You are the expert, but why don’t they listen to you?

Would you let a toddler play with his food?

You probably have an opinion about this. Suppose this question is the start of an educational video. Chances are you’ll continue watching.

Now imagine that the video starts with: ‘Paying attention to a child’s engagement is imperative.’ Would you keep watching then?

That sentence was taken from a video scenario for childcare supervisors. On the Blink platform, experts share their knowledge and tips with childcare supervisors. As The Floor is Yours, we help initiator VVSG Steunpunt Kinderopvang to bring their messages across clearly and convincingly.

Although these experts have very interesting things to say, their message often remains vague. Which is a shame, as it keeps childcare workers from watching the video.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe you’re also an expert, but you feel like the audience doesn’t always listen to you.

Let’s look at the example about food in a childcare environment. In the scenario it says:

‘Engagement relates to how present, focused, and interested a child is. Children like to engage in experimentation and exploration. Children will especially explore new food using their hands, rather than their eyes. At that time, you will notice that the involvement to their food is often very high. Touching food with their fingers is fun.

Do you see what happens? It starts with an abstract idea (‘involvement’). What exactly does the expert mean? No idea. It takes another couple of sentences before we are presented with a clear image of children eating with their hands and feeling their food with their fingers. Only now the movie begins to play out in my head.

Unfortunately, this comes too late.

What’s a better way to do it?

  • Right away, make things concrete and relatable, such as ‘Would you let kids in daycare play with their food?‘
  • Next, explain what the problem is. ‘An initial reaction would be: that’s not allowed. But is it actually bad to let them play with food?’
  • Another approach could be to elicit a response from your audience, such as ‘What do you think?’

Is it better to not use abstract terms?

Of course, you can use a term like ‘engagement’. But do it only after you’ve outlined the problem first. And even then, use it sparingly.

Always keep your target group in mind: what keeps them up at night? Start from there.

When you begin looking for a solution, then you can introduce more abstract concepts.

To circle back to toddlers playing with their food: is it a good idea or not? Expert Margaux De Wandeler thinks so: ‘It’s important to let toddlers experiment at the table, within certain limits. Also with their hands. Children still need to learn to eat with a fork and spoon. You will need to find a good balance there.’

Translation: Leslie Van Ael