I spent a wonderful week in May, working with a highly dedicated and professional team of teachers and teaching assistants at Arcadia Preparatory School, Dubai. I was invited as a Foundation Stage ‘Wizard’, together with the other Wizards - Dr Ray Huntley (Maths), Ruth Shallcross (Science) and Julie Moxon (Literacy). It was an honour and a privilege to work with such fine and supportive colleagues. Thank you to Graham, Kephren and Rob for sharing this video of our time at Arcadia.
Arcadia Preparatory School, Dubai.
Developing problem solving skills is an area of development early years’ practitioners are familiar with, and the importance of developing these problem solving skills is well known, but what exactly are problem solving skills? And how do we encourage children to develop these?
Within the Early Years Foundation Stage, problem solving comes under the category Mathematical Development, however this does not limit problem solving to just mathematical circumstances! There are opportunities for children in early years to explore problem solving every day, within all aspects of their development.
Children are natural problem solvers from birth, all the way from learning to communicate problems through crying, through learning to talk and learning to walk. They develop a natural problem solving process through trial and error, for example, an infant will fall down many times before taking their first steps, but it’s the process of getting back up and trying again which helps them to achieve their goal.
Early Years practitioners can help children apply problem solving skills to real life situations as well as various activities. For example, practitioners can encourage children to help set up at meal times, but pose them with a problem of not having enough cutlery for each child. Children could be able to recognise this problem, or be guided by the practitioners to realise that not enough cutlery could pose a problem. Practitioners can then encourage and support the children to think of a solution to this problem. Allow children to use their imagination to solve problems, the sky is the limit! If they suggest sharing cutlery or even crafting their own cutlery out of different items, then this is all part of the problem solving process! They are recognising a problem and attempting a solution.
Overall, there are many activities and real life scenarios practitioners can implement in order to help children explore problem solving skills and guide them to create a solution. Using numbers and mathematics are not the only methods of developing problem solving skills as seen from above, but they can be an effective way to develop learning numeracy skills which can help in later life.
This video shows children using mathematical thinking and language, problem solving, and space and measure as they shop and purchase equipment, construct and work together to address difficulties.
Numeracy, shape and measure; and problem solving
Heuristic play was a term coined by a child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid in the early 1980's. Heuristic play describes the activity of babies and children as they playwith and explore the properties of 'objects'. These 'objects' are things from the real world.
When children are involved in heuristic play, they are using familiar objects in different ways. It is the process of exploring the different ways to use the objects that is important in the play.
The word ‘heuristic’ comes from the word ‘eurisko’ which means to learn, discover or reach an understanding of something.
For babies and toddlers, Goldschmeid’s approach to heuristic play revolves around them using their senses and exploring a treasure basket filled with real-world objects made from any material (apart from plastic) that comes from nature and around the house.
It is through handling and exploring these objects that babies and toddlers begin to make their own choices and decisions and start to gain an understanding of the world around them.
Heuristic play - curious explorers
In the moment planning (ITMP) focuses the teacher on capturing the children’s current interests at that particular time.
There is no need for advance planning – other than your continuous provision. What’s important is that the teacher observes and listens to what the child is doing and saying; and through interactions and engagement builds on what the child is doing ‘in the moment’.
I am inspired by reading your posts on ITMP, seeing your photographs and seeing how you develop children’s critical thinking, curiosity and exploration through a wide and exciting range of activities. While ITMP is child lead it relies on the flexibility and responsiveness of skilled teachers who know the children well and can build on what the children already know and can do. Consequently, this is not an easy option, rather a considered and active response to children’s interests and learning experiences.
In the moment planning (ITMP)
Inspecting early years providers - care before and after school
Julie-Ann Morris, Ofsted's Senior Manager, Early Years Policy, talks about providers that only offer care before and after the school day or during school holidays.