The Simple Interactions Approach
The Power of Simplicity

Interactions between adults and children are at the heart of every classroom, youth program, and child center. Not only can positive interactions help these organizations run more smoothly, they can create lasting bonds that make a difference in the lives of young people. The goal of the Simple Interactions (SI) approach is to support staff in developing skills that encourage more productive interactions with children and youth.

Recent research focuses on four essential ingredients present in the most productive developmental interactions:

1.           Connection

a.            Adults and youth communicating with one another in a positive way

2.            Reciprocity

a.           Back-and-forth interactions

b.          A balance of give and take

3.           Progression

a.           Providing challenges and giving appropriate support

4.            Participation

a.           Inviting and involving all children, especially those who may be least likely or able to participate

Using inexpensive video cameras, short clips are captured of staff engaged in positive developmental interactions with children.  The clips are then shared in the context of short workshops that emphasize the four essential elements. These clips become conversation starters for discussing effective interaction strategies. The key is to focus on positive interactions and to discuss what works in these instances and why. By its very nature, SI training is unique to each site.

The video clips should be short—1 to 3 minutes in length. The key is to capture the “triangle” of interaction—the adult, the child(ren), and the activity they are doing together. Remember to focus on the positive.

When discussing the clips, the adult who were recorded should speak first. They should talk about what went well in this particular interaction from their perspective. The discussion is then opened to the rest of the staff.

Goals should evolve over the course of the three workshops:

n   The first session focuses on fun clips to allow staff to feel comfortable with being recorded and watching themselves.

n   The second workshop allows for deeper analysis as staff discuss  positive interactions and set goals for themselves.

n   The final workshop features recordings of each staffer working toward the goal(s) they set in the second session.

The long-term goal of SI is to empower teachers, afterschool staff, childcare workers, and anyone working with children and youth to continue this professional ­development strategy on an ongoing basis.