Encouraging the development of soft skills in early childhood
Binky Laureta reading with children
The first one thousand days of a child’s life play a critical role in defining their future.
It is important for young children to develop soft skills during this time. Soft skills are embedded in New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki and include curiosity, perseverance, confidence, responsibility, creativity, imagination and resilience.
New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC) Program Leader Binky Laureta investigates the significance of soft skills in her article ‘Encouraging the development of soft skills through play’ published in NZTC’s online ECE journal He Kupu.
“A few years ago I came across some research discussing the development of soft skills among older children, college students and adults. However, I couldn’t find any literature on soft skills in early childhood so I decided to research this area myself.”
According to Binky, soft skills are best learnt when young children play.
“Children learn to share and be responsible for the toys and resources they use. When they wait their turn to use the bike, when they sit and listen quietly at story time, they are learning self-control in real situations that occur every day.
“The learning of skills, knowledge, attitude and behaviour is meaningful because it is part of their daily experiences.”
Binky says that creativity is one important soft skill that teachers can nurture in an early childhood environment, by encouraging interaction with different materials and resources.
“Teachers should intentionally introduce art to children as it expands their world when there is talk about composition, colour or technique. Children create meaning in their lives when they produce their own work, however, they can also discover meaning when art is created by others and in nature.”
Binky’s research shows that teachers should foster the development of soft skills - not with the intention of preparing children for the future - but because it provides ongoing benefits in the present.
“Soft skills establish a healthy brain architecture that will create a strong foundation on which higher level skills can be built. They are also desirable for young children to learn so that they will play well with other children, and behave in socially acceptable ways in the early childhood setting.”