Early years are a time for exploration
Early learning should be a time for exploration through play-based learning, despite what the creators of baby learning apps would have you believe, according to Goodstart Early Learning’s Heather Finlayson.
She was commenting on the launch of a new app called Baby Mathletics which targets children from six to 24 months old. The app claims learning basic maths concepts was crucial to later success.
Ms Finlayson, capability and early learning strategy general manager, said there was no doubt that skills in numeracy were important for children’s success in the future, but that the early years were a time for exploration.
“Young brains are created and designed to explore the world around them and as brains get older they are designed to exploit the knowledge they gain from exploring in their early years,” Ms Finlayson said.
“Current early years’ research reveals that children learn best through a play-based learning program which allows children to explore new ideas and test thinking and practice emerging skills.
“Child-directed and educator initiated play provides children with the opportunity to understand themselves and the world around them.
“It’s crucial that in the early years, babies and children are encouraged to explore, touch, see, feel, listen and problem-solve through a variety of early learning experiences,” Ms Finlayson said.
She said there was a concerning trend to push down more formal structured goal-orientated learning into the early years, when this should in fact be a time where children are encouraged to explore and open their minds to all possibilities.
“Through this exploration, children will naturally begin an informal journey of learning about numeracy, but within their context of their own world, whether at home or in an early learning centre.
“Being able to apply maths in everyday situations is a key to success at school later and vital for making important decisions as we go through life.”
At Goodstart Early Learning, more structured opportunities for numeracy are introduced at about the age of three years old. This includes experiences exploring the concepts of geometry, measurement, patterns and representation. However, play remains an integral way of building understanding of mathematical concepts.
“Play is the gateway to opportunities for preschool-aged children to develop their informal understanding of numbers. When play is combined with intentional structured opportunities, children can be introduced to early mathematical concepts.”
She said while digital technology was a reality in children’s lives, it was just one element Goodstart Early Learning used to extend children’s learning.