Activity is important part of different types of learning activities that young children need to experience in order to understand the world around them. Some of the activities and experiences includes singing, cooking, going for walks, group activities and interacting with visitors to the setting, listening to stories and re-telling stories. It is essential for children to be able to access a whole range of learning opportunities, as they learn from watching and imitating others as well as by experimenting and exploring. Children also need to take part in adult-initiated and child-led activities, which may be planned from observations of children’s interests and activities during their play.
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‘Children’s Creativity must be extended by the provision of support for their curiosity, exploration and play. They must be provided with opportunities to explore and share their thoughts, ideas and feelings, for example, through a variety of art, music, movement, dance, imaginative and role-play activities, mathematics, and design technology.’
(The Early Years Foundation Stage 2007)
The EYFS has stated that a child need to play in order to learn and it is an important part in the foundation stage and I think this is very true as children learn by exploring and miming what other do.
2. Age range of children (in months)
The age range of the children I was working with was 30-60 months. The range is wide and the older children help the younger ones in the setting. The high ability children were able to carry out the activity with out any prompting. Children for whom English is an additional language used pictures provided to understanding what they were going to do.
What you planned to do and why
The activity I planned involved leaving out Lego blocks and seeing what the children came up with. I left some pictures of Lego houses (Appendix 1) to see what the children would make of this. The reason for doing an activity using Lego blocks was because there are more boys than girls in the setting. The girls also like to build and they join in with the boys when they start to build things. Bruce (2001), has stated that the rights of the children to play; this is about helping children to learn through play from their early years of life and with this in mind, the children were observed carefully in order to identify their interest, needs and stages of development. This allows for provision of appropriate resources, including floor space and equipment.
After observing the children for the first week I realised that the best activity to get the children learning and getting them interested would be to do an activity with the Lego blocks. The children who are in the setting all learn through play. According to the National Strategy (2008),
‘Play is vital for children. Quite literally, it’s through play that babies and young children learn, grow and have fun. It helps them understand the world and to develop socially and emotionally.’
I had to plan a child initiated activity carefully by organising the environment for learning and I also had to think about the resources that were required and available at the setting as well as plan the session so that the children had enough time to become involved in their play.
‘Children learn when they are given appropriate responsibility, allowed to make errors, decisions and choices, and are respected as autonomous and competent learners.’
Everyone has to be motivated to learn, this also applied to the children when they play, especially when they are given a choice. They will persist with the activity they were doing if they have chosen it themselves and feel a real sense of achievement once they have succeeded in doing what they wanted to do. This is due to the learning styles the children have. All children are individuals and learn in their own way. Their understanding of the problems is unique to them and it will give them great satisfaction when they complete their project without any help from the adults around them. Children need to learn through experience and doing; and they are very active in their play, because it is through action that new connections are made and reinforced in the brain.
The Curriculum for the Foundation Stage requires children to explore their environments – knowledge and understanding of the world, it builds on children’s natural curiosity and asks questions about their environment and this activity makes the children explore different types of houses around the world.
The content knowledge was intended to enhance and increase children’s problem solving skills and extend their interest through practical involvement. Children also learn to work as a group as they were building their houses.
To make certain I was working within the ethical guidelines I had to seek permission from my placement tutor, parents and children. The parents were involved by signing consent forms, which clearly states what I will be doing with their children. Safety issues were taken into account for the activity which was carried out. Scott et al (2008) has highlighted the importance of ethical and health and safety issues when working with children.
4. What happened when you carried out the work?
After looking at the pictures of the Lego houses the children decided that they wanted to build their own house from the Lego provided. They all worked together to assemble the pieces to put as the foundation of the house. There was a discussion (appendix 2) on what type of house they wanted and how many floors they all wanted. The activity I carried out was a success as the children involved made a house with a garden on the roof. They worked out the logistics themselves with very little input from me. They also made furniture and built in stairs from the ground floor to the first floor and then had a winding stair to the roof, which was already provided in the blocks. They talked about putting the winding stairs inside the house but found out after many tries that it was not possible to put it in the first floor, but would be good to put outside the house so that it leads to the roof garden. The children felt a real sense of achievement and describe to me how they built their house.
Child initiated activity gives us an opportunity to get to know the children you are taking care of at your setting. You need to observe and listen to them when they are playing. Watch carefully who they play with and what they say, when they are talking to each other.
By supporting child-initiated activities, we as practitioners can make sure that resources and opportunities are provided for extended learning for the children. It is easier to plan adult initiated activities, after observing child initiated activities, in order to extend the thinking and understanding of the children. We can base the activities to motivate the children to take part in the activities fully.
This is creative play, Sigmund Freud (1958) suggested that every child at play “behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, that is, rearranges the things of his world in a new way which pleases him. . . . The creative writer does the same as the child at play. The child creates a world of fantasy, which he takes very seriously – in which he invests a very large amount of emotion”. (pp. 143-144) Moreover, Moyles (2005) sees creativity as fundamental to successful learning, being creative allows children to make associations between one area of learning to another and to broaden their understanding and stresses that this area should be developed in early childhood settings.
5. Your assessment of the effectiveness of the activity
Play comes naturally and instinctively to most children, though some need adult support. There are guidelines for adult involvement during child initiated activities and they are planning, resource and challenging environment where children’s play can be supported and extended; it is the job of a practitioner to extend and develop children’s language and communication in their play through sensitive observation and appropriate intervention.
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According to the EEL (Effective Early Learning) study, which was carried out by Pascal and Bertram on the children’s well being and involvement, there were three main features about adult behaviour that helped to promote children’s learning and thinking. They were about how an adult supports and encourages the children when they are upset and are feeling insecure. What they provide the children with to stimulate the children’s learning. It must be positive and exciting and they must be willing to join in with the children by either asking open ended question or prompting them into thinking about what they are doing and how to improve it. The children must be given the freedom to express themselves and experiment through play. We must support the children’s decisions and judgements by encourage the expression of ideas, and involve children in rule-making for everyone’s safety and wellbeing.
When giving children child initiated tasks at this early age, we are asking children to be responsible for their learning at a very early age as they have to plan and review what they are doing. This is very motivating and raises their confidence, self esteem and independence. This makes children take ownership of their own learning and I think it is a good way of teaching children to be independent and also be more responsible. Handscomb (2006) believes that when children think that the outcome of a situation depends on their own actions, they work harder to make a success of the activity and their self-esteem and social competence increase. This proves the theory that children should have more control over the learning activities in which they are engaged.
Laevers (1999) associates involvement with the idea of flow and suggests that Involvement, motivation and fascination are interconnected. He added that the most important is the satisfaction that goes with involvement stems from one source, the need to explore and experience.
The children noticed and commented on how the houses were built in the pictures and this is the Knowledge and understanding in the EYFS. They used their imagination to build their houses – Creative development. They also involved and interacted with others throughout the activity- Personal and social development.
I believe that there is a close connection between play and healthy cognitive growth. It forms a foundation for academic success in reading and writing.
6. Your personal learning
I have found out that child initiated activity provides opportunities to apply learning to everything that they do at the setting, but also helps children to develop skills, concentration, perseverance and the ability to work together in groups, which can be applied to all the learning that takes place in school, at home and in all aspects of life. You can learn a lot about children when you watch and listen. You have to allow children to follow their interests. I also learnt that you, as a practitioner cannot make assumptions about what part of the activity the child enjoyed.
I have discovered that by providing children with real experiences, gives them opportunities to use their curiosity and talk about things that are important to their everyday lives. This recognises the importance, to which Laevers (2000) believed that the deep involvement of children in such contexts facilitates their overall development. He defined involvement as a quality of human activity, which is characterised by a high level of motivation, concentration and persistence. He states that these are key indicators of quality learning outcomes for young children’s learning and educational achievement. In Laevers’s view, found constant higher levels of involvement when children instigated their own activity. Involvement occurs in the small area in which the activity, matches the capability of the person that is in the zone of proximal development and this view is widely stressed by others theorists such as Vygotsky (1978). On this basis, young children must for that reason engage actively in the learning process to make sure that effective learning takes place.
The Effective Provision for the Pre-School Education (EPPE) project (2003), during their investigation of pre-school education, identified five areas which were important when working with children. The quality of adult-child interactions promotes continuous thinking in effective settings, particularly environments that encourage sustained shared thinking between adults and children. This makes more cognitive, linguistic and social behavioural progress. I have learnt that children do best when they are engaged in activities that involves deep thinking, making mistakes and correcting them.
This task was based on planning and setting up an activity for a child – initiated learning. It was meant to provide an in-depth analysis of a practice experience using a model of reflection. The model consists of a series of questions, which assisted me in analysing my practice and framed my learning through reflection.
Child-initiated play helps children to take control of their own learning and ensure future academic success. Children learn to interact with others, develop language skills, recognise and solve problems, and discover their human potential and express themselves through play. Play helps young children make sense of and find their place in the world.
Young children are capable of surprisingly, being very independent and if the play area is organised suitably and expectations are high they will get on with their own activities and learn as they go. It is the role of the practitioner to decide on strategies for encouraging this independence. The practitioner should focus on providing a suitable framework for exploration and allow the children to develop at their own pace in child initiated learning.
According to Laevers (2005), when children are bored, it means that the level of involvement is very low and we, as practitioners should be worried. If we want deep level of learning from the children, we must provide activities that are of interest to the children and the level of involvement will become a lot higher.
It is important to know that in child initiated activities, we have to create an educationally rich environment for the children. Providing a well-organised stimulating learning environment, this enhances children’s learning where they are encouraged to explore and take risks.
I think the activity went really well and to further extend the children’s learning, I think we can do an activity on how we can build our own Lego town. I can get the children to discuss what they think we should have in our town e.g. doctor’s surgery, shops, park for the children to play in, schools etc.
After reflecting on the whole activity I have found that my use of interpersonal skills, active listening and building empathy with the children, was essential to children’s well-being, as it is recommended by many theorists.