Quantity Time vs Quality Time with Kim Hunter

I first interviewed Kim Hunter for the Summit on Leading Practitioners. At her inspirational setting, children spend their time outdoors in mixed-age groups, enjoying a beautiful natural setting.

In this interview for Early Years TV, I wanted to explore some concepts that Kim has been researching since the Summit, namely the ‘Fear and Love Spectrum’. This is the idea that children’s contemporary childhood is changing and the world that children are growing up in has the increased potential to be fearful or isolating – from Stranger Danger to excessive screen time and violent games on smartphones.

Kim has lots of thought-provoking and intriguing insights into children’s experiences, but the one that caught my attention was ‘quantity time’. I guess we’ve all heard of ‘quality time’, where parents and children can spend dedicated time together, turning off screens, reading a story etc.

However, Kim advocates for ‘quantity time’. This is where the practitioner, educator or parent spends unhurried time with the children doing a job or activity. The example Kim uses is getting a bucket of soapy water to wash the walls in her setting. The children are free to come and help, watch or just talk to the adult during the washing.

The reason I found this particularly interesting is because it brought back memories of being with my own children. Sometimes we had the best conversations when we were doing the washing up, fruit picking or on long car journeys. I was also reminded of times in the nursery when we putting the toys away in the shed, which took time to get them all in the shed in the right order. There would usually be a child or two stood in the doorway watching or chatting.

There are some real benefits to children being allowed to ‘go with the flow’ rather than being constantly urged into activity:

  1. Boredom is considered to be good for children, as Dr Teresa Belton explains here.
  2. Going from one activity to another are micro-transitions, which can be stressful for some children. These could be even more stressful if you consider larger transitions, such as parents taking children to lessons. Anne O’Connor’s book Understanding Transitions in the Early Years explains this really well.
  3. These can be times when children start to confide in you, maybe because there is no pressure to answer questions or do an activity ‘correctly’.

We spend a lot of time planning activities, preparing the environment, setting up continuous provision, finding provocations etc.

My interview with Kim reminded me that sometimes the best ‘activity’ is just spending time together.

Watch Kim Hunter’s full episode and all her ideas about the Fear and Love Spectrum here for free from 26th July to 2nd August 2019. Or you can join Early Years TV Premium Membership here for full access to the video for as long as you are a member – and a personalised, downloadable CPD certificate for every video you watch.


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