No matter what early learning centre your child attends, it’s important to be informed about what types of learning are being used along with the current trends. When talking with other parents or looking for a new centre, it’s helpful to know what early years learning frameworks are out there and what might be best for your child.

And just because something is a top learning trend, doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you and your child. That’s why we want to share with you the top trends in early learning today, so you can be further informed and make the best decisions for your family.

From this post, you’ll be aware of five top trends in early learning along with the benefits of each. If you want to know more about any of these methods or about our learning philosophy at Harmony, feel free to contact us at 1-300-Harmony or by booking a tour.

1. Greater focus on learning through movement and play

Greater focus on learning through movement and play

Many studies, researchers, and educators have found that learning through play is a particularly effective method for young children. Rather than engaging only in structured activities, play allows children to explore, create, and absorb information in a natural, fun way.

Learning through physical movement, like dance, running, and playing sports, helps children develop motor skills as well (Touhill, 2013a). Incorporating physical activity into a child’s day allows them to improve their well-being and create healthy habits for the future.

According to Early Childhood Learning Australia, “Play provides active exploration that assists in building and strengthening brain pathways. Play creates a brain that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life’” (Lester & Russell, 2008, p. 9).

What types of play are used for learning?

There are many styles of play-based learning, and it’s often effective to use a combination of methods.

At Harmony, we provide dedicated time for uninterrupted play and exploration, because we believe children are incredibly capable of learning on their own. We want children to have the confidence and independence to make connections with the world and their peers.

A few play-based learning types include:

  • Movement play: Involves physical engagement with nature, people, or materials (i.e. toys, games, musical instruments)
  • Enjoyable play: Involves something the child primarily enjoys, such as play-doh, blocks, dancing, dressing up, or drawing
  • Independent play: This is when a child plays mostly on their own, chooses their own toys or instruments, and is observed by parents or caregivers
  • Cooperative play: When children play and work together, such as when doing a puzzle, building something in the sand, or making a meal in a toy kitchen
  • Process-oriented play: Involves accumulation of new skills such as listening, pressing buttons, or counting. The focus is on the process not an end goal.

The benefits of play-based learning:

The advantages of using a play-based early years learning framework are numerous, including building positive thoughts and happiness around learning, the growth of diverse skills, and better connectivity to the world around them.

Early Childhood Learning Australia tells us that, “Children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development, and are able to regulate their behaviour, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning.” (Bodrova & Leong, 2005)

Children also develop their social competence through play, especially when it’s involving children of different ages. As Early Childhood Learning Australia shares, “Children can build relationships, learn to resolve conflicts, negotiate and regulate their behaviours. In play, children usually have increased feelings of success and optimism as they act as their own agents and make their own choices.” (Barblett, 2010)

Early Childhood Ireland released an insightful video regarding play-based learning. They interviewed children about the importance of play in their lives:

2. Integration of technologies into the learning environment

Integration of technologies into the learning environment

With the growing presence of technology in our lives and the global world, it may not come as a surprise that technology has found its way into early learning and education. From iPads to online games, technology and the internet is used to further learning in certain child care centres.

But this is all pretty new, so what do we know?

According to a report from the Australian Association for Research in Education, “Digital technologies are increasingly recognised as an important aspect of early childhood education. A common pedagogical problem in early childhood education is how to most effectively integrate the provision of digital technologies in early childhood settings with play-based learning.” (Edwards et al, 2015)

So while we don’t have all of the answers and research yet in terms of what technology assists with or inhibit the learning process, we can be aware that it is an increasing trend.

What does technology look like in child care centres?

Because of its new arrival on the early education scene, technology use varies greatly among child care centres in Australia. It ranges from no technology use to daily play with iPads or other touch/swipe devices.

If you’re not sure how technology is used at your child care centre, be sure to ask the staff.

3. Early literacy and numeracy

Early literacy and numeracy

Important stages in the learning process lead up to a child being able to read, write, and do maths. Critical skills like hearing sounds, vocabulary development, and recognising letters and numbers, are essential for a child’s development.

Early literacy and numeracy gives children a core foundation for future learning and communication. By incorporating these components early in a child’s life, even from birth, we give them increased opportunity to build positive attitudes and competencies (DEEWR, 2009, p. 38).

For these reasons, child care centres across the world place a large focus on early literacy and numeracy.

What does early literacy and numeracy look like?

  • Exposing a child to language through speaking, reading, and singing.
  • Involving a child in daily activities through talk and explanation, like when bathing or feeding.
  • Incorporating counting, numbers, measuring, and interaction with shapes during games or regular activities like counting steps or sorting toys.

When these little lessons of literacy and numeracy are sprinkled into a child’s day, we boost development (Touhill, 2013a).

Benefits of early literacy and numeracy

If elements of early literacy and numeracy are started right from birth or implemented into early learning, children gain further exposure to key skills, such as language and maths. This sets a foundation for future learning and educational growth.

Luke Touhill, early childhood consultant shares, “For infants and babies, nursery rhymes, songs, picture books and to-and-fro conversations are all good examples of ‘literacy experiences.’ When the time comes for written literacy this understanding of oral or spoken language is invaluable.” (Touhill, 2013a)

4. Learning in nature and the outdoors

Learning in nature and the outdoors

A staple in our Harmony child care centres, learning in the outdoors and in nature is increasingly relevant in childhood development. By giving children time to interact with nature, we are offering them a chance to explore the outdoor world – and find enjoyable aspects that teach them, too (Gerber, 1998).

Most children are invigorated with the outdoors, because of the space, freedom, and fresh air it provides. By opening up nature to children, we expose them to elements that can’t found inside a centre building.

How might outdoor learning be incorporated at a childcare centre?

The use of nature in learning and development differs greatly among centres. Some may let children “roam free” in natural environments, while others might create an outdoor space with that includes various activities and climbing equipment.

Beyond the type of environment, nature offers a wide variety of options for young children of all ages, including:

  • Interacting with animals
  • Simple gardening help
  • Playing games
  • Collecting items like shells or rocks
  • Looking for birds in trees
  • Running or playing sports
  • Exploring a garden
  • And so much more

The benefits of learning in nature and the outdoors

Involving nature learning has been found to be incredibly beneficial, eye-opening, and fun for children. Getting out of their indoor environments, children have the ability to interact with the world and let their creativity flourish.

The importance of nature-related learning environments is recognized by the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Standard (NQS):

“Outdoor learning spaces are a feature of Australian learning environments. They offer a vast array of possibilities not available indoors. Play spaces in natural environments include plants, trees, edible gardens, sand, rocks, mud, water and other elements from nature. These spaces invite open-ended interactions, spontaneity, risk-taking, exploration, discovery and connection with nature. They foster an appreciation of the natural environment, develop environmental awareness and provide a platform for ongoing environmental education” (DEEWR, 2009, p. 16).

5. Assessment of young learners

Assessment of young learners

In early learning, assessments are tools used to gauge children’s skills and abilities, what the child is interested in, and where they might be having difficulty.

Assessments may be used or recommended as your child progresses toward entering primary school. The main purpose is to allow for early intervention to address concerns or find avenues of specialised learning for gifted students.

While a valuable tool, it’s important to mention that assessments aren’t an accurate reflection of a child’s entire range of skills or abilities. Many assessments don’t capture personality and give little indication of your child’s future progress.

What types of assessments are commonly used?

A variety of early learning assessments are available, but most often, the following are used:

  • Observation (i.e. a caregiver or educator observes behavior and skills)
  • Standardised testing (i.e. development and intelligence testing)
  • Language and speech (i.e. talking, listening, and writing)
  • Vision and hearing (i.e. capability testing)

The benefits of assessments

Assessments can help both child care providers and parents know how to alter learning for the child. Because they become better aware of the child’s particular learning stage and style, they can gear developmental activities toward specific needs and desires.

Assessments are sometimes used as a precursor step to attending school, ensuring any areas of need, strength, and preference are identified.

As your child grows and develops, it’s important to be aware of different learning methods and trends. Not only can you make the best decisions for a child care centre, you can support your child’s learning at home through various methods.

If you’d like to learn about which methods we use at your nearest Harmony centre, call us at 1-300-HARMONY or schedule a tour today. We believe children come first and that they deserve respect, trust and kindness during their unique path of learning.

References:

5 Emerging Trends in Early Childhood Education. (2016). Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://www.masters-in-special-education.com/lists/5-emerging-trends-in-early-childhood-education/

Barblett, L. (2010). Why play-based learning? (free article) – Early Childhood Australia. Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/our-publications/every-child-magazine/every-child-index/every-child-vol-16-3-2010/play-based-learning-free-article/

Bird, K. (2013, December 16). Rasmussen College. Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/education/blog/3-ongoing-trends-early-childhood-education-impact-you/

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. J. (2005). Uniquely preschool: What research tells us about the ways young children learn. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 44-47.

DEEWR (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra: DEEWR.

Edwards, S., Nuttall, J., Grieshaber, S., Wood, E., Mantilla, A., & Barltett, J. (2015). Digital technologies and young children’s play in early childhood education. Abstract.

Gerber, M. (1998). RIE® Basic Principles. Retrieved November 06, 2016, from https://www.rie.org/educaring/ries-basic-principles/

Lester, S. & Russell, S. (2008). Play for a change. Play policy and practice: A review of contemporary perspectives. Play England. Retrieved 21.6.2010 from http://www.worldleisure. org/pdfs/Copy%20of%20book_rev_play_for_change.pdf

South Australia. (n.d.). Retrieved November 06, 2016, from https://www.decd.sa.gov.au/teaching/curriculum-and-teaching/numeracy-and-literacy/numeracy-and-literacy-birth-18-strategy

Touhill, L. (2013b). Rethinking outdoor learning environments – Early Childhood Australia. Retrieved November 06, 2016, from http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/nqsplp/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/NQS_PLP_E-Newsletter_No59.pdf