Building a Learning Community

Supporting Social and Emotional Development

What is a Learning Community?

In Early Childhood Education we often think of a community of learners through the eyes of academics. Did you know that your childcare or family program is among children’s first learning communities outside of the home?  The character and support of these environments directly impact every child’s growth and development. In developmentally appropriate practice, educators create and foster a community of learners.

The role of the community is to provide a physical, emotional, social, and cognitive environment conducive to development and learning for each child. The foundation for the community is consistent, positive, caring relationships between educators and other adults and children, among children, among educators and colleagues, and between educators and families. 

Each member of the learning community is valued for what they bring to the community; all members are supported to consider and contribute to one another’s well-being and learning. According to Sue Bredekamp (2014), a caring community of learners is “[a] group or classroom in which children and adults engage in warm, positive relationships; treat each other with respect; and learn from and with each other.”  

Looking for more information on learning communities?  Register for our Building a Community of Learners training and earn CED hours.

Helping Children with Behavior

When we think about helping children manage their behaviors, we always take into account the five criteria for successful guidance for young children. These five areas ensure that our children are supported and helped at each developmental step of the way.  Our ability to support children with behavior to learn and grow is directly related to our learning community.

Five criteria for guiding young children:

  1. The guidance helps children feel a sense of connection (belonging and significance). Our ability to build a strong learning community with our children helps them understand that they belong in your classroom or program. They are important and a significant member of the community.
  2. The guidance is mutually respectful and encouraging (kind and firm at the same time). While we understand that mistakes happen, we have established boundaries to help children understand what is appropriate for their safety, growth and development and what is not.
  3. The guidance is effective long-term (considers what the child is thinking and feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world, and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive). We want to change the behavior, so we want to help them make the connection between the boundary, the emotions, and the consequences of behaviors. We know this doesn’t happen using physical punishment or timeout, but instead through a child’s thinking and deciding for themself)
  4. The guidance is a way of teaching essential social skills and life skills (respect, concern for others, problem-solving, cooperation, and the skills to contribute to the home, school, or larger community). We want children to understand their contributions to the learning community as a very important member. We want them to positively contribute, and we want to help them connect their behavior to their contribution.
  5. Finally, the guidance invites children to discover how capable they are (encourages constructive use of personal power and autonomy). We want children to own their behaviors and realize they have the power over their own self.

Helping children develop through behavior support strengthens our learning community. Register for our Helping Children with Behavior training and earn CED hours.

Helping Children with Emotions

Emotions can be confusing, and for children some of these big feelings happen for the first time during their first five years. Children at this age don’t necessarily know how to deal with these big emotions. We can see them overwhelmed with emotions and inappropriate behaviors through tantrums and emotional outbursts. This sometimes leaves caregivers feeling helpless. But when we understand where a child is in their emotional development we can guide and support their growth the entire way. Emotions are what help us derive meaning from the world around us. Without them, we would experience life with the vibrancy of reading a technical manual on transmission repair. While our emotions—whether good or bad—provide a lot of the excitement in life, navigating them as we learn and grow can be challenging. 

Explore your role in helping children understand their emotions. Register for our Helping Children with Emotion training and earn CED hours.

Building a Learning Community

As we continue to support social and emotional development in our early childhood programs, we want to tackle each emotion and each behavior with an intentional opportunity to learn. Children look to us for guidance and support and the more we can be intentional in our approach, the more successful we are in creating a community that supports mistakes and creates community.

Kathy Banks

Kathy Banks, Educator Support Specialist for Experience Early Learning, has 35 years of early childhood education experience. She has held various positions, including teacher, director, multi-site director, Head Start director, CCR&R, and QRIS Director. She currently adjuncts at several colleges and universities and continues to support and inspire educators through training and practical strategies. Kathy is working on her dissertation to complete her Ed.D. in Early Childhood Education. Kathy is also a nationally certified Family and Consumer Science Developmental Educator.  Her experience and education make her a scholarly expert in child development and the realities and challenges of teaching and directing every day. 


All Play Learn (n.d.). Educator Guide on the ABC of behavior,be%20thought%20of%20as%20communication. Early Learning Nation (n.d.) Let’s create an early learning community.  National Association for the Education for the Young Child. (n.d.). DAP: Creating a Caring, Equitable, Community of Learners.

%d bloggers like this: