parent opinion

'As an early childcare teacher, I want parents to know what really goes on each day.'

During my time as an Early Childhood Teacher, I have learnt that there is a very real lack of knowledge and understanding about what actually goes on inside a childcare centre each day.

Here’s the one thing educators wish every parent knew: education is a priority. And a huge one.

Much to people’s surprise, babies and toddlers do not just come to childcare to play. Well, not from an educator’s perspective anyway. As the term ‘childcare’ does not suggest (and fails to even consider), that one of our greatest priorities is education.

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At the very mention of the word ‘educate’ or ‘teach’ in the context of babies and toddlers, people tend to get confused.

“But what can babies and toddlers learn?” They ask.

The very question is riddled with a learnt misconception, often stemming from our own experience of education. Often learning is perceived as the ability to recite known facts, whatever they may be, by means of writing or verbal language. This is understandable because this way of demonstrating knowledge can be tested and measured.

It seems that we have come to believe that because babies and toddlers don’t necessarily have the skills of reading and writing and speaking like older children do, they are not learning or being educated.

This could not be further from the truth.

Just like in schools where the teachers follow a curriculum, educators in childcare centres are guided by a learning framework. This is used to plan learning experiences and environments for the children.

The educators also follow a learning cycle, which involves observation, interpretation, planning, assessment and reporting. Just like in schools.

And, they plan for and report on learning for every child across the year. Just like in schools.

So, what do we teach and what can babies and toddlers learn?


The answer is as big as the question and in a nutshell, the answer is ‘everything’. But, I will do my best to elaborate.

Let’s take literacy as just one example because it is so conducive to mainstream schooling. Children enter into their first year of school and learning to read and write become prominent components of the curriculum – readers are taken home, word lists are practised and letter and sound songs are introduced.

However, what people sometimes (actually a lot of the time) don’t realise, is that there are many pre-skills that need to be mastered before this stage, and this happens before they set foot in a mainstream classroom.

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First, they must learn that symbol and pattern systems exist and that these are used to convey messages.

Essentially, a letter or a word is just a symbol that represents a message or part of a message. One of the very first experiences children have with symbols and patterns is through pictures like those used as song props in the baby room or pictures used to direct children to where their shoes or jackets belong.

This all starts in the baby room and builds the foundation for later literacy learning.

What about maths though? Babies and toddlers can’t possibly do maths! Wrong again – babies and toddlers are the most naturally driven mathematicians of all!

You might see a baby repeatedly try to insert an object inside another. This might not look like much but actually they are exploring space and shape – important mathematical concepts.

They might stack objects on top of one another until the structure tumbles down, exploring weight and position.

These are just two examples, but there are many more. And, what is perhaps the most profound learning of all is the way educators teach babies and toddlers how to learn.

They are explicit and intentional in the way they support resilience, risk-taking, problem-solving, group learning, independence, cognitive flexibility, persistence, self-control and emotional regulation. This is all intentional and planned for… It doesn’t just ‘happen.’

So, next time you pick your baby or toddler up from childcare, remember that in addition to asking what they played with/on, you can ask what they learnt.

Feature Image: Getty.