Nursery practitioner, Early Years Educator, or Childminder are all roles that require a huge number of skills. These roles are responsible for a child’s first educational interactions, social development and holistic progression, which is not an easy task! During your team’s apprenticeships and training courses, they will gain the necessary hard skills needed for a career in childcare. These hard skills will allow your staff to apply for qualified positions in your nursery; the soft skills learnt on the job are invaluable for a successful nursery team. This article explores the top 8 soft skills your team needs and how you can develop these skills.
What you will find in this article:
What are hard and soft skills for nursery practitioners?
Hard skills within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) refer to the specific skills staff must have to be considered to work in the setting. These skills can be measured; (qualifications, training courses attended, meeting the EYFS qualification requirements.) Soft skills involve the social and emotional depth necessary to thrive in the nursery, including self-awareness, patience, communication, organisation, problem-solving, positivity, creativity, self-belief and personal drive. Your team need a balance of hard and soft skills to progress in their personal and professional development.
What soft skills are needed as a nursery practitioner?
Working in the nursery sector involves repetition, explanation, and perseverance (working with children and their families). Patience is a vital skill relied on to reach a target with a child. This target may be developing social skills or conflict resolution that will not be solved overnight. Through successful modelling and consistency, patience will pay off. Also necessary when interacting with adults, the ability to pause, reflect and think logically in times of stress or confrontation can allow for any disagreements between staff or parents to be settled intelligently.
How to build the soft skill of patience within your nursery practitioners
Patience can be an innate skill; due to many factors, people have varying frustration tolerances. Several strategies can be used to increase patience and frustration management with your team. Breathing strategies are proving useful for many. Pausing and taking a breath can reduce reactive responses in times of frustration. This may be when dealing with an irate parent or resolving disputes in the workplace. Sharing these strategies during team meetings regularly can help build frustration tolerance strategies, which can then be applied in times of stress.
Good communication skills span much further than being able to confidently interact with children and adults. Communication includes all verbal, non-verbal and written interactions with others. Linking with professional patience, this soft skill will allow your staff to listen to the needs of the children and parents, and work together to find a solution to the challenge. This may be communicating with children in a manner they are comfortable with, with appropriate language use and intonation to encourage verbal development. It is beneficial to use your communication systems well, as written interaction with parents is essential to maintaining highly effective working relationships.
How to improve communication skills within your nursery team
First, break down the type of communication you would like to focus on with your team: verbal, non-verbal and written communication. You can alter your policies and procedures regarding managing parents and even detail the type of language used with children for total consistency of practice. Focus on non-verbal communication, some examples include discussing:
Excellent organisation skills can assist with the smooth running of your nursery, ultimately making staff observations and nursery management easier for you. There is a need to keep the setting tidy and accessible for the children to allow for independent play and accessibility to various playing equipment.
Timely organisation of learning resources needed for the day contributes to positive outcomes for children, to utilise every learning opportunity possible. Organisational skills also apply to those completing their Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships in childcare qualifications to ensure they are organised with evidence of the development of knowledge, skills, and behaviours.
How to develop organisational skills within your nursery team
A simple communication system can help significantly with organisational skills, by using easy-to-use functions to allow your staff to record all information quickly and efficiently. For those staff members who are training and will have 20% off-the-job time, ensure their mentor books in regular meetings to monitor their evidence gathering as well as help to encourage proactive use of the out-of-room time.
This is a soft skill often forgotten but is essential for your staff to develop and make the most out of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) you offer them. Not all your team members will have found academic schooling easy; statistics show you will likely have a selection of team members who may have undiagnosed neurodiversity, potentially affecting their method of learning. Your staff should be encouraged to explore their preferred mode of learning, communication and conflict resolution. Your team are as diverse as the children you support.
How to encourage self-awareness in your staff
During staff meetings, focus on the pedagogy of learning, explore different learning methods, and use your staff meeting schedules to deliver them in different ways.
Decision-making and problem-solving tie in with patience, communication, creativity, and positivity. It allows your staff to think on their feet when faced with a challenge from safeguarding, to differentiation of learning resources. Your staff should be encouraged to tackle challenges through a lens of curiosity. By asking reflective practice questions to gain more information and choosing an approach as a team, others can learn effective problem-solving methods in the Early Years.
How to encourage problem-solving skills in your nursery staff
Using scenario-based CPD sessions can help to develop this important soft skill. You can tailor these scenarios based on previous challenges your team have faced and which are personalised to your setting, or you can use the examples we discuss in our CPD blog.
Positive attitude and reflection
Working with children can be full-on; you are constantly interacting all day and creating new learning opportunities for their development. Enthusiasm and positivity after a full day of exploration walks, sensory play and completing observations help make your nursery the lively and vibrant place it is. After all, glitter and role-play areas are lifeless without the staff who inject the fun into them.
How to encourage positivity in your nursery team
Reflective practice is necessary to react positively to situations of challenge. This is another soft skill that some staff have in abundance where others may need more purposeful practice. Recognising positive responses in your staff can help to encourage repeat behaviours. For your staff to be feeling their best, they need a good diet, healthy sleeping patterns and regular exercise. When reviewing paperwork and policies, try to have mentally healthy habits in mind for your children and staff.
The ability to create wonder and awe from loose parts like a stick, some pebbles or fallen leaves is a talent not everyone possesses. It is a soft skill requirement for an outstanding Early Years Practitioner. Your team should have natural creativity and enthusiasm to create a game or learning opportunity from little resources.
How to develop creativity within your Early Years Practitioners
Some of your team may be more naturally creative than others; this can be an excellent learning opportunity for your less-creative team members. Utilising a mentor system, you can increase your staff’s understanding of what creativity may look like across different ages and rooms. You can make creativity development a focus of your team meetings by sharing a picture stimulus or piece of equipment to discuss game possibilities as a team.
Self-belief and drive
In any field of work, your team members will have self-doubt and even imposter syndrome about progressing to the next level of development in their career. As the manager, your role is to encourage your team to have self-belief and high aspirations for their development. Self-belief is a soft skill often ignored, yet, it is the difference between a team constantly striving for better rather than a stagnant team with little personal or team drive.
How to develop self-belief within your nursery staff
Completing additional apprenticeships and qualifications after the work day can be a daunting task for many of your staff. Family life takes over, and there is little room for additional study. When you complete staff performance reviews, encourage them towards upcoming additional training opportunities such as the Early Years SENDCO qualification.