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So you’re in the process of planning your after school club or school holiday program and you’ve decided the best way to foster creativity, independence and tenacity is through child initiated learning. But, what next? How do you get started implementing it, and how can you set up your educators for success?

In the Moment Planning (ITMP) is the best and easiest way to ensure that educators are supported and guided in the direction of child initiated learning, and that children have the time and freedom to fully explore their child initiated activities.

Here at Kids Club HQ, we’re passionate about helping you run your after school club smoothly and professionally, with everything from admin support to payments, invoicing and managing important information about the children in your club.

In this article, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to implementing In the Moment Planning, covering what it is, why it’s important and how to implement it, as well as a few of our favourite tips and tricks for educators.

What is In the Moment Planning?

In the Moment Planning is an Early Years Learning approach where educators will plan an activity or a session spontaneously, based on what the child or children are showing interest in, rather than planning a session based on a strict curriculum.

This can be a bit of a shock for educators who are used to working with strict schedules and lesson plans, but the child-led model is becoming increasingly popular with educators.

Many regulatory bodies like Ofsted are now no longer requiring educators to follow a specific pattern or schedule, so educators have the freedom and discretion to set up their classroom or after school care in a way that fosters child initiated learning, through In the Moment Planning.

How does In the Moment Planning relate to child initiated play?

In order to implement child initiated play properly, educators need the freedom to allow children to explore certain ideas or directions for a flexible period of time. The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook explains that children in child initiated play are seen;

‘…persevering for incredibly long periods of time and working at levels far higher than those sometimes identified in the planned curriculum.’ (Corfield, 2005)

Child initiated learning fosters independence, creativity and lateral thinking in children, and they are able to explore ideas and play at their own pace, and at a level that suits them. This allows educators to tailor their activities to each unique child and their needs.

But in order to give children the time and flexibility to do this thorough exploration, the environment needs to be planned in such a way that there is no strict schedule or curriculum that needs to be followed. In the Moment Planning instead focuses on “teachable moments”.

What are “teachable moments”?

Young children are driven to explore, question and learn new things. When they are in an environment that encourages this type of play, they will find opportunities for natural engagement and learning from the world around them.

For educators, this means that rather than sticking to a set curriculum with certain learning points that need to be checked off a list, they will need to watch carefully for moments in the children’s play that they could use to build on important skills or learning points.

These moments could look like this:

  • A child organising toys by shapes, or colours
  • A child listening to the sound that various materials make
  • A child trying to stack items on top of each other, or create a structure with items
  • Children working together to push and pull items
  • Children dividing items between them

By focusing on engaging with these “teachable moments”, educators can be led by the children’s interests and engagement, and create learning opportunities at a time and in a way that suits them and their interests.

Studies have shown that children’s engagement with teachers, peers and tasks significantly predicts their academic and social success. Thus, creating an environment which fosters high engagement is critical to deepening learning and developing social skills for children

What are the important areas to focus on when implementing In the Moment Planning?

If you have been previously running your after school care or holiday program with a more traditionally planned curriculum, moving to In the Moment Planning may be a massive shift! To make the transition easier for your educators and the children in your setting, here are some key areas to focus on:

Environment

To allow children to have the freedom to be in the moment and explore activities to their fullest, the environment should be open and roomy, with areas for different kinds of play. The room should be bright and engaging, but you can review the exact focus of each area as you learn what the children engage with the most.

For example, you may have a corner of the room dedicated to ‘real life’ play, where you have clothes to dress up in, a miniature kitchen or workbench, and other real-life items for children to play with. You may have a music corner, with various instruments but also other materials and items that may make noise.

Or you may have a “mess” corner, where children can paint, play with sand, create playdough or do other open ended activities with materials. The exact theme of these corners may evolve or change depending on what the children are finding engaging.

Observation

It’s important for educators to observe children, rather than instruct them. This can be a big change to get used to, so ensuring that educators have access to information about child initiated learning and In the Moment Planning will be critical for educator engagement.

When educators are in a moment of observation, the goal is not to interrupt too much. They may ask a few open ended questions like “what does that sand feel like?”, but they are really keeping an eye out for teachable moments.

Educator involvement

When educators notice a teachable moment, it’s time for them to get more involved! Utilising a teachable moment will look like using open ended questions and building on the current activity.

For example, if children are separating items into colours, the educator may ask them which colours look like each other, or ask if there are any other items in the room that match those colours.

Importantly, if the children don’t seem interested or engaged with the educators’ prompts and builds, they won’t force the matter and will simply change directions to another teachable moment, or leave the children to continue to explore independently.

Note taking

When observing children and engaging in teachable moments, note-taking will form the basis of what would normally be the ‘plan’. Teachers take note of which children were engaging in what activities, what they were doing, and any comments or learnings that the children may have had.

By taking detailed notes, educators can get to know each individual child and what they find engaging, and can also track children’s progress with teachable moments. Educators can refer to these notes when deciding which moments or activities to engage with and build on further, or when assessing children with the Leuven Scale.

Explore a new form of learning with child initiated play

In the Moment Planning is a key element for educators who are looking to implement child initiated play. It allows children to have the space and time to fully explore their ideas, and gives educators opportunities to build on topics that are engaging and exciting for children.

When implemented intentionally, and using the tips in this article, In the Moment Planning can help children develop both academically and socially, in a way that can be tailored to each individual child’s interests and learning level.