Relationships First!

Early childhood educators and caregivers know the importance of strong, trusting relationships for children’s learning and development. What are some of the ways you are intentional about nurturing relationships with children and families? Read about how the partnership between a teacher and a family supported the transition to school for one Wyoming preschool student.

Relationships First!


Recently, I opened my long-awaited copy of the fourth edition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs, 4th Edition published by NAEYC. I was immediately drawn to the first line in the foreword,

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

James Comer, lecture at Region 4 Education Service Center Houston.

As excited as I am about a deep dive into the new Developmentally Appropriate Practice book, I am over the moon about Wyoming’s updated Early Learning Standards. A common thread between the latest edition of Developmentally Appropriate Practice, Wyoming’s Coherent Path to Quality, and the new Wyoming Early Learning Standards is the importance of positive relationships as foundational to children’s learning. The time educators and caregivers spend nurturing significant, positive relationships with children and partnerships with families are often the most memorable.

Relationships First!

For me, the memory of one such child always makes me smile as I reflected on the importance of relationships. I was a home visitor, and my students also attended preschool together. At the beginning of the school year, one of my students came to preschool in a beautiful fancy red dress. Imagine a red holiday party dress designed for a special occasion. This wasn’t unusual; children often come to school a bit fancy on the first day. Preschool in my classroom was a busy, active, and fabulously messy time. In the handbook, parents were encouraged to send children to school in clothes and shoes that allowed for active movement inside and outside and the possibility of creative, sometimes messy play. I was surprised when my student came to class wearing the same dress the following week. I made a note to visit with her family to determine if they had clothes that might be more comfortable. During a home visit, and after I felt I had developed a relationship with the family, we talked about the dress. Her mother shared how important it was to her to wear the dress to school. Her daughter said she wanted to look beautiful, and school was important. Mom decided to honor her and let her wear the dress. Together they talked about what might happen if she climbed, painted, ate her snack in the dress, and decided they would wash it between preschool days. They did agree that instead of fancy shoes, she would wear sneakers to run fast! These positive, supportive interactions made this child feel valued and safe as she started her preschool journey.

Her mother and I supported this delightfully determined preschooler from that conversation forward. I was intentional about connecting with her each day in my classroom. When she arrived at school, I listened to her plans for the day, giving her my full attention. I encouraged her when she bravely tried new activities and made new friends. Over time and weather changes, she left her somewhat worn red dress at home, opting for more comfortable playwear. On a field trip to the local library, some months later, and not in the red dress, my sweet student asked me if she looked beautiful. I said yes, but she also looked like a bright girl who loved listening to stories. She smiled, found a friend to sit with, and got ready for storytime. When I read the book Red is Best by Kathy Stinson; I was reminded of my student again. It isn’t a new book but will be relatable to families and teachers well into the future. As you embark on professional learning this spring, reflect on your relationships with young children and families in your spaces. What are the ways you were responsive and intentional? I invite you to let these stories become central to your learning journey. Reflect, share with colleagues, and tuck these memorable stories into your heart. You will want to keep them there always.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs
Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8
NAEYC 2022 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children

Red is Best by Kathy Stinson illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis.

Wyoming Coherent Path to Quality 2020
Wyoming Early Learning Standards

The Wyoming Early Childhood Professional Learning Collaborative facilitators are available to support your work as you provide quality care and education for young children. As the new Wyoming Early Learning Standards are released, many professional learning opportunities will be available in the coming months. Contact your regional facilitator for more information.

An Image of a girl in a red dress

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