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Early years: Displaying behaviours which may negatively impact their learning and or the learning of other children

Strategies and approaches:

  • Understand the function of the behaviour before implementing strategies – try to identify why the child is displaying behaviours before planning how to support them. Use STAR observations to identify potential triggers to the behaviour.
  • Consider if the child need support to regulate those feeling, look at and share ‘Keep your cool’ tool box to help the child find a good strategy for them to use or be reminded of when a situation arises.
  • Talk with parents and carers, are they experiencing similar behaviours at home? Develop a shared understanding and plan appropriate strategies to be used at home and in school/setting.
  • Review routines, practice and provision in the setting – identify and make changes that will support all children. Ask questions about why you do things the way you do and who it benefits. Be open and flexible – if it isn’t working, make a change.
  • Share strategies with all adults and ensure they are used consistently.
  • Explore the use of peer observations or videoing good staff interactions and use of strategies to develop other practitioners’ skills and confidence.
  • Create a calm quiet space with the child where they can go to when they are feeling overwhelmed e.g. a small tent, a box of familiar toys, a favourite book/activity, sensory toys which may help them feel more secure.
  • Encourage the use of emotional language. When the child is calm name their feelings and emotions and those of others in a natural way.
  • Through modelling support the child to find alternative ways to express their feelings e.g. using their words, showing an adult.
  • Model positive interactions and language to support collaborative play, turn taking and negotiation with peers e.g. using visual prompts such as timers, moving to another experience while they wait for their turn, being able to use their voice to say ‘stop’ or ‘no’ rather than using physical communication.
  • Plan a proactive rather than reactive approach to support the child and improve their experiences.
  • Observe the child’s play and plan exciting activities to engage them in which follows their interests.
  • Observe what is happening when the child is engaged/calm/happy and ensure the same experiences, opportunities and interactions are available every time.
  • Notice the positives and comment on what it was that the child did well.
  • Explore what motivates the child, are use this to support them develop their pro-social behaviour – this could be giving them a role that they see as important, providing praise, an activity of interest, a challenge or something new and exciting.
  • Consider using a therapeutic approach to supporting positive behaviour. Staff consider the positive/ prosocial behaviours as well as “anti-social” (behaviours of concern) to gain a full picture of the child’s needs and strengths.
  • Consider a low arousal approach.
  • Use ‘wondering out loud’ to support emotional understanding, e.g. “I can see you re…tapping/stamping/shouting etc. ….I wonder if you are…worried/cross/stuck…shall we…go for a walk/ take a break/get a drink of water/ read a book/ do some climbing etc.?
  • Give a consistent message but flexible approach, e.g. “I want you to be in class join in” is the consistent message; the approach to support this happening may vary or be flexible depending on individual needs.
  • Offer clear guidance – explicit messages letting the child know what is expected of them.
  • Offer a ‘get out with dignity’ clause letting the child leave the situation.
  • Monitor so that you have a good understanding of the frequency and location of triggers – frequency charts; STAR observation sheet; ABCC observation sheets; informal observations can be carried out to inform understanding.
  • Devise a risk management plan which includes pro-active strategies, early interventions to reduce anxiety/harm and reactive strategies to ensure a consistent approach.
  • Employ a clear plan of action, agreed with parent carers to encourage and support pro-social behaviour. Develop a one-page profile to support all staff to understand the child and provide consistent, appropriate support.
  • Use choices to allow the child some control with the same result e.g. “Would you like to talk to me now or in one minute?”
  • Teach the child different ways to get their needs met, such as developing social skills or strategies to self-regulate emotional states.
  • Use readiness to learn strategies and routines (after breaks or between tasks for example).
  • Consider the impact of the routines and how you prepare a child for transitions.
  • Plan for transition between activities, rooms, and outside play including ‘what works well’ in terms of in differentiation and support professionals meeting to unpick the behaviour.
  • Communicate effectively with home/family e.g. what is going on at home, another agency’s involvement?
  • For settings, talk to your EYCA about referring to Target Setting Support (TSS) for additional advice and guidance For reception class, discuss the need for getting advice from the Fair Access Team, Educational Psychology Service, Learning Behaviour and Advisory (LBAT) and Autism and Social Communication (ASCT) teams if difficulties persist – see Local Offer for further information.
  • Ensure that advice is consistently implemented and analysed and reviewed for effective impact.
  • Review individual plans regularly: they may have changed, or you may be able to contribute new information to inform and update the plan.
  • Ensure there is a whole setting consistent approach to support the child’s individual strategies.


Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools

Self-Regulation in the early years


Self-Regulation in early years

Keep Your Cool Toolbox

Name It To Tame It – Dan Siegel (video)

Keep Your Cool Toolbox

Low arousal approach information.

Early Years In Mind – Trauma

Early Years In Mind- Crying

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Attachment

Early Years In Mind – Bereavement

Last updated 2 November 2021

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