The ‘one up, two down’ concept is an approach that you can use with your team to intentionally prioritise children.
We tend to get busy in our days, with children who need to eat, be changed and sleep often throughout the day. The lunchtime transition is often a chaotic time. Hungry children are brought inside, and educators are preparing tables for lunch. Children may be crying from tiredness or hunger and in the dysregulated state they are more likely to demand connection. This is a real-life scenario that many educators face regularly and mealtimes are often stressful and hurried rather than an enjoyable ritual.
Think about what each educator is doing in times where the room feels chaotic or unsettled. If educators are all standing (preparing tables, laying out beds, tidying the room, changing nappies etc.) then no one is connecting or engaging with the children, at their level, in their play.
Ensuring that at all times there are educators available to the children through being seated near them, making conversation and eye contact, and supporting them through transitions will create more regulated children and a calmer room.
This approach takes good communication and flexibility between team members. It requires us to slow down and think about how our actions affect the children. Some of the routine tasks that educators need to do can involve children. Allow them to help you set the tables for lunch- this way they are engaging with you, they are involved in the process and they are learning important life skills. Involve them in making their beds. Slowing down this transition and including the children in each step really helps them build their independence and feel valued. It also makes for a less stressed transition as children go through the process of setting out their bed, getting their bedding and mentally preparing themselves to go to sleep, rather than being moved quickly from lunch to a bed with no time to think about what is occurring.
If we really believe that children come first, we need to reflect on our practices to ensure that everything we do fits with this belief. We often forget to plan our routine times as thoroughly as the rest of the day and this can create a less than positive time for children and educators. Routines tend to be viewed as tasks to get through efficiently rather than as opportunities for learning and connection. Spending the time to really look at what is happening during routines such as mealtimes can support reflection on educator practices. Promoting connections between children and educators is critical in these transition periods and makes for a more relaxed time for both children and educators.
You may like to reflect on if this approach would benefit your team. As centres have a different amount of staff in each room, this will not work for every team but the premise behind it will. We must ensure that children always come first- connection and relationships are always more important than chores.
Author: Michelle Marais