Today we look back at Autumn and ask: What does Autumn mean for children?
Seasonal changes is a recurring theme which runs through many of our outdoor activities at Alphablocks Nursery School. The children began noticing changes in the weather from the middle of September and talked about it being rainy, or they noticed how the colours of the leaves transformed from deep greens to light yellows, gold, and brown. Warm colours of oranges and reds were to be found later on, during explorations in our sensory garden, our tall trees at the front, or indeed during our Forest School days out.
Being outside is often the ideal environment for children to learn. An environment where they can explore different textures, natural sounds, their own physical movements, and experience fundamental things like going down a slope or balancing on a wall. The wide-ranging Every Child a Talker (ECaT) study had reported that children were also a lot more communicative and vocal in an outdoor environment. Outdoor play has a positive impact on children’s well-being, as it gives them the freedom to explore and express themselves through a wider range of movements and sounds. Here at Alphablocks Nursery School we are fully aware of the importance of outdoor play and, in this post, we explain how we make the most out of the opportunities it provides.
The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework underlines the importance of outdoor play in providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive, as well as to develop their movement, control and co-ordination. Outdoor learning helps children develop space awareness and it supports overall physical development, including posture, balance, and muscle development. Even though there is no doubt whatsoever as to these benefits (and many more!) that outdoor play provides, young children don’t spend enough time in outdoor environments, and this sets the scene for their future attitudes in the first classes of primary school.
But what is it that makes the outdoors such an ideal learning environment? For young children, this is because a natural environment is inherently interesting for them, and attractive in a fundamental way, due to its multisensory aspects, where children can use all of their senses and many different skills at once. It allows them to take risks and observe new things every day like a new sound or the changes in the seasons. At the most basic level, it helps children learn without them even realizing it.
Can mathematics be taught at an early age? Is it beneficial to do so? What sort of mathematics can be taught in the 3-5 year old age group?
In this blog post we will answer these questions (and, as a sneak peak, here are the short answers: Yes, Yes, and Pretty Advanced Stuff, as it turns out!)
Mathematics can indeed be taught at an early age and it is beneficial to do so for at least two reasons: first, it helps put in place the fundamental mathematical concepts, which will carry a child’s understanding of the subject through primary school and beyond; and second, it introduces the topic without cumbersome tasks that tend to tire children and possibly dissuade them from taking up mathematics later on.
The prevailing wisdom among parents and early years professionals is that early math should begin with numbers and counting, starting with small numbers up to 5 and slowly introducing bigger numbers, before moving on to addition and eventually subtraction (in primary school). Multiplication and division are more advanced operations that are taught only in primary school. All through this linear progression from one task to the next, there is a strong focus on calculation. As a result, central concepts of mathematics, such as functions and variables, limits and symmetry, are typically introduced in high school. However, these very concepts are the ones that mathematicians identify as their true “tools of the trade”. The ability to memorize a multiplication table, by comparison, is only marginally useful.