A child’s brain develops faster in the first five years than at any other time in their life, and we know children are capable of learning and communication from birth. There are so many opportunities for them to learn that may not be obvious to the untrained eye. That’s why it’s imperative to provide babies and children with the right support and stimulus from the get-go.
Alix Broadhead, Guardian Childcare and Education Curriculum Mentor, says, “We work in close partnership with families and communities to enhance each child’s learning and development. Children, no matter their age, learn best when they feel secure and happy, in a stimulating environment, with a supportive network.
“Our teachers and educators take pride in developing educational programs based in play and real-world contexts that support each child’s current knowledge, strengths, ideas, culture, abilities and unique interests.”
“We build sandcastles and explore why wet sand and dry sand behave differently. We bake and have conversations about why things go into the oven cold and wet and come out hot and dry. We grow herbs and vegetables, using these in our cooking at the centre as we also learn about and support children to develop respect for the natural world around us.”
“Our learning environments spark a child’s natural curiosity and inspire them to wonder, build their confidence and begin to understand that knowledge can be gained in all sorts of wonderful ways. As children’s knowledge and abilities develop, so too does the complexity of the materials in our learning environments to extend and further enhance each child’s learning.”
Childcare provides the building blocks children need for a lifetime of learning, and at Guardian Childcare and Education, teachers and educators are focused on developing children’s skills, confidence and independence from as early as six weeks of age.
As experts in the field, Guardian Childcare and Education have identified simple yet effective ways to teach children five important 21st century skills and have identified the pointers to look for on their development journey.
Developing Reading Skills
Visual tracking skills are vital in learning, as they are a key component in reading. A common misconception is that children only begin learning to read when you present them with words. Yet children do not learn how to read or write overnight. Nor do they simply begin the year before they start formal schooling – this skill begins to develop a lot earlier. For example, did you know that when a baby watches a bubble floating through the air, the visual tracking skills they use are the same they will later require to read and write? Visual tracking is one of the first steps in learning to read, and parents, teachers and educators alike can support their child to develop these skills in an abundance of ways.
Parents can develop their child’s reading skills with techniques such as rhyming – which will help children imitate and remember – reading aloud familiar books, encouraging them to turn the pages of the book one at a time, and having conversations. The more you have real conversations about real topics, the more your child will understand and begin to develop and use language. Younger children will communicate through actions, hand movements or facial expressions, while older children begin to use the new words they acquire.
“Our teachers and educators are tuned into understanding this unique communication with young children thanks to their training and the relationships they nurture and develop with each child, which creates a safe and supportive space for skills to develop and children to explore, learn and grow,” says Alix. “We encourage children by asking them questions, by closing watching and responding to the actions and cues of our babies and giving each child plenty of time to respond and always acknowledging their efforts.”
Curiosity and questioning your surroundings play a key role in developing problem-solving skills. Similar to reading skills, inquiry is a skill developed and explored earlier than the age your child begins to ask 101 questions! It actually starts with babies as they begin to investigate their surroundings and place in the world. From looking at different lighting and seeing and feeling different textures, to using their whole bodies and all senses to experience something new, children’s curiosity begins flourishing at an incredibly young age.
As parents, there are some clear ways you can encourage your child’s curiosity – some you may already be doing without even realising! Use a torch to create shadows that move or encourage your child to play in front of the mirror to help them better understand movement and facial expressions; or, offer your child a basket filled with materials of different textures, colours or even scents for them and you to explore together. The use of so-called ‘opened-ended materials’ gives babies and children a limitless supply of possibilities.
“By providing open-ended materials, our teachers and educators encourage children to investigate and discover many literacy and numeracy concepts, for example; big, small, tall, short, volume, numbers, pattern-making and counting. They ask questions and provide the space and time to give children of all ages opportunities to work things out and to develop further ideas and their own theories of how these materials work.” says Alix.
Collaborating and Forming Friendships
Introducing your child to different people across a range of age groups and cultural backgrounds will help them as they learn to socialise. Childcare offers your child a great opportunity to develop relationships and friendships and communicate with a wide group of people, as they will engage with children ranging from birth to five years, as well as other adults.
From birth to two, this journey begins with your child making eye contact, expressing happiness when they see familiar faces, and starting to be cooperative when playing. From around two-three years, friendships are formed through noticing and imitating other children’s actions, playing alongside others in a cooperative manner, sharing, showing empathy and more. Enrolling your child in childcare is a great way to present them with opportunities to build friendships in safe and nurturing environments.
Becoming Active Movers
There are telling signs that your child is reaching developmental milestones when it comes to movement, which the untrained eye may not recognise. Reaching for objects, raising their head and chest when lying on their stomachs, and transferring objects from hand to hand all indicate your child’s continual development from the ages 0-two. For toddlers, this development may be seen through them listening and moving to music, avoiding obstacles, building with more complexity, and even stopping readily as they take more notice of what is around them. Role-modelling these skills and encouraging your child’s progress are great ways to support them further.
Self-exploration is important for children when learning about their own identities, and will help them become mature, well-adjusted adults. Recognising themselves in the mirror, referring to themselves by name and using terms such as “I” and “mine”, and playing independently are qualities to look out for. Likewise, a sense of self can be seen when they are curious and energetic, becoming increasingly aware of themselves as separate from others, exploring their own thoughts and feelings, and enjoying doing things “all by myself”. These factors all encourage independence in children.
“Learning through play and in relationships with others encourages children to build their knowledge, develop confidence and embrace curiosity. Along the way they naturally refine practical life skills as they explore, experiment, discover and solve problems through play. And importantly, they build their confidence and come to understand that learning is fun, forging a lifelong love of learning,” adds Alix Broadhead.
For more information on Guardian Childcare & Education’s world-class curriculum and to find a centre near you, visit Guardian Childcare & Education.
Discover the Guardian difference and CLICK HERE to Book a Tour Today!