Using Reflective Practices in Early Childhood Education

What is Reflective Practice?

Almost half of early childhood educators are experiencing high levels of burnout and stress, according to a nationwide survey of 2,300 educators. The biggest culprit of the burnout and stress in early childhood is directly related to exhaustion. Exhaustion is defined as ongoing physical, mental, and emotional fatigue that extends beyond what a good night’s sleep can fix. This level of exhaustion is deep in the soul. Taking a moment to pause allows us to stop our stress and remember why we do what we do. It gives us time to pour our energy back into ourselves. Pausing is the first step in reflecting on our work. Planning purposeful programs includes implementing reflective practices in early childhood education.

Reflective Practices in Early Childhood Education

Read more about Burn Out

Reflecting on our work allows us to become self-aware of what we do each and every day. It allows us to think critically about why we do what we do, and begin to spark ideas about changes in our practices that could benefit children. Using a reflective journal can help us think about our work in a new way. When we start reflecting on our program plans, our productivity increases. Reflecting on our practices includes asking important questions about the work we do each day and why we do it. 

When we reflect on our practices we can begin to create goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. These S.M.A.R.T. Goals can help us as we prepare for our next program year. 

Learn more about reflective practices at our Training Institute

Preparing for Success

As early years practitioners we are continually thinking about creating exciting learning experiences for the children we work with. Outside of the early years setting, how many times have you stopped yourself discarding some household packaging with the thought that the children would enjoy using it for some kind of creative activity?

This type of action becomes habitual, routine and part of who we are. This ‘way of being’ as a practitioner and other qualities are part of our professional identity, but have you ever stopped to question why you behave in this way? Why do you consider the needs of the children when you’re not with them? Why do you think they might enjoy using that object you’ve kept or bought? Questioning our actions in this way and going one step further with our thinking to justify our actions enables us to develop a professional artistry.

Preparing for success is transitioning our reflective practices into goals that we will share with others. As we navigate our plan, we begin to take steps to complete goals. This preparation can help us prepare our environment, teachers, and families for our new quality improvement mindset. Intentionally planning your early childhood setting, to ensure a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment for young learners is important for our success.

Learn more about preparing for success and Preparing our Environment on our Training Institute

Welcoming Families

As we design our purpose program, we want to embrace our families that will be entering into our program. It is so important that our program design and practices create a community for families to belong. Research continues to show that when individuals feel as if they belong somewhere they are more likely to engage and contribute. This is important because of research that supports family engagement for children’s outcomes. 

Welcoming families include designing your space that takes into account each family’s language, culture, and abilities. All of your materials support families’ sense of belongingness with pictures that reflect the community, and the families you serve. You can ask families to share a family photo to be displayed in your welcome area. 

Your program design should support family choice in how they participate. Give them the option of classroom participation, or other ways to become involved in the program. Providing resources that may assist family challenges they may experience outside of your program can create a trusting environment where families can be vulnerable about life issues that could impact their child’s growth and learning. When parents feel comfortable, recognized, and valued, a positive bond forms between caregivers and families, and children feel safe and cared for.

Learn more about welcoming families on our Training Institute

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. 


Effectiviology. (2023) Reflective practice: Thinking about the way we do things.

Midwest, A. (2022). SMART Goals

Penstate. (2023). Creating a sense of place: considering belongingness for families.

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