The Thrive Approach

What does it take to develop healthy, happy, confident children who are ready and open to learning? Recent advances in neuroscience, attachment theory and child development have provided some of the answers to this question.

The Thrive Approach draws on insights from these fields to provide a powerful way of working with children and young people that supports optimal social and emotional development. In addition, the Approach can equip you to work in a targeted way with children and young people who may have struggled with difficult life events to help them re-engage with life and learning.


The Thrive Approach is grounded in the current scientific developments in neuroscience. The field of neuroscience has undergone rapid advances in recent years, prompted by significant innovations in brain imaging. These have yielded important insights about how the brain and nervous system function and develop. In particular, scientists have discovered that the neural pathways of the brain and wider nervous system are relatively unformed at birth, undergoing much of their development during the first three years of life in response to relational experiences with primary care-givers. A key development during this period is the establishment of the body’s stress-response system. This lays the foundation for our social and emotional development throughout life, affecting our capacity to relate, love, learn and manage stress in healthy ways. However, research has also revealed the inherent ‘plasticity’ of the brain – its capacity to forge new neural connections in response to experience. The fact that the brain retains this property to a greater or lesser degree throughout life means that where brain development has been less than optimal, it remains possible to intervene at a later stage to fill the gaps.

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  • The findings of neuroscience have significant implications for professionals working in education, social care and health care.
  • Neuroscience sheds light on important questions about who we are, how we develop and learn, and the possibility for growth and change.
  • Thrive’s approach to understanding and working with children’s social and emotional development has developed in accordance with current findings in neuroscience.
  • The Thrive Approach continues to evolve as more information becomes available.

Child Development

In the Thrive Approach we use a developmental model to help us understand how we develop socially and emotionally from birth through to adulthood. This model gives us a framework for understanding what healthy child development looks like in terms of behaviour and learning and clarifies what the role of adults should be in facilitating a child’s development at each of the different stages. In addition, the model gives us a lens through which to look at and interpret children’s behaviour, enabling us to identify the particular developmental needs being signalled by their behaviour and to choose appropriate, targeted interventions designed to meet those needs.


Power & Identity
Skills & Structure
You had an inspired idea when you brought in Thrive... the most innovative strategy for Education I have seen. So excited by it. Great news for integrated service delivery as these targeted children and young people are certainly likely to be in all of our services.

Attachment Theory

The emotional regulation system in all of us is made up of three levels. These three levels are shaped in our early experience in our closest relationships. They are addressed within the Thrive model: Being, Doing and Thinking. The good news is that with loving attention and repeated experiences we can reshape these three levels – or fill in any gaps – at any time if we are in a positive significant relationship. The Thrive Approach shows us how.

Because our emotional state has such an impact on the way we think and act, it profoundly affects our behaviour choices. Our behaviour in turn helps us to get on with others and to be able to settle to learning.

We can develop resilience rather than false fixed strength. We can feel empowered and confident to work with life rather than needing to have power over others or events. We can care about others as well as ourselves. We can be empathetic and compassionate rather than fearful and grasping. We can have dreams and ambition.

We can be creative and divergent in our thinking. We can aim for excellence without putting others down in the process. We can appreciate diversity and embrace change. We can love life and thrive.



Being able to calm, soothe, slow down and make peaceful the bodily systems through breath, touch, voice, rocking, holding and a loving presence.


Relational and emotional

Being able to signal distress and ask for help, knowing that others experience the same emotion and can understand what we feel.



Being able to think through what might happen, being able to anticipate and plan or rehearse or remember the ways we've had success before.

Arts and creativity

Thrive uses arts and play-based activities with children to support healthy neural development, promote a positive sense of self and build optimal learning capacity. There are many artistic mediums that you can work with in the Thrive Approach, sand play, puppetry, story telling, music, drama, movement and dance, painting and drawing, each of which has particular benefits and strengths. The Thrive Approach integrates arts and creativity to support children’s emotional and social development.


Thrive-Online is a web-based tool that will help you to assess and support children’s emotional and social development. Thrive-Online is an essential part of the Thrive Approach. It provides focus, rigour and measurement – all essential elements which ensure an accurate, differentiated approach to a child’s individual needs.

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Case studies

While it is important to understand the model behind The Thrive Approach, what really matters is the impact that it can have in practice for the development of an individual child or young person.

Here, we have set out a few cases, with names changed and details excluded, as illustrations to bring to life the real difference that the Thrive Approach can make to the life of individual children and young people and, beyond that, to those around them.

Laura’s story

James’ story

Fran’s story

Ben’s story

Annie’s story

Anthony’s story