Session 4/19

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 behaviour 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, who believe that the caregiver will stay nearby, will start moving away from her, play with things, learn, explore the world, be curious, make contact with other children and experiment.

This is called exploration behaviour, 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).

  • 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 “titty – booh” 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?

Here are two examples of a mother practicing a secure base for a group of children. First a mother plans the meal schedule together with the children. Second during a joint activity the mother asks each child about his/her school activities. The key words are: Involvement, interest and presence.

Example of secure base and exploration: Here you see a mother making a secure base for her child. Further in the video you’ll se how the child is feeling so secure that he walks away from the mother and starts playing with the ball on his own. A clear example of exploration.


  • What is it this caregiver 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 you act when the children cry because we leave?
  • Do you become irritated or are you calm?
  • Can the children see you most of the time when they are awake?
  • What is difficult in trying to stay with the children most of the time?
  • How can you recognize attachment behaviour?
  • What can the caregiver do to give the child a secure base?
  • How do you teach children to separate without too much fear?
  • How can you recognise exploration behaviour?
  • Why is exploration behaviour so important for child development?
  • Watch the video showing 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. Reflect on how you can provide a secure base in your activities with the children in your care.
  • Reflect on your daily work: 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 you do differently, when will you start, how can you know that you have the results we want? Can you use a camera for recording our practices before and after making a change?