Belonging refers to a sense of connectedness to others, an individual’s experiences of being valued, of forming relationships with others and making contributions as part of a group, a community, the natural world.
Goal for children: Every child has a sense of belonging when he or she is connected to others and contributes to their world.
Children demonstrate a sense of belonging when they:
• feel included and safe in relationships with adults and other children in the early years setting;
• participate fully in ways that are most comfortable to them;
• participate in social interactions, shared exploration, play, and learning with adults and children;
• make smooth transitions between home and early years settings;
• begin to show concern and empathy and take action to assist others;
• notice similarities and differences between self and others and respond positively to the uniqueness, differing capabilities, and perspectives of others;
• recognize, explore, and make connections:
– between home and the early childhood setting,
– with their community,
– with the natural environment;
• express a sense of purpose as they participate and make contribution
Program expectation: Early childhood programs cultivate authentic, caring relationships and connections to create a sense of belonging among and between children, adults, and the world around them.
Educators can create contexts in which all children can develop a sense of belonging by:
• being attuned to the physical and emotional states of each child and responding in a warm and sensitive manner;
• connecting with each child and recognizing and valuing his or her unique spirit, individuality, and presence;
• planning for ways to support smooth transitions:
– between the home and the early years setting,
– in daily routines,
– across early years settings;
• supporting relationships between children as they initiate, respond, collaborate, celebrate, and demonstrate care for others;
• developing policies, practices, and environments that respect and support inclusion, meaningful participation, and a sense of belonging for all children;
• finding ways to intentionally integrate the unique perspectives and gifts of parents, caregivers, and extended family throughout all elements of the program in a meaningful and authentic way;
• establishing and maintaining positive reciprocal relationships with community partners to support meaningful participation;
• creating opportunities throughout daily experiences that enable children to explore, wonder about, care for, and make connections to the natural environment;
• giving visibility to the many relationships that children form with adults, other children, the community, and the natural world through various forms of documentation;
• inviting community members to contribute to and participate in the program and providing opportunities for children to participate and make meaningful contributions to the
Additional considerations for educators
A warm and caring manner is conveyed through body language as well as words – how we touch, carry, and move children through daily routines sends a strong message.
Capitalize on opportunities for one-to-one interactions during daily routines (e.g., for infants and toddlers: diaper changing, dressing to go outdoors, and feeding/meal times are ideal opportunities for making connections and building relationships).
Discover the unique characteristics and gifts of each child by talking with his or her family, observing, and documenting (e.g., in addition to what the children are interested in, notice what brings them joy and how they relate to others and to the environment around them; to support inclusion, consider each child’s capabilities rather than focusing solely
Rather than reprimanding children for undesirable behaviours, assist them in finding new ways to achieve their goals (e.g., look for the root cause of behaviour; reduce stressors; support children’s efforts to initiate and join in play with others; notice, acknowledge, and document positive interactions and attempts at self-regulation and share the information with children and families to gain new insights).
Helping all children in the program to gain a clearer understanding of the capabilities and challenges of others is a way to build their social competence. The ability to value the differences of others is strengthened both for typically developing children and for children who require additional support.
Build connections between the home and the program by communicating with families using multiple means (e.g., send e-mail updates; create a blog; set up a documentation panel and place it near the entrance where families can find out more about their children’s experiences; invite families to comment on a specific piece of documentation; suggest ways families can extend learning at home to build on a particular idea children are exploring; encourage families to help you