The early years of children’s lives have a profound impact on their learning and development. In Toorak College’s Early Learning Centre, creating opportunities for each child to thrive is imperative. We take pride in working collaboratively with children and families to develop valuable, lifelong skills of self-love, worth, and confidence. In this article, Director of Early Learning Pat Barbieri introduces some of the activities practised at Toorak College that will hold children in good stead to become the best versions of themselves.

The importance of teaching kids self-love

Giving our kids the tools for healthy self-esteem and positive self-talk will set them up for success in navigating their academic journey, professional life, relationships, and the world of social media.

Teaching kids the importance of self-love brings numerous advantages, including fostering a positive self and body image, enhancing coping skills and resilience, promoting positive mental health, and instilling a growth mindset towards future challenges. The pillars of a flourishing child are built upon warm, respectful relationships, responsive environments, and engaging programs. This foundation is laid in school and early learning. Here are some of the methods through which we foster these positive habits at Toorak College.

Creating a sense of belonging and strong relationships

Promoting and supporting children to develop respectful relationships and responsive engagement with their classmates is a key focus in our Early Learning Centre. We recognise that children are driven to be connected and contribute to their world. It is this notion of connectivity and contribution to their class that validates children’s self-image. Daily class meetings, celebrating individual and group achievements, visiting student mentors, participating in school photos, and marching in the Easter Bonnet Parade are some of the ways we are able to build a sense of belonging and relationships here at Toorak.

Supporting children's sense of identity

Along with the creation of healthy relationships is the importance of nurturing children to further develop their sense of identity. All children have unique strengths and interests, and at Toorak College we aim to make them feel comfortable and confident to explore and express their own interests and talents and embrace positive thoughts about themselves. This way, educators encourage children to explore and expand their concepts of self – an important early part of the process of self-discovery. In our Early Learning Centre, we encourage children to draw self-portraits, share photos, and create portfolios, celebrating their individuality.

Engaging in different learning environments

Engaging and supportive learning environments can help children focus and learn to motivate and encourage collaboration and form new friendships. Children flourish when educators facilitate inquiry and investigation through aesthetically appealing learning spaces, both natural and built. These environments are multifaceted and open-ended to promote achievement for all learners through various learning dispositions. Our newly purpose-built playgrounds provide the opportunity for rigorous active play, while our nature play program offers children alternative pathways for learning.

Creating a positive and flexible mindset

Teaching self-love and a positive mindset requires moments of calm and rest scheduled in our students' days where they can reflect on what they have learnt and experienced. The timetable is responsive and naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day. As a result, children have relaxation time, which acts like pressing a pause button before the rest of the day’s activities.

Throughout the year, the Early Learning children participate in a specialised yoga program, further promoting physical wellbeing, self-care, and a positive mindset so they are ready for their next learning discovery.

Teaching children emotional intelligence and gratitude

Educators have actively explored the Zones of Regulation, a social and emotional learning framework to support children in recognising emotions and associated behaviour. Arguably, one of the most important ways you can help and teach your children self love and how to thrive is to model and teach gratitude. Learning gratitude helps children feel good, experience less stress, have a more positive outlook on challenges, supports feelings of empathy and helps foster relationships. Gratitude is embedded within our Early Learning program where we celebrate special events with the children, such as Kindness Day and Harmony Day.

Reminding children of their potential and capability

High expectations and encouragement are closely linked with children’s agency and a sense of capability. Positive affirmation is an important part of our children's learning journey and development, and recognising and supporting their individual strengths both at school and at home is crucial.

At Toorak College, we encourage and support each child to continually reach for the next stage of their development. This continual improvement instils a strong sense of capability in students from a young age, giving them confidence as they progress through their learning journey.

Student voice: what makes Toorak College students thrive?

Jade Gibbs, Year 6

Thrive is not just a word, it is a feeling. To thrive means to flourish. To thrive you need to have a supportive and positive community. At Toorak College, we are fortunate to be given so many opportunities that empower us to learn, grow, and overcome challenges. One of my proudest moments has to be when I put myself forward for the role of Junior School Captain. I am proud because I had the confidence to stand on stage in front of my teachers and friends and say my speech. While I was nervous, I was also excited, I knew that I was doing something that even up until last year I never thought I could do. I’m proud that I have so much more confidence now and I know that I will continue to learn and grow.

Isabel Ng, Year 10

Throughout my school life, I have been offered numerous opportunities to broaden my horizons and try new things. One that has stuck with me throughout is music. Music has allowed me to meet new people, build my confidence, and most importantly, help me flourish academically and personally. When I first joined the Toorak Symphony Orchestra, I played in the third violin section. At the time I admired the senior girls who led the orchestra and told myself that one day that would be me. Today, I am part of a number of ensembles and am the leader of Chamber Strings and concert master of Symphony Strings. Music at Toorak always continues to deepen my passion and help me thrive.

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