‘Children leave the caregiver; the caregiver does not leave the child.’
Who would have thought that a global pandemic would lead to a world where social normality and early childhood practice was completely transformed?
In early childhood, the ‘gate drop off’ quickly became one of the most significant socially normal practices emerging during COVID-19. The practice was to limit foot traffic and enforce social distancing.
Fast forward to 2021, some services have transformed this morning routine among many other procedures into embedded practice.
For us, at Shine Bright Echuca South Community Kindergarten the ‘gate drop off’ practice took educators by surprise. We weren’t ready to leave the old practice of welcoming families into our service behind.
We asked ourselves many reflective questions – How was this going to work? Will the children cope? Will the parents cope?
We noticed, as it seems many educators would have, that children are a whole lot more capable than we thought. The process of walking through the gate and leaving their caregiver before entering the room was a process we thought would not work. We assumed that separation anxiety would increase, along with additional support required for children to overcome this major change in the everyday process.
However, this morning arrival routine empowered children to be brave, to be resilient, and independent. Children were empowered to leave their caregiver or parent, not the other way round. Caregivers were actually the ones watching their child leave them. Children would have their own individual welcome by their educator, a moment that we felt was so special, positive and unique to each child and family. Some children high-fived their educator, some hugged, some a simple wave or smile was enough for them to feel ready and instantly comfortable. The arrival that in the past may not have been a positive moment for some children was suddenly the most positive and empowering way to start the day.
These changes were reinforced within our service from a conversation with a returning parent. This parental input as to why this process works embedded its way into our thoughts and conversations as educators. Reflective practice is a powerful tool in early childhood, and in this case our own community was involved in a major reflective moment for our service.
This was the big idea that we had been missing this whole time.
Flash back to the pre-COVID morning drop offs with high foot traffic, and crowded rooms. Children watching their parents leave them in a loud and overwhelming kinder room. How have we missed this? Through this ‘gate drop off’ practice each child is empowered with the choice of how they leave their caregiver in the morning; with a hug? A wave? Or holding an educators hand into the room? The room that is now calm, welcoming and engaging with peers settled into activities. The same room that the child now feels ownership of, a room that is no longer overflowing with adults or crying children
It’s only taken a global pandemic to really step back and deeply reflect on best practice. What transformations have emerged from COVID safe practice in your service?