I have been working with a group of early years professionals in my role as a Child and Educational Psychologist, they are a campaign group who are working together to raise the awareness of good early years practice. Over the past few months we have been debating and researching best practice in nurseries and kindergartens around the world.

Here in the UK we are so keen to get children into school at 4 years old. Most of the developed nations see the importance of pre-school which usually continues until 6 or 7 years old. We would like to see the UK get into line with other first world nations.

The skills a child needs to develop in their first six to seven years are not those related to a formal curriculum. The urgent focus for the child’s early years is to discover and develop the working mechanisms of their own body and brain. The early years are a vital stage in a child’s life and the child’s development cannot be rushed. The child experiences the world fresh and for the first time and with it an awakening to the possibilities of what they can become. “Who am I?” precedes “What do I need to be taught?”

This personal and practical experience in the child’s early years forms the foundation for the child to become a competent and autonomous person. Early experience is vital, not only for the child to learn about the world, but also to learn about themselves. The child needs to have a level of self-knowledge and self-awareness as well as concrete, practical skills.

To become a self-motivated and avid learner the child needs to be able to:
• Engage in close, secure relationships
• Self-regulate their moods and emotions
• Manage distractions and focus attention
• Harness their curiousity and desire to explore so as to plan, organise and achieve a satisfying outcome
• Develop a richness of language to allow meaningful communication to seek and share knowledge effectively

I was interested this week to read about schools who were nurturing this spontaneous and child driven love of learning through their Innovation Days. In each school, a primary and a secondary the pupils were given a full day to manage and direct their own learning and then share what they had achieved with each other. It was a huge success, not only the enthusiasm and energy maintained across the day but also the outcomes which were innovative and

It set me thinking. If we are successful in ensuring our early year’s education encourages children to be motivated, curious and capable learners then how can we make sure this is not lost when children get to school. Here are 5 suggestions to encourage children to continue to be eager to learn.

1. Encourage children and families to discover and build their child’s strengths so that each child has the experience of choosing and following an interest, preferably on a daily basis.

2. Make sure children have time every day to play freely and creatively so they experience planning, organizing and sustaining their attention on something which excites and interests them.

3. Make project time or innovation days a regular feature of the term in school so children have the opportunity to manage their own learning on a regular basis and get thrilling results.

4. Share and record the process to help children see what learning to learn skills they are using. Written records, pictures, photographs, audio recordings and video offer a rich menu to keep and savour the child’s achievements.

5. Consider applying this innovation approach to community building in the school or volunteering and charitable projects. This way children are learning in an emotionally rich and compassionate environment about giving to others and not just about innovation leading to personal achievement.

Here are the links to the school blogs:
Wilmslow High School http://wasibettertodaythanyesterday.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/innovation-...

Jess Strang writing about her recent student placement in Cleethorpes http://wasibettertodaythanyesterday.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/a-primary-s...

Author's Bio: 

Jeni Hooper is a Child and educational psychologist specialising in helping children to find their best selves and to flourish. Her book What Children need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and can be viewed here http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Children-Happy-Confident-Successful/dp/1849...
Jeni can be contacted at info@jenihooper.com or visit my website www.jenihooper.com