Ask the Expert – Sue Asquith, Early childhood consultant
This year, we’ve launched a brand-new blog series – ‘Ask the Expert’.
This provides a platform for all Early Years (EY) professionals, where they can share their experiences and advice with the industry, on their chosen specialist subject.
So, whether you’re a policy expert, nutrition specialist, or knowledgeable practitioner, we want to hear from you!
This month, we speak to early childhood consultant – and published author – Sue Asquith, who discusses the importance of working with parents to further support child development in their early years.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the Early Years (EY) sector:
I registered as a childminder in 1998, where I ran my own setting alongside my husband. I took on more qualifications to expand my knowledge and expertise in the EY sector, as I wanted to keep learning so I could be the best I could be for everybody. That led to me teaching and assessing childminders, nursery and pre-school managers and staff, and I also authored a book on self-regulation skills in young children.
As demand grew, training soon became my full-time job and I’ve since delivered sessions in-person and online throughout the UK and internationally. It’s been a wonderful experience to learn in different ways, meet childcare practitioners, childminders and teachers, and develop their skills as well as my own.
During the pandemic, how have you found online teaching?
I think attendees were hesitant about joining virtual training sessions to begin with, but now it’s become ‘the norm’ and people are embracing online learning. They like that they can take it at their own pace and on a personal level – it’s helped me to connect with even more professionals throughout the country.
The relationship between practitioners and families is so important for a child’s development. As someone with a vast amount of knowledge in this area, what do the words ‘work with parents’ mean to you?
It’s about getting to know the parents really well because some will know what to do with their children and be super confident as a result, whereas others might need a little more support. You also shouldn’t be judgmental at all, instead provide an environment where people feel comfortable – and not silly – when they want to tell you something you need to know about their little one.
If you’re a friendly and approachable professional, you’ll be able to gain more trust and typically get to know more about the parent and child.
In your experience, how has that relationship evolved between key people in childcare and parents – especially during Covid-19?
Communication has been key as it’s been difficult to keep conversations alive among so much unpredictability. I’ve seen some fantastic examples of how childminders have managed to keep parents up to date with their child’s development – via creative windows and notices showcasing their youngster’s artwork or details of what they’ve done that day. There have been a lot of resilient leaders who have had to think outside the box.
And as a parent, how can they bolster their communication with a childcarer to ensure it’s a two-way relationship?
They must feel comfortable enough to share information that a practitioner might need to know so they can progress their child’s learning even further. Recognising milestones their little one has reached – and telling their child’s key person about them is crucial because they can use this detail to evolve activities and focus on certain skills – impacting their journey even more.
Any ‘wow’ moments that they can tell the practitioner all forms part of the overall jigsaw puzzle with regard to how a child is developing, what they enjoy, and what they’re engaging with.
Do you have any tips to further enhance the bond between a childcare practitioner and parent?
As part of strong communication, the professional needs to understand that not all parents will be familiar with certain terms such as ‘observations’ or ‘learning journeys’. Breaking down jargon to guide parents can strengthen that all-important two-way conversation.
Additionally, it’s important to have an ‘open door’ policy – and mean it. Parents and childcare practitioners should be working together to understand how they can collectively develop the child and what the next steps should be. Providing that safe, comfortable, and welcoming space is vital.
And finally, as part of building a stronger level of communication, what role does technology play in strengthening these relationships?
Childcare apps, WhatsApp groups, and emails are all engaging ways for parents to converse with childminders, and vice-versa – it’s increased the two-way flow of communication.
However, there has to be balance between what’s sent via technology and what’s said in-person too, because there might be families who are not as digitally native as the next. If this is the case, it’s perhaps best for childcare practitioners to work alongside parents to take them through the advantages of the app and how it can benefit their communication.
Technology should enhance the relationship, make practitioners’ and parents’ lives a bit easier, allow for deeper relationships to progress, and provide more inclusive options to converse. Again, it comes back to getting to know and understand parents on a deeper level – and what they are and aren’t able to access. When that happens, the child benefits greatly.
To find out more about Sue’s expertise, visit her website here, Facebook group, or follow her on Twitter (@sueasquith1) and LinkedIn. And if you want to pick up more tips and advice for child development, her book ‘Self-Regulation Skills in Young Children’ is available on Amazon.
If you’d like to take part in our ‘Ask the Expert’ blog series, please complete the form here https://connectchildcare.com/write-for-connect-childcare/