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Taking Time - Providing the Space for Listening to Young Children

By Jessica Horne-Kennedy, Manager, Professional Learning Gowrie NSW

Recently, I spoke with Deb Pardy, Lead Educator at Gowrie NSW Mudgee Early Education and Care who has been participating in a series of learning circles with Julia Manning-Morton.

Deb shared her insights and reflections about how her practices of working with toddlers has strengthened and changed since working with Julia.

Firstly, can you share what the experience of working with Julia has meant for your work as an educator?

I have felt invigorated, participating in the workshops and learning circles – I am excited about working with the little ones. Julia is fantastic she keeps everyone engaged and asks for our input. The sessions have been a great networking opportunity with other educators because we discuss things in smaller groups. So, it was good and intense as we receive great information, and we could concentrate on what was being said. Julia asks what we think and has an open and inclusive approach – there is no stress, it is relaxed, and open discussion has been fostered. An example is how Julia will ask us what we would like to do next… we might go off-topic, but Julia is responsive to this and tailors the learning for us – taking on everyone’s opinion.
Julia is a great teacher and I’m going to miss this learning at the end of the year.

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In what ways has your view of the two-year-old child and toddlers changed since participating in the sessions with Julia Manning-Morton?

Being part of Julia’s sessions have made me look at things differently and think outside the box about how children are thinking and learning. I ask myself now ‘maybe this is what they are thinking’ and I am open to trying something new in my teaching approach. I have noticed a difference in how I interact with the children - I am now looking and considering ‘what’s behind their thoughts and asking: ‘what are they thinking and why’.

Julia’s sessions have made me stop and consider new ways of looking at children’s behaviour. For example, I have new insights into the different ways children are separating from their parent or carer and I ask, ‘what is the child thinking’ in this process?’ It’s about working out the child’s cues …we did this before attending Julia’s sessions but now we are looking at the child’s voice more in the process - before but I didn’t think of it like that.


What are some of the ways that you now see young children in this age group contributing to their world at your service?

I see how children have their own voice it’s about making sure we are giving them their voice. Stop, think, listen. We are listening more by taking in their cues and slowing down - taking a minute and taking a breath and being in the moment with them. We now say: ‘Okay let’s be in the moment and see where the children lead it…’. In the child’s play –you can see this in the way that their play is evolving without adult interference they have a chance to build on what is happening in their mind.


In Gowrie’s NSW vision and in our *Program Foundations the word empowerment is important – tell me about your understanding of this word since being part of the learning circles with Julia Manning- Morton


Probably before we worked with Julia we thought about empowerment as: ‘we just ask the child to do something or tell the child its time for say nappy change now and then take them for a nappy change’. Now, it’s different because we will ask but we give the child time to process and if needed we will come back to the child if their cues tell us, they need more time. By giving the child time to process (that extra few minutes) and giving feedback we are giving children a voice.
Another example is if the child is really engaged in their play, we give them that extra time that chance for the child to adjust.

We are now stepping back and taking a few minutes to provide the space for the child.


*Gowrie NSW Program Foundations underpin the pedagogical practices at Gowrie NSW that support quality early childhood learning environments. It was created through a process of workshops and consultations with Gowrie educators across NSW in a range of early and middle childhood services and is written by Dr Leonie Arthur.


If you would like to engage in a learning experience with Julia Manning-Morton, then join us in August for a special three part online workshop: ‘Leading Best Practice with Two Year Olds’.


Register Now