Young children are learning and developing quickly. They are playing, learning and experimenting. They are also beginning to get a sense of their own identity and how they may be different from others. Some children benefit from being at a childminders or playgroup at this age. Organised activities help develop their learning in a more informal setting. In turn, this is preparing them for more formal school life. Cultural identity is important. Children need to have people around them that they can identify with and who have an understanding of their cultural and ethnic background. As a childminder I have always tried to incorporate lots of different cultural and religious themes to help those in the setting feel a sense of place.
How do young children learn?
Children learn through all their senses by:
tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling
watching and copying people close to them they learn language and behaviour
Learning through play
Play is one of the main ways in which children learn and as a childminder we support this through the EYFS. It helps to build self worth by giving a child a sense of his or their own abilities and to feel good about themselves. Because it’s fun, children often become very absorbed in what they are doing. In turn, this helps them develop the ability to concentrate. Providing children with a range of playthings will help them learn in a number of ways:
Games help with turn taking, sharing and mixing with others.
Singing, playing simple music instruments help to develop rhythm, listening and hearing.
Sand and water play can be an early introduction to science and maths, eg learning that water is fluid, not solid, and that it can be measured in different sized containers.
Playing with dough, drawing and painting pictures, dressing up, playing with dolls can encourage creativity, imagination and expression of feelings.
Building blocks, jigsaws and shape sorters can help with recognising different shapes and sizes, putting things in order and developing logic.
Playing ball games, dancing, running, climbing all help to develop body movement, strength, flexibility and co-ordination skills.
It's important that learning is fun at this age. It needs to be about doing things with them that they like. They might find unusual ways of doing things - for a toddler, building blocks aren't just for making towers, and paint can be used without a brush! Show them how things work, but if they want to experiment, let them.
Don't push your child too hard. Children develop in their own ways and in their own time. Try not to compare them to other children. You can also encourage reading, by reading to and with them. Look at the pictures together; this will help younger children make sense of the words.
It's also good to talk to them a lot, about everyday things while you are cooking or cleaning. This will give you a chance to teach them how things work and they will be able to ask you questions. Get ready for lots of “why’s?”
What is the importance of play for pre-school children?
Anyone who spends any amount of time with pre-school children understands that providing them with opportunities for play provides so much more than a few minutes or hours of ‘fun’. Play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develop social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self expression.
Most children are naturally imaginative and will happily talk away to someone on their toy phone or drive the sofa to the shops, and this creativity should be actively encouraged! This type of play also develops children’s imagi
nations which are closely linked to intellectual development. It helps them develop the confidence and skill to communicate better. It also helps them to negotiate and practise skills that they see others model. It’s the building blocks to their understanding of how the world works.
Play under pins a good childminders setting and is vital to the development of a child. If something is fun we all (even us adults) gain far more from an activity. The more a child enjoys something the more engaged they are and without knowing it they have learnt new skills.