Working with families: Building consent into everyday practice

Dawn Davies
Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Early years teacher, Dawn Davies, shares her insight into how she embedded consent into everyday practice, with three areas for reflection for adults to enable them to support children to build their understanding of consent in daily life.

As I began my early years teacher training with Chester University, my interest was caught by the importance of wellbeing and creating a community with families. During my research the revelation came to me that the consent of children provides the firm foundations on which wellbeing is built. Furthermore, when consent is built into practice and your families support your setting's ethos, the children thrive. When we talk about consent we describe it as permission being given for something to happen or for something to be done. Traditionally it is between two adults, with the child assenting to the agreement made. An example in an early years setting can be seen when a parent asks a keyworker to begin toilet training and they work together to ensure the needs of the child are met. However, by actively advocating consent, we begin to support the rights of the child to be an active participant in their needs being met. This can be seen when a child chooses who supports them during intimate care, giving them the time to finish their play before a nappy change and giving them the opportunities to be independent whilst their care needs are being met.

During my study I was able to visit other settings and I began to understand that each educational establishment has a different ethos, that is led from the top down and that shapes the ideals and implementation of consent. This insight led me to create three areas of reflection to implement in my setting and share with our community. Below are these three areas which can be embedded into your practice and could also be shared with your families to further enable children to understand consent outside of the setting.


Supporting children's consent


1. Choice

A child's ability to choose will develop naturally as the child builds understanding and knowledge of the word. By starting with small choices, such as a choice of a bed time or picking a story from a choice of two, you are helping to build your child's confidence in their own voice in a way they can easily understand.


Listening to a child and supporting their choice to not engage is another way to support early ownership of their own bodies. For example, when we ask if a child wants to kiss their Nana goodbye, and they say no, respect the boundaries they have set. To support building a child's social awareness, offer a non-contact greeting or goodbye instead, to support children taking ownership of their bodies.


2. Consistency

Keeping a consistent approach will allow a child to consolidate skills and then extend their own learning. An example of this could be seen at snack time, where a child has mastered choosing their snack, but is now capable of picking the colour plate they want and what drink they would like. By giving a child extended choices they feel greater responsibility and ownership of their ideas. This will impact all areas of development as they feel empowered and know adults are there to enable their ideas to come to life.


3. Reflection

Being able to stand back and reflect if a choice is adult-led or solely child-led is the greatest tool to ensure consent for children. This can be seen when we ask children what they would like to do, question their choice, and then offer different alternatives. As adults we have the passion and drive to want to show children the world. However, sometimes children need to consolidate their own learning in a way that suits their needs at that point. By asking a child what they want to do and then changing that choice, as it does not suit your wishes takes away your child's voice and could impact their confidence to express their preferences in the future.


By Dawn Davies
early years teacher, manager and artist

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