At the centre of Koru Kids childcare is the Koru Ethos.
The Koru Ethos guides how we select, train, and support great childcarers. It runs through all our activities, events, community, tools and techniques.
We created the Koru Ethos to bring together the ‘best bits’ of other approaches to childcare. It builds on them, and updates them for the 21st Century.
We believe there are many parts to a good life: not only academic success, but also health, relationships, joy, and a sense of purpose. We want to give our children these things, helping them find their own unique path, whatever that might be.
To really flourish, our children are going to have to cope with a fast-changing world, even more chaotic than the one we grew up in. They’re going to need ‘modern survival skills’: to be creative, adaptable, curious, with a love of learning, as well as strong and resilient. We also want our kids to be positive forces for good in the world, connected to the community and lifting up others as well as themselves. We want them to be able to build strong relationships, including with people who are different from them, demonstrating kindness and empathy.
To develop the Koru Ethos we spoke to experts all over the world, from China to Sweden, from specialists in Montessori to Reggio Emilia, from Harvard to Oxford, in a multi year project. We took inspiration from the best national curriculums around the world, from Te Whariki in New Zealand to the Early Years Foundation Stage here in the UK.
The Koru Ethos continues the best bits of the past, such as the central importance of play, intrinsic motivation and self-regulation as opposed to coercive control. It also contains new emphases, building on what we know now and didn’t before. Chief among these is the emphasis on mental wellbeing. The 21st Century is seeing epidemics of anxiety and depression among young adults. The science is clear: positive mental health for adults starts in childhood.
We need to equip children with the tools to flourish: to let go of the past when they need to, to embrace the present, and to only live in the future when they consciously choose to do so. Simple practices – positive attachment, mindfulness, gratitude, underpinned by plenty of time in nature – can lay powerful foundations for a life of wellbeing.
We strongly believe that what is absolutely key to helping children grow is the time and space to play. Play these days can be under threat, from scheduling and stressful environments. But a raft of evidence shows that play involves meaningful learning. Play – purposeless, voluntary, fun, improvised – lets children explore diverse experiences and experience moments of safe risk taking.
Playing with other kids helps children practice relationships, teamwork, conflict, and develop empathy. We can help by providing diverse opportunities and an empowering environment and giving children self directed, unstructured time. When children are active agents in their own learning, their intrinsic motivation stays strong and their path is their own.
Children need to feel 100% secure. This means physical safety and protection from harm, and also emotional security. It’s vital for their brain development. Especially in the earliest days, children need a sense of consistency and utter security to lay the foundations of positive mental health for the rest of their lives. This needs to be nurtured through encouragement, warmth, acceptance and respect, as their identity and individual path emerges. They need to be accepted, supported as unique individuals and assured that they belong.
Children need time and space to explore. They have a natural curiosity and a drive to experiment and enquire. The more we can nurture and protect these instincts (rather than driving them out), the more we can help children develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest them, and discover what brings them joy. That way lies their path.
If we can pull this off, children’s natural enthusiasm, creativity and imagination shine undiminished, and their confidence grows. They survive little moments of vulnerability and learn to be self sufficient.
Children need to grow physically and mentally strong in order to fly. For physical strength, they’ll need healthy food and lots of exercise, ideally outdoors. We love outdoor settings because they can be both more calming and, strangely, more stimulating. They also help to develop the ability for children to handle risk. As children develop their thinking and reasoning skills, at the same time they can become mindful and fluent in the language of their feelings. This helps children learn self regulation and perseverance, which are the building blocks of resilience and adaptability.
Children need to feel connected and known. Through connection with other children and adults, children develop skills of emotional literacy, social competence, empathy and kindness. As they grow, they experience the magic of friendship and learn to celebrate individuality and difference, to respect other’s identities and paths.
Children can express their feelings and needs from birth – but they aren’t always heard. Adults can help by connecting and attuning to children, truly listening, treating all behaviour as communication, and helping the children express themselves in a healthy way. In a language-rich environment with plenty of opportunities for expressive arts, children learn different ways to create, communicate, and be heard their whole lives long – so that’s what we need to give them.
Children need to connect to a mission bigger than themselves. Even young children can be empowered to make a contribution to their community as they grow. As their sphere of influence expands, children develop their ability to make decisions and judgments on matters they care about. We can help develop children’s internal ‘locus of control’ – meaning how much they consider that the world is within their control – as well as their courage and advocacy skills.
How can we achieve these lofty goals? Luckily, there’s a lot of great recent research and development pointing the way. On a continual basis, we engage experts – from child psychotherapists, to neuroscientists, to language therapists – ensuring our resources and training are top notch and embodying our Ethos more and more each day. We test everything we do against the Koru Ethos, making sure that we are delivering on our promise: 21st Century childcare for 21st Century children.