High-quality early childhood education integrates learning opportunities within children’s interactions and activities. Through these experiences, they learn social-emotional skills, develop independence and build their physical abilities.
Here at Essential Resources, we provide early childhood educators with an array of resources about the processes of development and learning, and how these relate to one another. The guidance is both theoretical – understanding the stages of development – and practical - how to implement teaching practices that support early years language development. In other words, how to translate Theories into Practice.
Our resources for early childhood educators focus on specific areas of development – such as Supporting Children’s Social Development to cultivate social skills – as well as specific ages – What Does It Mean to Be Three?
In Time to Move, a resource for early childhood educators, finger puppets and pass the parcel are two recommended activities for promoting physical development in babies and toddlers. These activities help develop children’s fine motor skills.
“Providing a movement-friendly environment,” as Jo Bland explains in Prime Time Physical, is another great way to support physical development because children are naturally driven to be active.
Stepping stones or a large piece of wood are ways for children to practice their gross motor skills and balance. Early childhood educators should continually change the layout of the equipment to make it challenging for the children.
Similarly, playing games with balls of different sizes, weights and textures challenges children’s physical skills in various ways.
Movement and dance are other great ways to promote physical development and teach children movement concepts. Bland’s activity of puppets, where children mimic a puppet, shows them how the different parts of the body move.
Planning, observing and assessing children’s play are important because they help bring about positive learning outcomes. These practices inform what is taught and how in early childhood education (ECE) settings.
Planning enables early childhood teachers to make decisions about the priorities of learning. What are the children’s needs? How to support their needs with play? Additionally, planning ensures children engage in learning opportunities across the five strands of Te Whāriki.
Play observation allows ECE educators to capture children’s strengths and needs first-hand. When teachers observe children’s play, they learn reliable information about their development.
Observation of play is also a key practice for assessment purposes.
As said in Te Whāriki, “Assessment makes valued learning visible.” Early childhood educators use assessment of play to learn what children know and can do, what equipment interests them, and where additional support is needed.
Observation and assessment guide early childhood educators to determine priorities and plan more accurately for children’s learning.
The activities that develop children’s social skills are:
Pretend play – Supporting Children’s Social Development says imaginative play, fantasy play and role play are “all about pretend.” When children partake in pretend play, they experience the feeling of “walking in someone else’s shoes,” which helps teach them empathy. They also learn how to recognise and respond to emotions.
Ball games – To start building social skills, toddlers can take turns rolling a ball back and forth. As children age, this skill translates into turn-taking in conversation or games. It teaches them acts of reciprocity and sharing with peers. As children develop, the games can involve more children and become more complex.
Music and rhythm games – These activities foster cooperative, supportive behaviour. One game for building social skills is “musical clothes.” It is a variation of musical chairs and pass the parcel, where a bag of clothes is passed around until the music stops. The child holding the bag puts on a piece of clothing. The child with the whackiest outfit at the end wins!