This page focuses on understanding and responding to children's emotions, and supporting effective transitions and routines for children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs.
What it means for children to have a strong sense of wellbeing
The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF) defines wellbeing as 'having good mental and physical health, including attachment, positive affect and self-regulation' (p. 20). It recognises wellbeing as a key learning and development outcome.
Children attending a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program have many opportunities to learn about themselves and those around them. This helps them to build a strong sense of wellbeing.
Teachers and educators play a critical role in supporting the wellbeing of children. They ensure that children are included, welcomed and supported when attending kindergarten.
Children’s relationships with teachers and educators, and other children, are important. Relationships support children's current and future learning and development. They also support wellbeing and secure attachments.
Secure attachments bring:
- emotional warmth and security
- confidence to explore
- positive expectations and ideas about future relationships.
Teachers and educators should explore the ways that attachments are formed and sustained. They should manage transitions and routines and support the emotional wellbeing of children. Teachers and educators need to be intentional in all aspects of their practice. They view wellbeing as an integral part of the kindergarten program and not separately from the educational program.
VCAA wellbeing practice guide
Understanding and responding to children's emotions
Learning to express and regulate emotions is a skill that children develop over time. They learn through trial and error and with the support of the adults around them.
Having high expectations and attending to the emotional needs of three-year-old children will support children to develop a strong sense of wellbeing.
The VEYLDF explains, 'teachers can help children build social and emotional skills and strategies – such as perseverance, sociability and self-esteem' (p. 6).
Teachers and educators can show sensitivity and attentiveness to the emotions children feel and express. This helps children to develop trust and reciprocal relationships. When early childhood professionals deliver educational programs to meet the needs of children at the kindergarten, they create a learning climate where children feel safe, secure and respected.
To achieve this, early childhood professionals should:
- spend one-on-one time to get to know each child attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten
- ensure all children are included and welcomed, especially children from diverse backgrounds
- support children who may be experiencing vulnerability
- ask families for information to help their child starting at kindergarten
- be sensitive and alert to the needs of every child
- have strategies to respond to individuals and group needs of children.
All educational programs can support children to develop emotional literacy. Emotional literacy is the ability to identify, understand and respond to our own emotions and those of others.
Emotional literacy improves children's interactions with other children. It also helps children to deal with transitions and unexpected situations.
To support the emotional literacy of three-year-old children, try:
- helping children to name their feelings, identify emotions of others and develop empathy for others
- reading stories to children about emotions and helping children to identify the emotions displayed by the characters
- encouraging children to talk about their feelings and the feelings of others
- modelling how to deal with a problem calmly
- teaching children how to safely and appropriately express their frustrations.
Teaching children to understand and manage their emotions will help them to learn with other children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.
Effective transitions and routines
Children's wellbeing really improves with well organised routines in kindergarten. Some children may be attending an early learning setting for the first time, so routines will be new to them.
Routines are part of every good kindergarten program. At kindergarten, these can include small and large group times. Children sometimes share mealtimes with other children. They also join in activities at different times during the day.
Routines provide a reliable rhythm to the day for children. An adaptable kindergarten program will incorporate children's individual needs and interests alongside routines.
Children often need help to move from one experience to another. For example, moving from outdoor play, to washing hands and then to a meal. These are known as 'transitions’. These daily transitions should be predictable, age appropriate and sensitive to children's needs so that children are more likely to have a positive experience.
Routines and transitions offer ample opportunities for learning. They help to build trust and caring relationships with children. Helping children understand daily routines and transitions helps their learning and development. Teachers and educators can observe children's involvement in play experiences and when to begin a transition. Sometimes transitions and routines can be delayed for the benefit of children's learning.
Connections to the VEYLDF
Wellbeing is one of the five VEYLDF learning and development outcomes.
Outcome 3: children have a strong sense of wellbeing
Teachers and educators help support the physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of children.
This is evident when children:
- show an increasing capacity to understand and manage their emotions
- show an increasing ability to understand the feelings and needs of others
- show trust and confidence.
Outcome 1: children have a strong sense of identity
Outcome 1 explains that children's safety, security and feeling supported is important, so that children develop independence, resilience, and inter-dependence. This is evident when children:
- build secure attachment with one and then more familiar educators
- use effective routines to help make predicted transitions smooth.
Questions for reflective discussion
To support children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten to have a strong sense of their wellbeing, take some time to reflect on the following questions.
- What are you looking for when observing and understanding children's wellbeing?
- Can you give equal attention to relationships across all aspects of the daily program? (e.g. group time, eating times and when children are outdoors?)
- Do your relationships honour the image of children presented in the VEYLDF? How?
- How do you support children's emotional literacy?
- What are the range of appropriate experiences to teach and learn about emotions?
- How do your co-workers define wellbeing for children?
Having watched the video above, consider the following questions:
- Why is it critical to focus on wellbeing of children in your program?
- What are some strategies that are working for you?
- How are the transition routines and structures at your service supporting children’s wellbeing?
Connection to the box of educational resources
A box of educational resources has been provided to all services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in 2022. The resources focus on educator practice to best support children's wellbeing. Some resources in the box are also available free online.
These links are listed below, while some others are only available in hard copy.
Resources available online
- VCAA, Wellbeing literature review(opens in a new window)
- VCAA, Wellbeing practice guide(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 9 routines (PDF, 4MB)(opens in a new window)
- Tip sheet 9 routines (DOCX, 584KB)(opens in a new window)
Resources available in the box
Everyday learning - executive function in the early years
This booklet helps teachers and educators to understand the importance and foundations of executive function and how children's development can be supported.
Secure transitions - supporting children to feel secure, confident and included
This booklet describes secure transitions as being about relationships. It looks at attachment, making time to 'be with' children, transitions and separations. It describes supporting children from culturally diverse backgrounds.
See page 15 titled 'Transitions'. There are ideas for 'warmups' to support children to make friends. Building children's connections with other children helps their wellbeing. You will see practical ideas on how to support children's friendships when they move to a new kindergarten. Order a copy of the secure transitions resource.
- ACECQA National Quality Standards, Quality Area 5 – relationships with children(opens in a new window)
- Safe & Secure: A trauma informed practice guide for understanding and responding to children and young people affected by family violence(opens in a new window)
- Maternal and child health services - Better Health Channel(opens in a new window)
- Be You(opens in a new window)
- Enhancing and practicing executive function skills with children from infancy to adolescence(opens in a new window)
- Dean, C. and Bary, R. (2008) Burn the rosters and free the teachers(opens in a new window)
- VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide High Expectations for Every Child (PDF, 429KB)(opens in a new window)
- VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide Respectful Relationships and Responsive Engagement (PDF, 416KB)(opens in a new window)
- VEYLDF Evidence Paper Practice Principle 5: Respectful relationships and responsive engagement (PDF 1MB)(opens in a new window)
- For infants, toddlers and preschoolers (birth to 5 years) | Australian Government Department of Health(opens in a new window)
- Moore, T. (2007) Fostering young children's social-emotional well-being(opens in a new window)
- Early Start University of Wollongong (2020) How your practices can support children(opens in a new window)