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Session 2/13

Page 4/5: The Secure Base and Exploration: Play and social contact with others

The Secure Base and Exploration: Play and social contact with others

If the baby learns to separate without too much fear, you have given it a Secure Base:

A baby with a secure base does not have to exhaust itself with fear of separation, crying and clinging, it feels secure. So when you work with children, you should always start with being there and not move too much around. If you stay where you are near the child, the child will become calm and have no fear that you are leaving.

Only if you give the child a secure base, another behavior system can take over: The Exploration System. So you “turn off” the Attachment System by being calm and present, and then you automatically “turn on” the Exploration System.

A secure child with a caregiver who stays where she is will start moving away from her, play with things, learn, explore the world, be curious, make contact with other children and make little experiments.
This is called exploration behavior, and it is extremely important for child development. Healthy children only cling to their caregivers for a short while until they feel secure. Then they start playing, exploring, etc. This is the only way they can learn about the world and be motivated for teaching and learning later in life. So, secure children learn a lot more than insecure children who spend their energy trying to avoid separation.

For example, you take a child into a new group of children. At first, it will cling to your leg and cry (attachment behaviour), but if you stay in the same place and remain calm, the child will crawl way from you, play with the toys, and make contact with other children (exploration behaviour). If you get up and walk away, the child will stop exploring and come back and cling to you again to stop you from leaving (attachment behaviour).


20 minutes

  • Can you remember seeing children cling to you and cry when you leave?
  • How do you practice separation – leaving a child or attending to another child?
  • How do you stay with the children and give them “A Secure Base” in your work?
  • When do you see a child feeling so secure that it crawls away from you and starts playing with other children or with things and toys?
  • How can you do the exercises “peek-a-boo” and “hide and seek” in your daily practice?
  • Are there children who do not explore and play, but cling to you all the time? How can you make them feel more secure?


20 minutes

  • What is it this day care mother does to make the children feel secure?
  • Why does this way of acting (staying on the floor, sitting still most of the time) make the children explore and try to get the ball?
  • How do we act when the children cry because we leave?
  • Do we become irritated or are we calm?
  • Are the children in beds while the staff is in another room, or do we stay in the same room when the children are awake?
  • Can the children see us most of the time when they are awake?
  • How often do we change caretakers during the day?
  • What is difficult in trying to stay with the children most of the time?
  • What is difficult in trying to give the children the same caregivers during the day?



  • How can you recognize attachment behaviour?
  • What can the caretaker do to give the child a secure base?
  • How do you teach children to separate without too much fear?
  • How can you recognize exploration behaviour?
  • Why is exploration behaviour so important for child development?



  • See the video with the “Secure Base” daycare mother. Notice how she stays in the same place on the floor and thereby makes a secure base. The children start exploring because she does not move very much. Discuss how you can provide a secure base in your activities with the children.
  • Discuss your own daily work practices in the group. After understanding the importance of attachment and exploration, are there any improvements you may want to make in your daily practices with the children?
  • If so, can you set up a plan – what will we do differently, when will we start, how can we know that we have the results we want? Can we use a camera for recording our practices before and after making a change? Who will be responsible for working with the change?