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The long-term impact of early social cognition & Theory of Mind

There are a few aspects of child development that teachers, parents and carers often talk about when it comes to nursery-age children. These include aspects of development such as the physical, social, and emotional growth of a child, early literacy and numeracy abilities, or self-regulation skills. However, an area of development that has been relatively overlooked is that of social cognition. It includes a complex set of skills that are crucial for development and have long-lasting impact, well beyond childhood. In this post, we briefly discuss the basic dimensions of social cognition in early childhood, and summarise some recent findings that have come out of our work at Alphablocks Research Lab in collaboration with leading academics.

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Supporting learning at home: How to boost your child’s reading comprehension

In early years education, reading comprehension refers to a child’s ability to understand and interpret what is being read to them. It involves a specific set of skills, such as vocabulary understanding, word recognition, decoding (the ability to read some individual words), and question answering (the ability to ask or answer questions about what has been read to them).

The importance of early reading comprehension cannot be underestimated, as numerous studies over the past decades show that it lays the foundation for future outcomes at school, and has been linked to better self-regulation and social-cognitive abilities. In turn, these are known to support overall well-being, are conducive to learning and act as a protective factor for a range of early mental health challenges.

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Supporting your child’s learning at home: Ideas for developing early science skills

Young children begin to develop a sense of curiosity and start asking questions about the world around them at an early age. In fact, infants and toddlers are naturally curious and are constantly exploring their environment through their senses. As children grow and develop, they become more and more curious about the world around them and will often ask questions about how things work or why things happen. The first steps in scientific enquiry can be taken by fostering this natural curiosity and “systematic” investigation, that is, repeated and consistent exploration of a child’s environment.

There are many ways you can support and encourage your child’s journey in exploration. In general, it is important to provide your child with age-appropriate materials and activities, answer their questions no matter how basic or strange they may seem at first, and encourage them to make observations and ask more questions.

Open-ended resources are essential for nurturing children’s pre-science skills.
Early Years Education

Project-based learning in early years education: why is it so important?

Project-based learning is an educational approach in which children learn by actively engaging in hands-on projects. Children work on a project over an extended period of time, typically several days or weeks. The goal of the project is for children to learn new concepts and skills by applying them to the project, rather than simply learning about them through adult-led teaching sessions. Exploring the environment and encouraging investigation of their surroundings is a core element of the approach.

This past Autumn Term, we have been exploring themes of Light and Shadows in all aspects of learning. For instance, using shadow puppetry we brought stories to life as a group. The project was led by the children, their ideas, creations, and explanations of what they were doing were captured and used in a communal exhibition.

Storytelling using shadow puppetry, which was put together as a group project by the children (Autumn Term, 2022)
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The Leaders Council podcast with Alphablocks Nursery School founder Alexandra Samara

The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is currently in the process of talking to leadership figures from across the nation.

Alexandra Samara from Alphablocks Nursery School was invited onto an episode of the podcast. Host Scott Challinor asked a series of questions about leadership and the role it plays in a successful business, as well as recent challenges in the Early Years sector in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scott commented, ‘Hosting a show like this, where you speak to genuine leaders who have been there and done it, either on a national stage or within a crucial industry sector, is an absolute honour.’

Lord Blunkett, chairman of The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland said, ‘I think the most informative element of each episode is where Scott Challinor is able to sit down with someone who really gets how their industry works and knows how to make their organisation tick. Someone who’s there day in day out working hard and inspiring others. That’s what leadership is all about.’

You can listen to the podcast here (also available through Spotify):