Toddlers – they can be cute, but they are also so much more than that!
Young learners are capable, naturally curious, and hungry to learn about the world around them. Children of all backgrounds have pre-conceived ideas of what learning looks like. Recently, I watched a child walk into a new classroom and say, ‘So when will we actually learn something?”. The learning journey begins at birth and involves children being curious, investigating, experimenting, hypothesising, discovering, taking risks, making mistakes, and persevering. When children enter early childhood learning settings, it is these natural dispositions that continue to require nurturing.
So, how can you, as a parent, help and enable your child to thrive and learn at home and what type of environment should you look for when your child is ready to enter an early childhood learning setting:
- Celebrate Conversation: Converse with your children – teach them the meaning of big words and do not underestimate their ability to learn and use sophisticated vocabulary. Make up new words together and celebrate new discoveries. Be a walking thesaurus for your child, always explaining and experimenting with words that have the same or similar or different meanings.
- Play! It has been proven time and time again that children learn best through play. Play is their work and is not ‘just’ play. It is serious learning in itself. Play is so important to optimal child development that is has been recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. Play is not just letting them lose, to run wild. It is play that is guided by their natural curiosity, challenging them to think differently and learning alongside their peers.
- Provide Opportunities for Absorption: Allow your child to be absorbed in play, recognise these times and let them become autonomous learners. The ownership over decisions during play and opportunities for repetition of play episodes is essential. You should provide accessible play items on low shelving to allow your child to make choices.
- Empower and Encourage Experimenting: You will see your child experiment and make mistakes. Empowering children to learn from their mistakes without fear of consequence, showing compassion when mistakes are made and having the grace to allow more time to try again is so important. Do not do it for them! Mistakes are our friend; through mistakes, we get learning opportunities.
- Promote Discovery: Use the environment around you to promote discovery. Seek to expose your child to as much of the natural environment as possible. Set your home up to enable your children to share and observe their discoveries. Allow children to get messy and bring in leaves, flowers, gumnuts, insects for further investigation!
- Gently Extend Boundaries: Know your child and where their strengths lie. Spend time on pushing boundaries in a safe and comfortable way. Model the sharing of your personal goals with them in order to achieve ‘personal bests’. This promotes self-motivation. Always measure your child’s successes against their past achievements, not against others’ performance.
Recently, I witnessed a child who was in an outdoor play area. The child noticed that despite it being daytime, the moon was still visible. ”Why is the moon still out? It’s day time!”. How would you respond to this question? As a parent it is easy to give your child all of the answers. Perhaps spend some time thinking of reasonable ideas as to why the moon is out. Probe and question to see what your child already knows. If the interest is strong, you may like to borrow some books or look up information on the internet, draw a solar system together, call a grandparent, experiment with a torch. You may perhaps even end up at The Observatory for a visit! This is the beauty of learning in Early Childhood: there is so much to explore and the opportunities are endless, through natural curiosity and play.
Written by: Mrs Mel Bryden (Assistant Head of Junior School, St Luke’s Grammar School, Dee Why Campus)