Childcare pioneer Goldschmied dies

Elinor Goldschmied, pioneer of treasure baskets, heuristic play and the key person system, has died aged 98.

She was born in rural Gloucestershire and went on to study mental health at the London School of Economics. During the war, she worked with refugee and evacuated children, and after the war helped transform the day nurseries and orphanages of Milan, Italy.

In the UK, her last full-time job was as principal education social worker for the Inner London Education Authority. But arguably her greatest contributions to early years practice came after her ‘retirement’ as a consultant to childcare services in England, Scotland, Italy and Spain.

Sonia Jackson, professor of social care and education at the Institute of Education, London, co-wrote, with Goldschmied, the famous People Under Three: Young children in daycare (Routledge).

She said, ‘I had the great privilege of working with Elinor Goldschmied over many years. Her great achievement was to make abstract concepts and scientific knowledge accessible to those who work with babies and young children in everyday settings.

‘Above all, she saw infants and toddlers as individual people whose experiences and feelings are just as important as ours.’

Jennie Lindon, early years consultant and child psychologist, said, ‘Elinor Goldschmied made a huge contribution to thoughtful, child-focused practice. Her approach always placed babies and young children at the centre of any experience. The now familiar key person concept emerged from her focus on the importance of a genuine personal relationship with individual children and their parents.’