Starcatchers is delighted to share Wee People, Big Feelings Practical Guide for Practitioners; a practical guide for the Early Years workforce that explores the importance of creativity in helping our youngest children express how they feel.

The Ministry of Defence had resources for forces families and educators to help older children process the emotional challenges of deployment, but there was a lack of resources for early years. Talking about your feelings can be useful, but what if you don’t have the words to describe how you’re feeling? Could we use creative experiences to help wee ones with the emotional cycle of deployment?

Starcatchers was clear from the start this wasn’t going to be a quick fix – you can’t choreograph a dance that cures sadness, or plan one workshop that shares the gift of emotional literacy. Emotions often start in our bodies – stomachs churn, heads spin, legs are restless – long before we have the vocabulary to make sense of them. So, it made sense to look at creative movement and other non-verbal forms of self-expression. It was also important to recognise that emotional literacy – that is, the ability to recognise, understand, handle and express emotions, isn’t built in times of crisis. It’s a skill we build over time. Sometimes it’s about the chance to express how we feel in the moment so we can recognise it and process it, and sometimes it’s about getting the chance to “practice” lots of different feelings in a way that’s safe – and creative experiences offer fantastic opportunities for both.

During the project, artist-in-residence, Skye Reynolds, and Scots Corner staff, developed play sessions investigating the intersections between creative big movement play and emotional regulation. Supported by Strathclyde University Early Childhood Education Hub, important learning was identified around the value of safe, engaging and creative rough and tumble play and the positive experiences this offered very young children in expressing their emotions.

“Wee People, Big Feelings tuned into ways wee ones express themselves and learn about the world – using bodies and faces, movement and music and stories. We listened to what they told us, both verbally and non-verbally. By taking a child-centred approach, artists and practitioners were responsive to the needs and interests of the wee ones in the setting. Every creative idea that was introduced was chosen with them in mind, and shared with an openness that ensured the wee ones could take those creative experiences and make them their own. By sharing the learning from this project, I hope we will be able to empower more early years settings and more families to do the same.” – Heather Armstrong, Head of Early Years Development, Starcatchers.