The s-shaped sofa by Ali McClure

11th September 2017

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I have recently been helping teachers and Early Years practitioners set up their rooms ready for the new term. This is such an important task as it’s a bit like planning out your garden…the kind of environments we provide will nurture different kinds of behaviour, different kinds of learning, different kinds of relationships.

Some of the most successful settings I have worked with have had one thing in common… a sofa. Now before you go out to your local Scandinavian furniture emporium looking for an s-shaped sofa as suggested in the title, I don’t mean it literally; take a little time to think about why a sofa, big enough and comfy enough for an adult and child together, makes such a difference to the ‘learning tone’ the feeling in your room.

The key to relationships and respect with our children is ‘being sensitive to their story’. Home visits, spending one to one time getting to know a little about the real child and letting them know a little about you builds trust. Walking and talking together is fantastic Eating together makes a world of difference but…

  • A sofa gives you and them permission to stop and sit, often at a time when it is quiet. A sofa encourages you to smile and, where appropriate to snuggle and feel warm and safe
  • A sofa encourages and enables you to share, to listen
  • A sofa is soft yet stable and secure, it is always there
  • A sofa can offer a child a place of sanctuary, a place to feel safe and to reset, ready to join back in with the whirlwind and work of a busy classroom

With up to 30 children to get to know it might take a little while,  but, being seen to be simply sitting on that sofa with no iPad, clip board or assessment sheet makes you available, open. Try it from time to time throughout the day and see your sofa turn into a magnet, for those children whose stories you really need to know.

Some people call it empathy. I call it being sensitive to their story. What ever you call it, a sofa really does make a difference. It may not be S shaped but the things that happen there that begin with s such as stories, sharing and sensitivity are just one tiny step on the journey toward smiles and successful futures for everyone.

Come and hear Ali’s lively and thought-provoking session- Listening to Children, Helping Children to Learn at Childcare Expo Midlands on Saturday 30th September. Book your seats today.

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