Relationships are the active ingredients of the environment. They allow humans to learn, grow and develop. Some relationships are with primary caregivers and close loved ones. Others are with teachers and mentors. Many are with peers and friends. All relationships influence how we understand the world and ourselves. Whilst every child has a genetically-driven component of identity, what a child’s potential will be is inextricably linked to their relational network.
Children learn many things from each other that they cannot learn as easily from adults. They learn how to share, to engage in turn-taking, to give and receive, to wait, to take the needs of others into account and to manage their impulses. They learn how to be a good friend, and what makes a friendship succeed or fail. It is only with other children, that a child can learn how to manage a birthday party, when they are not the one being celebrated. Or to understand that when someone is blowing bubbles, other children do not appreciate when you stomp on theirs. Or that helping a friend who is struggling with a task is a good way for them to feel trust.
Opportunities for children to interact, such as in groups, offer this myriad of scenarios that build both relationship skills and enjoyment of life. Amazingly, these ‘natural’ play-based occurrences also enhance the foundation of development. When a child is managing the complexity of the relational environment, their own thinking, social-emotional skills, regulation, motor development and more understandings are all being strengthened.
Finally, groups of children interacting in the preschool years sets the stage for positive transition to, and participation in, the school setting. Learning to share the teacher’s attention, to wait whilst other children engage, to feel confident in activities with peers, to master skills of peer connection and acceptance, and to become excited about learning with others all build a foundational platform.
For these reasons, we are now offering groups at the Champion Centre as a component of our weekly programmes. Unlike groups that may naturally occur in preschools or your local playground, groups at the Champion Centre are purposeful scaffolding of development with active observation and intervention components by therapists. Groups are created with the developmental needs and next steps of children in mind. Activities are based on what therapists have noticed will help children master skills and apply energy toward appropriate learning opportunities. Groups are taken by all key therapy staff, so children will be exposed to cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, sensory, communication and musical developmental learning whilst participating in small groups with peers. Groups will also incorporate key social-emotional skills such as impulse control, self-regulation, and sharing.
As we all know, play is a child’s work and a child’s world. Through play a child can communicate, create meaning, and integrate body, mind and connection with others. Through play in groups, children take this learning to a new level, integrating the play experience with the complex, nuanced and vital relational networks in which they live, love and grow.
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The Champion Centre is administered by the Christchurch Early Intervention Trust, and is registered with the Charities Commission (CC22708). Gifts of over $5 are eligible for tax rebates.
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