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.
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.
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.
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.
During the previous term, we noticed that our children were showing a strong interest in light and shadows, as well as colours and space. As usual, we followed the children’s interests and ideas, and we decided to have a whole half term dedicated to the theme “Colour and Light”.