Encounters between people are fluid and never the same twice. For this reason, it is important for all educators to be reflective practitioners, sensitive to children and knowledgeable about how they develop. Skilled ECEs match their interactions and responses to what is required to best assist a child’s learning. They provide children with scaffolding, the kind of assistance that helps children to reach further than would be possible unassisted.30
A typical exchange between children and ECE might look like this:
Five-year-old Anita and 4-year-old Sam are using small blocks to make roads for their miniature cars. Amanda, an early childhood educator, brings out several empty boxes. Nearby are markers, tape, scissors, string, small slips of paper. She asks the children, “Could you use these boxes on your roads?”
Curricula reflect social values and goals
The curricula developed for preschool children reflect and promote society’s values and morals.31 Swedish preschool curricula aim to help children to understand and participate in democratic government. Early years education includes support for social cohesion and national cultural identity, respect for diversity or the promotion of bi- or multi-culturalism. In New Zealand Te Whariki is the national early childhood curriculum. It adopts a specific sociocultural perspective on learning that recognizes the different social contexts in which children live and seeks to promote bi-culturalism between Maori and European cultures.
ECEs ask questions to promote problem solving and challenge children’s thinking and reasoning. Children acquire numeracy skills from birth, first recognizing the patterns in people faces, then in repetitive games like ‘patty-cake’ and ‘peek-a-boo.’ Even very small children know two cookies are better than one. Young children acquire the language of numbers when they understand how to put things in order and the relationships between big and little, more and less, tall and short. With experience, their understanding of qualitative and quantitative relationships deepens and children develop abilities to measure time, temperature, length and mass.
The children have noticed that although they are the same age, they are different heights. Their ECE, Stella, asks if they would like to know how big they are. She rolls out a long roll of paper and invites them to form pairs. As one child lies down on the paper, the other traces the outline of their body. Stella provides pens and tape measures and asks if hands are longer than feet. The children then ask if arms are longer than legs. Is fingertip to fingertip as long as head to toe? The tape measures come off the paper to calculate the circumference of heads, arms and legs. The children record their measurements.
Bringing children to learning opportunities is part of the supportive relationship between educators and parents and between educators, parents and children; the child learns through active involvement, not through passively receiving information. Adults open up learning opportunities for young children when they respect children as confident and competent learners. These expectations encourage young children’s hopefulness in their own capabilities.
Next: 5. Early childhood options for all
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