Social & Emotional Learning at Beach School

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The Under 5s Beach Schoolers at St Margaret’s Bay

When I was a home-educator*, the most frequently asked question was about how my child would socialise. It felt like a bit of a preoccupation with any form of slightly alternative education. A holistic school or nursery setting can provide many social opportunities for children. However, it is really not the only way children can learn to socialise.

At the Beach School we encourage our participants to play independently together. Our natural setting, provides a calm environment where children can play without the distractions of noise and other stressors that they may encounter indoors or in other settings. It can be tricky because the relationships between young children often don’t look like adult ones – our idea of socialising isn’t often one that’s developmentally appropriate to them. Here’s how Beach School supports their social & emotional development:

  • They have the opportunity to wait turns, share, negotiate and to deal with anger and frustration. And we respect and support them with this learning process.
  • Through clear boundaries and lots of free play – the children can develop a separate sense of self and their own individuality, in their own way. Between 2 and 5 is a prime age for this.
  • We have mixed-age groups – our current bunch of beach schools range from 18months to 7 years old (plus some babe-in-arms siblings). With their different developmental stages, the younger children learn from watching the older children and the older children learn to emphasise with the younger ones. Our trained Beach School practitioners model empathy.

Because we provide free play opportunities, we have no preconceived notions of how the children should play. We understand that it can take years for small children to learn how to successfully engage with another child for more than a minute or two. We also have neuro-diverse participants who feel more comfortable socialising in different ways.

Inspired by Janet Lansbury, we nurture this learning process by offering our children opportunities for experimentation, we trust them as much as possible, and resist our urge to over-intervene, because that can hinder their developing self-confidence. Our Beach School participants have ownership and control of their sessions. They are encouraged to challenge themselves, but also have free choice of which activities they take part in. They have control, which supports their self-esteem and emotional development. They learn to socialise in a way that is entirely developmentally appropriate. We believe in nurturing social skills that are personal and individual. We don’t believe there is one way to socialise and that’s what our Beach Schoolers learn.

If you’d like to read more about how we learn at the Beach School, you can find all the posts in the ‘Beach Schooled’ series here.

*We no longer home educate.



Published by Rachel Stevens

Nature Lover. Educator. Fascinated with people, spaces and places. Lover of life.

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