Man hugging baby

Love pedagogy: Love-led practice in the early years

As an early years practitioner, would you use the word love when talking about your profession? If not, why not?

Jane Malcolm (MPhil) NDNA Scotland Policy Manager, discusses love pedagogy, why the word ‘love’ is avoided in childcare and how you should embrace it as part of your professional identity.

Why are we afraid of the word love in childcare?

We know that we all thrive if we are loved, children are no different. In fact, the UNCRC sets out that children should feel loved. As practitioners you understand the need for nurturing and attachment. However, often actually acknowledging love for children can be challenging for some.

After speaking to some practitioners about love pedagogy and using the word love to describe their job roles, Jane found that many used several different words to say, love, – without using the word itself.

There were resounding concerns over child protection and adhering to policies and procedures; specifying what practitioners were “allowed to do”.

“One childcare provider said, “you are not allowed to give children a full hug; you are only allowed to use one arm.”

Some practitioners said they had even been told off for hugging or having physical contact with a child as it was against the rules. There is also a worry among practitioners about how parents will feel.

Love as part of your professional identity

It is important for you as a practitioner to become comfortable with the concept of loving children as part of your professional identity.

Often the language used in local and national policy can stifle loving practice because practitioners do not see love reflected in the policies. Therefore, it is no wonder that if Lead Practitioners are resistant to support staff due to policy then practitioners will be reluctant to deliver loving care.

Appropriate touch

We know that words such as compassion, nurturing and sensitivity are all components of loving childcare as is touch. Children need to be touched, it is a natural part of human interaction, but we are worried about the dangers relating to this.

This worry is valid, and our priority is to be vigilant with concerns around safeguarding and child protection, however, if we want to stop child protection procedures from being counter-productive, they should not prevent natural human interaction and appropriate touch.

How can we embrace developing love pedagogy in early years?

Changes to policy wording and guidance to include ‘love’; not the components of love but the word itself would give practitioners the confidence they need to embrace love as part of their professional identity.

We need to make it acceptable for you to love the children in your care and support love-led practice, without the fear of being “told off” or breaking the rules.

Where to find out more

Jane will be joining us to speak at NDNA Conference 2023 in our Practice Stream on 9 June. Come with an open mind, you will be amazed at how controversial and interesting love really is.

We’re currently offering a limited number of FREE Practice Stream tickets for new starters in the sector to inspire the next generation of the workforce.

Book your tickets now

  • childcare
  • early years
  • love
  • ndna
  • play

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