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.
A recent report by Ofsted produced a good practice survey to address the recurring myth that teaching and play are separate activities in the early years education sector.
Inspectors visited a sample of the most successful early years providers to observe the interplay between teaching and play. All providers were selected because they were successful in achieving good or better outcomes for children.
You can read the full report here: Teaching and play in the early years: a balancing act
Read about Alphablocks Nursery School’s ethos and approach to early years education, as well as best practices on How to choose a nursery for your child.
Alphablocks Nursery School in Hadley Wood empowers children to become confident learners through a balanced combination of hybrid teaching methods and play.
A four year old girl (who happens to be my daughter, but this could be almost any child in that age group) is gathering sticks and leaves in the park. She uses them to make a tiny tent on the base of a large oak tree. I don’t interfere with her play, although I’m just near enough to make out some of the things she’s saying to her imaginary pets. Apparently, there is a storm coming and they have to protect themselves while she’s away. Later on, she will explain the whole situation to her friend, who’ll join her important project, and together they’ll ensure the safety of their extraordinary collection of pets – ranging from squirrels to unicorns. This is play in its purest form and, as most parents and early years educators would say, it seems to be extremely beneficial for the overall development and learning of children.
The impact of spontaneous play on early learning cannot be overestimated – Alphablocks Nursery School & Pre-Prep, Hadley Wood