Fact: Your child’s first five years are the most influential for their learning and development. This is when their brain develops faster than ever and when the foundations for ongoing learning are laid. How can you make the most of this precious opportunity?
The curiosity and recognition shown by a baby. The self-esteem and bold claim of ‘I can do it’ by a brave toddler. The care for others and independence displayed by a pre-schooler. These are amazing moments and they don’t always happen at home. Increasingly, childcare centres and the educators who work there, are becoming part of the average Australian family ‘village’. They have a vital role to play and an opportunity to support your goals for your child.
Renowned childhood educator Anne Stonehouse AM, who has been instrumental in developing the Australian Early Years Learning Framework, says much learning in the first two years (of a child’s life) is subtle and easily overlooked or misinterpreted unless you know what you are looking for.
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA), the governing body of early childhood in Australia, identifies the key times when new learning evolves. They start within the first four months of life, when a baby starts to make connections with the people around them. By your child’s first birthday, he or she is already problem solving, investigating and experimenting, and by two years old they should have learned to listen, concentrate and play. The crucial pre-school years are a time when they form their ‘view’ of the world – questioning, remembering, imagining and understanding.
While many traditional childcare models focus on safety, comfort and play, a new approach to early education goes a step further, identifying learning milestones which can be achieved from birth to five years old. The Lifelong Learning Program, which is now available in childcare centres throughout Australia, is a play-based learning model focused on encouraging children to learn, and setting them up to identify and make positive choices throughout life.
Inspired by evidence from the internationally renowned ‘Dunedin Study’, which has followed and developed research based on the lives of 1037 people from birth in the 1970s through to the present day, the Lifelong Learning Program captures opportunities presented by a child’s fast-growing brain and willingness to learn during their first five years.
“This is when the foundations for Lifelong Learning habits are laid,” explains Beth Clements, a former kindergarten teacher who now consults to childcare centres across Australia. “The Dunedin Study has become famous because it proves that the personality, behaviour and learnings of a child as young as three provides a clear indication of the learning abilities, actions and future life choices they will make through primary school, teenage years and into adulthood.
The expected outcomes from those more-than 70 Queensland childcare centres running Lifelong Learning Programs include children who have been taught to be effective communicators, have a strong sense of identify and wellbeing, and who are connected confidently with their world.