Growing numbers of working parents has led to the increased enrolment of infants and toddlers in some form of childcare or early years centres - for example in the UK 43% of babies are cared for outside of the home in the UK. As a consequence, very young children experience care and education both at home and in out-of-home contexts and benefit from their different opportunities for development and learning. The theme of relationships currently resonates in many curriculum approaches to early childhood education, and the quality of relationships is often held up as a central indicator of the quality of the early years setting overall (Elfer, Goldschmied, & Selleck, 2003; Paptheodorou & Moyles, 2009). Much of the existing research in this area, however, is relatively narrow and draws predominantly from attachment theory thus overlooking other diverse perspectives on relationships that exist among caregivers / teachers and parents of very young children, and about babies' and toddlers' own experiences within those relationships.
Taking as its starting point that young children learn and develop in a network of relationships, this book emphasises that each relationship has its own specific features, functions and learning/teaching affordances (Thompson, 2005). In addition, it acknowledges that as members of both family and early childhood centre communities, children's participation in relationship-based experiences in early childhood contexts is impacted by their own perspectives and those of significant others in their lives. The book therefore argues that multiple lenses are relevant to understanding relationships and the opinions, values and priorities of different stakeholders. By bringing these multiple lenses to bear on real life data, gathered from projects in which the authors have been involved, this book will add to current understandings of relationship-based approaches to early childhood education and care.
Drawing research to illustrate how relationships are played out and understood by these very young children, their teachers and their families across an array of child-care experience, this book discusses the notion of relationships as a core element of early childhood education in ways that broaden practical knowledge about infant-toddler learning, teaching and curriculum. Each chapter addresses a specific topic related to relationship-based approaches to the teaching and learning of very young children, and draws on research findings from international research and theoretical literature to discuss key themes. The discussion is supplemented by the inclusion of examples and anecdotes generated by the three authors' own research projects. Using these real examples and images, the authors present and discuss the implications of their findings in ways that are accessible to early childhood students and practitioners.