Using a Values Tree in Early Childhood Education
Values education is fundamental for children. But what resources do we have at our disposal? Today, we'll discover the values tree, a very useful, entertaining, and educational tool.
Values education in early childhood is fundamental. For this reason, in early childhood education, not only do teachers pay attention to language development but also to encouraging autonomy, developing communication skills, promoting kindness, and sharing coexistence guidelines. Some fun resources can help children achieve this. Among them, we have the values tree.
When it comes to early childhood education, we’re referring to children up to the age of six. This is an ideal age group to work with the values tree.
Thanks to this tool, they’ll be able to understand the meaning of values, what they’re for, and the ones that are important to them.
The three parts of the values tree
Although you can work with the values tree in many different ways, you must follow three distinct parts in order for this resource to have the desired effect.
The important thing is that, while making this tree, all the children take an active part in it. This way, as well as working on values, they’ll also discover cooperative learning.
1. Behavior and values
The first part of creating the values tree is to explain the concepts of behavior and values to the children. Remember that many children don’t know what creativity, honesty, or empathy is, for example.
Although they’re probably familiar with some values, such as friendship or respect, it’s quite normal to discover that they’re not aware of most of them. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t put them into practice. That’s why you’ll need to explain what they are.
A good way to do this is by giving examples of different values. Since all children love stories, we can adapt them (or use existing ones) to deal with a certain value. You can also use a short video if the value you want to address is somewhat difficult to understand. In this regard, the short film The Hedgehog (2013) may be a good option.
2. Identify the values behind behaviors and attitudes
Now that the children have an initial idea of what values are, especially those that were new to them, it’s time to identify the values through different behaviors and attitudes.
In order to do this, you can also use short films. To make it more fun and interesting for the children, you can split them into groups.
Images are also good resources to help children identify values. Each image should be linked to a value, and the children have to try to identify as many values as they can. Finally, you can use stories, as children usually pay a lot of attention to them and they help them understand values a lot better.
3. Building the values tree
Once you complete the two previous steps, it’s time to build the values tree. In order to do this, all the groups need to put the images of the values they’ve identified on the table.
Then, the children have to classify the values from most to least important. This is an interesting activity, as they’ll need to cooperate regarding what order to put them in. Each child will probably have a different point of view about this.
After that, the children need to put the most relevant values on the upper branches of the tree (that they’ll already have drawn together, with the teacher’s help). After that, they have to place the ones they consider least important on the lower branches.
This is a great activity to aid group discussion and to help them explain why they think some values are more important than others. Also, you can use this exercise to develop activities surrounding specific values, such as tolerance.
The values tree is a complete activity
In short, the values tree is a very comprehensive activity that you can adapt. You can do it as a group and also individually. However, we don’t recommend using it individually at first if you haven’t already worked with it.
The interesting thing is that, even though the values tree is a very useful tool in early childhood education, parents can also do this activity at home if they wish. It’s an engaging activity that will help young children understand that behavior represents values and principles.