they support, treat, talk and see all children equally in front of them. All children should have the same opportunities, same support systems, and same possibilities despite their gender (or any other matter).

Educational institutes should offer inclusive, quality education that develops girls' personal skills, promotes gender equality through various educational materials, and also offers educational support to primary caregivers to value girls’ rights.

Even in 2020 if girls get to have an education, all education is not yet equal, so we as educators have some work to do. According to PLAN, girls do not participate equally in all subjects, such as maths. Girls are also not acquiring the present day's important ICT skills due to lower access to technology.

As a result of this, girls do not receive the education needed for becoming leaders in the economic field. According to PLAN the percentage of females studying engineering, manufacturing, construction or ICT is below 25% in more than two-thirds of countries globally.

Concrete tips on how to support equality in education:

Give some more freedom to girls. It might help them find new capabilities and interests and try something new!

  • Give children the freedom to choose (what toys to play with)
  • Give all children the possibility to free play (with whoever they want to)
  • Do not suggest or hint (what is a good color to paint with)
  • Do ask (what is your dream, what do you want to learn about?)
  • Do not push for certain roles (when practicing a theatre play)

Give examples of great, successful girls and women around the world. They might inspire her too!

  • Read books that have girl heroes
  • Watch a movie or cartoon with a female main character
  • Introduce famous women that have succeeded in life (presidents, scientists, novelists, actors, managers, poets, doctors, and athletes...)

How to help with separation anxiety?

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sometimes mornings can be tough. When parents drop off the children at daycare everything is not always that quick and simple. Saying goodbye can make children feel sad and upset. Tears are falling and the child is clinging to the caregiver's leg - how to get out of this situation without more distress and panic??

Here are some tips on how to manage separation anxiety and how educators can help children feel safer and more secure.

What is separation anxiety?

Many children experience separation anxiety as it is a normal part of child development. Separation anxiety is a sign of a meaningful attachment.

  • Infants

Separation anxiety develops after a child gains an understanding of object permanence. Once an infant realizes the parent is gone, she might get restless. Most infants develop separation anxiety around 9 months of age. The separations might feel worse if the infant is hungry, tired, or otherwise not feeling well.

  • Toddlers

Some toddlers might not have separation anxiety during infancy but start demonstrating it around 18 months of age. Again, separations are more difficult if children are hungry, tired, or ill. As toddlers become more independent they can also act more dramatic during the separations.

  • Preschoolers

By the time children are 3 years of age, some can still have separation anxiety. It is the key to being consistent with the morning routine and sticking to the original plan. At this age, children understand much more, so it is a good idea to explain for example when the parent is coming back to pick the child up.

Get to know each other

The better the educator knows the child, the easier it is to start daycare. If possible, ask the family to come and visit the daycare before the start date. The child can come to play outdoors together with the educators and children, take a look at his new class, meet the educators, and so on.

Caregivers should fill out a form (Child Resume template) with all important information about the child. Also, the more parents tell, the better. What is the child's favorite game, color, toy, food, or sport..? When the child gets a feeling that the educator is interested in him, he trusts the daycare professionals more and makes the separations with parents easier.

Eventhough children have many peers and friends in daycare, only mature, caring adult attachments can deliver a secure, safe connection that a young child needs.

- Deborah MacNamara

Let children show their emotions

It is important to let children express their feelings. If a child is crying and sad that their parent is leaving, hold the child on your lap and "collect his tears". It is only natural that children cry when they feel upset.

Educators should not push children to be "big" or "strong" and "stop that silly sobbing" - but on the contrary. It is good that the child is expressing his feelings, it supports his mental health too. When a child is revealing his feelings and cries after his caregiver, educators can support the child and earn his trust by being there during that hard moment.

Feeling sad and crying is actually one of the most natural things for a child when faced with the things they can’t change or hold onto. Telling a child not to worry about it or not to cry when they are missing further diminishes their feelings and sense that a care provider can take care of them.

- Deborah MacNamara