International Conference on Early Childhood Care & Education

2023 Bright Start International Conference - Early Years Excellence in Practice

Online Or In-Person

November 3-5, 2023

Preliminary Programme

Friday, November 3, 2023

16:00 – 17:00 

The Joy of Not Knowing (JONK)

Instilling a Lifelong Love of Learning from a Very Early Age 

The talk will outline how the innovative principles that underpin The Joy of Not Knowing™ (JONK™) philosophy of education and school leadership can be used to nurture children’s innate curiosity and to instill a lifelong love of uncertainty and of learning in children from a very early age.

We will explore how the JONK approach transforms children’s and families perception of school and of learning by replacing any worry or anxiety usually associated with ‘not knowing’, with an enthusiasm for wanting to know! 

We will discuss how all the JONK ideas are designed to build on and adapt to your already existing practice to create classrooms that function as democratic communities of inquiry that immerse children in values-led and children’s-rights driven cultures of learning. Using practical examples, we will explore how these cultures provide every child with all they need to succeed as individuals, learners, thinkers and citizens.

We will consider the benefits for schools and Early Years settings of introducing a Learning to Learn Week as a way of launching the academic year. These weeks are designed to equip children with all they need to access the learning successfully and thrive emotionally, socially, culturally, linguistically and cognitively at all times. The five main domains that make up these weeks are:

  1. Individual Models of Learning 
  2. Creative Thinking Strategies
  3. Visible Learning Techniques
  4. Philosophy and a Philosophical Approach to the Curriculum
  5. The Six Lifelong Learning Dispositions and the animals associated with each one

We will reflect on how the JONK approach enables all children to develop as creative, critical, metacognitive, multilingual and philosophical thinkers and as responsible citizens who are able to manoeuvre the now and construct the future of tomorrow, by placing children’s interests and intellectual playfulness at the heart of all we do.

 Dr Marcelo Staricoff, Author of  ‘The Joy of Not Knowing” , Lecturer in Education, University of Sussex,  United Kingdom 

16:30 – 17:30 

What do we mean by Wellbeing? Using the Leuven Scales to underpin our observations   

The aim of this session is to unpick why understanding and supporting emotional wellbeing is crucial before real learning can take place.  In order to do this we need to fine tune our skills of observation to become listening, noticing, reflective and understanding adults. Through this practical session we will use the Leuven Scales of Wellbeing and Involvement to inform practice and provision.  The scales are not just a tick box assessment that gets filed away.  Used in an informed way, they are a vital tool to support quality teaching and learning.

 Dr Sue Allingham, EdD MA BA (Hons), Early Years Out of the Box, United Kingdom 

16:30 – 17:00 

A Sensory-Cognitive Foundation for Learning: Helping All Children Learn to Their Potential       

This presentation will explore the role of the sensory-cognitive processes that underlie the development of language and literacy processing. Participants will gain an understanding of the reading process as an integration of parts as processed through the sensory system. We will identify the two types of imagery (symbol and concept) and the symptoms of weak imagery underlying the component parts of reading. The presenter will share examples of student profiles and results with an intervention that has been shown to make a difference for students with learning difficulties, including dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders. We will also guide parents and educators through new research that reveals the symptoms, causes, and solutions for weak reading and comprehension so their students can learn to their full potential.

Angelica Benson, Director of Development and Outreach, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, United States

16:30 – 17:30 

Elevating Equity in Early Childhood Education

Did you know children as young as 15 months want to play with adults who divide food and toys equally? Anyone who has ever dispensed pizza slices at a preschooler’s birthday party already knows young children care deeply about equality. Equity requires adults to be mindful of how children and families can be included in all parts learning. Learn about identity development of young children and how it can inform lesson planning and interactions. Participants will learn about levels of elevating equity, how to include children of all cultures and abilities. Get ready to sing, dance and read your way to elevating equity in early childhood.

Angela Searcy, Educational Consultant, Author, Adjunct Instructor, Simple Solutions Educational Services, United States

17:30 – 18:00 

Supporting multi-literacy and transversal competences through art and              longterm projects:                                                                                                                     The Marvellous Toy Marvel 

A case study presentation of how working through arts on a long term arts project supports young children’s holistic development enhancing self confidence, resilience and growth while allowing each individual to participate actively and become an agent of their own learning and development. Practical ideas, steps and outcomes of a long term project with children 5-7 years old. Insights from experience of more than 5 years of implementation.


Efstathia Antoniadou, Kindergarten Head Teacher-Preschool/Pre-primary education, Finnish American Kindergarten Kamppi, Finland

Saturday, November 4, 2023

10:00 – 10:30

Interest matters- generating interest in a range of topics                                                                           

This session, designed for all educators, parent and teachers, will describe how interest was generated in a range of topics with 4–5-year-old children in a Queensland classroom via an enrichment program. The topics were deliberately chosen to provide the children with a broad knowledge base, a ‘big picture’ of the world, providing many starting points for learning. The key components of the enrichment program will be discussed as well as the optimum engagement time of each component. A model of how interest develops, will be provided showing how interest is key to learning and cognitive development. It also shows the power of interest as it raises awareness, increases exploration, and generates new knowledge, creating a cycle of repeated engagement with the topic.


Ellie Christoffina van Aswegen, lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Griffith University, Australia

10:00 – 10:30

The Ripple Project Australia; Speech Pathologists working with Early Childhood Educators in supporting children with a communication disorder in early educations settings

One in four children in Australia starts their first year of formal schooling with a speech or language disorder. The Ripple Project Australia is an exciting, innovative approach to improving the lives of vulnerable children in the areas of communication skills, language and social interactions. The Ripple Project Australia had qualified speech pathologists work with early childhood educators, as well teachers in early education centres and schools. 

The Ripple Project Australia aimed to improve early childhood educators’ knowledge in speech, social and language milestones, to increase educator and teacher confidence in talking with parents and to provide a language-rich environment that the children can thrive in. The speech pathologists worked in collaboration with two early education centres to create an interactive learning experience for early childhood educators and teachers with the use of videos, sound recordings and interviews of children and early childhood educators. The Ripple Project Australia also aimed to create content that can be shared with parents, ensuring the ripple effect of improvement for the child in all areas of their life. 

Results of the pilot program indicate a significant change and improvement in the skills and knowledge of early childhood educators and how they support children with communication delays. The Ripple Project Australia’s courses appear to make a positive impact in improving the lives of children with a speech or language disorder

Amy Pollitt, Speech Pathologist, The Ripple Project, Australia

10:00 – 11:00

The Wonder of Woodwork

This workshop is an opportunity to explore the rich potential of woodwork. There is something really special about woodwork. The smell and feel of wood, using real tools, hands and minds working together to express imagination and solve problems, the use of strength and coordination: all  combine to captivate young children’s interest. Woodwork provides a truly unique experience and it is hugely popular with children, providing a rich source of enjoyment as well as learning. Woodwork is truly cross-curricular embracing  many areas of learning as well as building  children’s dispositions for learning. The impact is profound and long term.                                                  

This practical workshop will look at ways in which woodworking can be safely introduced in your early years setting. We will look at the theory and the associated learning and development and there will be explanations of the most suitable tools and woods for children and instruction on how best to use them as well as how to set up a woodworking area.  The workshop will include a practical session  to explore the tools, gain confidence and share the experience of making creations in wood.

Pete Moorhouse, Early Years creative consultant, Researcher, Author and artist educator, United Kingdom

10:00 – 11:30

Movement and Music: Individually essential, but together a powerhouse for developing brains

This workshop explores the links between music and movement, and how together, they are powerful tools for developing a healthy body and brain that ultimately prepares a child for success at school. When children take part in activities that encourage them to move to a musical beat; for example, clapping, jumping, playing rhythmic patterns with instruments, singing songs and rhymes; they are building a strong relationship between the brain and the body and ultimately developing the skills they will use for language, literacy, coordination, attention and concentration. Moving to the beat also helps to develop a child’s understanding of order, sequencing in terms of counting, placement and pattern recognition, all necessary for learning mathematics in school. Practical movement and music activities that are fun and motivating for infants to 5-year-olds will be demonstrated and attendees will be able to participate.

Dr Jane Williams, Author, Research and Education Director & Dr Tessa Grigg, lecturer at the University of Canterbury and Research and Education Manager, GymbaROO-KindyROO,  Australia  

10:30 – 11:30

Listen to the creative silence of non-verbal children: A case study of the use of art stations which promotes children’s agency

This research project is presenting a case study of exploration of the creative silence of non-verbal children in an early year setting in England. Two sets of activities were carried out with three two-year old children at a children’s centre. The first activity consisted of taking each child individually to three art stations (clay, textiles and paint) in a dedicated, private space. The children were not given any instructions or limitations in terms of time nor how they used the resources. The second activity brought the children together as a group with collage resources. This research applies a non-participant observer methodological approach which is being conducted according to the ethical guidelines for educational research, (BERA, 2018). The main findings of the research project addressed a climate of uninterrupted flow that is vital in children’s artmaking; children have a variety of motivations for artmaking; for their creative silence to be heard and that making art enables children to communicate with themselves and each other. There were clear limitations to this study. First and most notably it was small-scale and Qualitative study. Second, the researchers observed only three children at an early year’s center in England, which indicates that observations at other environments may address other categories as well. In spite of the above limitations, the results from this small-scale study are original and the researchers acknowledge the importance of children’s voice to be heart, fully support children’s perspectives and engage with them as co-producers of knowledge.

Dr. Eirini Gkouskou, Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education, Department of Learning & Leadership, IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, University College London & Constance Handley, early years teacher, Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at UCL, United Kingdom

10:30 – 11:00

Love and care in early childhood settings

We dream of an early childhood sector where care and education are not seen as separate: where one can care for a child deeply and professionally and demonstrate love through their interactions and relationships. This is the space of professional love, where adults come together in a collaborative way to give value to the child as a whole being and understanding that care is vital to education. During a time of intense disruption to children’s lives we need to bring the focus back to care and advocate for this core part of our work. Care is not simply for those children whose families work, and it’s not an add on saved only for routine tasks such as feeding and sleeping. Care is foundational to ensuring that children feel a sense of safety, belonging and welcome in the early childhood classroom. Daring to dance with the concept of professional love, this session will bring to the participants a sense of curiosity about what it means to engage with professional love within our early childhood spaces and share opportunities for new ways of thinking and teaching with children through a care lens.

Sarah Louise Gandolfo, Founder and Principle Consultant, Learning to Lead in Early Childhood, Melbourne, Australia

11:00 – 11:30

Non-consumable toys, musical instruments made by children

In Japanese society, we consider that consumerism and an aging society with a declining birthrate have a significant impact on children’s living environment. The involvement of many adults with one child can cause a variety of problems.That is the problem of over-interference and giving them too many toys. As children today are more materially affluent than before, they are surrounded by many toys and consume them. In an age when we should aim for a sustainable society, is it really a good idea to lead a life of consumption as a matter of course from childhood? This led me to the idea of children make own toys themselves . The idea is that child will cherish toys that they have made with their own hard work and this toy is not easy to consume. And I consider that among such toys, those that are not easily consumed are not instruments. At our preschool, five-year-olds spend a half year making musical instruments, and a child can make any instrument they wish. They think and devise how to make the desired instrument, with occasional adult support. Popular instruments are the guitar, cajón, and kalimba. Because they saw 5-year-olds making them when they were little and they adored them. The children have also made various other instruments such as ocarina, violin, cello, bongo, and so on, with their own ingenuity. This year marks the 20th year of this activity. The children who have grown up still cherish their instruments.

Kei Kihara, Director Oikeashita nursery school, Kyoto, Japan

11:00 – 12:30

Superhero Play – Emotional well-being, Positivity and Fun!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a superhero workshop delivered by award winning trainer Ben Kingston-Hughes from Inspired Children. In this practical workshop we look at the profound impact of superhero play on our more vulnerable children and showcase a wealth of superhero themed experiences to engage and delight all of our children. We also look at the real villains in children’s lives, adults who restrict, undermine and cause anxiety, and we look at how positive play can give children the emotional well-being and resilience to cope and thrive despite the negative influences on their lives.  Thought provoking and fun with a wealth of practical experiences – have fun whilst fighting crime and injustice!


Ben Kingston-Hughes, international keynote speaker, author, multi award-winning trainer, CEO, Inspired Children, United Kingdom 

11:30 – 12:30

Children Are Born Philosophical

Philosophy in Early Years Education

This session will introduce participants to the wonders and benefits of engaging Early Years children to philosophy, philosophical thinking and philosophical dialogue in the classroom. Participants will be offered a large of questions and strategies designed at engaging children in discussion in response to philosophical questions and situations in which they have to think from a moral perspective. The session will enable participants to introduce strategies as part of their everyday teaching and learning routine that build on children’s innate curiosity and thirst for wanting to understand and make sense of how the world works.  The workshop will also illustrate the value of ‘Why Books’ which are books that the children have to write down their philosophical questions at the start of the day.

 Dr Marcelo Staricoff, Author of  ‘The Joy of Not Knowing”, Lecturer in Education, University of Sussex,  United Kingdom 

12:00 – 12:30

Character Education in The Early Years with S-T-A-R-S

Character is the essence of who we are ! One of the most important aspects in educating children is to ensure that they grow up as caring, responsible and principled human beings. We as educators play an important role in teaching behaviour that shapes a child’s character. The best way to do this is by infusing positive habits and nurturing their virtues from a very early age through simple strategies, fun and reinforcement. Join this session to understand the importance of educating children about character and brighten your early years classrooms with Character S-T-A-R-S

Shareen Ratnani, Director of Academics, Kipina Kids Indonesia, Association of National and Private schools , Indonesia

13:00 – 14:00

How working with reflexes and movement in water improves the developmental outcomes for all children

We learn through movement long before we consciously learn with our brains. Movement is the critical ingredient for neural development and organisation. Early swim experiences help to bring a baby back into a place where the natural resistance and density of the water slow down their movement reactions and responses (primitive reflexes). Thus, replicating the womb experience feeds directly into a baby’s developing sensory system. Infant reflexes work with incoming sensory information to create an important and positive impact on child development.

Understanding reflex patterns in the water, their roles and their impact on cognitive, emotional, and behavioural development are vital when working with babies and children in any setting. We have a unique classroom to ‘play and observe’ when working in water. It offers a space for children to experiment with movement patterns through expansion, rotation, and exploration. Many Movement patterns can be experienced in water long before they emerge in land-based settings.

We can observe how children’s learning to swim journey is directly affected by reflex movement patterns that remain active in their bodily systems. But an unintegrated reflex can go beyond affecting just their swimming; it can impact so many other areas of a child’s life ‚at school, with friends, eating, sleeping and impulse control.

Having a teacher’s toolbox of exercises and activities that work with the reflexes of a young baby or child in the pool offers another window into the world of child development. It permits learning and adaptive activities for each child within an inclusive setting.

Julie Kamara, Reflex Integration Therapist, Co-founder, Aqua Education, & Zara Peasland, Reflex Integration and Movement Therapist, Co-founder of Aqua Education Academy‚ United Kingdom 

13:00 – 15:00

Walter’s Wonderful Web – using puppets and play to bring Picture Books to life for Early Years

Live demonstration: Walter’s Wonderful Web by Tim Hopgood

Step by Step guide: How to recreate Walter’s Wonderful Web for your own children.

This practical session will develop and extend staff skills and confidence to present your own version of Walter’s Wonderful Web or use the principles and ideas to present another picture book in the comfort of your own setting. The activities covered include:

  • Ritual – How to establish live performance/storytelling in your setting
  • Pairing – A narrator and puppeteer: how to break down the story into parts
  • Narrator Role – how to use voice to build suspense, engagement and establish character
  • Puppeteers Role – Simple rules and how to use the puppet for maximum effect
  • Bringing the roles together – How to present your story and who’s in major or minor
  • Participation – opportunities for your children to join in through action, rhyme, sound and play
  • Extension – how to build on the experience with children and extend activities around the story
  • How to make the puppet and visual aids for the story – Live & recorded demonstration and templates provided.

Natasha Holmes, Artistic Director of Tell Tale Hearts & Lisa Difford, Artistic Director of Fettle & Fable, United Kingdom

14:30 – 15:00

Co-Regulation; The Lighthouse in the storm

During this practical workshop, we will focus on the concept of co-regulation between adults and children and the importance of understanding each individual’s role in this process. We will explore how co-regulation can have both short-term and long-term impacts on developing trust, empathy, positive relationships, and the ability to self-regulate.

To illustrate this concept, we will use the metaphor of adults being the lighthouse amidst the storm of children’s emotions. We will delve into how adults can act as a beacon of calm and stability, providing a sense of security and guidance for children during challenging times. To further reinforce this practice, we will be introduced to a visual exercise that offers a tangible way for educators and parents to actively engage in co-regulation in real-time situations, promoting a deeper understanding and practical application of this important skill.

By emphasizing the significance of co-regulation and providing practical tools for educators and parents to incorporate this practice, we aim to empower them in fostering a supportive and nurturing environment for children’s emotional well-being and overall development.


Laurie Kingwell, Parent Coach/Early Childhood Educator, Joy In The Home, Canada

14:30 – 16:00


‘Developmental Dance Movement® and Autism Movement Therapy® – theory and practical application’

A practical workshop using the evidence base of dance movement methods that support the development of neurotypical children and those with autism (or related differences).Delegates are invited to attend a 90 minute seminar led by Ali Golding, a dance movement scientist specialising in early intervention for children with and without additional/special needs.Participants will learn about the relationship between physical and cognitive development and how autism (and related differences) can be supported through a dance movement approach. The workshop will enhance understanding of why movement experiences are crucial to nurturing and raising children’s attainment in all areas of development and learning.

Following an introduction to the theory behind the methods, with a deeper understanding delegates will then participate in a practical session comprising of Developmental Dance Movement® and Autism Movement Therapy® techniques. The session is designed to be an engaging practical application to support the learning of children in a fully inclusive model. As well as being purposeful, movement is fun – dance and movement games will form an important and enjoyable part of the session; so come dressed to dance and play!

Ali Golding, international consultant, trainer, published academic author, Founder and Director of MovementWorks® charitable organisation, United Kingdom 

15:00 – 16:00

Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure

Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure is an evidence-based and interactive curriculum designed specifically to engage preschoolers and introduce them to the joy of eating fruits and vegetables. This one-of-a-kind curriculum is designed for kids of all abilities.

Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH, (“Dr. Yum”), pediatrician and founder of The Dr. Yum Project, & Heidi Di Eugenio, Founding Board Member, Dr Yum Project, United States

15:30 – 16:00

Closing the gap: parents and teachers relationship

It is understood that a positive learning environment implies a group of participants working together, aiming the same target and facing the challenges together. It is well known that parents are relevant participants and we would like to highlight the implications of having an effective relationship between teachers and parents. A common ground might be a powerful tool to close the gap and allow learners to feel safe in regards of what parents and teachers effective relationship can provide them with for the unexpected changes in the world.

Nathaly Arvidsson Quimbayo, MA. Bilingual learning environments, Sweden & Nick Osuna Roa, MA Bilingual Learning Environments | Universidad Santo Tomás, Bogotá, Colombia 

15:30 – 16:00

Playing with Math and Science in the Early Childhood Classroom

Young students are naturally equipped with the curiosity and creativity to be successful scientists and mathematicians. In today’s early childhood classrooms, strong foundational skills in math and scientific inquiry promote success in integrated contexts for years to come. Through play-based, open-ended explorations, young students can engage in skills such as subitizing, sorting, drawing, pattern recognition, and innovation and inquiry with loose parts. In this workshop, participants will actively take part in several activities highlighting each of these skills, discuss how they promote mathematical and scientific thinking, and share resources to be used in the classroom. Participants will review and discuss math and science foundations appropriate for early childhood learners and explore play-based activities that support these foundations. Educators will leave with new ideas and knowledge to implement within their classrooms.

Lindsey Herlehy, Curriculum Specialist, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy & Cassandra Armstrong, Curriculum Writer and Professional Development Senior Specialist, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, United States

15:30 – 18:30

Project Play – Train the Trainers

Supporting settings to promote positive play in the home.

Play is profoundly important for our children. It forms the foundation for every aspect of a child’s well-being and development, supports healthy brain growth and promotes life-long physical health. If we recognise how important play is within our childcare settings, we must also recognise how important it is for children to experience positive play in the home. The problem is that in a significant number of homes play has declined and is no longer prioritised. This can be catastrophic for our children.

In 2013 Inspired Children began Parent Play sessions to teach parents the value of play and support more play in the home. The impact of these sessions was enormous with significant improvements in the well-being of the children. The project was subsequently a finalist for a Nursery World Parent Project award and has now been delivered to thousands of parents across the UK.

Now for the first-time, multi award-winning trainer Ben Kingston-Hughes, is delivering a train the trainers course to support settings to deliver their own parent play sessions. This ground-breaking course highlights positive methods for engaging even hard to reach parents and shows how we can create a parent focused session to radically alter perceptions about play. The training demonstrates concrete strategies for engaging less confident parents and highlights the pitfalls to avoid when delivering the sessions.

The training also showcases a range of “light bulb” moments and thought-provoking, bite-size elements of theory, to persuade parents that far from frivolous, play can be profound and life-changing for children. Ben shares the latest research, linking play to mental and physical health, emotional well-being, brain growth and even life expectancy. This gives settings a broad range of accessible theory to win over their parents and re-prioritise play. Ben also introduces a range of practical play activities to engage parents give them first-hand experience of the benefits of play.

This essential training gives settings the tools, information and confidence to deliver vibrant Parent Play sessions of their own, potentially changing the lives of countless children.

Ben Kingston-Hughes, international keynote speaker, author, multi award-winning trainer, CEO, Inspired Children, United Kingdom 

16:30 – 17:00

Preschool As Citizenship Building: Social/Emotional Learning As The Foundation For Building A Diverse, Inclusive School Community

A truly inclusive early childhood setting is a place where all children develop a positive self-identity, feel like they belong, and that they have something to contribute. Preschool can be viewed as a microcosm of society, and as an opportunity to build community resilience. An inclusive education means supporting children with special developmental needs in an inclusive classroom, while also addressing the critical issues of diversity and equity across the school community. The way to build an inclusive school community is by utilizing a robust and intentional social/emotional curriculum that embraces children’s sense of wonder, curiosity and desire to connect. While also delivering a strong program of parent education that addresses difficult themes such as bias, stigma, and ability in a setting that is warm and embracing to all families. When schools, in partnership with parents, embrace inclusive practices so that every child feels they have a voice at the circle time, we are supporting children (and their families) in becoming empathetic, kind, and accepting members of society and to become allies to others. Join me for a lively discussion on how to deliver an ability, bias, and stigma informed social/emotional curriculum for young children and their families. It is not easy, but it is essential.

Judith Wides, Director of Counseling and Family Support, National Child Research Center Preschool, United States

17:00 – 17:30

From Children’s Interests to Children’s Thinking: Using a Cycle of Inquiry to Plan Curriculum

This presentation will introduce the Cycle of Inquiry system (COI) that is presented in the NAEYC publication, From Children’s Interests to Children’s Thinking: Using a Cycle of Inquiry to Plan curriculum (2020). The organization of a year-long project at a Reggio inspired preschool is shared as an example of how teachers used the COI processes of observing, interpreting, questioning, designing, to implement and facilitate provocations with children. The COI played an important role for teachers to examine children’s underlying thinking within the context of the What Makes You Powerful project. Power play typically emerges in children’s spontaneous play and this example reveals the threads of inquiry that led children to explore power concepts related to where power is stored (fantasy and historically through jewelry and clothing), power in the physical body, power in the environment. The COI serves as a curriculum planning tool as well as a professional development tool, where teachers reflect on their practices as much as on children’s development and thinking. In particular, these teachers found the COI supported them to learn to extend learning experiences from short to longterm projects.

Jane Tingle Broderick, Professor, Department of Early Childhood Education, University in Johnson City, Tennessee & Seong Bock Hong, Professor of early childhood education, University of Michigan-Dearborn, United States

17:00 – 18:00

‘A Calm Brain is a Thinking Brain’ – Designing calm, engaging learning environments using the Brain-SET Formula

This session provides the participants with research, practical application and testimonials of successful Brain-SET learning environments from a range of centers globally. ‘A calm brain is a thinking brain’ is a key message that will be promoted throughout the session. This will be supported by practical steps to implement the new learning and explains the importance of aligning the needs of the developing brain to the learning environment. Participants will view photos of learning environments and leave the session with a greater understanding of the Brain-SET Environments Formula and a plan for implementation.

Dr Kathryn Murray, creator of the Brain-SET Formula for Classroom Design© and founder of Future Strong Education, Australia 

17:00 – 18:00

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

The Importance of Physical Development in Early Childhood

The aim of this session is to take an in depth look at Physical Development.  All too often this is interpreted as just the fundamental motor skills (FMS), and being able to hold pencil effectively.  However it is more than this.  Being physically confident and secure has an impact on emotional wellbeing and cognitive skills

This practical session will focus on looking at Physical Development in a more rounded way to inform pedagogy, practice and provision.  We will do this by reflecting on the concept of Physical Literacy and how it will inform our understanding of child development and therefore our practice

Dr Sue Allingham, EdD MA BA (Hons), Early Years Out of the Box, United Kingdom 

17:30 – 18:30

Sensory Integration in the Classroom: Strategies to Support Sensory Regulation and the Brain’s Readiness for Learning

In this workshop, you will learn the principles of sensory integration and its impact on the brain’s readiness for learning. Understand the link between sensory stimulation and potential dysregulation in a child. Identify common behaviors that signal sensory dysregulation and learn tools and strategies to promote an optimal brain state for learning.

Lindsay Astor Grant, MA, OTR/L, Occupational Therapy Consultant, Learning Redesigned, United States

18:00 – 18:30

Sticks and Stones: Teaching Preschool Math Using Nature

Nature is full of math manipulatives. This session, designed for educators and parents, will explore innovative, open-ended processes to help preschoolers explore numbers, patterns, geometry and measurement using natural materials. These activities are best explored outdoors, but can be adapted for indoors and to whatever nature happens to be growing outside your front door.

Nicole Dravillas-Fravel, Early Childhood Educator, Wildwood Teaching, United States

Sunday, November 5, 2023

10:00 – 10:30


Creating Classrooms that Support Emerging Authors

Writing is a means of communication that far exceeds the ability to form marks on paper. It is an expression of who we are as individuals and the primary means by which a child’s intellect and academic success is evaluated. Because purposeful opportunities to communicate through print help build positive attitudes towards writing and about one’s elf as a writer, young children benefit from programs that encourage them as authors by providing classrooms where children’s thoughts take written form on a continuous basis, rather than in rare moments. With plenty of time and rich experiences that allow children to incorporate writing into their play, they begin to explore the wonders of the written word and imitate the writers around them. Developing emerging writers takes knowledge, wisdom, energy, creativity, and reflection. This session will provide the opportunity to celebrate and explore early childhood classrooms that engage and inspire young authors as they navigate the journey to become confident and creative authors.

Prof Rebecca McMahon Giles, Author, United States 

10:00 – 11:00


The Language of Photography: Children using cameras

This workshop is an opportunity to explore the medium of children’s photography. Photography is a powerful tool for communication and creative expression, and is an extremely versatile medium. It is visual expression but it often becomes more about language – as it has so much capacity to stimulate and open up dialogue by allowing children to express their thoughts and their way of seeing the world – encouraging children’s voice. For the practitioner it gives a unique insight into the children’s interests, the way the child sees their environment, friends, learning etc. Children use cameras in creative ways – unrestricted by convention – being so direct and curious and the results can be profound with the images forming the starting point for further exploration. The children’s use of cameras puts them at the centre of their learning,  they can use the camera to document their investigations and create their own learning stories. The images provide a wonderful way to reflect on learning and help evaluate.

Photography can be seen to embrace all characteristics of effective learning. I believe there should be a children’s camera in every classroom as an important resource with which children can support and construct their learning. There will be information about the practicalities, best cameras for children, reviewing images, storage, software and how to successfully introduce photography to young children. There will be practical activities so do bring a digital camera or smart phone.

Pete Moorhouse, Early Years creative consultant, Researcher, Author and artist educator, United Kingdom

10:00 – 10:30


Building A Culture of Felt Safety for Emotionally Literate Environments 

Triumphs, successes, disappointments and persistence all provoke an array of sensations and emotions. If we explore the language of our nervous systems then we become familiar with felt safety in our everyday settings. We owe it to children to support emotionally literate spaces, ones that are not predetermined and predictable. The body and brain and the way educators respond to children is new insight, that neuroscience has gifted us, but the education and care sector is still discovering how to impart this knowledge into practice. There is a strong interdependence of rights and relationships with place. If you sit deeply with this reality then you are ready to be engaged in relational pedagogy. We need to be unapologetically passionate about implementing children’s rights into our curriculums. Our nervous systems are constantly asking ‘Who can I trust?’ so a responsive environment will support children as they move out of their zone of regulation with the knowledge they will get back to calm safely and with trusted adults. Our behavioural landscape is influenced by past and present situations and we must accept behaviours through a lens of compassion not compliance.

Nicole Talarico, Consultant, Child Rights Advocate, Author, Talarico Consulting, Australia

10:00 – 11:30


Movement: Helping children prepare for learning and life success

Research conducted over the past 40 years points to the far-reaching and long-standing effects that early experiences have on the development of a child’s brain. Babies and young children need the correct stimulation at the right time to provide the solid foundations on which all higher thinking and learning is based. The need to stimulate these brain pathways purposefully and actively is often overlooked as essential to healthy development, the assumption being that this will ‘naturally occur’. In modern society, however, natural development is no longer certain as children are decreasingly exposed to the kinds of activities that the brain requires for healthy maturation. The importance of movement and the development of motor skills to learning is not a clear link for many, but in this presentation, Dr Jane Williams clearly explains why the brain requires movement to stimulate higher cognitive thinking, social and emotional maturation and communication skills, alongside attention, balance and coordination. There will also be opportunities for participants to practise specific movement patterns beneficial to developing brains, during this session.

Dr Jane Williams, Author, Research and Education Director, GymbaROO-KindyROO, Australia 

11:00 – 12:00


Awe and Wonder in the EYFS

This unique session highlights how we can inspire, support and nurture awe and wonder in our children to create magical and life-changing experiences. These often-underrated concepts are the cornerstones of neurological development, divergent thinking, imagination, creativity and life-long learning. The session shows how we can begin to see the world through the eyes of a child and add a healthy dose of magic to our interactions with children. With vibrant practical experiences, up to date neuroscience and thought-provoking real-life examples, this session is a must for anyone wanting to inspire awe and wonder in their children and might just unleash their inner child.

Ben Kingston-Hughes, international keynote speaker, author, multi award-winning trainer, CEO, Inspired Children, United Kingdom 

11:00 – 12:00


STEM Education, Children’s Agency & Play

In the developing early years, at pre-formal schooling children are intuitive scientists, who interpret the world around them from observing and investigating and also have the ability to acquire viable realistic concepts of the living world when involved in relevant activities (Hadzigeorgiou, 2015). Research in early years shows that young children can investigate, collect evidence and conclude via play (Monteira et al, 2016; Piekeney et al, 2013). Roth et al. (2013, p. 14) state that ‘Play is children’s work’. Wall et al. (2015) acknowledge that children’s early experiences and interactions are shaped also by the pedagogical interactions of themselves with nature. Lindgren (2020) addressed that children through their innate curiosity are capable to create meaning and construct knowledge with peers and the educator. The proposed research was inspired by Moss (2014) concept of ‘experimentation’ and apply the innovative STEM E (experience(s)) Pedagogy of Play (Tunnicliffe, 2021) to integrate children’s play experiences with opportunities of STEM curriculum learning while offer them the flexibility to find their own solutions to both new and existing problems. The purpose of this study was to observe children from the earliest of years, who develop their interest in beginning exploring scientific concepts via play. 

Dr. Eirini Gkouskou, Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education, Department of Learning & Leadership, IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, University College London, United Kingdom

11:00 – 12:00


Assessing five-year-old children’s socioemotional skills: A participatory approach

Schools 2030 is a ten-year participatory learning improvement program based in 10 countries, including Portugal. The program aims to support teachers in implementing micro-innovative solutions to benefit students’ learning and socioemotional development. One key feature of the program is the assessment of students’ (pre)academic and socioemotional skills, thus envisioning learning as a holistic process. In this presentation, we will present the steps that guided the process of developing new tools to assess socioemotional skills in 5-year-old children, as well as the main findings. This process involved a strong partnership with Portuguese preschool teachers and encompassed: a) review of scientific literature and national policy documentation; b) focus groups with teachers; c) field-test of new tools to assess socioemotional skills; c) data collection with these tools. The focus groups indicated that teachers highly value children’s socioemotional skills, but they do not assess these in a formal or systematic manner. Therefore, we developed a set of easy-to-use tools (i.e., vignettes, teacher-report scales, teacher self-reflection scales) together with teachers to assess socio-emotional skills, namely empathy, positive relationships, and problem solving. Teachers were very satisfied with the overall process and the usefulness of the tools. Currently, we are performing both qualitative and quantitative analyses based on the final data collected by teachers in preschools. Our presentation will share these results, which will allow us to identify the needs and strengths in social and emotional domains of a sample of five-year-old children. The contribution of whole-school assessments of socio-emotional learning for school improvement will be discussed.

Joana Cadima, Researcher & Assistant Professor, University of Porto, & Ana Camacho, PhD, Researcher, University Porto, Portugal 

12:00 – 12:30


Empowering Early Years Educators: Strengths-Based Professional Development for Success

During the session, we will delve into the following areas:

  • The importance of professional development in early years settings: A brief overview of the existing research on the impact of PD on early childhood educators and the children they serve.
  • The strengths-based approach: An introduction to the concept and its application in professional development, focusing on building upon educators’ existing talents and abilities.
  • Successful implementation strategies: Practical tips and best practices for designing and implementing strengths-based PD programs in early years settings, drawing from real-life examples and case studies.
  • Measuring success: Tools and techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of strengths-based PD programs and their impact on educators and children.
  • Interactive component: Attendees will engage in hands-on activities that demonstrate the principles of strengths-based PD, fostering a deeper understanding of the approach and its benefits.

Lucy Lewin, Founder & CEO, The Profitable Nursery Academy, United Kingdom


12:00 – 12:30


”Introduction to diverse family structures to young children through literature”

This paper reports on a case study, aiming to explore young children’s understanding of diverse family structures introduced through literature. Research has revealed literature to be an effective in introducing children to different family types. Yet, such diversity is not widely depicted in children’s books, resulting in the majority of children to be aware of their own family type. Three research questions were posed: (i) What is children’s understanding of family structure? (ii) How does children’s understanding change after the introduction of family types and how is this shown through play? and (iii) How do children engage in books with topics unfamiliar to them? Six books containing diverse family types were introduced to two children, Isabela and Luisa (pseudonyms) 5 and age 3 old respectively. Data was collected by means of a parent interview at the beginning of the study to consider their views regarding the sensitivity surrounding diverse family types, and to contextualise children’s understanding of the topic. Data was also gathered from children by recording informal incidental conversations, play observations, and drawings. The study revealed that the books helped children to develop an understanding of family diversity, as evident in their drawings, pictures and conversations. Although the children engaged differently with the reading sessions, this did not affect their understanding. Implications for practice and further research will be discussed, considering the strengths and limitations of the study.

Iona Sawle, BA Early Childhood Development & Learning, Norland & Dr Theodora Papatheodorou, Early Years Practitioner, Senior academic and researcher, Norland College, United Kingdom

12:30 – 1:00


Interactional competence of young children aged 15 months to 4 with family members during pretend play

Pretend play, and the enacted stories that characterises it, is the focus of analysis in this paper. Three moments in time are presented to depict family interactions: children at 15 months and at 3 years interacting with a parent and at 4 interacting with an older sibling. The analyses of video data will show how children control, co-produce and codirect the pretend play as they come in and out of roles in increasingly complex and highly organised ways. An analytical interest in each analysis is to show how children initiate action and how this entails not just words but importantly their embodied actions and a range of interactional resources which are crucial to the organisation of interaction in early childhood. In synthesising the findings, a nuanced mapping of enacted storytelling practices across time, and the interactional competencies that emerge in them, are enabled as children and family members encounter and produce these over the course of childhood. The microanalytic methods used in the study also permit a different perspective which is to focus on what children are able to achieve through their rich interactions with others. Elucidating such practices has important implications for parents and caregivers and adds to the body of work on children’s knowledge and understanding as they are shaped and displayed in interaction.

Anna Filipi, Associate Professor, Monash University, Australia


13:30 – 14:00


From Foes to Friends: Partnering with Parents in the Classroom

Most teacher preparation courses and programs do not include suggestions on how to welcome and include parents into the learning community. At the beginning of my teaching career, I was afraid of communicating with parents and struggled with welcoming them in my classroom. Little did I know then that parents are fantastic resources that are severely underutilized, simply because many teachers have no idea how to include them. In this session, I will discuss setting a positive mindset when working with parents, how to include parents in the development of projects within the classroom, effective communication strategies with families, and ideas for how to set clear boundaries with parents that contribute to collaboration. Enjoy this frequently missed resource and grow your school community in the process!

Sarah Diaz, Early Childhood Teacher, American School of Madrid, Spain

13:30 – 14:30

Imaginative Play – a journey into make-believe

Prepare for a journey into a strange world where nothing is as it seems and absolutely anything is possible. This practical workshop looks at how imagination directly encourages brain development, communication and language and emotional well-being. We also look at how stimulating, imaginative environments can help create profound experiences and life-long benefits for children.  The workshop gives delegates a wealth of ideas to take back to their settings to stimulate children’s imaginations. It also touches upon the neuroscience of imaginative play demonstrating that imagination is potentially one of the most important developmental processes in any child’s life and one of the greatest gifts they will ever receive.

Warning may contain Dragons.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Albert Einstein

Ben Kingston-Hughes, international keynote speaker, author, multi award-winning trainer, CEO, Inspired Children, United Kingdom 

14:30 – 15:00

Communication is the key! Increasing Communication Skills for children on the Autism Spectrum

Research and practice both show that children on the Autism Spectrum experience difficulties with communication. This can impact their daily life and might result to occurence of “problem behavior”.

The presentation will mostly focus on:

1) Why is it difficult for children on the Spectrum to acquire communication milestones?

2) How can we teach communication skills?

3) What is the relationship between “behaviors of concern” and lack of communication skills?


Evi Kotsiopoulou, Co-Founder and Clinical Supervisor of BEEhavior, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, BEEhavior, Athens, Greece

15:30 – 16:00

The importance of promoting traditional games and play for a holistic growth in the early years

A lot has been researched and discussed about play-based learning. However, games played worldwide perhaps do not connect to the young learner as much as the local games of the land. Traditional games, songs, and play is soon fading and we may lose out on a whole plethora of knowledge if we do not introduce them in our curriculum. We, in Association International School, have introduced a time in the schedule for ‘ Local games and play’ where students play traditional games, sing traditional songs alongside, count in their local language and which would allow them to feel pride in the rich learning and traditions of their grandparents. These have varied benefits and surpasses the impact and expectations of the educator.


Sandeepa Chavan, Head of Primary & Nana Ama Torgbor-Tetteh, Early Years Facilitator, Association International School, Ghana